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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.

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

Buying guide for best plant-based laundry detergents

Last Updated September 2020

Everybody needs laundry detergent to keep their clothes clean and fresh, but not all varieties are equal. Whether for ethical or environmental reasons or simply to reduce the use of controversial chemicals at home, many people are switching to plant-based laundry detergents.

It doesn't matter if you're a first-time buyer or you just want to switch brands, choosing the right one can seem baffling. It seems like a new plant-based laundry detergent is released every day, which gives you more choice but also saturates the market. It can be tough to tell which ones are worth your money. It's important to consider whether you want a plant-based laundry detergent that's made mostly or entirely from plants, or you just want it to be vegan and cruelty-free. You should also think about its formulation, cleaning power, and fragrance.

We've listed our top five plant-based laundry detergents above to help you make your purchase. Alternatively, you can read our full buying guide to plant-based detergents and decide for yourself.

Look for a cruelty-free certification from an organization like Cruelty-Free International if you're looking for a laundry detergent that hasn't been tested on animals.

Key considerations

Vegan vs. plant-derived

The issue with plant-based laundry detergents is the ambiguity of the term "plant-based." For some, "plant-based" is synonymous with "vegan," whereas others take "plant-based" to mean a product is made entirely or predominantly from plants. What's the difference, and what are the implications?

Vegan: Vegan laundry detergents contain no animal ingredients of any kind, but they aren't necessarily made of plant ingredients. They can be made from mineral-based or synthetic ingredients, too.

When buying vegan laundry detergents, you should also expect them to be ethically vegan, not just vegan when it comes to the ingredients. This means they shouldn't be tested on animals and should be made by a company that either has a fixed cut-off date policy or has never tested on animals, bought animal-tested ingredients, or commissioned others to perform such tests. A fixed cut-off date is a date selected by the manufacturer after which none of the ingredients in a product have been tested on animals by the manufacturer or any of its suppliers.

Also, vegan laundry detergents may or may not be eco-friendly, so don't assume one is good for the environment just because it's vegan. Plant-based laundry detergents can be both plant-derived and 100% vegan, but don't assume that they are.

Plant-derived: Plant-derived laundry detergents are eco-friendly, avoiding synthetic chemical ingredients that are often found in standard laundry detergents. They should use vegetable-based surfactants rather than those made from petrochemicals. Note that laundry detergents that are 100% plant-derived may not perform as well as those that use some synthetic ingredients.

When you choose plant-derived laundry detergents, the focus is on using all or mostly plant ingredients, but other ingredients may or may not be vegan-friendly. Even if a laundry detergent is plant-derived, it can still be tested on animals or produced by a company that currently performs or orders tests on animals.

Effectiveness

Not all plant-based laundry detergents perform equally well when it comes to getting your clothes clean, but it can be tough to figure out the cleaning power of a product when all the brands make claims about how well their products perform.

While you can find some effective products made from 100% plant ingredients, the addition of some mineral-based or synthetic ingredients can boost cleaning power. Enzymes are great for stain removal, too, but they can cause a reaction in some people with sensitive skin.

Some detergents offer a money-back guarantee if you aren't happy with the way they perform, which gives you some peace of mind if you're not certain about a product. Of course, looking at customer reviews can also help you decide whether or not a detergent performs adequately.

Formulation

Most plant-based laundry detergents are either liquids, gels, powders, or pods.

Liquids and gels are by far the most popular option due to their ease of use, relative lack of mess, and mid-range price, but this doesn't mean they're the best choice for everyone.

Powder tends to be the least expensive option of all plant-based detergents and often performs very well, plus it tends to come in cardboard boxes, which are eco-friendly and easily recycled. Powder can, however, occasionally leave white marks on clothes, especially if you don't follow the package directions carefully.

Pods are extremely easy to use — just throw one or two in the washer and you're ready to go, with no measuring or mess. Detergent pods tend to be the most expensive option, however.

EXPERT TIP

You can add a few drops of essential oil to your wash if you have an unscented detergent but want a hint of fragrance.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Measuring cap

Many liquid and gel plant-based laundry detergents include a measuring cap, so you can easily measure out the required amount to add to the wash. Some of these caps are even suitable for putting directly in the drum with your laundry.

Fragrance

Unless you have sensitive skin or you like to add your own scents to the wash, you'll probably want a detergent with some kind of added fragrance. Scents range from subtle to strong, so you'll need to consider your preferences.

Concentration

When choosing a laundry detergent, concentrated options are more eco-friendly. The more concentrated a liquid detergent is, the less water it contains and the less packaging that's required. It also means fewer trucks on the roads to transport it because it takes up less space than non-concentrated options.

“Natural” doesn't necessarily mean "plant-based." Some natural or eco-friendly detergents contain animal ingredients.

Plant-based laundry detergent prices

The best way to compare the prices of plant-based laundry detergents is to look at the cost per load. They tend to be somewhat pricier than regular mainstream brands because they're often made using more costly ingredients and in smaller batches.

Inexpensive: Some plant-based laundry detergents cost less than $0.10 per load. However, these are usually made by big brands and aren’t likely to be 100% vegan. They may also be tested on animals or contain ingredients other than plant-derived ones.

Mid-range: These plant-based laundry detergents are generally priced between $0.10 and $0.20 per load. This range includes some very good vegan and mostly plant-derived options with great cleaning power.

Expensive: These options cost between $0.20 and $0.35 per load, and some can cost as much as $0.65 per load. While you can find quality detergents in this price range, some are only this costly because they contain 100% plant-derived ingredients even if they're not great at lifting stains.

EXPERT TIP

If you're in the market for a mild and eco-friendly laundry detergent, choose one that's free from phosphates, phosphonates, and carboxylates.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Check for recyclable packaging. If you want to switch to a plant-based detergent to be more environmentally friendly, it would be frustrating to discover you can't recycle the packaging it came in!
  • Check if the detergent is effective in low temperatures. Again, if one of the reasons for your choice is because of environmental factors, you'll probably want to wash most of your laundry in cold water, so you'll need a detergent that's effective across the board.
  • Check if the container has a pump. Some laundry detergent containers have a built-in pump to make dispensing the detergent quick, easy, and mess-free. These pumps have a mix of plastic and metal parts, making them impossible to recycle. Think carefully before buying a product with this kind of mechanism.
  • Check your washer. If you have a high-efficiency (HE) washer, you need a high-efficiency laundry detergent. You can use HE detergents in standard washers, but you can't use standard detergents in HE machines.
You can also find plant-based fabric softeners on the market, but beware of standard fabric softeners, which often contain beef tallow.

FAQ

Q. Is plant-based laundry detergent better for the environment?
A.
Plant-based laundry detergent is often better for the environment than standard detergent, but this isn't always the case. Look for detergents that are biodegradable and contain vegetable-based surfactants as opposed to petrochemical-based surfactants. Some chemicals, such as phosphates, are also bad for the environment, disrupting the natural balance in rivers and other bodies of water, which can cause problems for both fauna and flora.
 

Q. Are plant-based laundry detergents better for sensitive skin?
A.
Again, this is often the case, but it isn't true across the board. Many plant-based detergents use gentle ingredients and try to avoid ingredients that commonly cause skin irritation, but some do not. If you have sensitive skin, try to avoid any detergents that use fragrances and dyes. The enzymes used to shift stains in some plant-based detergents can also irritate sensitive skin. Of course, it depends on the triggers for your skin sensitivities, as some people are more sensitive to plant ingredients than synthetic ingredients (although this is rare).
 

Q. Do I need to put my laundry detergent in the washer drawer or can it go straight in the drum?
A.
Some laundry detergents can be put straight in the drum, while others must go in the drawer, so always check the directions before using a new product. Usually, pods can go in the drum and powder needs to be measured out into the drawer. Liquid and gel formulas vary — some must go in the drawer and others can go either in the drawer or the drum.

Other Products We Considered
The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Lauren
    Lauren
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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