Want to give your clothes a deep clean without the chemicals? These natural laundry detergents are tough on stains but not on skin.
You may think the key to removing tough stains is stronger chemicals, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Many people shy away from using a gentler, more chemical-free, natural laundry detergent because of the assumption that it won’t have the power to cut through stains and get clothes clean enough. But the truth is that a natural laundry detergent can do everything a chemical-laden one can, minus the health and environmental downsides.
Yes, certain laundry detergents can have health and environmental downsides. A big culprit of this is the fact that detergent companies aren’t required to disclose all of their ingredients.
The chemicals used in many popular brands’ detergents aren’t as benign as the meadow imagery on the bottle may have you believe. In fact, they can lead to a number of health issues, especially for people with sensitive skin or respiratory issues. Those scents made from synthetic fragrances containing phthalates may make you smell nice, but at the cost of allergens and respiratory irritants that can spike asthma and allergic reactions. Endocrine disruptors, neurotoxic chemicals, and carcinogens are also often on the ingredients list.
These chemicals can not only disrupt human and pet health, but are also a threat to the environment. When you wash your clothes, the laundry detergent you use gets drained out with the water. That mixture then becomes part of our ecosystem, affecting aquatic animals and virtually every living thing on the planet.
If you’re wondering if it’s worth it to clean up your laundry detergent, it definitely is.
Laundry Detergent Chemicals to Avoid
- Quaternium-15 – This ingredient is used as a laundry preservative. Not only does it release formaldehyde (no thanks), but it’s also an allergen that can cause dermatitis, rashes, and other skin inflammation.
- Diethanolamine – This detergent irritates skin and eyes and is linked to liver and kidney tumors, as well as reproductive toxicity.
- ER, KSN, OB, OB-1 – These are optical brighteners that make your clothes appear whiter while also irritating skin.
- Nonylphenol ethoxylate – This ingredient is a known endocrine disruptor, interfering with normal hormone production.
- Linear alkyl benzene sultanates (LAS) – This is one of the most commonly used surfactants and has been shown to increase the development of cancer cells.
- Petroleum distillates – This chemical is associated with neurotoxicity and lung damage.
- Artificial (synthetic) fragrances – Many synthetic fragrances irritate skin and respiratory passageways, interrupt hormone production, and can affect the reproductive system.
- 1, 4-Dioxane – This is a contaminant and byproduct from processing other chemicals, like sodium laureth sulfate and polyethylene glycol, which are often found in laundry detergent. It’s a known human respiratory toxicant and human carcinogen.
What’s the Best Natural Laundry Detergent?
With the why you should opt for a more natural laundry detergent covered, let’s dive into our top choices for cleaner options. This list includes detergents in a variety of forms, including liquids, powders, and pods, so there’s something for every preference.
The Best Plant-Based & Natural Laundry Detergent: Public Goods
These laundry detergent pods from Public Goods are entirely made from plants but will still leave your clothes soft, clean, and stain-free. They’re dermatologist-tested and hypoallergenic, so they’re safe even for sensitive skin. They’re also free of synthetic fragrances, sodium lauryl sulfates, dyes, ethanolamines, chlorine bleach, parabens, phthalates, artificial brighteners, formaldehyde, and all other toxic chemicals. Use them in hot or cold water and in HE and standard washing machines. Each pod is a pre-measured powder pack so there’s no mess or measuring.
Bonus: Public Goods’s wool dryer balls are great as well!
The Hypoallergenic Option: Ecos
Ecos’s natural laundry detergent formula is plant-powered and made without dyes, optical brighteners, parabens, phosphates, and free of over 500 nasty ingredients the brand promises never to use. It’s dermatologist-tested and pH-balanced, as well as EPA Safer Choice-certified. This detergent gets its fresh scent from magnolia, lily, and essential oils, and the formula also has a built-in fabric softener to reduce static cling and prevent the expense of a separate softening product.
The One That Works in Any Water: Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder
Some powdered laundry detergents can only be used with hot water, but Charlie’s gets the job done in any water temperature. You add it right in with your clothes, and they come out clean and smelling fresh, even dirty towels. It also rinses clean, so you don’t have to worry about any lingering ingredients if you have sensitive skin. The packaging is recyclable, the formula is biodegradable, and it’s safe to go down the drain, whether it’s going to your backyard septic tank or a municipal sewer.
The Best Natural Laundry Detergent for Babies: The Honest Company
While pretty much any detergent on this list is natural and gentle enough to launder baby clothes, The Honest Company makes a detergent that’s specially designed for babies’ super sensitive skin. It’s dermatologist-tested, which helps to put parents’ minds at ease. Though the formula is gentle, it’s still effective in treating stains, which every parent knows is a must. It’s tough on baby formula stains, blow out stains, spit up stains, and just about anything else your baby can come up with.
The Best Smelling Laundry Detergent: Indigo Wild Zum Clean
Even without artificial fragrances, your detergent can still offer a nice scent. Indigo Wild Zum Clean detergent is known for providing a pleasant, fresh scent thanks to the use of pure essential oils. There are a variety of scents available, including frankincense and myrrh and sea salt and sweet orange. It’s not just the best smelling laundry detergent, though. It’s also free of parabens, phosphates, petrochemicals or sulfates. Instead, it’s made from natural ingredients such as coconut oil, baking soda, vegetable glycerin, and borax.
The Best Hard Water Detergent: Rockin’ Green
Rockin’ Green Hard Rock laundry detergent is specially made for hard water, so you won’t have to use water softeners. It’s also compatible with any washing machine, including HEs. This option is 100% vegan, non-toxic, and clean-rinsing. It includes no phosphates, parabens, optical brighteners, SLS/SLES, or artificial fragrances.
Most Recyclable Packaging: Molly’s Suds
Molly’s Suds is a popular option in the natural laundry detergent realm. It’s a powder detergent that can be used to pretreat stains before washing and is made with only four, non-toxic ingredients. There are no parabens, no synthetic fragrances, no phosphates, and no dyes or optical brighteners. Plus, it’s vegan and septic-safe. It’s compatible with all washers, and eliminates buildup left behind in your clothes’ fibers from other washing powders. Many users also love it, though, for its packaging. Molly’s Suds comes in a small, simple bag that can easily be recycled.
The Whitener & Brightener: Eco-Me
Eco-Me’s laundry whitener and brightener is a natural, chlorine-free whitening powder that safely helps to put the pep back in your clothes. If your whites are looking dingy, this powder option can bring them back to life. It’s made with no harmful chemicals or fragrances and is safe for sensitive skin.
Best Biodegradable Natural Laundry Detergent: Dreambly
When looking for the best natural laundry detergent, you don’t want to look for one that’s just safe for human health, but environmental health as well. Because of that, finding a biodegradable formula is key. Dreambly laundry sheets are biodegradable, and they’re a laundry miracle, with each sheet serving as not just a laundry detergent, but a stain remover, fabric softener, whitener, brightener, and static remover as well. They also have a mild lemon sage scent, so clothes look and smell clean and fresh.
The Best Unscented Option: Seventh Generation
If you prefer unscented laundry detergent, Seventh Generation’s Free & Clear option is a great choice. Not only does it contain zero fragrance of any kind, but it’s known for being incredibly effective and economical. One 40-ounce container is meant to deep clean 53 loads of laundry, getting rid of even the toughest of stains like grass and sauces. The ingredients are primarily plant-based, and there are no dyes or other harmful chemicals. The company also does not test its detergent on animals.
Laundry Detergent FAQs
While you’re researching laundry detergents, these commonly asked questions may occur to you. We’ve got answers.
Does Laundry Detergent Kill Germs?
While laundry detergent does get clothes clean, it doesn’t necessarily kill all germs, so don’t rely on detergent alone if you need to clean something like, say, a medical uniform. Germs can hang out within the tightly woven fibers of many fabrics. For more reliable germ-killing power, combine a detergent with hot water. While washing your clothes in cold water is more suitable for the environment and some fabrics, if you’re worried about germs, water that’s at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit will help kill them. Using the dryer will further help kill any remaining germs.
Does Laundry Detergent Go Bad?
Actually, yes. If you’re a bulk buyer with a stockpile of laundry detergent on the basement shelves, your investment may not be as sound as originally thought. As with most products, detergent loses its potency over time. If the package hasn’t been opened, laundry detergent can last up to a year. Once opened, it will likely last around six months. This is true of both liquid and powder detergent forms. While using expired laundry detergent shouldn’t cause any harm, it won’t clean as effectively if it’s been sitting a while. Buy detergent as needed and don’t wait to use it if you want the maximum cleaning power it has to offer.
Public Goods Has You Covered for Green Household Cleaners
Public Goods doesn’t just make natural laundry detergent; we also make a variety of eco and human-friendly household cleaners and other items. From tree-free toilet paper and paper towels to chemical-free glass and bathroom cleaners to dish soaps, wet wipes, and more, we’ve got all the green household products you need made from ingredients you can trust.
If you’re making the switch to cleaner supplies, check out our household products, and be sure to browse our bundles to save money and the planet at the same time.
Download Our Free Guide to Sustainable Living.
From reducing waste to recycling and upcycling, our e-book shows simple ways to make choices you can feel good about.