Why be concerned?

Supplier progress

Potential impacts

Functional groups

Substance list

Legislation / REACH


Related Links

Wash with care

Environmental assessment of laundry detergents

Eco-labelling of detergents

The criteria regarding eco-labelling of Laundry Detergents is, in principle, only applicable to household detergents but it is included here because it provides a set of checkpoints which are also relevant to industrial laundries.

The eco-labelling scheme of EU for detergents is based on:

The Commission decision of 14 February 2003 establishing revised ecological criteria for the award of the Community eco-label to laundry detergents and amending Decision 1999/476/EC (Notified under document number C(2003)143).

The legislation specifies the conditions and criteria for awarding the EU eco-label (the flower) to a product.

For further explanation and background documentation, please refer to the EU eco-label website.

The table below lists the eco-labelling criteria. It explains to what extent the individual criteria are relevant to industrial laundries and to what extent these criteria are fulfilled by Christeyns and Ecolab, the industry’s key suppliers.

Follow the links in the table for more information about the individual topics or groups of substances.


E.T.S.A. members’ key suppliers already fulfil the majority of the criteria in the eco-labelling scheme—see table below:

Eco-label concern


Relevance to professional laundries

Present position of  E.T.S.A.’s key suppliers

Maximum allowable total amount of detergent per wash


To limit the amount of ‘fillers’ and thus reduce transporting unnecessary materials.

Not relevant since the product generally does not contain any ‘fillers’ etc.


Maximum allowable amount of insoluble inorganic matter per wash


To avoid chemicals settling in washing machines, sewage systems, treatment plants and the water recipient bodies.

Not relevant since the product generally does not contain any insoluble inorganic matter.


Maximum allowable amount of aquatic toxicity measured as critical dilution volume (CDV) per wash

Important when detergents are discharged without prior treatment. In such instances, it is important to limit aquatic toxicity.

Not relevant since waste water from professional laundries is generally treated in wastewater treatment plants prior to discharge. Biological degradation is more important.


Maximum allowable amount of phosphates per wash



Due to the nutrient effects of phosphorous.

The majority of wastewater is treated for nutrient removal. This is therefore of less importance.

Suppliers can provide phosphate-free products.


Surfactants must be fully aerobically readily degradable


To make it possible to ‘handle’ the surfactants in wastewater treatment plants.

This basic requirement is usually fulfilled.

New EU legislation on detergents has put further emphasis on this issue.

Fulfilled for most products.

Surfactants must be anaerobically readily degradable

In order to prevent certain detergents from ‘accumulating’ in anaerobic compartments.

Relevant to professional laundries as well as for households.

E.T.S.A. suppliers think this is an unnecessary request, as many surfactants are, in fact, degradable under anaerobic conditions.

Specific substances that are not allowed:

APEO, EDTA, NTA and ‘musk’ perfumes



APEO is not fully degraded in wastewater treatment plants and is toxic to aquatic organisms

EDTA does not degrade in the wastewater treatment plants and is suspected of mobilising heavy metals from sediments.

NTA has a potential cancer risk according to IARC.

‘Musk’ has the potential to create allergic effects.

In principle, all of these substances can be found in laundry chemicals for professional laundries and it is therefore relevant to assess the situation

APEO was generally substituted some years ago.


EDTA is currently being phase out.


NTA is still used and detergent suppliers do not agree that it should be avoided.


‘Musk’ based perfumes have already been phased out.

Quaternary ammonium salts must be aerobically readily degradable


In order to be handled in treatment plants.

Also relevant to professional laundries.

Most suppliers have phased out these substances.

Phosphonates must not exceed a certain maximum amount per wash


Phosphonates are considered a problem due to their relatively slow degradation and some toxic effects.

Also relevant to professional laundries.

Can be fulfilled by suppliers.

Hazardous substances, labelled with the risk phrases as shown in the Classification and Labelling of dangerous substances section, are not allowed


Due to potential effects on humans and the environment.

Also relevant to professional laundries.

Already fulfilled by suppliers.

Preservatives that might create allergic reactions (classified with R43) are not allowed


Included mainly to avoid the allergic effects of preservatives.


Relevant to professional laundries as well, mainly for liquid or paste products.

Already fulfilled by suppliers.

Perfumes must be IFRA approved



In order to avoid allergic effects.

Relevant to professional laundries as well, mainly for fabric softeners.

Already fulfilled by suppliers.


The DID list

The EU eco-labelling system has developed a ‘Detergent Ingredients Database’ (DID) with environmental data about the chemicals normally used in detergents.

Click here for access to the DID list.

For further explanation about the figures in the DID list, see the sections on:




The Nordic eco-label for professional laundry detergents

In April 2006, the Nordic Eco-labelling Council approved a set for criteria for professional laundries.

They basically use the same approach as listed on this page, but add requirements for maximum dosage.