About the detergent rules

The aim of the Detergents Regulation is to reduce the environmental risks associated with detergents and cleaning products and to improve the information on the content of the product that is given to consumers. They are regulated through the Regulation (EC) No 648/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning Detergents and Cleaning Products.

Link to the detergent rules

The Regulation (EC) No 648/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning Detergents and Cleaning Products concerns all products used for cleaning solid surfaces, clothes, textiles and household utensils.

It applies together with other regulations and directives such as:

  • Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), establishing a European Chemicals Agency.
  • Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council on classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures.
  • Regulation (EU) No 528/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the making available on the market and use of biocidal products.
  • Rules for notification to the Swedish Chemicals Agency Products Register according to the Regulation 2008:245. 

The Regulation in brief

  • All surfactants in detergents and cleaning products shall be readily biodegradable.
  • Some of the ingredients needs to be written on the packaging for consumer products. For laundry detergents also dosage information shall be stated.
  • Manufacturers of consumer products shall publish an ingredients list on their web site.
  • The requirements regarding ingredients lists do not apply for products intended for professional use.
  • Manufacturers of cleaning and laundry detergents shall on request supply medical staff with a fact sheet.
  • Laundry detergents for consumers may contain less than of 0.5 grams of phosphorous per laundry.
  • Machine wash detergents for consumers may contain less than of 0.3 grams of phosphorous per wash.

What is a detergent or cleaning product?

A detergent or cleaning product is a chemical product used for cleaning. It often contains soap or other surfactants, but it can also be a mixture of for example water and ethanol.

Examples of products that are covered are:

  • washer fluid and many other car care products
  • tile cleaning detergents
  • window cleaners
  • paint cleaner
  • rinse aid
  • softeners.

The different roles of the companies

According to the Detergents Regulation you are considered a manufacturer if you formulate laundry and cleaning detergents. You are also considered a manufacturer when importing a product to the EU or rename a product and market it with your own brand. Please note that the definition of manufacturer in this regulation not is the same as in the Reach or CLP regulations. As a manufacturer you have the full responsibility for your product, which among other things includes following the legislation, report the product to concerned authorities and being accountable for the ingredients of the product.

As a distributor, reseller, you need to ensure that your product is properly packaged and labelled. If this is not the case you need to inform your supplier so it can be corrected. For example the labels shall be in Swedish in Sweden.

Requirements regarding biodegradability

The Detergents Regulation demands that all surfactants in the products should be readily biodegradable.

For you as a manufacturer of detergents it is important to contact the supplier of the raw materials to get a confirmation that all the surfactants in the mixture meet the requirements in the regulation. The confirmation shall be written, for example in the safety data sheet or in a separate document.

Surfactants that also work as active substances in biocide products are exempted from the requirements of being readily biodegradable. Exempt from the requirement of readily biodegradable can also be made for surfactants used for products intended for professional use, if the surfactants are primarily biodegradable and if the use is limited. For exempt from the requirements of readily biodegradable surfactants an application needs to be submitted to and accepted by the Swedish Chemicals Agency.

Contents declaration on the packaging

For consumer products the ingredients shall be written on the packaging. If the detergent or cleaning product contains any of the following substances in concentrations of over 0.2 percent, this must be stated on the packaging (see Annex VII to the Regulation):

  • phosphates
  • phosphonates
  • anionic/cationic/amphoteric/nonionic surfactants
  • oxygen-based/chlorine-based bleaching agents
  • EDTA/NTA and salts made from these
  • phenols and halogenated phenols
  • paradichlorobenzene
  • aromatic/aliphatic/halogenated hydrocarbons
  • soap
  • zeolites
  • polycarboxylates.

For these ingredients the following weight percent range for an approximate concentration shall be given on the labelling of the product:

  • Less than 5 %
  • 5 % and there over, but less than 15 %
  • 15 % and there over, but less than 30 %
  • 30 % and more.

If the product contains enzymes, disinfectants, optical brighteners, preservatives and perfume, this must be stated on the packaging regardless the content. The same applies for all added preservatives. The declaration of content shall be in Swedish.

Allergy-causing perfume substances over 0.01 percent by weight shall be stated using their individual INCI name, International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients.

See the list of declaration of allergy-causing perfumes 

Products for professional use are not covered by the requirement to state the content on the label. However, it is suitable to put the corresponding information in section 3 in the safety data sheet.

Dosage information

For consumer products dosing instructions shall be written on the packaging for laundry detergents and machine wash detergents.

Laundry detergents and machine wash detergents shall have dosage instructions on the packaging for different types of water hardness, soft, medium and hard water. The number of washes covered by the amount in the packaging shall be stated on the packaging and shall be in Swedish.

Fact sheet for medical staff

On request the manufacturer shall be able to submit a special fact sheet to medical staff. A fact sheet shall include a contents declaration in full, and the concentration of each ingredient in weight by weight percent shall be stated in the following concentration intervals:

  • 10 % or more.
  • 1 % and there over, but less than 10 %.
  • 0.1 % and there over, but less than 1 %
  • Less than 0.1 %

The ingredients shall be stated in descending order of concentration with the chemical name and CAS number. When available also INCI name and designation according to the European Pharmacopoeia concerning medicines shall be given. A pharmacopoeia is an official collection of regulations and methods related to the design, manufacture and quality of drugs.

Perfumes, essential oils, plant extracts and dyes are considered as individual ingredients. Allergy inducing fragrances should be printed if they occur in levels above 0.01 percent in the product and if they are required to declare under Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009 on cosmetic products.

According to the CLP regulation, information similar to the fact sheet needs to be sent to the Poison Information Centre.

Read more on the web site of The Swedish Poisons Information Centre.

Content of declaration on the web

As a manufacturer of consumer products, you are required to provide the contents of your products on a web site. There is no requirement to specify the amount of each ingredient.

The web site should be free and accessible to everyone and the address should be stated on the packaging so that it is easy to find the table of contents.

Limitations on the amount of phosphates

Laundry detergents for consumer use may only be sold if they contain less than 0.5 grams of total phosphorus per wash. Machine washing detergents for consumer use may only be sold if they contain less than 0.3 grams of total phosphorus per wash.