Laundry detergent packets are small packets of detergent that can be tossed straight into a washing machine. They are a quick way to use the right amount of detergent without measuring.
But these packets pose a risk to young children and adults with dementia or developmental disabilities. Toddlers will put anything in their mouths, and packets are the perfect size and shape to be picked up. The colorful packets can also look like candy or juice to a young child or vulnerable adult. Any kind of detergent can be harmful, but the chemicals in laundry detergent packets are especially concentrated. Children who swallow those chemicals have had trouble breathing, have lapsed into comas, and have had other serious health problems. There have even been a few deaths. Even just touching the chemicals can cause burns and other injuries. Fortunately, traditional (liquid or powder) laundry detergent is a safer alternative.
Parents and caregivers can help children stay safer by following these tips:
- People that have young children or adults with dementia or developmental disabilities who live in or visit their home should use traditional laundry detergent, which is much less toxic than laundry detergent packets.
- Store all laundry detergent including packets up, away, and out of sight - in a locked cabinet is best.
- Close laundry detergent packet packages or containers and put them away immediately after use.
- Save the national Poison Help Line number (1-800-222-1222) in your cell phone and post it near your home phones.
Laundry Detergent Packet Injury Facts
- There is about one call every 42 minutes to U.S. poison control centers about a young child (<6 years) being exposed to the chemicals in laundry detergent packets.
- On average, one young child (<6 years) is hospitalized every 42 hours after swallowing or otherwise coming into contact with a laundry detergent packet. That’s about 4 kids each week.
- Children who are younger than 3 years old account for most laundry detergent packet exposures.
If you think a child has been exposed to laundry detergent packets, call the National Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222. Take a child to the doctor right away if he has been exposed to laundry detergent packets and is experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Eye irritation, pain, or redness
Laundry Detergent Packet Research In the News
- The Tragic Side of Tide Pods (Fortune)
- Laundry packet poisonings increase in kids (CNN)
- Researchers: "Astounding" Surge in Children Harmed by Laundry Pods (NBC Nightly News)
- More children harmed by ingesting laundry pods (The Today Show)
Additional Laundry Detergent Packet Resources
- Safety Interventions and Liquid Laundry Detergent Packet Exposures
- Pediatric Exposures to Laundry and Dishwasher Detergents in the United States: 2013-2014
- Pediatric exposure to laundry detergent pods
- Blog Posts:
- Have You Heard of the Tide Pod Challenge? Your Kids Probably Have! - January 2018
- Laundry Packet Dangers - April 2016
- Laundry Packets: A Deadly Danger - August 2013