The Best Natural and Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent Brands

Ditch the toxic chemicals in conventional detergent and make the switch to natural, eco-friendly laundry detergent. From liquid to powder to pods, we review safe and effective natural laundry detergent brands, including ingredient lists and EWG safety ratings.

Natural laundry detergent brands

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I love putting on fresh, warm clothes straight from the dryer, but I’ve never been a fan of strong, perfume-y scents. With my sensitive nose and my daughter’s sensitive skin, I’ve been super cautious to use gentle laundry detergent since she was a toddler. I’ve been trying out some new to me eco-friendly, non-toxic laundry detergent brands, and thought I’d share my experience.

Did you know companies that make laundry detergents are not required by law to disclose their ingredients?

When clothes are laundered, chemicals from the detergent can remain in the fabric. Those signature scents like Cherry Blossom and Botanical Rain are designed to permeate and stay in the fabric.

Synthetic fragrance contains phthalates to help your clothes smell “fresh and clean” all day and beyond. If you suffer from allergies and asthma, breathing in that fresh scent could exacerbate your symptoms. Hundreds of chemicals can be included in the “fragrance” label on an ingredient list. These chemicals may contain endocrine disruptors, allergens, respiratory irritants and possible neurotoxic chemicals and carcinogens (1).

Want to know why the optical brighteners in conventional detergents make clothes look so white? Optical brighteners have nothing to do with actually getting your clothes cleaner. They work by absorbing ultraviolet light and emitting visible blue light. This blue light tricks your eye by cancelling out any yellow or gray hues (2). Optical brighteners can cause irritation to those with sensitive skin (3).

Laundry detergent gets its cleaning power from surfactants. Surfactants in conventional laundry detergents can include chemicals that are hormone disruptors and some that are possible carcinogens (see below). Natural laundry detergent formulas contain non-toxic ingredients, like coconut oil-based surfactants, for cleaning power.

By purchasing natural laundry detergent that’s free from synthetic fragrance, optical brighteners, artificial colors and surfactants that are harmful to your health (like Nonylphenol ethoxylate and Linear alkyl benzene sultanates (LAS)), you’re making healthier choices for your family and for the environment.

AVOID THESE INGREDIENTS IN CONVENTIONAL LAUNDRY DETERGENT

  • Quaternium-15– Used as a preservative in detergent. It releases formaldehyde, a known carcinogen (4). It’s also an allergen and can cause contact dermatitis, rashes and skin inflammation (5).
  • Diethanolamine  A detergent that can cause irritation to skin and eyes. It’s linked to liver and kidney tumors and developmental and reproductive toxicity in animal studies (6).
  • ER, KSN, OB, OB-1 These are common trade names for optical brighteners. They can cause skin irritation (7). Optical brighteners can cause developmental and reproductive effects in aquatic animals (8).
  • Nonylphenol ethoxylate A detergent and known endocrine disruptor. This chemical interferes with hormone signaling in our bodies (9).
  • Linear alkyl benzene sultanates (LAS) A detergent that can produce toxic fumes during production. This is one of the most commonly used surfactants. One study found that LAS increases the growth rate of colon cancer cells in vivo (10). Benzene, a known carcinogen (11), is produced during the manufacturing process. LAS is also a skin and eye irritant and can be toxic to aquatic life.
  • Petroleum distillates They’re also called naphthas, and are a detergent. This chemical is associated with neurotoxicity (12) and lung damage (13).
  • Artificial (synthetic) fragrances Artificial fragrance is found in laundry detergent (also found in dryer sheets and fabric softener). Artificial fragrances can cause irritation to the skin and eyes. Some artificial fragrances  are suspected carcinogens and may contain phthalates, which help scents last longer. Phthalates mimic hormones, interrupting hormone production (14). A 2018 review found that current human exposure to phthalates may have effects on the male reproductive system (15).
  • 1,4-Dioxane You won’t often find 1,4-dioxane listed on ingredient labels—it’s a contaminant and byproduct from processing other chemicals, like Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Polyethylene glycol, added to laundry detergent. 1,4-dioxane is a known human respiratory toxicant and likely human carcinogen (16, 17).

LAUNDRY DETERGENT AND THE ENVIRONMENT

The chemicals listed above get drained out along with your wastewater. In a USGS survey study, detergent metabolites were detected in 69 percent of streams tested (16).  We can all reduce the strain on our aquatic ecosystem and support a healthier environment by switching to a natural laundry detergent with eco-friendly, non-toxic ingredients.

WHAT INGREDIENTS TO LOOK FOR IN NATURAL LAUNDRY DETERGENT

  • Coconut Oil-Based Surfactants: These are natural ingredients that provide cleaning power (18).
  • Soda Ash (Sodium Carbonate): Provides alkalinity to wash water, which softens the water and helps the surfactants work better.
  • Fatty Alcohol Ethoxylate: A fatty alcohol that’s made from a vegetable feedstock.
  • Sodium Metasilicate: This ingredient prevents washer corrosion.
  • Sodium Citrate: This is the salt of citric acid, an ingredient derived from citrus fruits.
  • Sodium Chloride: Mineral-based formula used for adjusting viscosity.
  • Sodium Hydroxide: A mineral-based ingredient that adjusts pH levels.
  • Calcium Chloride: A mineral-based ingredient used to stabilizing cleaning enzymes.

LAUNDRY DETERGENT FORMATS

  • Powder – Powder detergent is usually the most budget-friendly option and available in cardboard boxes or convenient non-bulky recyclable bags. After using liquid laundry detergent for my whole life, I decided to give powder detergent a try. Guess what? I LOVE it! I thought it wouldn’t dissolve properly and leave residue on my clothes, but this just wasn’t the case. There is so much less mess with powder – no drips all over the outside of the washing machine and no messing with goopy measuring caps.
  • Liquid – Liquid laundry detergent works well in both cold and hot water and it doubles as a stain remover. It’s usually more expensive per load than powder. Water is the main ingredient in liquid laundry detergent, and liquid formulas are heavy to transport. Most liquid detergents come in big, bulky plastic containers. In my experience, some brands of liquid leave a residue on dark clothing (which surprises me – I thought powder would leave a residue). I’ve found that liquid detergent causes more of a mess around the washer area.
  • Pods – Pods are pre-measured so you don’t use more than you need (convenient). They can be more expensive per load.
8 Natural Laundry Detergent Brands

THE BEST NATURAL LAUNDRY DETERGENT BRANDS

*Cost was calculated at the time this article was published, and is subject to change.

Molly’s Suds Laundry Powder

  • Free From: Synthetic Fragrances, Dyes, Optical Brighteners, Synthetic Nonylphenol Ehoxylates, Petrochemicals, Phosphates, Chlorine, Known Carcinogens, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), Phthalates, Parabens
  • EWG Rating: A
  • Cost: $0.17 per load
  • Fragrance: unscented, lavender, peppermint, ocean mist
  • Highlights from the website: Just One Scoop per Load, Made with only 4 earth-derived ingredients, Safe for Everyone in Your Family, Unscented and Safe on Sensitive Skin, Use in any washer, including High-Efficiency (HE), Highly-concentrated, Washes 120 Loads of Laundry. Choose either warm or hot temperature. If your clothing requires cold water, opt for Molly’s Suds Liquid Laundry Detergent.
  • Ingredients: Sodium Carbonate sourced from the Green River Basin in Wyoming, Sodium Bicarbonate, Magnesium Sulfate (Heptahydrate), Unrefined Sea Salt
  • My Take: I love Molly’s Suds Powder Laundry Detergent. I’m a powder detergent convert. This brand works just as well as any liquid I’ve used in the past, if not better. Our laundry is clean every time (even Jeremy’s stinky towel)! I do wish the powder worked for cold water, but I do most wash in warm water, so it’s not too big of a deal. The package is fully recycleable and is designed to reduce the amount of plastic compared to a bulky plastic liquid bottle.

Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder

  • Free From: Perfumes, optical brighteners and softeners.
  • EWG Rating: A
  • Cost: $0.15 per load
  • Fragrance: Fragrance Free
  • Highlights from the website: Works in any temperature water- add right to load. Concentrated – Low dose formula makes for efficient washing because there’s less detergent to rinse away. Safe washing  – Silk delicates to greasy overalls all come clean with Charlie’s. Just wash them separately! Clean rinse – Charlie’s rinses completely clean. Clothes are as soft and fresh as they can possibly be. Hypoallergenic – Those with skin sensitive to allergens will appreciate Charlie’s ingredients, which won’t irritate skin. Biodegradable – Safer down the drain, whether headed to your backyard septic tank or municipal sewer works.
  • Ingredients:  Sodium Carbonate (497-19-8); C12-16 Pareth-9 (68551-12-2), C10-14 Alcohol Ethoxylates (66455-15-0), Sodium Metasilicate (6834-92-0)
  • My Take: I love this powder detergent, and it works in cold water, so it doesn’t skip a beat. Everything that comes out of the wash is totally fresh and clean (both Molly’s Suds and Charlie’s Soap pass the Jeremy stinky bath towel test, with absolutely no smell on the towel after washing). The packaging is very compact and can be recycled.

Meliora Laundry Powder

  • Free From: Single-use plastic, dye, preservatives, palm oil, synthetic fragrances and brighteners. Also animal cruelty free.
  • EWG Score: A
  • Cost: $0.16 per load
  • Fragrance: Unscented, Lavender, Lemon, Lemon Lavender Clove
  • Highlights from the website: Each item is Vegan, Cruelty-Free, and MADE SAFE Certified. 1% of every sale goes towards environmental causes. Instructions for use: Add Laundry Powder directly to washer with clothes. For HE Washers, use 1/2 scoop (1/2 tablespoon). For Standard Washers, use 1 scoop (1 tablespoon)
  • Ingredients: Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Carbonate, Vegetable Soap [Sodium Cocoate, Glycerin, Organic Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Water]

Rockin’ Green Natural Laundry Detergent for Hard Water

  • Free From: phosphates, parabens, optical brighteners, SLS/SLES or artificial fragrances.
  • EWG Rating: Not rated
  • Cost: $0.21 per load
  • Fragrance: Unscented
  • Highlights from the website: Hard Rock Laundry Detergent is formulated for hard water. It’s super earth-friendly, non-toxic and safe for your whole family — even the itty bitty ones! The clean rinsing formula leaves absolutely nothing behind in the wash — just amazingly clean clothes. Compatible with any washing machine, even HE machines. Safely cleans baby clothes, cloth diapers and is safe for sensitive skin. We love animals too much to test our 100% vegan products on them. How to use: Add 1-2 scoops of detergent and run your usual wash cycle. No need to add water softeners!
  • Ingredients: Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Percarbonate, Salt Cake, biodegradable surfactant

Grab Green 3in1 Laundry Detergent Pods

  • Free From: Phosphates, Phthalates, Dyes or Masking Agents
  • EWG Rating: A
  • Cost: $0.31 per load, price goes down with larger amount of pods
  • Fragrance: Fragrance Free, Vetiver, Lavender with Vanilla, Gardenia
  • Highlights from the website: Our product combines deep-cleaning concentrated detergent, stain remover, and brightener, all in one! Outperformed Tide in stain and soil removal in a third party test. Works in all temperatures and HE washing machines.
  • Ingredients: sodium carbonate, sodium sesquicarbonate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium citrate, sodium metasilicate, c10-16 alkyl benzenesulfonic acid sodium salt, c9-11 pareth-6, citric acid, hydrated silica, subtilisin enzyme blend, lipase enzyme blend, amylase enzyme blend, sodium sulfate, polyvinyl alcohol, diamyl sodium sulfosuccinate

go by greenshield Organic Free & Clear Laundry Detergent

  • Free From: Harsh chemicals, dye, fragrance, GMOs
  • EWG score: A
  • Cost: $0.40 per load
  • Fragrance: Free & Clean, Lavender, Baby Free & Clear
  • Highlights from the website: This USDA Certified Organic Laundry Detergent is specially formulated for sensitive skin. Our no-to-low sudsing, sulfate-free formulas use organic soap berries for a deep clean that helps combat residue buildup. No animal testing, hypoallergenic, HE and standard washing machines safe, septic system safe, 100% recyclable bottles made with sustainable sugar cane, made with USDA certified organic and non-toxic ingredients, stain-erasing, softness-preserving, odor-vanishing.
  • Ingredients: Water, Sapindus Mukorossi (Organic Soap Berries), Cocos Nucifera & Potassium Hydroxide* (Saponified Organic Coconut Oil), Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Xanthan Gum, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice Powder (Organic Aloe Vera), Glycerin (Organic), Sea Salt, Cymopsis Tetragonoloba (Organic Guar) Gum, Acacia Senegal (Organic Acacia) Gum *none remains in finished product

Better Life Naturally Dirt Demolishing Laundry Detergent

  • Free From: Sodium lauryl sulfates, Sodium laureth sulfates, Petroleum solvent, Parabens, Ethers, Synthetic fragrances, Alcohol, Ethoxylates, Dyes
  • EWG Rating: A
  • Cost: $0.20 per load
  • Fragrance: Unscented, Lavender Grapefruit
  • Highlights from the website: Our natural, color-safe, 4x ultra-concentrated detergent dissolves dirt and stains, leaving laundry as fresh, bright, and soft as the first day you wore it. BETTER LIFE laundry detergent is hypoallergenic, so what’s gentle on your clothes is also gentle on your skin. Compatible for HE and standard machines.
  • Ingredients: Purified Water, Potassium cocoate, Decyl glucoside, Lauryl glucoside, Oleic acid, Sodium citrate, Quillaja saponaria bark extract, Glycerin (vegetable), Sodium carbonate, Enzyme Blend, Citric acid

Eco-Me Natural Laundry Detergent

  • Free From: Dyes, colorants, harsh preservatives, sulfates, phosphates, parabens, synthetic fragrance, chlorine & formaldehyde
  • EWG Rating: A
  • Cost: $0.23 per load
  • Fragrance: Fragrance-Free, Vanilla Bean, Citrus Berry, Lavender Blossom
  • Highlights from the website: This 2X concentrated natural Laundry Detergent is tough on dirt and stains, yet gentle on sensitive skin. It fights stubborn stains without harmful chemicals. Its clean and safe formula contains powerful natural ingredients and essential botanicals that rinse easily leaving laundry fresh and clean. For front and top load HE and standard machines, perfect for those with sensitive skin, gentle on delicate fabrics, Greywater & Septic Safe
  • Ingredients: Water, Coco Glucoside (Plant-derived soap), Decyl Glucoside (Plant-derived Soap), Capryl Capryl Glucoside (Plant-derived Solubilizer), Leuconostoc (Radish Root Antimicrobial), Xanthan Gum, Natural Plant Essential Oils, Glyceryl Caprylate Caprate (Vegetable-derived Thickener), Potassium Sorbate (Food-grade Preservative)

Eco-Me Natural Laundry Whitener & Brightener

  • Free From: Harmful chemicals and fragrance
  • EWG Rating: No rating
  • Cost: $0.36 per ounce
  • Highlights from the website: This natural chlorine-free laundry whitening powder safely helps whiten and brighten your whites. Its fragrance free formula contains natural ingredients that are safe for the environment and those with sensitive skin. Natural Cleaning Action, Helps Whiten & Brighten Whites, No Harmful Chemicals, Safe for Sensitive Skin
  • Ingredients: Sodium Percarbonate (Natural Stain Remover), Sodium Carbonate (Soda Ash), Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate (Amino Acid Emulsifier)
  • My Take: I use this laundry whitener and brightener for more than just laundry. Use it in the kitchen sink and bathroom too! Make sure your kitchen or bathroom sink is wet, sprinkle in some powder, let it sit for a few minutes and come back and scrub. It also works for toilets. Of course, it does a great job as a stain remover! I had an old coffee stain on some curtains after the cat knocked a full cup of coffee off my computer table (I ignored the stain about for about 6 months out of laziness). I finally broke down and soaked the edge of the curtain in a bucket with a capful of this whitener plus cold water for about 30 minutes. I ran the curtain on the soak cycle of my washing machine with another capful of whitening powder, and it came out totally clean.

Before and after coffee stain treated with Eco-Me Laundry Whitener and brightener

SHOP NATURAL LAUNDRY

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