It's probably not news to you that many laundry detergents on the market aren't great for the environment. Some ingredients can be harmful to the aquatic life where your used laundry water may damage the overall ecosystem, and later on, our health.
Also, their packaging, production, and shipping methods are often not eco-friendly, either. That's why we took it upon ourselves to research the best biodegradable, gentle, and sustainably manufactured laundry soaps such as Seventh Generations Liquid Laundry Detergent that uses plant-based ingredients. Our top 10 products and buying guide will give you some tips in choosing the right product!
Here's a list of the top 10 best eco-friendly laundry detergents based on factors such as the effectiveness of the main ingredients and reviewer satisfaction. Hopefully, you'll find the right product for you!
|Formulated with||Essential oils and botanical extracts|
|Free from||Synthetic fragrances, dyes, artificial brighteners|
|Formulated with||Plant-based enzymes, tea tree oil|
|Free from||Phosphates, bleach, optical brighteners, parabens, and SLS/SLES|
|Amount||100 oz. (each)|
|Formulated with||Plant-based surfactants|
|Free from||Dyes, optical brighteners, parabens, phosphates, phthalates|
|Formulated with||Biodegradable surfactants (anionic and nonionic), enzymes|
|Free from||Not provided|
|Formulated with||Vegetable glycerin, starch, PVA|
|Free from||Parabens, phosphate, dyes, chlorine bleach, 1,4-dioxane|
|Formulated with||Plant-based surfactants, grapefruit-seed and orange extracts|
|Free from||Phosphates, chlorine, ammonia, alcohol, artificial colors|
|Formulated with||Ethoxylated alcohols, glycerin, eucalyptus oil, lavandin oil|
|Free from||Dyes, chlorine, phosphates, optical brighteners|
|Formulated with||Ethoxylated alcohols, enzymes|
|Free from||Phosphates, bleach, solvents|
|Formulated with||Sodium carbonate, geranium flower oil, cinnamon oil, cedarwood oil|
|Free from||Phosphates, chlorine, dyes|
|Formulated with||Sodium carbonate|
|Free from||Phosphates, chlorine, formaldehyde|
Liquid Laundry Detergent
Active Wear Laundry Detergent
Hypoallergenic Laundry Detergent
Laundry Detergent Liquid Eco-Box
Eco-Strips Laundry Detergent
Dropps Stain & Odor Laundry Detergent Pods
Unscented Laundry Detergent
Stoneworks Laundry Detergent Pods
Eco Clean Laundry Detergent
Bio-Based Product With 97% Plant-Based Ingredients
100% Biodegradable Detergent With All-Natural Ingredients
Hypoallergenic Detergent With Built-in Fabric Softener and Static Guard
Concentrated Formula That Uses Less Plastic
Keep Your Carbon Footprint Small With Zero-Waste Packaging
Concentrated Formula That's Gentle on Skin
Eco-Friendly Laundry Pods With Essential Oils
All-in-One Laundry Detergent to Whiten, Brighten, and Soften
Pre-Measured Pods With 94% Naturally-Derived Ingredients
Laundry Detergent That Leaves Fabrics Soft and Clean
|Amount||150 oz.||45 oz.||100 oz. (each)||105 oz.||32 strips||150 oz.||140 pods||169 oz.||50 pods||2.73 lbs.|
|Formulated with||Essential oils and botanical extracts||Plant-based enzymes, tea tree oil||Plant-based surfactants||Biodegradable surfactants (anionic and nonionic), enzymes||Vegetable glycerin, starch, PVA||Plant-based surfactants, grapefruit-seed and orange extracts||Ethoxylated alcohols, glycerin, eucalyptus oil, lavandin oil||Ethoxylated alcohols, enzymes||Sodium carbonate, geranium flower oil, cinnamon oil, cedarwood oil||Sodium carbonate|
|Free from||Synthetic fragrances, dyes, artificial brighteners||Phosphates, bleach, optical brighteners, parabens, and SLS/SLES||Dyes, optical brighteners, parabens, phosphates, phthalates||Not provided||Parabens, phosphate, dyes, chlorine bleach, 1,4-dioxane||Phosphates, chlorine, ammonia, alcohol, artificial colors||Dyes, chlorine, phosphates, optical brighteners||Phosphates, bleach, solvents||Phosphates, chlorine, dyes||Phosphates, chlorine, formaldehyde|
|Scent||Lavender||Unscented||Magnolia, lily||Original (floral)||Linen||Citrus||Lavender, eucalyptus||Unscented||Oak tree||Unscented|
When choosing an eco-friendly detergent, consider factors such as the type of packaging and how the detergent is produced to ensure that your product is truly eco-friendly! Take a look at this buying guide for more details.
While it's quite tough to find laundry detergents without plastic packaging, there are definitely alternatives out there that you can opt for, such as buying in bulk or going for eco-friendly packaging.
Liquid detergents dissolve well in different water temperatures, from cold to hot. Plus, most liquid detergents are made with alcohol ethoxylates, which are great for removing greasy and oily stains. However, they aren't as environmentally-friendly as others since there are not as many plastic-free packaging options available.
Also, not all types of plastic can be recycled, so look for a liquid detergent with 100 percent recyclable plastic. Biodegradable plastic packaging, which is made from all-natural plant materials, is another great option as well!
You can also use big bottles since they utilize less plastic compared to the detergent volume. Try to reuse and refill them afterward! Moreover, liquid detergents' shipping tends to use more energy, so go for an ultra-concentrated product to help save some waste.
For powdered detergents, you can choose a product packaged in cardboard that is both biodegradable and recyclable. Getting a laundry powder also means that you don't have to pay for shipping water, so your carbon footprint shrinks!
Powdered detergents might not dilute well in cold water, and you might end up with chunks of residue on your clothes. Follow instructions carefully or look up tips on avoiding this, such as dissolving the powder first and adding it before the clothes.
Still, if you're looking for a product that can help remove stubborn outdoor stains such as mud, nothing beats powdered detergent! It's not diluted with water and thus has stronger cleansing power.
Pods are a convenient option since they're already pre-measured and often contain both detergent and softener. The gel pouches covering the liquid are made from polymer (polyvinyl alcohol) and dissolve in water. It prevents you from accidentally wasting too much detergent, which can cut down on consumption.
However, the main problem lies with the packaging. Some manufacturers wrap the individual pods in plastic which might result in more plastic waste. The outer packaging is usually a plastic container as well. If reducing plastic is your goal, find one with recycled packaging or consider a different option.
Detergents can't fully biodegrade and can actually leach chemicals such as phosphates, cadmium, and arsenic into local water bodies and lead to contamination. They can also accelerate plants' growth, modify the natural habitat of aquatic species, and even starve them of oxygen. While most detergents in the U.S. are phosphate-free, not all of them are.
Compared to harsh chemicals, plant-based ingredients with great cleansing properties such as citrus essence, tea tree oil, lemon thyme, and so on are much kinder to the ecosystem since they can break down quickly in the environment.
It's a great idea to look for products with a high percentage of plant-based ingredients (95 percent and above), but we have some words of caution.
Plant-based ingredients are not necessarily safe for your health. Limonene, pine oil, and other essential oils might be natural but have been shown to trigger allergic reactions and be harsh on the skin. Look for products labeled "for sensitive skin" or "hypoallergenic" to be on the safe side!
Plastic-free and biodegradable packaging is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, but most practices harmful to the earth stem from production processes. So consider purchasing laundry detergents produced partially or wholly by renewable energy.
It's sometimes difficult to determine this from reading the product description, so we suggest looking at the manufacturer's site to see details of their production process.
It's tough to completely avoid all unknown chemicals as even the most eco-friendly detergents are likely to contain some chemicals that you probably won't be familiar with.
Generally, try to stay away from harsh chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions such as ammonia, chlorine, and alcohol. They might be effective in removing all the stains but can dry out and irritate your skin.
Artificial fragrances and dyes should also be avoided. Most people are fine with them, but some with sensitive skin might experience redness and other skin irritation issues.
Many products claim to be 100 percent biodegradable, organic, and eco-friendly to attract environmentally-concerned consumers. Some studies have shown that many "earth-friendly" and "eco" detergents actually contain the potentially cancer-causing chemical 1,4 dioxane.
To know how many of their claims are actually true, you should look for official seals from certification bodies. Usually, only products that meet stringent standards and have gone through intense inspection processes can bear reputable stamps such as Green Seal, EcoLogo, and USDA Certified Bio-Based Product.
While searching for laundry detergents, you might encounter the little "HE" symbol. So what does it mean exactly? "HE" stands for high-efficiency, and detergents bearing that symbol are uniquely designed for high-efficiency washing machines that use much less water in comparison to the standard washers.
So why shouldn't you use regular laundry detergent in a high-efficiency washer? Well, with regular detergent, your HE machine will generate lots of suds that won't be washed away easily, eventually causing damage to the electronics. HE laundry detergents are low-sudsing and can quickly disperse without forming too many bubbles.
So if you own a HE washer, absolutely look for detergents with an "HE" symbol on the packaging to avoid ruining your machine!
It's time to replace your regular products with more environmentally-friendly ones to give back to the ecosystem!
It might sound like a lot of work to find an eco-friendly detergent, since you have to think about the packaging and the main ingredients of the product. But by replacing your regular detergent with more environmentally-friendly ones, you're contributing to saving our planet!
Author: Thuy Nguyen
Staying on the topic of minimizing waste, you might be interested in looking through sustainability and travel advocate Julia Miller's Top 10 Zero- and Low-Waste Alternatives. Check out this handy brush set that's completely biodegradable!
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