Detergents are substances and preparations containing soaps and other surfactants intended for washing and cleaning processes. These include those used to wash or clean clothes, fabrics, dishes and other hard surfaces. Laundry bleaches and fabric-softeners, domestic all purposes cleaners and preparations intended for the washing of machinery and vehicles are also classified as detergents.


Detergent Regulation (EC) No 648/2004 


Regulation (EC) No 648/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council on detergents entered into force in October 2005. The aim of the legislation is to achieve free movement of detergents and surfactants for detergents in the internal market while, at the same time, ensuring a high degree of protection of the environment and human health.


The Detergent Regulation contains provisions on the following issues:

  • the biodegradability of surfactants in detergents;
  • a derogation procedure for surfactants intended for industrial or professional use;
  • information on the results of tests to be held at the disposal of authorities;
  • labelling of detergents;
  • an ingredient datasheet to be made available to medical personnel;
  • publication of a list of ingredients on a website;
  • the content of phosphates and other phosphorus compounds in consumer laundry detergents and consumer automatic dishwasher detergents. 


According to the Detergent Regulation, surfactants used in detergents placed on the market must meet the criteria for ultimate aerobic biodegradation (broken down to carbon dioxide, water and mineral salts). Manufacturers can make a request for a derogation regarding the requirement of ultimate biodegradability with regard to detergents intended for use in low-dispersive industrial or institutional applications. Manufacturers must hold at the disposal of the competent authorities documentation on the biodegradation tests carried out.

In addition to the labelling requirements set in chemicals legislation, the Detergent Regulation sets the requirement for more specific detergent labelling on issues including the ingredients of detergents, the number of standard washing machine loads and the enterprise’s contact details. Manufacturers must make available on a website a list of ingredients. A more specific ingredient datasheet, with ingredients sub-divided into weight percentage ranges, must, upon request, be made available to medical personnel.


The total content of phosphorus in consumer detergents placed on the market has been limited. The total content of phosphorus in consumer laundry detergents must be less than 0.5 grams in a standard washing machine load. As of 1 January 2017, the total content of phosphorus in consumer automatic dishwasher detergents placed on the market shall be less than 0.3 grams in a standard machine load.

The Detergent Regulation is directly applicable in all Member States. In Finland, Tukes is the competent authority concerning the Detergent Regulation, while the agency responsible for issues related to good laboratory practice (GLP) is the Finnish Medicines Agency (Fimea).


In addition, other requirements based on other legislation, such as the registration requirements and restrictions set in the REACH Regulation (Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006), may apply to detergents and their ingredients.


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