Detergents are chemical substances containing soaps and surfactants that are used for washing and cleaning and can be in any form: powder, tablet, liquid or paste.
They can have significant impacts on the water environment, releasing organic chemicals which can be toxic to fish and other aquatic life. Ingredients may also not readily break down and cause long-lasting pollution in the environment.
Label your detergent products
If you manufacture or place on the market any detergents you must include certain information on the label of your products including the name and trade name of the detergent and your business name, address and phone number.
You must also include the basic ingredients of the detergent. You do not need to include precise formula details. All ingredients with a concentration above 0.2 per cent must be listed in percentage ranges. Fragrances, enzymes, optical brighteners and disinfectants must be listed on the product label in any concentration.
You must provide information on the label in English.
List your detergent ingredients
You must produce a detailed list of the ingredients in your detergents as part of the product's safety data sheet. This must be available on request to health professionals treating allergies. The information will be kept confidential.
You should provide a basic version of this list on the internet. If you do not have a website your trade association may be able to include it on their website. Find information on trade associations on the Trade Association Forum website.
Ensure your surfactants are biodegradable
Surfactants are active ingredients which help a detergent or cleaning product remove dirt from surfaces. If you manufacture detergents containing surfactants for domestic users, you must ensure that the surfactants are ultimately biodegradable and so are easily broken down by bacteria into harmless chemicals.
If you manufacture detergents containing surfactants for industrial or institutional users which are not ultimately biodegradable, you can apply for a derogation (permission to carry out an otherwise banned activity) from the Chemicals Regulation Directorate (CRD), part of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). To do so, you must ensure that your product passes the minimum legal standards for primary biodegradability.
Primary biodegradability is the first stage in the breaking-down of surfactants, after which they are usually less dangerous to the living environment.
You must keep the results of surfactant biodegradability testing which must be available to the CRD.
Check restricted chemicals
The Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation places restrictions on marketing and using certain chemical substances and preparations, including some surfactants.
You should check the ingredients used in your detergent or cleaning product against Annex XVII of the REACH Regulation which contains a list of restricted chemicals and their restrictions and concentration limits - see restrictions on using hazardous chemicals.