Can laundry detergents damage our health and planet? Is there any eco-friendly option? Learn everything about eco-friendly laundry detergents in this blog.
Can conventional laundry detergents damage our health and planet? Is there any eco-friendly option? Learn everything about eco-friendly laundry detergents in this blog.
When it comes to making our laundry room more eco-friendly, we mostly think of having the latest washing machines and dryers. And while having more energy-efficient appliances will have a big impact on your carbon footprint, there are other impacts of keeping your clothes clean.
What I want to focus on today is using eco-friendly laundry detergents in order to reduce your environmental impact.
To guide you through this, I will show you why it’s important, what to watch out for on packaging and ingredient lists, and I have a list of great products for you as well.
Let’s dive right in.
As mentioned above, making sure that your machine doesn’t contribute too much to climate issues is just one part of its environmental impact. Switching to eco-friendly laundry detergents is just as important.
But what does it actually mean?
OK, the first thing to look at is the chemical ingredients on the label. And when you look past the misleading advertising, you’ll often find stuff that isn’t great for the environment or your skin, for that matter.
So, the first thing you want to check is whether there is any phosphate. Generally speaking, this shouldn’t be in any detergent or soap that is biodegradable. There should also be no chlorine bleach or brighteners, as these almost always introduce chemicals into places where they don't belong.
The problem with such laundry detergent ingredients is that they can end up in lakes, rivers, and groundwater because they are mostly not filtered out in water treatment plants.
The other thing to consider is using concentrated or powder laundry detergents. They have a lower carbon footprint because the weight-to-dosage ratio is lower. That means there is less carbon tied up in transport.
There are two things to look at here.
First of all, if you prefer buying a liquid laundry detergent, then ideally, you want it to come in plastic-free packaging and compostable bottles. These types of bottles are becoming more common, so look out for them.
Alternatively, make sure that the plastic bottle is fully recyclable so that it doesn’t end up in a landfill.
And for powder laundry detergent, make sure that the packaging is plastic-free. That ensures that it’s fully recyclable or gives you the option of composting it as well.
Bottom line, if there’s any indication that parts of the packaging will end up at a landfill or don’t contain recycled plastic, then stay away from the product altogether.
This is becoming an increasingly important thing to be aware of with everything you buy that has an eco-friendly label or claim in advertising. There are too many unethical companies who try to greenwash their products to fool people into buying something that is no more eco-friendly than the diesel and gasoline in cars.
I’ve seen laundry detergent with an eco-friendly label just because the packaging contains 20% recycled plastic. But the actual laundry detergent contains all kinds of harmful chemicals, and the “recycled” can’t even be further recycled.
I’ll recommend eco-friendly laundry detergents shortly. But the first thing you should do is check your existing stock of powder and liquid detergents.
And I’ve gathered a list of some ingredients that are very common in a traditional detergent. Unfortunately, common also means harmful to the environment, and these are things that you don’t want to find on an eco laundry detergent label.
First of all, this difficult to pronounce chemical compound can be harmful to the skin and is often the main reason people with sensitive skin have reactions to certain laundry detergents. But did you also know that it’s a common organic herbicide?
So, when your laundry detergent ends up in nature it can actually kill off vegetation.
Phosphates are very common in laundry detergent products, and they generally don't get filtered out in water treatment plants. When they enter natural waterways, they cause eutrophication which is a form of poisoning that kills marine animals.
These are generally quite irritating and not just to people with sensitive skin. There’s a reason detergents with these ingredients say that you have to keep it away from your eyes. But those optical brighteners also have a direct toxic impact on marine life.
Chlorine is toxic even in small amounts. And you just have to spend some time in a chlorinated swimming pool without goggles to understand this effect. But that bleaching effect can also impact marine vegetation.
Synthetic fragrances are another common reason for allergic reactions, even in people who don’t have sensitive skin. There’s a lack of studies on their effect in nature, but if it irritates human skin, then it’s not really meant for exposure to living things.
Start by looking for a hypoallergenic laundry detergent to reduce this impact.
This has become less commonly used in detergents, but other cleaning products still have small amounts. It’s a known carcinogen to humans and really has no place in a laundry detergent.
And the final chemical to avoid is another one that has a highly toxic effect on marine life and is almost impossible to remove once it has made it into water. While it’s not that common anymore in most laundry detergents, you still need to look out for it.
Here are five laundry tips that will make washing clothes a lot more eco-friendly. And they are so simple to follow.
If you keep track of how often you load up the washer, then you’ll probably find that you have four loads per person each week. That is so much energy, water, and laundry detergent use.
In reality, most clothes that you put in the wash are likely not dirty or smelly. Yes, your underwear and socks should go in after one wear, but most other things can easily be worn 3 or 4 times.
There’s nothing unhygienic about it, and in many ways, we’ve probably become too cautious about micro dirt and germs. So, keeping track of your clothes and wash frequency can really save up a lot of laundry detergent.
This is probably one of the biggest wastes of energy for any household. Even with the most energy-efficient models out there, you’ll end up using tons of energy.
In the summer months, it’s easy to hang out clothes and let them naturally dry within a few hours. But even dry and windy days in winter could take care of most of the drying.
And when you do have a load of washing that you need to dry quickly, then ditch those dryer and laundry detergent sheets.
One thing you should do is have your water tested to see how much lime it contains. The more lime, the harder the water and the less effective it will be at mixing with powdered laundry detergent.
But even if you look at the label on a liquid detergent, you’ll see that in hard water, you need to add a lot more laundry detergent.
Not only will a central water softener mean that you use less detergent, but it will make your appliances last a lot longer. And it’s much better for sensitive skin when you shower and wash your hair.
Most modern washing machines will have cool wash functions that will be suitable for the majority of your clothes. Unless you regularly fill the machine with heavily stained and dirty clothes, a cool wash at about 85 degrees will give you enough cleaning power.
Many eco-friendly laundry detergent products often work better at lower temperatures, and that will significantly lower the carbon footprint of your laundry routine.
And finally, even when you use an eco-friendly laundry detergent, you could end up flushing plastic fibers down the drain. This is very common with synthetic fabrics like nylon, acrylic, and polyester.
Yes, these are cheap, but regular washing will release some of the fibers. And it shouldn’t be a surprise what plastic accumulation is doing to wildlife.
The most eco-friendly of all laundry detergents I have been able to find is called Tru Earth Eco Strips. Unlike all other traditional laundry products, these come in small laundry detergent sheets that you simply add to your washing machine.
Each strip is one wash, and despite the fact that the strip only weighs 0.1 ounces, it has the power of 1.4 ounces of traditional detergents.
The Tru Earth laundry strips also completely dissolve in hot and cold water, so you don't have to go looking for them in your clothes. And it also means that these strips won’t get caught in the machine filter either.
The positive impact of this on the environment is huge.
First of all, there is a much lower carbon footprint associated with the transportation of this very light detergent. And with the plastic-free cardboard box, you can either recycle or compost the packaging as well.
Why Do I Like It?
The laundry sheets are perfectly measured to deliver enough cleaning ability without the temptation to add a huge amount of laundry detergent.
Next on our list of eco-friendly detergents is this Blueland product. You might think it’s a form of solid laundry soap at first, which is due to the convenient tablet form it comes in.
Each tablet is measured to provide enough cleaning activity for a typical full washing load. And the results at warm temperatures are great, even for families with kids. All the packaging is eco-friendly, and you even receive a metal tin so that with your next order, you just need to buy a recyclable pouch.
Your first order will be a bit more expensive, but when you see the results and the convenient storage container, it’s well worth the investment.
Why Do I Like It?
The laundry tablets are great for not wasting detergent with heavy-handed measures.
Next up are these laundry detergent sheets from Earth Breeze. This is a truly dedicated company that has come up with packaging that is fully biodegradable. I’ve tried cutting it up and adding it to my compost, and I can confirm there’s nothing left.
The laundry detergent sheets are also highly effective on tougher stains, and they fully dissolve during the wash cycle. And if you’re vegan, then you’ll be delighted to know that they are cruelty-free as well.
I just wish that they had even a slight natural lemon fragrance, which is nice to get when you take dry clothes off the line.
Why Do I Like It?
It’s not only eco-friendly — it’s cruelty-free as well due to it being vegan.
My next favorite product is these laundry detergent pods, which are great when you always fill your machine to the max. Each pod delivers the same power from liquid detergent, which immediately starts working once the pod dissolves.
It’s completely plastic-free, and none of the eco-friendly laundry pods will remain in your washing machine. It also doesn’t contain harmful chemicals that could damage the environment.
The eco-friendly laundry pods also come in plastic-free, recyclable packaging.
The way I got onto this product was through a recommendation from a vegan friend.
He pointed out that this detergent wasn’t tested on animals and didn't contain any of the toxic chemicals you’ll find in most other detergents.
And I also have to add that the natural fragrance and cleaning power are pretty impressive, considering it only contains plant-based ingredients.
Why Do I Like It?
The fully dissolvable pods provide powerful cleaning power without using chemicals or other harmful ingredients.
This is another great option for anyone who doesn’t like using laundry powder. First of all, I’ll point out that it is USDA biobased certified, meaning that at least 96% of the ingredients are plant-based.
Despite that, the eco laundry detergent has pretty impressive stain-removing power, and that’s something that many of the thousands of Amazon reviewers have highlighted as a big bonus.
At the same time, it’s also suitable for anyone with sensitive skin. And because it’s fragrance-free, it could be a great option for people with allergies that are common to intense smells, even from natural essential oil.
The one thing I don't like about this product is the measuring cup. These tend to be inaccurate, and you easily end up wasting and spilling some of the liquid laundry detergents.
Why Do I Like It?
It’s a fragrance-free option that is suitable for people with allergies and sensitive skin.
These eco-friendly laundry detergents from Eco Roots are another great zero-waste option. All the packaging is fully recyclable, and the sheets fully dissolve without leaving microplastics or harsh chemicals behind.
The plastic-free laundry detergent is also available in a fresh linen scent version that is subtle on your clean clothes. And you can order multiple large boxes with a significant discount to make a big difference in your laundry budget.
I just found that they were not as effective as other products when it came to tougher stains at lower temperatures.
Why Do I Like It?
These ones are available with a lovely natural smell that isn’t overpowering and gives your laundry a fresh scent.
This eco laundry detergent is another one with plant-based ingredients. It’s also not tested on animals, which makes it a certified vegan and cruelty-free option as well.
But what I like about this liquid detergent the most is the way the company has approached manufacturing processes. The product has achieved a TRUE Platinum Zero Waste status. That means it’s carbon neutral, water neutral, and made with 100% renewable energy.
That is a rare approach and not something that many other companies have managed to successfully implement.
Each bottle contains enough laundry liquid to wash 100 loads, and I love the subtle lily smell as well.
The only downside is that it comes in plastic packaging, but it is recyclable. It would be great if the company switched to compostable bottles instead.
Why Do I Like It?
The manufacturing process is carbon neutral, water neutral, and uses 100% renewable energy.
One type of powder detergent I still had to buy occasionally was a whitener for some kids' clothes. But I eventually found Molly’s Suds which is a natural bleach alternative that is also chlorine-free.
It’s entirely plant-based and has a great stain-removal formula that really brightens up your whites. It does this by combining four simple ingredients that are completely biodegradable.
These are sodium percarbonate, sodium carbonate (aka baking soda), citric acid, and lemon essential oil. The result is pure white laundry with a nice and fresh smell.
Now, it does come in a resealable plastic container, but because it’s a pouch, the amount of waste is very limited and recyclable.
So, if you’re looking for an eco laundry detergent with great stain removal power for white clothes, then give this one a try.
Also, Molly’s Suds offers great dryer balls that you might want to consider adding to your order.
Why Do I Like It?
Works great even in cold water to deal with everyday mild dirt and does a great job on tougher stains with warm water.
This non-toxic laundry detergent from Charlie’s Soap Store is another great option if you prefer having more control over the amount of powder you use. I keep a bag of this specifically for kids’ clothes as it seems to be more powerful on grass and grease than eco-friendly detergents.
It’s also a great product for bed sheets as the hypoallergenic formula won’t cause itchy skin or a tingling nose at night.
Just be prepared to pay a bit extra for this one compared to other detergents, but you get what you pay for.
Why Do I Like It?
It’s great for dealing with tougher stains that you might not fully remove with other laundry liquid.
Tide is one of the industry leaders for laundry powder, but they have also introduced some eco-friendly detergents. This particular one comes in a cardboard box, and it contains a recyclable plastic pouch with a convenient nozzle.
The result is 50% less plastic use compared to the same amount of washes from plastic bottles.
But Tide has also decided to change its manufacturing processes for this particular detergent, and the result is a process that uses 100% renewable energy.
And the ingredients have also been selected to be entirely plant-based, with EPA approval for the formula.
That means less impact on the environment, both from a manufacturing perspective and environmental waste.
Overall, it works very well for most types of washes, but you might need to buy a separate stain-removal soap to work on tougher dirt.
Why Do I Like It?
Ingredients are entirely plant-based and EPA-approved.
Reducing the carbon footprint of your laundry room is just one part of the puzzle to make your home more environmentally friendly. But with the best eco-friendly laundry detergents listed above, you can make another huge impact on nature.
Not only do they avoid the use of toxic chemicals, but there are even options there that are completely plastic-free. That makes them almost zero waste products, and that will make a huge difference in animal and plant life.
Out of all these products that I have tried, I keep going back to the Tru Earth laundry strips. They are so easy to use and have the lowest possible footprint. Order yours today and see how much of a difference they will make.