Best Dye-Free Laundry Detergents

Updated September 2021
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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 all opinions about the products are our own. 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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How we decided

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

59 Models Considered
28 Hours Researched
3 Experts Interviewed
122 Consumers Consulted
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 dye-free laundry detergents

It’s common for manufacturers to add dye to detergents. In some formulas, the dye is used to offset discoloration in garments; in others, it’s there for aesthetic reasons. Regardless, some people simply can’t tolerate the chemicals. Dye-free laundry detergent is formulated to be friendlier to sensitive skin. Depending on the formula, the detergent can be clear or colorless.

Not only does the lack of dye keep skin irritations at bay, it’s also an ideal choice for those with more serious dermatological concerns like eczema or acne. Many parents choose dye-free laundry detergents for their families because it’s common for these formulas to also be free of other harsh chemicals, such as soap, sulfates, or bleach. For that reason, dye-free laundry detergents are a popular choice for washing baby garments and bedding. Some people even say dye-free laundry detergents are a decent option for spot cleaning outerwear, car seat covers, and stuffed animals.

If you’re thinking of switching to dye-free laundry detergent, we invite you to read this buying guide first. We cover everything you need to know about these formulas, share a few shopping tips to help narrow your choices, and recommend some of our favorites.

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Just because a detergent is dye-free doesn’t mean it can’t target stains or clean effectively. In fact, these detergents often deep clean clothing without discoloring it, which can happen with bleach-based detergents.

Key considerations

Types

There are three choices when it comes to dye-free laundry detergent: liquid, powder, and pod. While all types are capable of cleaning, it’s important to understand how each performs in the washing machine.

Liquid: The best-selling type of dye-free laundry detergent is liquid. Many of these detergents are clear. Liquid detergents are already dissolved, which means they don’t require water to activate. And a little goes a long way with liquid detergents, so they offer a lot of bang for the buck.

One drawback of liquid detergents is they tend to be expensive, especially dye-free varieties. They also have the least eco-friendly packaging of most formulas.

Powder: Many consumers prefer classic powder detergents, which are usually white. Powder remains the most affordable option among laundry detergents. They’re an ideal pick for homes with hard water. It’s also common for the powder to come in recyclable packaging typically made of cardboard.

Powder detergent needs to be dissolved in warm water to work. Also these detergents are often packaged in large, heavy boxes that weigh a few pounds, which makes them difficult for some people to carry.

Pod: Also called packs, pods are small, pre-measured pouches of liquid detergent. They have risen in popularity in recent years because pods are as convenient as it gets when it comes to detergent. Not only are pods mess-free, their design takes the guesswork out of measuring the right amount of detergent for a load. They’re also highly portable, making them a favorite with anyone who uses a laundromat.

Pods are the most expensive option, and dye-free formulas cost even more than regular pods. They’ve also received criticism in recent years for the hazard they pose to pets and children who are attracted to the candy- or toy-like look of the pods.

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FOR YOUR SAFETY
It’s recommended that you wash your hands thoroughly after handling dye-free laundry detergent. Direct contact with the concentrated formula can cause skin or eye irritation.
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Features

Special varieties

In the past, there weren’t too many dye-free laundry detergents, so consumers were stuck with few options. There are now countless varieties of dye-free laundry detergent to choose from.

Hypoallergenic varieties are common. In addition to being free of artificial dyes, they also leave out harsh ingredients, including phthalates, parabens, and formaldehyde. Sensitive skin varieties of dye-free detergent are typically free of artificial fragrances and brighteners.

Natural dye-free laundry detergents stick to plant-based, organic, or vegan ingredients. Many of these varieties are ethically sourced and often have eco-conscious packaging. It’s important to know that “natural” isn’t an official term, and more than anything it indicates that there are some natural ingredients; however, not all ingredients are necessarily naturally derived.

HE laundry detergent is another important subcategory of special varieties. These include dye-free laundry detergents that are safe for high-efficiency washers or septic systems. If your home falls into either of these categories, this narrows your options when it comes to dye-free detergents.

Packaging

Some dye-free laundry detergents have eco-friendly packaging that can be recycled. For many consumers, this attribute plays a major role in their decision to purchase a product, and detergents are no exception.

Certain liquid detergents are packaged in recyclable bottles, some of which are made of recycled materials. It’s common for powder detergents to be packaged in cardboard and repurposed cardboard. Other powder detergents are packaged in recyclable bags or reusable buckets.

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DID YOU KNOW?
If a dye-free laundry detergent doesn’t explicitly say it’s safe for high-efficiency (HE) washers, err on the side of caution to avoid permanently damaging your machine. Contact the manufacturer directly for a definitive answer.
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Accessories

Dye-free fabric softener: Downy Ultra Free & Gentle Liquid Fabric Conditioner
This gentle dye-free fabric softener gives clothes and sheets long-lasting freshness and softness. It’s also compatible with high-efficiency machines.

Dye-free fabric softener sheets:  Bounce Free & Gentle Fabric Softener Sheets
Maintain your dye-free washing routine with these dye-free fabric softener sheets. They’re effective at fighting static and reducing wrinkles. The sheets are also made with biodegradable ingredients.

Dye-free stain treatment: Dreft Laundry Stain Remover
This dye-free stain remover is hypoallergenic and ideal for infants’ and kids’ bedding and clothing. It’s also a USDA-certified biobased product that is made with plant-based ingredients.

Dye-free laundry detergent prices

It’s recommended that you compare your options by the cost per load. For the most part, dye-free laundry detergent costs from $0.10 to $0.40 per load.

Powder formulas of dye-free laundry detergent cost from $0.10 to $0.18 per load, though certain specialty formulas can cost as much as $0.25 per load.

Liquid formulas of dye-free laundry detergent range from $0.16 to $0.26 per load. Those made by premium brands can cost closer to $0.30 per load.

Pod or pack formulas of dye-free laundry detergent cost $0.30 per load and more. Pods made by leading brands are sometimes available for bulk purchase, in some cases dropping the cost per load to around $0.22.

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CAUTION
Always keep detergent out of the reach of kids and pets. Even the gentlest formulas can be harmful if ingested. That’s why it’s a good idea to store detergent on a high shelf or in a locking cabinet.
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Tips

  • Try more than one variety. If you don’t find success with one variety of dye-free laundry detergent, it’s a good idea to try another one, or several. Fortunately, there are countless options on the market, so there’s a good chance you’ll find one that you like.
  • Research the ingredients. While many manufacturers now list ingredients in plain language, unfortunately, some still stick with the chemical names. If you’re in the market for dye-free laundry detergents, it’s a good idea to research any ingredients you’re unfamiliar with.
  • Prepare individual portions. If you use a laundromat, consider preparing individual bags or containers of your detergent to save space and weight.
  • Clean your washing machine. Before you switch to a dye-free laundry detergent, give your washer a deep cleaning to get rid of any residue from any detergent you used that contained dye. A natural way to do this is to fill the machine with warm water and 4 to 6 cups of white vinegar. Let it sit for an hour and then rinse it out.
  • Sign up for automatic delivery. To make sure you never run out of your favorite dye-free laundry detergent, subscribe to have it automatically delivered every few months.
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Some dye-free laundry detergents are mildly scented with an essential oil, such as peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus, or orange.

FAQ

Q. Will I see a major difference in my skin when using dye-free laundry detergent?

A. Results are highly subjective, and it could take some time or a few loads to notice a major difference. Some individuals don’t report a major difference in their skin; however, they may experience fewer irritations and breakouts than before.

Q. Why can’t I buy many dye-free laundry detergents in bulk?

A. Only certain manufacturers make these detergents available for bulk purchase, mostly because they remain less popular than mainstream varieties. It’s not very common to see lesser-known dye-free detergents for bulk purchase either. In the event they are, consumers often need to place special orders directly with the manufacturer.

Q. Can dye-free laundry detergents be used to pretreat stains?

A. Only liquid dye-free laundry detergents can be used to pretreat stains. Powder formulas aren’t an option because they require warm water to dissolve and activate. Pods shouldn’t be used for pretreating at all. Not only would it be wasteful to open a pod to pretreat a single item, but the concentrated detergent could damage the fabric.

 

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