Laundry Detergent and Optical Brighteners

I mentioned optical brighteners in passing on my Household Products Page, however I think it is time to devout a post to this particular issue.  An increasing amount of individuals with a corn allergy/intolerance are noticing eczema issues and are unable to pinpoint the cause.  They have removed foods and beverages but are still experiencing full body eczema and itching.  The issue could be with seemingly “safe” laundry detergent.  Most people have never heard of optical brighteners or brightening agents.  Why would you?  Most optical brighteners are not mentioned on the box/jug/packaging of your laundry detergent.  What are optical brighteners?

Optical brighteners, also called brightening agents, fluorescent bleaches, and optical whiteners, are chemicals designed to help fabrics appear to be cleaner, brightening colors and lessening the natural yellowing of fabric over time. Some examples of optical brighteners are coumarins, naphthotriazolylstilbenes, benzoxazolyl, benzimidazoyl, naphthylimide, and diaminostilbene disulfonates ( These ingredients are often shown on the labels of laundry detergents, but often are omitted.

Optical brighteners are chemicals added to your laundry detergent, often unlabeled, to make your clothes appear brighter.  Corn allergic/intolerant individuals avoid most laundry detergent due to the chemicals added for scents and corn derived surfactants, however most have not considered the problematic optical brighteners in their “Free and Clear” laundry detergents.  Most optical brighteners are made from benzene (a known carcinogen).  I am unsure if corn derivatives are used in the manufacturing of benzene or optical brighteners.  The one thing I am certain of is this:  the Yipiyuk and I react to seemingly safe laundry detergents that utilize optical brighteners in their formulations.  Last year, we decided to switch to Charlie’s Soap (we were using All F&C) and within two weeks noticed a dramatic improvement in our full body eczema, constant itching and scaly skin.  Within one month we no longer were experiences eczema or scaly skin, other than the flare-ups associated with consuming hidden corn/grain derivatives.  I have found that I need a detergent capable of stripping silicone from fabrics that have been washed in unsafe detergents, that have been sprayed with perfume/cologne, or that have come into contact with silicone or corn derivative containing lotions/creams.  You can view that post here.

Alphabetical list of laundry detergent with ingredients (including brightening agents and optical brighteners)

Additional Information on Optical Brighteners

Optical Brighteners from

Optical Brightener video from Seventh Generation.  Unfortunately Seventh Generation uses corn derivatives in A LOT of their products.  Contact the company before use.  Use with caution.  I do not use the Seventh Generation brand.