Suit: TikTok-famous Laundress' products had infection-causing bacteria – Insider

The Laundress, a company selling all-natural laundry detergent, has gained something of a cult following on TikTok, thanks to ad partnerships and a growing demand for natural products.
But one customer, a woman named Margaret Murphy, says the products caused her family to break out in rashes and hives and come down with respiratory infections. She’s filed a lawsuit against the brand.
The class-action suit, filed on Thanksgiving, says The Laundress’ “non-toxic” products contained the bacteria Pseudomonas, which can cause serious infections in people with weakened immune systems.
Murphy, the plaintiff in the suit, said her family fell sick after using The Laundress’ products. The suit contains screenshots of Reddit posts in which users say the products gave them red bumps and sties.
On November 17, The Laundress told customers to stop using all of its products because they could be contaminated with bacteria. The company issued a safety notice a few days later for dozens of products, including fabric conditioners and detergents for baby clothes, sold between January 2021 and November 2022.
The Laundress, launched in 2004 by two Cornell University graduates and now owned by Unilever, sells laundry products made with plant-derived materials. The luxury detergents cost $20 to $25 for a liter.
The company had ad partnerships with numerous TikTok cleaning influencers, but users recently said on the social platform they suspected The Laundress products were to blame for their rashes and breakouts.
“I have broken out all over body, just hives, my face even,” phoebelemcke, a TikTok creator, said. “Everywhere is itchy even up until my hair. I think it’s spreading.” She said she bought the product on Amazon.
The Laundress and Unilever did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Though “natural” cleaners and cosmetics void of lab-made chemicals have gained popularity over the past decade, chemists told Insider lab-made preservatives tended to work better than natural alternatives, which can cause bacteria growth.
Natural ingredients can also be irritating: Reuters reported dermatologists had seen an increase in itchy rashes, bumps, and other allergic reactions linked to botanical or natural ingredients in beauty products.
Michelle Wong, a cosmetic chemist and science communicator at Lab Muffin Beauty Science, told Insider many plant extracts used in natural products had higher irritation and allergy potential than their synthetic counterparts. Natural alternatives to parabens — preservatives that are a scapegoat among many “clean” brands — can be irritating, less effective, more allergenic, and less studied, Wong said.
“‘Clean beauty’ has demonized many of the preservatives that have a long track record of safety and efficacy, such as parabens,” Wong said. “Because of this, many brands have shifted to using less well-tested and less robust alternative preservatives. This has led to a lot of safety issues with clean-beauty products and recalls.”
Got a tip? If you have information on The Laundress to share, email the Insider reporter Allana Akhtar at
Read next


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *