A review of the best eco-friendly laundry detergent brands that are safe for people and the planet – including natural laundry detergent powders, liquids and pods, plus plastic-free laundry detergent options, to meet all your laundry cleaning needs.
If there is one cleaning product we use the most in our homes it’s got to be laundry detergent. Anyone with a family can probably relate – Always.Doing.Laundry!! Am I right?
When I hear people say they want to make a commitment to creating a natural, eco-friendly home environment, swapping out laundry products is usually the first place I suggest starting. Eco-friendly laundry detergent is such an easy and inexpensive change to make – it’s really a no-brainer!
Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent
So today we’re going to do a deep dive into eco-friendly laundry detergent. We’ll be answering questions like:
- Why you should stop using conventional laundry detergent immediately
- Which toxic chemicals should be avoided completely
- Why natural laundry detergent is healthier for YOU and the planet
- What are the best eco-friendly laundry detergent brands?
- How to find the best green laundry detergent for your personal needs and preferences
Let’s dive in!
Why Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent Matters
There are a couple of big reasons why switching to non-toxic, natural laundry detergent is important and they both have to do with health. (If you don’t geek out on science and chemical info they way I do, feel free to jump right down to the product recommendations – I won’t judge!)
Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent for Your Family’s Health
It’s sad to say, but the manufacturers of most laundry detergent don’t have the health of your family in mind. They have profits in mind. Conventional laundry detergent contains powerful chemicals and strong fragrances – even when they have been linked to negative health effects – so companies can sell more products and make more money.
Some of chemicals that are harmful to human health include:
- 1,4-Dioxane – classified as a probable human carcinogen and has been detected in a number of brand-name liquid laundry detergents (you won’t find it on the label, as it is a byproduct of other ingredients)
- Artificial fragrances – may contain endocrine-disrupting phthalates and other possible allergens
- Artificial colors and dyes – skin irritant
- Chlorine bleach – can burn skin and irritate eyes, nose and throat
- NPEs (nonylphenol ethoxylates) – imitates the hormone estrogen which impacts fetal development and reproductive health
- Quaternary ammonium compounds (quats) (used to soften fabrics) – linked to reproductive problems
Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent for the Health of the Planet
Think about all the wastewater that drains out of your clothes washer every week. Even if you use a high-efficiency washer, that’s still a lot of water. Where does that water go? Well it probably goes to a water-treatment facility BUT that is not a magic disappearing act for all the chemicals found in the water. When water is released back into the environment, many harmful chemicals still remain.
Some of most environmentally toxic chemicals in laundry detergent include:
- NPEs (nonylphenol ethoxylates) – toxic to fish and wildlife
- Chemical surfactants – cause deformities in fish and frogs
- Optical brighteners – not readily biodegradable and post a potential hazard to aquatic life
- Phosphates (mostly gone in laundry detergents) – promotes algae growth which leads to dead zones in rivers and lakes
Your laundry detergent is just one step – Get the full 5 steps to a green laundry routine here.
What to Look for in an Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent
So how do you know if a laundry detergent is safe, non-toxic and environmentally friendly? Here’s what to look for:
Must have’s for eco-friendly laundry detergent:
- Biodegradable laundry detergent formula (phosphate-free)
- Natural fragrances or unscented (*see note below)
- No chlorine bleach
- No NPEs
- No optical brighteners
- No artificial colors
- Septic safe
- No animal testing
- Concentrated formula (3x to 4x concentrated is most common but there is no standard)
- Recyclable packaging
*A note about fragrances: fragrance is a complicated and evolving subject and some safer synthetic (phthalate-free) fragrances are now available. Still, my personal preference is for fragrances from natural, essential oils.
Nice to have’s for eco-friendly laundry detergent:
- Made in USA – all the brands in this post are manufactured in the U.S. but some ingredients are globally sourced
- Plastic-free packaging – One of the reasons I like powdered laundry detergent is because it comes in a recyclable cardboard box – no plastic necessary!
- EWG rating of “A” or “B” – Not every brand and product is listed on EWG so it can be hard to compare
- “Sport” formula – Some brands offer “sport” formulas to tackle extra stinky odors and stains. As a mom of 2 teenage boys – I appreciate this!
Certifications for eco-friendly laundry detergent:
- EPA Safer Choice – meets requirements for safer chemical ingredients
- USDA Certified Bio-Based – indicates percentage of biobased material in product
- Leaping Bunny – no animal testing of finished product or ingredients
- EcoCert – certifies natural & organic products and ingredients
- B-Corp – indicates a socially responsible company
Laundry detergent formats:
- Powder – usually the cheapest option and available in large plastic-free boxes
- Liquid – great for doing hand-wash and some people just prefer liquid
- Pods – premeasured so you don’t use more than you need but can be more expensive per load. (Note: pods go directly in washer not in soap dispenser)
Don’t forget the stain removers – find out how 6 eco-friendly stain removers performed in my test!
Best Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent Brands
I may receive commissions from purchases made through links in this article. Full Disclosure
Given all the great eco-friendly laundry detergent options available today, I just don’t see a good reason to keep using toxic, conventional laundry products at all.
All the natural laundry detergent brands listed here are ones that I have tried and that have worked well for me. Not that I have tried every single product from every single brand – that would be impossible! But this will give you a good baseline of the safest laundry detergents to choose from.
Rest assured that all of these eco-friendly laundry detergent brands are free from petrochemicals, formaldehyde, phosphates, 1,4 dioxane and optical brighteners.
A note about prices: Because prices change frequently and brands offer so many choices, I am not going to list prices in this post. However, for a regular sized HE load, prices typically ranged from $.10 per load to $.40 per load. Pods are generally more expensive than liquid or powder.
P.S. You might notice I’ve left 2 very popular “eco” brands – Mrs. Meyers and Method – off of this list. That’s because personally, I’m not a fan of strong fragrances in my laundry detergent. If you prefer a scent that lingers, go right ahead and try them. But first, check out Grab Green in my list below – I really like their fragrances and they rate better on EWG than the others. I’ve also left soap nuts off this list – I have tried them, and they just weren’t a good fit for me.
Why I recommend Biokleen laundry detergent:
- 3x concentrated formula uses extracts of citrus and grapefruit seed to combat stains and odors
- Biokleen laundry powder is one of the lowest cost per load options
- Love that the powder comes in a low-waste cardboard box
- Sports liquid with extra odor neutralizing enzymes available
- Small family run company
- The powder has been my go-to laundry detergent for years!
- EWG rating: A (free & clear), B (citrus scent)
- Format: Powder or liquid (I’ve used and recommend both)
- Best for: Family size (75 loads per box)
Why I recommend Molly’s Suds laundry detergent:
- Laundry powder is made with only 5 earth-derived ingredients
- Sodium carbonate is sustainably sourced from the Green River Basin in Wyoming
- Scented with organic peppermint oil (unscented version available)
- All Sport Laundry Wash is specially formulated for synthetic & technical fibers (I use for my kids sports jerseys!)
- Small women-owned business (I’ve met the founder – she’s awesome!)
- EWG rating: A
- Certifications: Leaping Bunny Certified
- Format: Powder or liquid
- Best for: Stinky clothes
Worried about stinky laundry? I’ve got some laundry freshening tips for you!
Why I recommend Dropps laundry detergent pods:
- Dropps laundry pods are shipped in a plastic-free cardboard box, making this a great zero waste laundry detergent option
- Laundry detergent formula is plant-based, dye-free, npe-free, chlorine-free, phosphate-free, and animal cruelty-free
- The pod membrane is a water soluble film made of polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH). It is engineered to completely dissolve in your washer, even in cold water temperatures.
- Proven stain fighting powers via third party testing
- Available in unscented, clean scent, lavender, sensitive skin and baby laundry detergent
- Dropps also makes an Active Wash laundry detergent pod formulated for activewear and synthetic fabrics. This works well on my kids athletic jerseys!
- If you are looking for the best eco-friendly laundry detergent pods, I recommend Dropps!
- EWG rating: B
- Format: Pods
- Best for: Pod lovers
Shop: Dropps Get 15% off your first order with code DROPPS15 at checkout.
Why I recommend Thrive Market laundry detergent:
- Made from 7 eco-friendly ingredients
- Formula uses natural enzymes to clean stains
- Each bag washes up to 70 loads
- Scented with lavender essential oil
- Company is a B-Corp
- EWG rating: N/A
- Format: Powder
- Best for: Value brand ($0.11 per load) If you are looking for the cheapest eco friendly laundry detergent, this is it!
Shop: Thrive Market Laundry Detergent (Get 25% off + a FREE gift on your first order)
Why I recommend Better Life laundry detergent:
- 4x ultra concentrated formula uses plant and mineral derived cleaning agents
- Lovely essential oil scent (unscented also available)
- Independently owned business
- EWG rating: A
- Format: Liquid
- Best for: Essential oil lovers
RELATED: 4 Good Reasons to Buy Natural, Non-Toxic Products for Your Home & Life
Why I recommend Cleancult laundry detergent:
- Cleancult laundry detergent is made using the natural superpower of saponified coconuts and is scented with essential oils
- Laundry detergent is dispensed from a reusable glass bottle and refills come in cardboard boxes, making it a low waste laundry detergent
- Cleancult is a subscription service delivering laundry detergent and other cleaning products monthly
- Scented and fragrance free options available
- EWG rating: Not listed
- Format: Liquid
- Best for: Low waste, refillable
Shop: Cleancult Get 20% off when you use code MINDFULMOMMA at checkout.
Why I recommend Seventh Generation laundry detergent:
- Quadruple-enzyme formula great for stain fighting
- No synthetic fragrances used and a fragrance free (Free & Clear) option is available
- Easy to find at Target and other local stores
- Seventh Generation is a B-Corp
- EWG rating: A (free & clear powder and packs), C (liquid detergents)
- Certifications: All laundry detergents are USDA Certified Biobased Product and many are EPA Safer Choice Certified
- Format: Liquid and pods (they call them packs)
- Best for: Fragrance-free
- Note: Liquid versions contains the preservative methylisothiazolinone, which is a potential endocrine disruptor and can be a skin irritant to some people – so I recommend the powder if you think you might be sensitive to methylisothiaolinone. However, Seventh Generation stands behind the safety of their liquid formulas.
Why I recommend Meliora laundry detergent:
- Simple formula is free from synthetic fragrances, dyes, preservatives, brighteners and palm oil
- Unscented or scented with essential oils only
- Shipped in metal container instead of plastic jug
- A great plastic-free laundry detergent option – especially if you skip the scoop!
- Small family owned business
- EWG rating: A
- Certifications: MadeSafe Certified
- Format: Powder
- Best for: Plastic-free
Shop: Meliora Laundry Powder
Why I recommend Grab Green laundry detergent:
- 3-in-1 formula combines deep-cleaning concentrated detergent, stain remover, and brightener, all in one
- Outperformed Tide Pods in stain removal (including grass ink, blood and chocolate)
- Combination of essential oils and safe synthetic scents mean fragrance will linger longer on clothes (if that is something you like)
- Fragrances are very nice but not too strong (my favorite is Vetiver)
- EWG rating: A (fragrance free), B (scented)
- Format: Pods
- Best for: Good smelling laundry
What is your favorite eco-friendly laundry detergent? Leave a comment!
P.S. – Looking for more green cleaning brands? I’ve got you covered!