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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

17 Models Considered
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Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best eco-friendly laundry detergents

Last Updated November 2019

Switching to an eco-friendly laundry detergent is not only a little step you can take to help planet Earth but also a big step to help your health. Conventional laundry detergents contain chemicals that can mess up the environment and your body. Fortunately, a green movement has hit the shelves, and now consumers have a plethora of eco-friendly laundry detergents to choose from that actually work and are priced competitively.

Eco-friendly laundry detergents are less irritating to the skin and less likely to cause allergic reactions, making them a wise choice for households with children. Fragrance-free formulas are a good option for those with scent sensitivities, while there are also plenty of green detergents available with pleasant scents.

If you’re ready to transition to a detergent that’s better for the world and your household, we’re here to help you navigate all the considerations that arise when choosing an eco-friendly option. For more information on the chemicals that eco-friendly detergents avoid, and why they should be avoided, keep reading. For a quick pick of a green detergent, check out our top five recommendations above.

Eco-friendly laundry detergents are ideal for people with chemical sensitivities, allergies, sensitive skin, or eczema.

What makes a laundry detergent eco-friendly?

In 1993, phosphates were banned from use in laundry detergents because of their negative impact on water sources, where they caused massive algae blooms that killed fish and other organisms. However, many detergents still contain synthetic surfactants, which break up oil and grease from fabric by forming a “micelle” around the dirt so it can float away. These micelles find their way into fish gills and deprive them of oxygen.

Other harmful chemicals found in conventional laundry detergents are BPAs and phthalates, which are considered endocrine disruptors that can seriously mess with your hormonal cycles. These can be in the detergent’s fragrance or the plastic bottle itself. An eco-friendly detergent worth its salt will avoid these additives like the plague.

Artificial dyes and fragrances in conventional detergents can cause allergic reactions, from itchy eyes to respiratory issues, not to mention skin rashes. Eco-friendly detergents still come with pleasant scents – so your clothes don’t miss out on that laundry-clean smell – but without any risk of hives.

Consumer waste is also a concern for eco-friendly detergents. While plastic bottles may be here to stay for a while, eco-friendly detergents use containers that can be recycled (either plastic or cardboard) or are made with post-consumer recycled plastic.

Lastly, many eco-friendly detergent manufacturers use renewable energy like wind to power their facilities. Others boast carbon- and water-neutral facilities, or a low carbon footprint and minimal water usage.

Popular fragrance-free detergent

From a trusted brand that dominates all things eco-friendly, from tissues to tampons, this laundry detergent is a gold standard in green products. Highly rated by the EWG and meeting the EPA Safer Choice Standard, it contains no irritating fragrances or dyes.

Other benefits of eco-friendly laundry detergents

Besides being better for your health and the environment, there are a couple other benefits of choosing an eco-friendly laundry detergent.

  • Gentler on fabrics: You may be wondering if eco-friendly detergents actually effectively remove dirt and stains from your laundry. Of course, some brands get the job done better than others, but overall eco-friendly detergents use gentler, natural ingredients that won’t break down a material’s ability to wick sweat/absorb moisture or alter the color or integrity of the fabric.

  • Supports small or family-run businesses: Many eco-friendly brands are run by families or small businesses that are dedicated to sustainability and using natural ingredients that won’t harm you or the environment. Though big brands are starting to catch onto the green trend, smaller brands usually have higher-integrity products that are widely available online.
DID YOU KNOW?

Most eco-friendly laundry detergents are biodegradable and made from natural ingredients.

Key considerations

Just like with regular laundry detergent, eco-friendly options come in different forms. Here are the pros and cons of each formula.

Liquid laundry detergents

  • Pros: Liquid detergents can double as spot or stain removers. Concentrated formulas are cost effective.

  • Cons: Liquids can spill or be messy. It’s easy to use too little or too much. Plastic bottles can contribute to landfill waste (though more companies are offering cardboard containers).

Powder laundry detergents

  • Pros: Powder detergents are the most affordable. They generally come in recyclable cardboard packaging.

  • Cons: Powders don’t dissolve well in cold water. They’re not ideal for spot treatment, unless you want to go through the hassle of making a paste. Powders can also spill.

Laundry detergent pods

  • Pros: Pods (sometimes called pacs) are single doses of detergent that eliminate the guesswork of measuring out exact amounts. They’re super convenient and don’t make a mess. The packets themselves are made of biodegradable materials that won’t harm the environment.

  • Cons: Pods are the most expensive form of detergent. Kids and pets can mistake them for food or candy.

Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPE) are a type of surfactant found in conventional laundry detergents that can harm fish and other aquatic organisms. A quality eco-friendly laundry detergent should be free of dyes, artificial fragrance, chlorine, phosphates, phthalates, optical brighteners, and parabens.

Staff
BestReviews

Features

Concentration

Concentrated or ultra-concentrated liquid detergent saves product, money, and container waste (often plastic). A bottle lasts a whole lot longer than non-concentrated formulas.

Fragrance

Scented eco-friendly detergents have mild scents that are plant-derived, like from lavender or eucalyptus essential oil. For some sensitive folks, these plant extracts don’t irritate, but for others it’s best to opt for a fragrance-free option.

Fragrance-free eco-friendly detergents are usually easy to find. These are free of artificial and natural fragrances that might irritate the skin.

Hypoallergenic

Hypoallergenic eco-friendly detergents often boast a pH neutral formula that won’t corrode surfaces (which is how some detergents “eat away” dirt). If you tend to get allergic reactions to products, opt for a detergent labeled hypoallergenic.

Activewear

Activewear eco-friendly laundry detergents are formulated to be tough on odors that cling to sportswear. Some of these formulas use plant enzymes to eat away at smell and stains.

Cruelty-free

Most eco-friendly laundry detergents are not tested on animals. Check the label if buying cruelty-free products is a must for you.

Gentle and inexpensive

A liquid detergent that’s neither caustic on the clothes or the skin. Grapefruit and citrus extracts naturally clean and scent clothes. Clothes get extra clean with this zero-chemical concentrate, and the large bottle lasts a long time.

Eco-friendly laundry detergent prices

Like most products better for the environment and your health, eco-friendly laundry detergents come at a steeper price than conventional detergents. However, some brands are trying to break this trend with affordable, entry-level products. These laundry detergents retail for $0.10 to $0.20 a load. A mid-priced eco-friendly laundry detergent ranges from $0.25 to $0.33 a load. Top-of-the-line green laundry detergents run from $0.40 to more than $0.55 per load.

Tips

  • It is not required by law for laundry detergent manufacturers to list every ingredient on packaging, but you can visit the manufacturer’s website for a complete list of ingredients, including chemical compounds.

  • Look for an EPA Safer Choice label on packaging. You can also visit online consumer guides like the EWG, which rates household products for their impact on your health, including a comprehensive list of potentially harmful chemicals they contain and how they can negatively affect your health.

  • Instead of purchasing a separate detergent for your hand-washing, choose an eco-friendly detergent that’s gentle enough (most are) for your delicates and woolen wear.

  • When using an eco-friendly detergent, don’t undo the process by using chemical-laden fabric softeners. Use eco-friendly fabric softeners or select a green detergent that contains a built-in fabric softener.

  • If your green detergent isn’t quite doing the trick, boost it with borax, or sodium tetraborate, a natural mineral that’s free of chemicals. It can also be used to make DIY green laundry detergent.

Other products we considered

Molly’s Suds Original Laundry Powder is a popular, natural laundry soap for sensitive skin, and it’s loved by folks with skin issues like eczema and by chemically sensitive households. It’s ultra-concentrated and produces no suds, so it’s HE machine-safe. This detergent powder impressively contains only five natural ingredients and leaves clothes smelling clean and feeling soft. Method Laundry Detergent Pump, Free + Clear is a biodegradable, liquid formula that’s ultra-concentrated. This plant-based formula is tough on stains and gentle on colors. It’s unique pump bottle is loved by users for measuring control, and refill pouches are available to cut down on cost and consumer waste (the pump bottles are also made from recycled plastic). Method is a widely popular eco-friendly brand for a reason!

Eco-friendly laundry detergents use plant-derived enzymes or other plant compounds, instead of synthetic surfactants, to remove stains and smells.

FAQ

Q. What kinds of ingredients are in eco-friendly detergents if they don’t use synthetic surfactants to clean fabric?
A.
Eco-friendly detergents rely mostly on plant-based compounds to do their dirty work. “Surfactants” may be listed in their ingredients, but they’re plant derived, like from coconut, instead of made in a lab. Other eco-friendly detergents use plant-derived enzymes like protease and amylase to remove stains. Some use sodium carbonate and other soluble salts like borax to effectively remove dirt and grease.

Q. How else can I make my laundry process as green as possible?
A.
Besides using eco-friendly laundry products – including detergents, fabric softeners, and dryer sheets – be mindful of the energy washers and dryers expend. Switching from washing your garments in warm water to cold will cut back on 90% of the energy used by your washer. A dryer leaves quite a carbon footprint: the average household runs a dryer 200 times a year, producing half a ton of CO2 emissions. Consider air drying your clothes on a drying rack instead.

The team that worked on this review
  • Ana
    Ana
    Writer
  • Katherine
    Katherine
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Ola
    Ola
    Writer

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