To support the decision as to whether erythematous patch test reactions to allergens are irritant or allergic, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS, 0.5% in water) has been added to the standard patch tests since July 1996 in the Dortmund Department of Dermatology. Data on 1600 patients patch tested up until June 2001, as well as standardized data on ambient temperature and humidity obtained by the German Meteorological Service, were included in a logistic regression analysis taking age, sex and atopy as potential confounders into account. The pattern of association was heterogeneous: while doubtful reactions to nickel sulfate were significantly associated with dry/cold weather conditions, but not with SLS reactivity, the opposite was observed for lanolin alcohol, benzocaine and Myroxylon pereirae resin (balsam of Peru). Doubtful reactions to other allergens, namely formaldehyde, fragrance mix or p-phenylenediamine, were associated with both factors. For several other allergens of the standard series, no distinct, significant pattern could be discerned. In conclusion, meteorological conditions and SLS reactivity independently contribute information on individual irritability at the time of patch testing, and both should be considered.