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The Dangers of Consuming Laundry Capsules

We strongly urge parents and children to never bite into or swallow laundry detergent. In the case of consumption, please see instructions on what to do.

The safety of the people who use our products is extremely important to us. Every day our laundry products are used safely in households across the world. We are proactive in providing consumers with the right usage guidance on our product labels, as well as the necessary tools for product safety.

An unfortunate online fad recently occurred in the UK where some teenagers filmed themselves eating laundry capsules on YouTube. Following this, we believe that it is important for us to educate our consumers about the dangers of consuming any laundry detergent, including OMO capsules, and why this should be avoided. 

Fortunately, after numerous warnings from concerned companies and safety institutions, the fad appears to have passed. It seems that the trend was triggered by some ‘jokes’ made on the Internet about the similarity in appearance of some laundry pods to candy. That is why OMO capsules have been purposefully designed to resemble laundry detergent and nothing else.

Unilever wants to do everything we can to prevent any product-related harm to any of our consumers. Please find below health risks related to consuming concentrated detergent and what to do in the case of an accident. We’ve also included suggestions for safe storage from young children, as well as a note to parents on how to protect their teens from dangerous online fads.

The dangers of consuming laundry capsules

OMO washing capsules are small and compact ‘pods’ packed with stain-removing technology, softener and fragrance. In their essence, laundry capsules are packed with detergent. Detergent is designed to break up components of waste and strip your clothes of bacteria and grease. So, what happens to your body when you consume concentrated laundry detergent?

Your mouth and digestive systems are complex structures that are full of water and healthy fats. Consuming detergent aggressively strips away their protective walls and destroys organisms that you need for your health. This can be extremely harmful. 

In some cases, vomiting, abdominal pain, flatulence, and diarrhea may occur. Vomiting or formation of considerable amounts of foam in the mouth may cause a person to be unable to breathe properly.

Laundry detergent also contains bleach. If consumed, which should be avoided at all costs, it can cause painful burns to your digestive tract. This may induce vomiting.

Ingesting concentrated laundry detergent has also been reported to cause depression of the central nervous system. This may result in a person becoming unconscious.

We strongly urge parents and children to never intentionally bite into or swallow laundry detergent. In the case of accidental consumption, please see the following instructions on what to do:

In the case of an accident

  • If laundry detergent gets in the eye(s), rinse immediately with plenty of water and call your GP for medical advice.
  • If laundry detergent is swallowed, DO NOT induce vomiting. Drink a glass of milk or water and call your GP immediately.
  • We highly recommend that you read the product safety information provided on the package to prevent an accident from happening.

Safe storage

Keep them up. Keep them closed. Keep them safe.

  • All cleaning detergents should be kept out of reach of children. Be sure to keep them on high shelves where children cannot reach.
  • Keep detergents in their original containers and with their labels on. All necessary storage, usage, and safety information is present on the labels. Do not throw them away.
  • Remember to close the container properly after use. Don’t leave detergents lying around, instead put them back into storage immediately.
  • If you do not have high shelves that are out of reach of children, you can child-proof your cabinets and drawers so that it is difficult for children to open them.
  • In the case that you are caring for an elderly person with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, all cleaning detergents should be locked away in a safe place when not in use.

Home safety during use

  • Read the label and follow recommended instructions, paying special attention to home safety warnings that include statements such as ‘Danger’ ‘Warning’ or ‘Keep out of reach of children’.
  • If laundry capsules come into contact with water they will dissolve. Therefore, be sure to close the package after use and handle with dry hands. 
  • Keep laundry detergents away from children.
  • If spills occur during usage, clean them up immediately.
  • Wash your hands after doing the laundry, as well as utensils used to dispense or measure.
  • Try and take care of laundry when your child is not at risk of exposure. For example, when your child is napping.

Safety with product disposal

  • Product disposal information is indicated clearly on the label. We recommend that you read and follow these instructions.
  • Do not use empty detergent containers for storing anything intended for human consumption.

Keeping your child safe from dangerous online fads

There have been a number of dangerous fads on YouTube and the Internet involving teenagers filming themselves carrying out potentially harmful ‘dares’. Dr. Carol Bernstein, a psychiatry professor at New York University's Langone Medical Center, said she doesn't think that we can blame YouTube or the Internet alone for teens engaging in these challenges. Research shows that this age group is particularly vulnerable to being influenced by trends and/or peers. She said that we have to take environmental factors, physiology, and temperament into account.

A child’s safety online and offline is a parent’s responsibility. Awareness about dangers lurking online should be discussed from a young age. Parents need to take the time to reflect on the real issues that cause their teenagers to behave in ways that are harmful to themselves or others on the Internet. In order to achieve this, parents need to be able to talk with and listen to their children.

"The stress here should be on knowing our children, watching behaviors and having conversations with them," Bernstein said.

Try to imagine how your teenager is experiencing the world at their age, the pressure that is on them to be ‘cool’ and to fit in. A little understanding can go a long way in preventing disaster as the more your child feels understood, the more they will be open to discussing some of the passing fads.

This way you can open their eyes to some of the potential health risks involved. Your teen is doing their best with the life experience that they have. Do your best to arm them with the knowledge that even though something is popular on social media channels, they don’t need to participate.

You may decide to follow your teen on social media. This may help you to understand them better as teenagers share a lot about their personalities and interests on social media. You will gain understanding of your child’s reality and possibly how it is different to when you were a teenager. Take care not to make your child feel spied on or patrolled. Teens have the option to hide things on their social pages and to block certain people.

"The main message here is for parents to not be afraid to have conversations with their children," said Bernstein. This way parents can equip their children with the right tools to navigate their way safely through dangerous online fads.