Basic legal sources

1. Key elements

The requirements for washing products and detergents in Switzerland are harmonised with those contained in Regulation (EU) No. 648/2004 in relation to:

  • requirements in relation to the degradability of the surfactants;
  • general and special labelling requirements (allergenic fragrances);
  • data sheet on ingredients.

In addition, the following restrictions apply in Switzerland:

  • textile detergents must not contain any phosphates and no more than 0.5% ethylene or propylenediaminetetra acetic acid (EDTA or PDTA) or any compounds derived therefrom;
  • detergents must not contain more than 1% EDTA or PDTA or any compounds derived therefrom.

2. Degradability requirements

  • Washing products and detergents may only be placed on the market if the surfactants they contain are aerobically completely biologically degradable (mineralisable);
  • The degradability requirements apply to all surfactant classes, i.e. non-ionic, anionic, cationic and ampholytic surfactants;
  • For surfactants as active agents in disinfectants or medical equipment, the requirements and procedures in the Ordinance on Biocide Products and the Medical Devices Ordinance apply.

3. Derogations from the requirements on degradability

  • Surfactants used in industry and institutions that do not fulfil the requirement for biological ultimate biodegradability, but whose primary biodegradability however lies at a minimum of 80%, can be given a derogation in the EU. They are shown in the list of granted derogations in Annex V of Regulation (EU) No. 648/2004.
    Derogations are only granted for niche products with specific areas of use, provided no alternative products exist;
  • Switzerland recognises the decisions of the EU. The FOEN is adapting the tables on bans and derogations in Annexes 2.1 and 2.2 of the ORRChem to correspond with Annexes V and VI of Regulation (EU) 648/2004;
  • The FOEN may allow derogations for surfactants in response to a justified application in cases where there has not yet been an EU decision.

4. Recommendations

Recommendations for Swiss importers of detergents

  • Obtain from the supplier written confirmation that the detergent meets the requirements of the Detergents Ordinance;
  • Obtain confirmation in particular of the complete biodegradability of the surfactants;
  • If the requirements are not fulfilled, ask the supplier whether an application has been made in the EU for a derogation for the area of use concerned.

Recommendations for Swiss manufacturers of surface-active agents and surfactants/detergents

  • Take note of the requirements in the Detergents Ordinance;
  • Check the verifiability of complete biodegradability:
    - surfactant manufacturers: if applicable, arrange for degradability tests to be carried out;
    - detergent manufacturers: obtain written confirmation from the supplier of ultimate degradability (on the safety data sheet).
  • If ultimate degradability is not fulfilled:
    - Clarify whether a derogation for the area of use concerned has been granted or whether an application has been submitted;
    - If applicable, apply for a derogation in a member state of the EU;
    - Only apply to the FOEN for a derogation if you sell your detergents exclusively in Switzerland.

Recommendations for entry in product register

  • Take note of the requirements on reporting obligations contained in Article 48ff of the Chemicals Ordinance;
  • Give notice of the complete composition (complete formula). The advantage of this is that there will be no individual enquiries by doctors or their assistants or the Notification Authority. The Swiss Toxicological Information Centre (STIC) as information centre in poisoning cases has access to the product register.

Further information


Last modification 06.09.2023

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