Requirements for detergents

Surfactants in detergents, the phosphorus content, the list of ingredients and the labelling of detergents must conform with requirements.

Detergents are substances and preparations containing soaps and other surfactants intended for washing and cleaning processes.

Detergents include:

  • substances and preparations intended for washing or cleaning clothes, fabrics, dishes and other hard surfaces;
  • preparations intended for rinsing or bleaching clothes;
  • domestic all-purpose cleaners; and
  • preparations intended for cleaning machinery and vehicles.

Who is responsible for conformity with requirements?

  • Companies that sell the detergents they have manufactured or import detergents from outside the EU.
  • Companies that modify the composition or packaging of detergents or sell detergents under their own brand.

Requirements for detergents apply to:

  • the biodegradability of surfactants in detergents;
  • concentrations of phosphorus compounds;
  • lists of ingredients on websites;
  • ingredient datasheets intended for medical personnel; and
  • packaging labels.

Requirement for the biodegradability of surfactants in detergents

Surfactants must be ultimately aerobically biodegradable, i.e. break down to carbon dioxide, water and mineral salts.

The responsible company must have test results that determine that this requirement is fulfilled.

The company does not need to independently test surfactants. It is sufficient that the company has obtained a written declaration from suppliers that verifies that the substances fulfil relevant requirements and test results are available.

The company can apply for a derogation from the biodegradability requirement for detergents intended for industrial or institutional applications. The derogation application must be submitted to the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) and the European Commission. Tukes will assess whether the requirements for the derogation are met and report its findings to the European Commission.

Concentration limits for phosphorus compounds in laundry and automatic dishwasher detergents

The total content of phosphorus must be

  • less than 0.5 grams in a standard washing machine load for consumer laundry detergents, and
  • less than 0.3 grams in a standard dishwasher load for consumer automatic dishwasher detergents.

The responsible company must ensure that the permitted concentration limits are not exceeded.  

Lists of ingredients for websites and ingredient data sheets for medical personnel

The responsible company must publish a list of ingredients in a detergent on its website, including

  • the ingredients, primarily using the INCI names;
  • perfumes as a group using the word “perfume” and colouring agents using the word “colorant”;
  • the most common ingredients with potential to cause contact allergy if present at concentrations exceeding 0.01% by weight; and
  • a link to the Commission website that provides a table of correspondence between INCI names and CAS numbers.

Lists of ingredients for detergents intended for industrial or institutional applications do not need to be published on a website if a technical or safety data sheet is available for the detergent.

A separate ingredient data sheet intended for medical personnel must be prepared for detergents. The ingredient data sheet intended for medical personnel must include more detailed information on the content of the detergent than the list of ingredients published on a website. If medical personnel request an ingredient data sheet from the responsible company, it must be provided without any delay.

Information to be indicated in detergent packaging labels

The responsible company must ensure that detergent packaging sold to consumers indicates the following information:

  • the name and trade name of the product;
  • the name, address, telephone number and email address of the responsible company (manufacturer/EU importer);
  • information on the contents;
  • the website address from which the list of ingredients can be obtained;
  • dosage information for laundry detergents and automatic dishwasher detergents;
  • other instructions for use and special precautions, if required.

Information on the contents must be marked on packaging sold to consumers as follows:

  • The following ingredients must be indicated as weight percentage ranges when the content is more than 0.2% by weight: phosphates, phosphonates, anionic surfactants, cationic surfactants, amphoteric surfactants, non-ionic surfactants, oxygen-based bleaching agents, chlorine-based bleaching agents, EDTA and its salts, nitrilotriacetic acid (NTA) and its salts, phenols and halogenated phenols, paradichlorobenzene, aromatic hydrocarbons, aliphatic hydrocarbons, halogenated hydrocarbons, soap, zeolites, and polycarboxylates.
  • Enzymes, disinfectants, optical brighteners and perfumes must be listed if present. Here is one example: Contains enzymes and perfumes.
  • The most common perfume ingredients with potential to cause contact allergy must be listed using the International Nomenclature on Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) names if present at concentrations exceeding 0.01%.
  • Preservatives must be listed using the INCI names if present.

The aforementioned packaging labelling is not required for detergents intended for industrial and institutional applications if corresponding information is provided in another appropriate format, e.g. a safety data sheet.

In Finland, packaging labelling must be in Finnish and Swedish.

Example of detergent labelling (in Finnish) 

Also verify the following obligations

Frequently asked questions