Top 5 Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent Brands That Don't Harm The Planet

We’re a sporty family. At every opportunity, we’re outside (rain or shine), climbing something, swimming in something, or playing some form of sport.

So, it’s safe to say that laundry day comes around pretty quickly in our house. In fact, IT’S DAILY!

But did you know the Planet hates laundry day even more than you do...

Doing laundry sucks! The impact on the planet of conventional laundry methods sucks even more!

Many conventional liquid detergents are filled with harsh chemicals that damage the environment. So, for reasons I'll expand on later, it's vital that we choose an eco-friendly laundry detergent.

The Five Best Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent Brands

Later in this article, I’ll drill down into exactly why conventional laundry detergent is terrible for both the planet and human health. Once you hear the facts, you may never look at a jug of Tide in the same way!

However, before I open that can of worms, I’d like to run down the five best eco-friendly laundry detergent brands leading the charge for sustainable laundry.

Options: Stain & Odor Detergent (Clean & Crisp, Lavender Eucalyptus, Unscented), Small Loads Stain & Odor Detergent (Clean & Crisp), Sensitive Skin & Baby Detergent (Unscented), Sensitive Skin Detergent (Fresh Air), Small Loads Sensitive Skin & Baby Detergent (Unscented), Active Wash Detergent (Fresh Start, Rose Energy, Unscented).

Pros: Non-toxic, vegan, cruelty-free, sustainable packing, carbon-neutral shipments, dye-free, phosphate-free, phthalate-free, paraben-free, optical brightener-free, plastic-free, free shipping, 30-day trial.

Cons: Not fully palm oil-free.

They Say: Third-party lab tested to prove it works, and with ingredients so clean it won EPA Safer Choice Partner of the Year. Our formulas are dye-free, phthalate-free, phosphate-free and animal-cruelty-free. So free, they’re freaking awesome. Compostable packaging helps keep single-use plastic out of the landfill. And all of our shipments are 100% carbon-neutral. No holes, fading or pills on fabric, no scratched up dishes. Love your possessions longer. That’s real sustainability.

We Say: This is the go-to eco-friendly laundry detergent brand at Casa Miller. We love the range of options, from eco-friendly laundry detergent for our activewear to the more sensitive range we used when the girls were younger.

I live an active life and spend most of my waking hours in some form of activewear. So, for me, my favorite option is the Fresh Start scent of the Active Wash Detergent. It reminds me of early morning runs!

The Dropps range of eco-friendly laundry detergent pods covers all bases. There is something for every laundry needs.

I like to keep life as simple as possible, so I like that all Dropps eco-friendly laundry detergent comes in pod form. Simply throw one in the machine, add clothes, select a program, and away you go. No messing around with dosing. Even I can’t get that wrong!

The problem with conventional pods is the type of dissolvable plastic used. Dropps has solved this issue by using polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH). PVOH is non-toxic and dissolves fully in any washing machine, at any temperature, leaving behind zero microplastics or non-biodegradable material.

Dropps plastic-free laundry detergent pods also tread lightly when it comes to packaging. The cardboard box the pods come in is fully compostable and recyclable. It’s made from a mix of recycled material, and Forest Stewardship Council certified cardboard.

The pods contain only plant-based ingredients and are manufactured in the U.S. with no animal testing.

The one minor downside for me is that Dropps plastic-free laundry detergent pods do contain palm oil. I would prefer no palm oil to be used at all, but happy that the small amount of oil used is RSPO-certified sustainable.

Dropps are not just one of the best eco-friendly laundry detergent brands. They also offer an impressive range, including fabric softener, oxi boosters, dishwasher soap, and more.

Pros: Compostable packaging, paraben-free, phosphate-free, plastic-free, biodegradable in accordance with OECD 310D, vegan, palm oil-free, dye-free, cruelty-free, non-toxic, chlorine bleach-free, 1,4-dioxane-free, hypoallergenic, 100% refund guarantee, free shipping.

Cons: Limited scent options.

They Say: Each laundry strip packs ultra-concentrated, hypoallergenic, eco-friendly cleaning power into a tiny, pre-measured strip of liquidless laundry detergent that you just toss in the wash. Its low-sudsing formula works in all types of washing machines, including high-efficiency (HE). The smart hypoallergenic laundry detergent formulation effectively seeks out and dislodges dirt molecules and stains, keeping them in suspension until they are rinsed away. It makes your laundry washing chore easier, healthier, more economical, and much kinder to our planet.

We Say: Tru Earth has made a product that feels like it has been designed just for me. An eco-friendly, convenient, zero mess, plastic-free laundry detergent.

I don’t like messing around with liquid or power if I can help it. I almost always either spill it or use too much. This is why laundry pods have always got my vote.

I also like innovative, outside the box, thinking. That’s precisely what we have here with Tru Earth Eco-Strips Laundry Detergent.

No powder, no liquid, no pods, just strips of paper laundry detergent sheets. Yep, you read that right, PAPER! The ultimate in plastic-free laundry detergent.

Simply place a pre-measured strip of this natural laundry detergent paper in your washing machine and let it do its thing.

Each strip of Tru Earth eco-friendly laundry detergent weighs just 3g but packs the same cleaning punch of 40g of premium liquid or powder detergent.

The compact design means not only can you reclaim space in your cupboards but also massively reduce the impact of shipping. According to the manufacturer, if everyone in the U.S. switched to Tru Earth Eco-Strips, the annual eco-savings would be enormous:

  • Eliminate one billion plastic jugs (you read that right!), saving 700 million from going to landfills.
  • Save truck fuel and CO2 equivalent to taking 27 million cars off the road for a day, or planting nine million trees.

All this from a tiny strip of plastic-free paper manufactured in Canada. Awe-inspiring stuff! Tru Earth really is one of the best eco-friendly laundry detergent brands.

Pros: Not tested on animals, vegan, palm oil-free, cruelty-free, non-toxic, carbon-neutral, compostable packaging, one tree planted per order, 2% of sales donated to charity, money-back guarantee.

Cons: For handwashing only, not to be used in machines.

They Say: Flash! is a solid laundry and stain remover bar — perfect for handwashing delicates, taking away when travelling or for when you are out in the wilderness and need to wash clothing, dishes or even hands. Great for use on silk, wool and delicates. Made with 100% biodegradable ingredients, pure essential oils and white kaolin clay to remove oils and dirt. Smells beautiful and will last for wash after wash after wash. Please note: due to the lack of an anti-corrosion ingredient in Flash, we do not recommend using this in your washing machine as a detergent. Always patch test on fabric prior to use.

We Say: I’m working on my eco-credentials every day and try to do everything I can to live as green a life as possible. I’m also a busy family man who needs to balance eco with convenience. That is why I use a washing machine and eco-friendly laundry pods.

I’m also aware that some of you are way ahead of me in terms of eco-warriorness and ditched the washing machine years ago to save water and electricity.

If that is you, then enormous respect. Maybe when the girls move out and the chaos subsides, Mrs. Miller and I will step it up to the next level (I’d love to go ‘off grid’ one day).

Until then, I can only admire your efforts from afar and do my little to help you find the products to make your green life easier.

That is why I’ve included Ethique Flash! Laundry Bar & Stain Stick in the list.

According to the manufacturer, there are three ways to use Flash!

  1. Wet bar and rub directly onto wet clothing, massage lather into fabric and leave to soak. Rinse thoroughly.
  2. If using as a stain remover, rinse out before popping into washing machine. Repeat for stubborn stains.
  3. Pro tip: when using on delicate fabric, lather the bar between your hands first. Then apply lather to the fabric before massaging in. When using to wash the dishes, fill the sink or bucket with warm water, lather the bar in the water, then clean dishes as you normally would.

Made with coconut oil, kaolin clay, baking soda, and peppermint oil, this is one eco-friendly bar that smells amazing and packs an impressive cleaning punch.

If you’re a hand-washer, then this bar will make your life that little bit easier.

If, like me, you’re eco-conscience but still use a washing machine, this bar is a fantastic option for removing stains from your clothes before you put them in the wash. It got marinara sauce out of my white linen trousers, which, I’m sure you’ll agree, is the ultimate test! 😁

Ethique is a certified B Corp that produces a wide range of zero waste products, not just natural laundry detergent bars. They also specialize in haircare, skincare, lipcare, body, baby, household, and more.

Pros: Compostable, cruelty-free, paraben-free, vegan, sustainable manufacturing, made in USA, biodegradable, plastic-free packaging, dye-free, vegan, no sulfates (SLS, SLES, ALS), no phosphates, chlorine, ammonia, or formaldehyde, no parabens or petrochemicals, no optical brighteners, no artificial foaming agents, no harsh preservatives, no GMO-ingredients, free shipping on orders over $50, free returns.

Cons: No scent options.

They Say: Make the switch from your classic laundry pods to the Soap Berry Laundry Pods from Nature First! Made from soap berries that are wild-harvested from the Sapindus mukorossi tree in the foothills of the Himalayas, and produced using a proprietary natural water extraction method to pull the super-concentrated cleansing agents (saponin surfactants) to create a soap berry concentrate, this laundry detergent is super-concentrated, effective, and consistent.

It is packaged plastic-free, and contains no fragrances, dyes, or toxins (and is cruelty-free and vegan!) It is stain-removing, color-safe, and fabric softening, and can be used on all fabric types. Plus, it is biodegradable, and safe for both Standard and HE machines!

We Say: I wanted to include a soap berry option in the list but never found the right product. They either didn’t clean well enough or were far too expensive.

Then, when I finally found a product I felt I could recommend (Eco Nuts Detergent), it was discontinued. Fortunately, the good folk over at Earth Hero put me onto an alternative that has impressed me!

My one big concern with the soap berry products I tested was that you have no clear way of knowing when the berries have come to the end of their lives and need replacing. You don’t want to be replacing soap berries too soon as this would be a waste. However, you also don’t want to be using them for too long, and your clothes come out still dirty.

Nature First Soap Berry Laundry Pods have solved this by taking the power of soap berries and putting them in an easy-to-use eco-friendly laundry detergent pod.

Pros: Paraben-free, phthalate-free, sulfate-free, cruelty-free, family business, B Corp, vegan, 15 for the planet, non-toxic, palm oil-free, free shipping on orders over $50, free returns.

Cons: You have to measure out the powder, so there is the potential for mess and overdosing.

They Say: Love laundry? Yeah.. Didn't think so. But the Meliora Natural Powder Laundry Detergent makes it a little easier to get through that dirty clothes pile! Made with highly concentrated, all natural ingredients like baking soda, pH boosting washing soda, and skin softening coconut oil, this laundry powder easily removes stains and stink to leave clothes soft and clean.

It is compatible with both HE and Standard washing machines–and contains no additives, synthetic fragrances, or dyes. Plus, Meliora is a member of 1% for the Planet, and pledges to donate at least 2% of all sales towards nonprofits like the Women's Voices for the Earth; an environmental non-profit that gives back to our Earth through numerous charitable programs.

We Say: The family-run, B Corp certified, Meliora produces a range of non toxic cleaning products, but I’m going to concentrate on their laundry powder.

This highly concentrated laundry powder comes in four naturally scented options (lavender, lemon, lemon lavender & clove, unscented). Lemon is my favorite.

When you first order this powder, you should go for the reusable canister and scoop option. Once all the powder has been used, you can order refills and reuse your existing canister and scoop for many years.

I prefer the no mess/easy dose of pods. Not that dosing the powder is exactly tricky. The scoop provided is accurate and clean to use.

Sustainability and transparency are critical to the Meliora ethos. You can even arrange an appointment to have a tour of their Chicago factory to see first hand how they’re fighting the green fight.

Why Using The Best Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent Matters

Why should we bother choosing eco-friendly laundry detergent made with natural, biodegradable materials rather than sticking to the mainstream synthetic detergents?

If you intend to live a truly eco-friendly lifestyle then your laundry routine is critical.

First, the importance of choosing eco friendly detergents with zero waste packaging.

One billion liquid detergent laundry jugs are discarded in the U.S. every year.  It’s estimated that only 30% of these are recycled. Leaving around 700 million plastic laundry jugs either sat in U.S. landfills or shipped to developing countries to often be disposed of in unsustainable ways.

Either way, they're highly likely to end up contributing to global plastic pollution.

If you go for powder instead of liquid, you still can’t guarantee to be plastic-free. Most powder laundry detergent boxes are lined with plastic to protect the powder from getting damp.

Then there's the actual ingredients to consider.

Every time you wash your clothes, many nasty chemicals leave your washing machine and enter the sewage system. Some of these get cleaned up at the treatment plants, but many find their way into rivers, lakes, and seas.

These chemicals harm septic systems, pollute drinking water and cause death and disease to aquatic life.

Laundry Detergent Chemicals Affecting Environmental Health

Different brands of standard laundry detergent contain a different mix of chemicals. Some of the more toxic ones for environmental health are:

Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPE)

Nonylphenol Ethoxylates are non-ionic surfactants that used to be widely used in detergents. They are highly harmful to aquatic life and will kill entire lakes if the levels are high enough.

Phosphates

Phosphates are added to laundry detergents to soften the water. This helps keep the dirt in the water and off the laundry in the washing machine.

When phosphates find their way into water sources, it increases algae growth and poor water quality.

Fortunately, most laundry detergents are now phosphate-free, but the damage has already been done to some extent. It’s estimated that 50% to 75% of phosphorus in lakes and rivers has come from our use of detergent.

Chemical Surfactants

Surfactants are added to laundry detergent to help remove dirt. They work by breaking down the interface between the water in the washing machine and the oils/dirt on the clothes.

When surfactants get into waterways, they can cause deformities in fish and frogs.

Optical Brighteners

Optical brighteners are added to laundry detergents to make clothing appear whiter and brighter. 

Not only do optical brighteners trick you into thinking your clothes are cleaner than they are, but they do not biodegrade naturally and also pose a danger to aquatic life when they leak into waterways.

Laundry Detergent Chemicals Affecting Human Health

It’s not just the environment that suffers when using non-eco-friendly laundry detergents. Human health is also affected:

Artificial Fragrances

Added to laundry detergent to make your clothes smell nice, but can contain endocrine-disrupting phthalates and other possible allergens, such as asthma.

Artificial Colors And Dyes

Added to laundry detergent to make your clothes look cleaner for longer, or even just to make the detergent look more appealing!

Can result in skin irritation. Particularly in those with sensitive skin.

1,4-Dioxane

Classified as a probable human carcinogen, meaning it has the potential to cause cancer in humans, 1,4-Dioxane has been detected in numerous liquid laundry detergents. 

1,4-Dioxane is tricky to avoid. It’s not listed on the label because it is a byproduct of other ingredients.

Chlorine Bleach

Chlorine bleach is added to some laundry detergents for hygiene reasons.

If the dose is too high, it can burn skin and irritate the eyes, nose, and throat.

Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPE)

NPE imitates the hormone estrogen, which can have negative effects on pregnant women and reproductive health in general.

Quaternary Ammonium Compounds

Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (often called QACs or quats) are added to some laundry detergents for their fabric softening properties.

QACs have been shown to reduce fertility in mice. Some experts believe the same might apply to humans.

Your Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent Checklist

When shopping for eco-friendly laundry detergents, there are many things to look out for.

The more of the following you can tick off, the better your laundry detergent will be for you and the environment:

  • Non-toxic
  • Vegan
  • Cruelty-free
  • Palm oil free
  • Ethical sourcing/manufacturing
  • Biodegradable 
  • Natural fragrances or unscented
  • Recycled packaging
  • Recyclable packaging
  • Compostable packaging
  • Plastic-free packaging
  • Made in the USA
  • No chlorine bleach
  • No NPEs
  • No optical brighteners
  • No artificial colors
  • No animal testing
  • Concentrated formula
  • Septic safe

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Tide Pods Zero Waste?

Tide pods (pacs) are made from dissolvable PVA, a type of plastic that dissolves when it comes into contact with water. This plastic passes out of your machine and has to be cleaned out of the water at a treatment plant. As such, I would not consider Tide Pods zero waste. Look for pods made from polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH).

Is Tide Powder Environmentally Friendly?

Most Tide powders contain powerful cleaning agents that I do not consider to be environmentally friendly.

Which Is Better For The Environment Bio Or Non Bio?

Biological laundry detergents contain enzymes that help clean clothes. These enzymes can irritate sensitive skin, so some people prefer non-biological laundry detergents. The effects on the environment are harder to judge. Make sure you tick off as much of the checklist above, and you should be well on your way to using an eco-friendly laundry detergent.

What Does Zero Waste Laundry Detergent Mean?

Zero waste laundry detergent usually refers to a product where nothing is wasted or thrown away. A zero waste laundry detergent will come in plastic-free, recycled packaging that can be either recycled again or composed. The actual laundry detergent should be as eco-friendly as possible and leave no nasty chemicals or plastics in the water.

What Is Better Powder Laundry Detergent Or Liquid Laundry Detergent?

I like to steer clear of traditional liquid laundry detergent due to the natural resources wasted in making plastic jugs. Power laundry detergent is better, provided it comes in a recycled and recyclable box with no plastic. Eco-friendly laundry liquid pods are my favorite.

The Final Word

I believe we can all be a little bit greener when it comes to our choice of laundry detergent. Especially when you consider the impact on our health and the health of the environment for what is essentially a pretty easy swap.

Fortunately, this is one marketplace where eco-friendliness and convenience can go hand in hand.

Sure, some eco-friendly laundry detergent brands are slightly more expensive than their mainstream counterparts, but this is one area where I feel spending an extra few cents.

Besides, with some brands now offering subscription service discounts, saving the world’s waterways and potentially improving your overall health is more affordable than ever.

Make a few simple changes and, before you know it, you’ll have your very own zero waste laundry room!

James is a senior editor at The Roundup and has been in journalism for over 10 years. He was born in the UK but raised in Florida, where he currently lives with his wife and two daughters. James is passionate about sustainable living and environmental issues which are reflected by his work as an editor of TheRoundup.org.
James Miller
James is a senior editor at The Roundup and has been in journalism for over 10 years. He was born in the UK but raised in Florida, where he currently lives with his wife and two daughters. James is passionate about sustainable living and environmental issues which are reflected by his work as an editor of TheRoundup.org.

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