Commission proposes simplified, clearer and digital rules for detergents in the Single Market

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.

Today, the Commission proposed a revised Regulation on detergents that simplifies and future-proofs the current rules to better protect health and the environment, as well as ensure the better functioning of the Single Market for detergents. The revised rules cover new innovative products like detergents containing micro-organisms and sustainable new practices like the refill sale of detergents. The new rules also introduce a digital labelling and a product passport for detergents and surfactants.

This proposal updates the existing rules in line with the objectives of the European Green Deal, the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability and the recently adopted Commission Communication on the long-term competitiveness of the EU.

In particular, the proposal will:

  • Simplify market rules by abolishing several  requirements that have now become unnecessary or redundant: among those, such as: i) the obligation to provide an ingredient data sheet for hazardous detergents; ii) the obligatory intervention of approved laboratories that had to perform the tests under the Regulation; iii) the possibility to request a derogation for surfactants that do not meet the criterion of ultimate biodegradability; and iv) the obligation for manufacturers of detergents and surfactants to be established within the Union. Additionally, labels will also be simplified and streamlined to reduce the administrative burden for the detergents’ industry and, at the same time, increase the understandability of labels by end-users.
  • Introduce voluntary digital labelling: the proposal differentiates between pre-packaged products and products sold in a refill format. For pre-packaged products, economic operators may choose to move certain mandatory labelling information to a digital label, in combination with a physical one. And for products sold in a refill format, the possibility to provide all labelling information, except for dosage instructions for consumer laundry detergents, only digitally. The introduction of digital labelling will reduce burden and costs for industry and will provide further ease of use and awareness for consumers and professional users.
  • Facilitate the sales of innovative safe products: the detergents sector has recently developed new innovative cleaning products that work on the action of micro-organisms. As these micro-organisms may present promising alternatives to harmful chemicals, the revised Regulation will introduce safety requirements for micro-organisms in detergents and the obligation for manufacturers to label the presence of micro-organisms in the detergents so that consumers are better informed. This will not only allow these products to move freely in the Single Market but also contribute to protecting health and the environment.
  • Increase sustainability and safety through clear rules for refilled detergents: The proposal ensures that consumers receive the necessary information when buying refilled detergents. The proposal clarifies that refilled detergents are subject to the same rules as pre-packaged detergents. The proposal also introduces voluntary digital labelling for refilled detergents as a means of further facilitating this sustainable practice, which reduces the amount of packaging and packaging waste.
  • Strengthen enforcement:  The introduction of a product passport will strengthen market surveillance and ensure that only safe detergents complying with our rules enter the Single Market. The reference to the product passport will need to be included in a Commission central registry and declared at customs when detergents and surfactants are presented at the EU borders. National inspectors will continue to be responsible for carrying out checks on products, although a new IT system will screen all digital product passports at the external borders.

Next Steps

The Commission proposal on a revised Detergents Regulation will now be subject to the approval of the European Parliament and Council as part of the ordinary legislative procedure.


The detergents industry is an important sub-sector of the European chemicals industry,accounting for approximately 4.2% of the production value of the total chemicals sector in 2018. The total market value of the European detergents industry in 2020 was € 41.2 billion. The manufacturing of products for the whole market that includes both consumer and professional products involves around 700 separate facilities throughout Europe.

Regulation (EC) No 648/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31 March 2004 on detergents (‘the Detergents Regulation’) lays down the rules that detergents need to comply with in order to be placed on the EU market.

In 2019, the Commission Evaluation of the Regulation identified some weaknesses and areas for further improvement. One major area for improvement was the overlap between the Detergents Regulation and other pieces of EU chemicals legislation, notably the Regulation on classification, labelling and packaging of chemicals (CLP), the Biocidal Products Regulation and the REACH Regulation. These overlaps often lead to duplications in the labelling requirements for detergents that pose an unnecessary burden to the detergents industry and compromise the effective communication of safety and use information to consumers. The Evaluation concluded that the use of innovative digital tools for the communication of such information is currently suboptimal.

For More Information

Proposal for a Regulation on Detergents

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