Is Dreft Detergent Toxic? Can You Use It For Baby Clothes?

Dreft detergent

Looking for a mild, but effective detergent to soak your baby’s soiled clothes? Wondering if Dreft is harmless or toxic? 

Dreft baby detergents are non-toxic, It’s a good choice as they are certified by experts in child-care across domains. But Dreft isn’t organic or pure. There are some nasty chemicals that could have been avoided. But this detergent works rather well for most baby clothes, as well as for adult clothing.

Dreft is a little expensive, however, and may not be as good at erasing stains as they claim to be. This article will explain all the aspects of Dreft detergent. This way, you can decide for yourself if it is a worthwhile choice. 

Dreft baby detergent ingredients

Here is a list of ingredients in Dreft baby detergent. We have categorized them by type, and have also explained their function in the last column. 

Type of Ingredient Names of the chemicals Function or Purpose
SurfactantsSodium alcohol ethoxylate sulfate, Linear alkylbenzene sulfonate sodium saltSurfactants are cleaning compounds. They help with lather and foaming. They suspend dirt in the water, making removal easier.
Emulsifiers Diethylene glycol, Propylene glycolEmulsifiers help ingredients blend together without separating. 
pH BalancersCitric acid, sodium salt, Sodium hydroxidepH balancers maintain the pH at neutral levels so as to not hurt the baby’s skin. 
Water softenersPalmitic acid, sodium salt, Oleic acid, sodium salt, Fatty acids, and MEA saltWater softeners are salts that remove hard metals from the water. This makes the detergent more effective. 
Viscosity regulators Calcium diformate, Sodium formateViscosity regulators help make the liquid detergent thicker. 

What are the different stages of Dreft detergent? 

Dreft detergent is available for two stages of your baby’s life. Stage 1 is the Newborn Stage. This Detergent is designed for neonates with very sensitive skin. So, the formula is hypoallergenic and is tender on your baby’s skin. The Stage 1 detergent is however good at removing stains efficiently and thoroughly.

The Stage 2 detergent is for slightly older babies who cause tougher stains. Their motor skills start to develop. They crawl, spill, and throw food, creating a mess. Stubborn smudges will require tougher cleaning action.

Can you use Dreft Stage 2 for newborns? 

You can use Dreft Stage 2 for newborns as well as it is also hypoallergenic, and does not contain sensitizing dyes. Sensitizing dyes cause contact dermatitis and can cause rashes, redness, and inflammation. 

One reason why we have two different stages is because the Stage 2 detergent is slightly stronger, in order to be able to remove stains that are more deeply set. This can cause skin irritation among newborns. Stage 1, on the other hand,  lends more comfort and a soothing sensation while swaddling. 

Does Dreft have fabric softener in it? 

Dreft baby detergents don’t contain fabric softeners. There are no anti-static ingredients. There are also no conditioning chemicals included. But the detergent still makes baby clothes soft and downy. 

Use a separate fabric softener if you find Dreft inadequate. Fabric softeners will lessen wrinkles. But it really isn’t necessary. A fabric softener doesn’t remove stains. At most, it may make your baby’s clothes a little fluffier. Getting rid of lint may really not be a priority for baby clothes. 

Does Dreft have a scent?

Dreft baby detergents have a light fragrance. This scent is not a soap-like fragrance. It smells more powdery and light. It gives your baby’s clothes a fresh, clean smell. The latest smell added to the product is sweeter and stronger. This may not be to every parent’s liking.

The scent is artificial. It is only used in minute quantities. But the components of artificial fragrances are still best avoided. They may cause adverse reactions in babies with very sensitive skin. It is always best to let the natural soap smell come through. 

This way the detergent will smell crisp and neutral. 

Does Dreft contain enzymes?

Dreft baby detergents contain many different enzymes. Protease is an enzyme used to break down protein-based stains. These include milk, blood, sweat and egg. Cellulase is an alkaline enzyme. It removes dirt and grass stains. But it also protects the fabric integrity. 

It prevents pilling and brightens colors. Amylase is used to remove starch stains. These include stains from rice, pasta, and sugars. These are quite hard to break down. They are converted into simpler sugars which are easier to wash off. 

Is Dreft a high-efficiency detergent? Can I use Dreft in my HE-washer? 

Dreft baby detergent doubles as both a standard and high-efficiency detergent. Dreft baby detergent is designed to be compatible with high-efficiency (H-E) washing machines. These use a smaller quantity of water for washing. It is more energy-efficient. 

Dreft detergent will not produce excess suds. It will not overflow or clog the HE machines. In lower-efficiency machines, you will need to use more Dreft amounts. You may also need more water. But with the HE machines, you can save electricity and water with quicker cycles. 

Why did Dreft get recalled?

Dreft had previously recalled the Ultra Powder Detergent and its sale has been discontinued since. From what we know, the disclosure requirements were not met as per guidelines. Details on the ingredients were not made public. 

Some of the ingredients tested as being corrosive. Others were suspected of causing vision loss, breathing problems, and skin irritation. A few other ingredients were believed to be causing digestive problems, reproductive malfunction, and endocrine issues. 

Is Dreft baby detergent safe?

The jury’s still out on this one. Dreft baby detergent has both pros and cons. It is recommended by pediatricians. It is also dermatologically tested and remains a popular option because it has been approved by experts.

But there are some ingredients you need to be cautious about. These include diethylene glycol and polyethylene glycol. While small amounts can be absorbed through the skin, major toxicity is unlikely.

Avoid the adult standard Dreft detergents. These have chemicals like borax and ethanolamine. These may pose an extra risk. Stick to the Stage 1 and 2 detergents for babies. They may not be perfect, but they are a safer choice. 

Does Dreft cause eczema or is it safe for eczema? Does it cause baby acne? 

Dreft detergents may cause eczema or baby acne in some instances. This is usually because of the fragrance and its components. But otherwise, it depends on each infant’s unique reactions. Dreft may not be suited for hypersensitive babies. 

For many babies, Dreft does not provoke further eczema. Its gentle design actually keeps flare-ups at bay. If eczema or acne persists, consult a doctor. There may be other reasons for this recurrent skin ailment. Detergents usually only worsen pre-existing cases. 

Does Dreft cause cancer? 

Dreft detergents are unlikely to cause cancer. There are some ingredients of concern that may have potential health impacts. But there is no concrete evidence of their carcinogenic properties.

Diethylene glycol may cause seizures or brain damage if consumed in large quantities. But it isn’t cancerous. Neither is sodium borate nor polyethylene glycol. 

Phthalates may disrupt hormone balance and endocrine system function. It is also associated with cancer. But nothing has been proven conclusively so far. 

Is Dreft good for sensitive skin? 

Dreft detergents are a decent option for sensitive skin. They don’t usually provoke the skin. This is true for both babies and their parents. Parents are not strangers to dry, chapped hands from harsh detergents.

Dreft doesn’t contain chlorine or phosphates. These are commonly found in detergents and can burn or wound the skin. Dreft contains ingredients like ethyl alcohol, propylene glycol, and lye that may trigger mild skin toxicity. This depends on the frequency and amount of use. 

Can babies be allergic to Dreft?

Babies can be allergic to some ingredients in Dreft detergents. The hypoallergenic formula minimizes this risk. The detergent avoids as many allergens as possible. But each baby is different and their tolerance to chemicals also varies. Some chemicals are also problematic. 

So allergies cannot be completely ruled out. If you notice redness, bumps, and patches it may signal a reaction. Breathing trouble may indicate an immune response. Consult a pediatrician to see if the Dreft formula suits your little one.

Is Dreft safe for septic systems?

Dreft is a middling option for your septic system. It is septic-safe in some aspects. It doesn’t contain chlorine, bleach, or phosphates – these chemicals kill useful bacteria that decompose waste.

Dreft is also good for an aerated septic tank. The detergent has foam suppressing qualities and doesn’t line the tank with a slimy, soapy layer. But it does have some chemicals that can damage the septic tank.

Is Dreft safe for dogs?

Dreft detergent is not safe for use on dogs. It isn’t suitable for their fur.  But it can be used for bedding and sheets. It is gentler because it is formulated for infants. So it may not cause skin reactions. You can use it rarely to get rid of ticks, fleas or ringworms. 

Accidental ingestion of chemicals is dangerous. If they lick their fur or drink the bathwater, they can get sick. Symptoms of detergent poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, and listlessness. 

Is Dreft good for cloth diapers? 

Dreft baby detergents can be used for cloth diapers. You can use either the powder or liquid detergents. The best option is the Dreft Pur-Touch Liquid which has more plant-based ingredients compared to other options. 

These are workable on cloth diapers made of cotton, polyester, or a blend. It won’t weaken or damage fabric links. It is clinically tested to retain the smoothness of the material. Dreft may leave a waxy build-up over time. This may reduce absorbency over multiple uses. 

Is Dreft good for delicates?

Dreft detergents are suitable for use on all kinds of fabrics. It isn’t the best option out there but should be okay for hand-washing delicates. Dreft won’t fray the fabrics, and also ensures colors aren’t leached out. This prevents delicates from bleeding color or getting washed out. 

You can safely use them on panties, lingerie, brassieres, and more. Manual washing minimizes tangling or snagging of material. This in turn increases its longevity and utility. 

Is Dreft good for baby clothes?

Dreft baby detergent is created and curated especially for baby clothes. You can use it for their clothes, bibs, and underwear. You can also use it for their bed sheets, bedding, and swaddling blankets. Throw in their little booties and onesies too.  

Heavy soiling is tough to remove with only Stage 1. When using Dreft, separate your baby clothes from other laundry items. Standard Dreft for adult clothes is too harsh for baby skin. Use warm or hot water, and rinse at least twice to remove residue. 

Is Dreft cruelty-free?

Dreft detergents are not cruelty-free. None of their products are vegan either. The products are most likely tested on animals. The raw materials from third-party vendors are also possibly tested on living creatures. 

Dreft’s parent company Procter & Gamble has almost completely phased-out animal tests. But they continue to test on animals in countries like China. These countries legally mandate testing on products before marketing. 

As P&G moves towards eco-friendly practices, perhaps Dreft will also follow suit.  

Is Dreft good for wool? What about other delicate materials? 

Dreft detergents technically work equally well on most materials. This includes fragile fabrics like cashmere, silk, lace, and thin cotton, to name a few. Dreft detergents are definitely light and non-abrasive. 

But they do contain active enzymes. Enzymes like protease cause fibers like silk or wool to disintegrate. The damage might not be immediate, but the enzymes do affect durability.  Choose a wool-specific detergent.

And make sure to stick the woolens setting on the washing machine. 

Does Dreft expire?

Dreft detergents will expire. How soon it expires depends on storage methods. Both the powder and liquid should last about 6 months to a year after opening. Unopened, it may last a year or two. If stored in a humid, cold area the powder will soak in moisture. 

It clumps together and becomes stiff. It may not be as effective if you continue to use it. When the liquid goes bad the ingredients will separate and degrade. You may see a discolored film on the top. 

Dreft can be a handy companion for your baby’s laundry needs. If it ticks all your boxes, we suggest you get down to washing! Because your tiny tot is creating chaos as you read this!  


Anand Srinivasan
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