In this study of 152 women, comparison of patch test responses between 2 irritants over 96 h at 2 symmetrical anatomical sites is studied. 2 irritants, each at 4 different concentrations (nonanoic acid (NAA) 80%, 40%, 20%, 10%; sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) 3%, 2%, 1% and 0.5%) and using propan-1ol and 'water for injection' as the respective controls, were placed as 15 microl aliquots, soaked onto ... [Show full abstract] filter paper discs in Finn Chambers, on the volunteer's left and right lower back. The patches were removed at 47, and read at 48 and 96 h. Irritant reactions were evaluated for erythema and surface changes by degree and area affected. Statistical analysis of the results showed that erythema decreased with time for all concentrations of NAA, and at higher concentrations for SLS. Surface changes increased with time for SLS and at higher concentrations of NAA. There was no statistically significant difference comparing left and right sides. Traditionally in patch testing, reactions which fade after 48 h have been regarded as irritant rather than allergic. This study refutes that assumption. Data from our left to right comparisons, made in the same individuals at the same time, show that irritant reactions may be more reproducible than previously appreciated.