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For those who are bothered by lingering detergent smells, Biokleen's light citrus scent lasts briefly. Some buyers say the whole bottle lasts them a year. And the detergent can get rid of the toughest stains, including cloth diaper stains.
May leave white residue on certain fabrics.
This formula is concentrated, saving money and materials. It also comes with a nifty mechanism that measures the right detergent doses. The scent is mild, but pleasant enough to notice.
The measurement mechanism doesn't always work well.
The magnolia and lily scent is quite nice. The twice-concentrated formula saves product, and the built-in fabric softener keeps clothes soft and durable.
Some complain that Ecos doesn't remove heavy stains and odors.
This detergent works well in a machine, or in a bathtub soak. The formula can lift years of set-in sweat and stains from physical activity. It has little to no scent, for those seeking a scentless detergent. SLS-free.
The detergent may leach color, especially from dark clothes.
Tide Purclean comes with a nice honey lavender smell. For cleaning heavily soiled clothes, this extra-sudsy formula seems to do the trick.
Some may not appreciate the strong perfume scent.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
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.
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.
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.
Just like with regular laundry detergent, eco-friendly options come in different forms. Here are the pros and cons of each formula.
Pros: Liquid detergents can double as spot or stain removers. Concentrated formulas are cost effective.
Pros: Powder detergents are the most affordable. They generally come in recyclable cardboard packaging.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
Most eco-friendly laundry detergents are not tested on animals. Check the label if buying cruelty-free products is a must for you.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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