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 to meet all your laundry cleaning needs.
When I hear people say they want to make a commitment to creating a healthy, eco-friendly home environment, swapping out cleaning products is usually the first place I suggest starting. Green cleaning is such an easy and inexpensive change to make – it’s really a no-brainer!
Some people want to dive right in and make their own DIY cleaning products, but if you aren’t up for that, fortunately, there are many fantastic green cleaning brands that work really well. Given all the great options, I just don’t see a good reason to keep using the toxic, conventional cleaning brands at all.
Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent
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?
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
- How to find the best green laundry detergent for your personal needs and preferences.
Let’s dive in! (and if you don’t have time to read it now, PIN it for later because you’ll want it for reference!)
Why Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent Matters
There are a couple of big reasons why switching to non-toxic, eco-friendly 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!)
Non-Toxic 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 the harmful chemicals found in laundry detergent 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
RELATED: Non-Toxic Dryer Sheet Alternatives
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 (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
- 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)
Favorite Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent Brands
I may receive commissions from purchases made through links in this article. Full Disclosure
Finally, on to the brands! All the 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! Plus there’s always something new coming out. But this will give you a good baseline to choose from.
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!
Why it’s good:
- Uses extracts of citrus and grapefruit seed to combat stains and odors
- Subtle citrus scent is just right in my opinion
- Both powder and liquid rated “A” by EWG
- Sports liquid with extra odor neutralizing enzymes available
- Small family run company
- One of the lowest cost options
- Personally, my favorite laundry detergent!
Format: Powder or liquid (I’ve used and recommend both)
Why it’s good:
- Made with only 5 earth-derived ingredients
- Rated “A” by EWG
- Leaping Bunny Certified
- Sodium carbonate is sustainably sourced from the Green River Basin in Wyoming
- Scented with organic peppermint oil (unscented version available)
- All Sport laundry wash (specially formulated for synthetic & technical fibers) available
- Small women-owned business (I’ve met Molly – she’s awesome!)
Format: Powder or liquid
Why it’s good:
- Plant and mineral derived cleaning agents
- Lovely essential oil scent (unscented also available)
- Rated “A” on EWG
- Independently owned business
RELATED: 4 Good Reasons to Buy Natural, Non-Toxic Products for Your Home & Life
Why it’s good:
- No synthetic fragrances used and a fragrance free (Free & Clear) option is available
- All laundry detergents are USDA Certified Biobased Product
- Many are EPA Safer Choice Certified
- Easy to find at Target, drug stores and local grocery stores
- Seventh Generation is a B-Corp
- 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 only.
Format: Liquid, powder or pods
Why it’s good:
- Subscription service delivering laundry detergent monthly (although also available via Amazon)
- Small biz started by college students
- 18-pac bags are good for individuals (but a bit more expensive on a per pod basis)
- Comes in unscented only
Meliora Laundry Powder
Why it’s good:
- Preservative free and palm oil free
- Unscented or scented with essential oils only
- Made Safe Certified
- Small family owned business
- Plastic free tubs (skip the scoop to be 100% plastic free!)
Shop: Meliora Laundry Powder
Why it’s good:
- 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)
- I actually love their fragrances – especially on bath towels and bed linens – but I don’t often use it on clothes.
What is your favorite eco-friendly laundry detergent? Leave a comment!