Love it or hate it, laundry has to be done! You might be cleaning your clothes but your laundry detergent might just be dirtying the planet!
Traditional laundry detergents impact the environment in many harmful ways, from plastic pollution to water pollution and eutrophication.
Switching to an Eco-friendly laundry detergent is the easiest way to clean up your impact, as well as your clothes!
In this review, we’re covering the environmental impact of laundry detergents and what to look for in an eco-friendly alternative. Then, to make it even easier for you, we review 13 of the best eco-friendly laundry detergents to try today!
Let’s dive right in!
- 1 How Do Laundry Detergents Impact the Environment?
- 2 What Makes a Laundry Detergent Eco-Friendly?
- 3 13 Best Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergents to Use
- 3.1 1. Tru Earth Eco-Strips Laundry Detergent
- 3.2 2. Dropps Laundry Detergent Pods
- 3.3 3. Kind Laundry Detergent Sheets
- 3.4 4. Zero Co. Laundry Liquid
- 3.5 5. Eco Nuts Organic Laundry Detergent Soap Nuts
- 3.6 6. Ethique Flash Laundry Bar and Stain Remover
- 3.7 7. Meliora Laundry Detergent Powder
- 3.8 8. Bronner’s Castile Soap
- 3.9 9. Happi Earth Laundry Liquid
- 3.10 10. Shower Treat Soap Powder Laundry Detergent
- 3.11 11. Smol Laundry Capsules
- 3.12 12. Tri Nature Alpha Plus Eco-friendly Laundry Powder
- 3.13 13. Meyers Clean Day Laundry Liquid
- 4 Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent: Our 2 Top Picks
- 5 References and Useful Resources
- 6 Frequently Asked Questions
How Do Laundry Detergents Impact the Environment?
Traditional laundry detergents have several negative impacts on the natural environment. They contain chemical compounds that pollute water resources and waterways, use excessive amounts of packaging that is often not recyclable or biodegradable, and their manufacture and shipping cause unnecessarily high levels of carbon emissions.
Ingredients that Harm Aquatic Ecosystems
The chemical compounds used in laundry detergents include nitrogen and phosphorous, which cause eutrophication.
When these are released into the natural environment in wastewater, they lead to an overabundance of oxygen in the water and unwanted algae blooms.
The algae then rapidly deplete the oxygen, weakening the whole ecosystem and impacting aquatic flora and fauna.
Surfactants (surface-active agents) are chemicals used to lift dirt or stains that do not dissolve in water. They work by disrupting the surface tension of water and oils, which allows the substance to break up.
Unfortunately, they’re highly toxic to aquatic life and break down the protective mucus on fish skin, leading to bacterial and parasitic infections. They also weaken the surface tension of the water, making it more vulnerable to absorbing pollution and chemicals from pesticides and fertilizers.
Plastic Heavy Packaging and Excessive Carbon Emissions
Many traditional laundry detergents come in plastic jugs or tubs that are made from virgin plastic and are not recyclable. Given the volume of laundry detergents used daily around the world, this leads to massive amounts of plastic pollution.
Many detergents are also sold in pre-diluted solutions. This means that they contain water to make them bigger and appear more valuable to the consumer who sees them as ‘value for money’ when they buy a big pack. Powdered detergents contain bulking agents to achieve the same objective.
This means that they’re sold in unnecessarily large containers, using more plastic than needed. They’re also heavier and bulkier to transport, which is less efficient and results in unnecessary levels of carbon emissions.
Unhealthy, Toxic Ingredients
Detergents contain many mildly toxic ingredients like chlorine, phthalates, and formaldehyde. A few also contain irritants and carcinogens like Dioxane, which is generally used in paint and varnishes. These chemicals are in small amounts and once-off or occasional use may not be harmful at all, but with regular exposure over the course of a lifetime, they can lead to various health issues in humans and pets, as well as the natural environment.
Check out this super simple explainer video by FuseSchool – Global Education on how detergents impact the environment:
What Makes a Laundry Detergent Eco-Friendly?
Eco-friendly laundry detergents are detergents that are made, packaged, and distributed with the environment in mind.
Eco-friendly laundry detergents aim to actively reduce the negative impacts associated with traditional laundry detergents through conscious manufacturing, packaging, and distribution.
When you’re looking for an eco-friendly detergent here are some common features to look for:
- Ingredients that contain fewer or no harmful chemicals
- Natural and non-toxic ingredients
- Responsibly sourced ingredients (especially Palm Oil)
- Plastic-free, biodegradable or compostable packaging
- Recycled and recyclable plastic packaging
- Refill and/or packaging return options
- Concentrated formulas and small packaging sizes
- Carbon emission offsets and other methods of reducing the carbon footprint
- Cruelty-free and/or vegan options
The good news is that are now loads of options available! With the above in mind, we have reviewed 13 of the best eco-friendly laundry detergents to make it a bit easier to find the right one for you:
13 Best Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergents to Use
The following eco-friendly laundry detergent options are all great choices that include a number of the features listed above and are available in a wide range of locations so there is something for everyone here:
1. Tru Earth Eco-Strips Laundry Detergent
Tru Earth Eco-Strips are truly eco-friendly laundry detergent sheets are compact, concentrated, biodegradable, and thoughtfully packaged. They contain no palm oil, SLS/SLES, parabens, phosphates, added dyes, chlorine bleach, 1,4-Dioxane, or animal-based ingredients.
They’re dermatologist-certified as hypoallergenic and use soy vegetable glycerin, plant starch, a coconut oil-based foam booster, and mineral and essential oils. The water softener they use is plant-based and biodegradable.
Tru Earth Eco-strips are not tested on animals, by them or their ingredient suppliers, making them cruelty-free. They do not tolerate testing on animals by either themselves or their ingredient suppliers.
They’re packaged in a compostable paper sleeve that is about the size of a pop-tart package.
Their biodegradable strips are suitable for all washing machines, including High Efficiency (HE) machines.
About Tru Earth:
Tru Earth is a Canadian company that is committed to reducing negative environmental impacts in everything they do, as well as manufacturing highly effective products that are also cost-effective.
Their paper strip laundry detergents are 94% lighter than traditional detergents, which reduces their carbon footprint, packaging demands, and the cost and impact of distribution.
What the Amazon Reviews Say (4.5/5):
- Plastic-free, compostable packaging
- Very effective, even using half a strip per load
- Small size is ideal for travelers
- Unscented option wasn’t popular with reviewers
- Some reviewers complained that very smell laundry didn’t smell nice after washing
- Packaging is not resealable so it needs to be stored in a dry place
Price: $19.95 (32 count)
Where to Buy:
2. Dropps Laundry Detergent Pods
Dropps eco-friendly laundry detergent pods are a staple in the eco-friendly laundry department. They offer a range of options for your needs, from stain and odor-fighting options to options for sensitive skin.
They are concentrated, thoughtfully packaged with no plastic and the pod itself is made from non-toxic polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH), which dissolves completely and is biodegradable.
Their packaging is compostable and recyclable cardboard, made from 50% post-consumer recycled paper and the other 50% FSC certified.
The ingredients are responsibly sourced and plant-based. They do not test on animals and they use carbon-neutral shipping by offsetting 100% of the emissions generated.
About the Dropps:
Dropps is probably the most well-known and loved company making sustainable and eco-friendly laundry detergent.
They’re based in the United States and use only plant-based ingredients, that are responsibly sourced. They do not do any animal testing and they use carbon-neutral shipping (100% offset). Dropps also supports Oceana for ocean conservation.
According to Dropps, their laundry list of responsible and sustainable practices include “eco-friendly ingredients, no animal testing, and low-waste packaging”.
What the Amazon Reviews Say (4.5/5):
- Very effective, especially on smelly laundry
- Scented options do not have a very strong or invasive scent
- Packaging is easy to dispose of responsibly
- Some types of Dropps pods don’t dissolve nicely in cold water
- The scent is not strong and some reviewers did not like that
- When pods don’t dissolve completely they leave a residue on clothes
Price: $14.99 (32 count)
Where to Buy:
3. Kind Laundry Detergent Sheets
Kind Laundry Detergent Sheets are a great option for those with very sensitive skin, as well as for delicate fabrics. They are suitable for all washing machines, including HE machines, and are made with only five ingredients!
Kind Laundry Sheets are non-toxic and contain no allergens, petroleum products, parabens, phosphates, phthalates, dyes, or optical brighteners.
The strips are biodegradable and the packaging is fully compostable. Light and compact, they’re a great choice when traveling.
About Kind Laundry:
Kind Laundry is a family-founded, Canadian company based in Toronto. They’re committed to sustainability and creating products that are low waste and non-toxic, for the environment and people. They’re also Leaping Bunny Cruelty-Free Certified.
What the Amazon Reviews Say (4.6/5):
- Reviewers really, REALLY, liked the scent
- Very effective and economical
- Small and compact for easy storage
- Detergent sheets sometimes stick to the glass door of a front loader and don’t dissolve
- Some reviewers needed multiple sheets for large/heavy loads
- Some reviewers needed to cut the sheets up as they didn’t dissolve whole
Price: $16.95 (60 count)
Where to Buy:
4. Zero Co. Laundry Liquid
Zero Co. Liquid Laundry Detergent is an Australian product that is vegan, cruelty-free, plant-based (but Palm Oil free), and greywater safe. It is also very economical and cost-effective.
It comes in a container made entirely from recycled plastic that they take back and reuse (they even supply the satchel and pay for the postage). They also supply a forever container that you can keep and refill with the pouches.
About Zero Co:
Zero Co. is an Australian company that focuses on making safe, plant-based, products and zero-waste packaging. They use only recycled plastic (diverted from landfills and recovered from the Ocean) and provide a circular refill service for all their products.
What the Zero Co. Reviews Say (4.9/5):
- Great smell
- Works effectively, even on stubborn stains
- Septic system safe
- No negative reviews
Price: $42.00 AUD (4 litres + Forever Bottle)
Where to Buy: Zero Co. Shop
5. Eco Nuts Organic Laundry Detergent Soap Nuts
Eco Nuts Organic Laundry Detergent Soap Nuts are a great option if you’re looking for a 100% natural product.
Soap nuts (they actually berries, not nuts) grow on the Sapindus mukorossi tree, which is native to the Himalayas, between Nepal and India.
When the nuts/berries are agitated in water, they lather up and produce a natural and biodegradable surfactant that cleans even stubborn grime from your clothes. In traditional laundry detergents, the surfactant is synthetic and not non-biodegradable.
Eco Nuts are certified organic and can be reused up to 10 times. They come in a plastic-free cardboard box that is recyclable.
About Eco Nuts Soap:
Eco Nuts Soap is a company dedicated to natural products, that are free from synthetic chemicals and toxins. Their products are certified organic and they use only low-waste, recyclable packaging.
Their mission involves mindful manufacturing, responsible sourcing, sustainable packaging, and safe ingredients. They’re also Leaping Bunny Cruelty-Free certified.
What the Earth Hero Reviews Say (4.7/5):
- Work really well and economical
- No added fragrances/scent
- Works as a fabric softener too
- Berries are grown in Nepal to they have to be shipped over long distances
- Don’t work well in very cold water
- No scent so clothes are not scented, for those who want that
Price: $11.90 (100 loads)
Where to Buy: Earth Hero Shop
6. Ethique Flash Laundry Bar and Stain Remover
Ethique Laundry Bar & Stain Remover is an excellent option for a zero-waste and eco-friendly laundry detergent for handwashing. It is completely biodegradable, comes in a compact size and the cardboard packaging is compostable.
It is great for traveling, camping, or small or delicate items that need to be hand-washed. The added bonus is that hand washing uses no electricity!
Ethique is a New Zealand-based company with a global presence. They are well known for their zero-waste shampoo bars and deodorants, as well as other bath and body products.
As a sustainable brand, they’re one of the best. Their products are all vegan and cruelty-free, non-toxic and they don’t use Palm Oil. All their products are in bar form and thoughtfully packaged. They source responsibly and are a climate-neutral, B Corporation Certified company.
What the Amazon Reviews Say (4.5/5):
- Ideal for traveling or camping
- Can be used for dishes and hand washing too
- Great for delicate fabrics
- Small size can be expensive for regular use
- Stain removal can be poor on some types of stains (mixed reviews)
- Some reviewers noticed a residue on their clothes after washing
Where to Buy:
7. Meliora Laundry Detergent Powder
Meliora’s Eco-friendly Laundry Detergent Powder comes in a variety of natural scents, making it a great choice for those who want a scented laundry detergent.
The fragrances are from certified organic essential oils and they do not use synthetic fragrances. It is vegan and cruelty-free and Made Safe certified. It comes in a plastic-free, reusable container.
Meliora makes a wide range of home and body products. They have plastic-free lines and are a great choice for those looking for zero-waste options.
Meliora is certified by B Corp and Leaping Bunny, ensuring the strictest sustainability and cruelty-free practices. They’re also woman-owned and give a percentage of their profits to 1% for the planet and Women’s Voices for the Earth.
What the Amazon Reviews Say (4.6/5):
- Works well, even on hard grime and smelly clothes
- Scents are very popular
- Great for sensitive skin
- Scent does is feint after drying
- Some reviewers had problems with it not dissolving in cold water
- Scent does not linger or mask odors if the laundry was very smelly
Price: $17.49 (64 loads)
Where to Buy:
8. Bronner’s Castile Soap
Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap is not a stand-alone laundry detergent but one of the 18 uses for Dr. Bronner’s laundry and it does a great job!
Dr. Bronner’s is a staple when it comes to minimizing waste in the home – one bottle of super concentrated castile soap will have you covered for everything from dish soap to shampoo, and of course laundry.
For use as a laundry detergent, combine ⅓ to ½ cup with ½ cup of vinegar to make a great homemade but very effective and low-waste laundry detergent.
It comes in a 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottle, so it’s not completely zero-waste, but it does minimize your waste as much as possible if you use it for a variety of uses and recycle the bottle.
It is super concentrated and goes a long way, and you can buy it in bulk to further reduce the amount of plastic you use.
About Dr. Bronner’s:
Dr. Bronner’s is one of the oldest and most well-established names when it comes to sustainable and ethical companies. They have impressive green credentials, including B Corp certification, several organic certifications, Leaping Bunny certified and OK Kosher certified.
Not only are their products and manufacturing processes great, but their in-house practices are also great and include free health care for all their employees and profit sharing for full-time staff.
What the Amazon Reviews Say (4.7/5):
- Super versatile and effective for all kinds of applications
- Great for sensitive skin, including babies
- Smells great and lasts forever
- Smell is not very strong
- A very few reviewers had a skin reaction to it
- Doesn’t lather well
Price: $7.69 (8 oz/237 ml)
Where to Buy:
9. Happi Earth Laundry Liquid
Happi Earth Laundry Liquid is an eco-friendly laundry detergent that is ultra-concentrated and does not come diluted at all, which saves costs and packaging too.
It comes packaged in BPA-free kraft paper refill pouches, which can be sent back to be reused. You can also buy a stainless-steel bottle to refill, which will last forever and can eventually be recycled. Shipping packages are packed with potato starch instead of polystyrene too!
Happi Earth Laundry Liquid is made with natural ingredients that are certified organic and does not contain any Palm Oil. It is fragranced with organic essential oils and contains no synthetic fragrances.
About Happi Earth:
Happi Earth is an Australian company that is Australian Organic and Cruelty-Free International certified, as well as a certified partner with Worldview International Foundation. The company plants a Mangrove tree for every purchase, combating carbon and creating sustainable habitat for coastal and marine life.
What the Happi Earth Reviews Say (4.8/5):
- Works very well, even on discolored whites
- Very economical and cost-effective
- Greywater and septic system safe
- Dispenser lid leaks
- Doesn’t remove heavy stains like blood
- Scent is not very strong
Price: $79.99 (Pouch – 400 loads)
Where to Buy: Happi Earth Online Shop
10. Shower Treat Soap Powder Laundry Detergent
Shower Treat Soap Zero Waste Powdered Laundry Detergent is a low-waste detergent that is made from cold pressed soap, with sodium borate (borax), essential oils, and sodium carbonate. They also have a borax-free formula.
It comes in home compostable and biodegradable packaging, with no plastic scoop unless it is requested. They offer bulk orders to reduce the shipping impact.
It smells great and the fragrances are from essential oils rather than synthetic fragrances. However, the origin of the essential oils is not stipulated so they may not be organic or cruelty-free. Shower Treat themselves do not test on animals though.
About Shower Treat Soap:
Shower Treat Soap is a Michigan-based family business that was established in 1997. They make a wide range of products and several zero-waste lines.
Most of their products use ingredients (other than the essential oils) sourced from the United States and are Palm Oil free and vegan. The products that do contain Palm Oil use Palm Oil that is responsibly sourced.
If you buy their products on Etsy (where most of their products are sold), 100% of the shipping carbon emissions are offset by Esty and their partnership of 3Degrees, at no extra cost to you.
What the Etsy Reviews Say:
- Great smell that is not overpowering
- Works effectively and goes a long way
- Clothes come out clean and soft – no need for fabric softener
- Only one bad review (of 121 reviews), which was for the scent not being strong enough
Where to Buy: Shower Treat Soap on Etsy
11. Smol Laundry Capsules
Smol Laundry Capsules are super concentrated and compact. They come in plastic-free cardboard boxes, which are made from FSC approved materials are fully recyclable. The capsules themselves are also plastic-free and made from biodegradable polyvinyl alcohol.
Smol uses responsibly sourced essential oils for their fragrances, which are concentrated and last longer. Smol capsules do not contain triclosan, parabens, or phthalates, however, they do contain surfactants and phosphates.
This means they’re not the most eco-friendly in terms of ingredients but they are great in terms of packaging and shipping impacts. In this sense, they’re more zero-waste than strictly eco-friendly.
Smol is an innovative British company that makes and distributes cleaning products that are eco-friendly and zero-waste. They offer subscription services for all their products, including return and refill services.
In addition to their waste-free mission, they’re also Leaping Bunny Cruelty-Free Certified and do not use any animal-derived ingredients in their products.
What the Feefo Reviews Say (4.8/5):
- Flexible subscription plans where volume/frequency can be adjusted to your needs
- Highly effective detergent
- Zero-plastic and cardboard boxes are easily recycled
- Difficult to find ingredient lists for the product
- Some reviewers had trouble managing/canceling their subscriptions
- Some reviewers felt that the smell was not strong enough
Price: £4.50 (24 capsules)
Where to Buy: Smol Shop Online
12. Tri Nature Alpha Plus Eco-friendly Laundry Powder
Tri Nature Alpha Plus Eco-friendly Laundry Detergent Powder is phosphate-free and made from natural, plant, and mineral-based ingredients.
It is free from phosphates, sulfates, synthetic fragrances, SLS, bleach, petroleum-based chemicals, optical brighteners, and borax. It also contains no bulking agents or fillers and is a concentrated powder.
The powder is biodegradable and safe for greywater and septic systems. Plastic pouches use little plastic and are fully recyclable.
The gentle and non-irritant ingredients are suitable for babies and those very sensitive skin and skin conditions like eczema.
About Tri Nature:
Tri Nature is an award-winning Australian company established in 1989. They make and distribute a wide range of home cleaning products that are made with the health of the people and the planet in mind. They’re cruelty-free, vegan, and source all ingredients responsibly. Their packaging is completely recyclable.
What the Tri Nature Reviews Say (5/5):
- Very economical with only a small amount needed per wash
- Great for those with skin disorders
- Rinses out completely – no residues or white powder, even on black clothing
- No negative reviews
Price: $19.95 AUD
Where to Buy: Tri Nature Shop Online
13. Meyers Clean Day Laundry Liquid
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid detergent is made from plant-based ingredients that are non-toxic and biodegradable.
It does not contain any ammonia, chlorine, parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, artificial colorants, phosphates, or petroleum distillates. It contains natural fragrances from essential oils, rather than synthetic fragrances.
Mrs. Meyers is cruelty-free and plant-based (but not strictly vegan). While the packaging is plastic, it is minimal and can be recycled fully.
About Mrs. Meyers:
Mrs. Meyers makes a variety of plant-based and cruelty-free home and body care products. Their products are “garden-inspired” and fragranced with essential oils for pleasant, botanical scents.
What the Amazon Reviews Say (4.8/5):
- Great for sensitive skin and those with allergies to conventional detergents
- Very economical and can also be used for both machine and hand washing
- Natural/botanical scents are really nice
- Scent is not very strong after drying
- Does not work well for heavily soiled or stained items (baby clothes with urine etc.)
- Does not get rid of sweaty smells from activewear
Price: $31.96 (2 pack – 128 loads)
Where to Buy:
Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent: Our 2 Top Picks
With so many great options, it was difficult to narrow it down to our top two! But these are the eco-friendly laundry detergents that we like best:
Top Pick #1: Meliora Laundry Detergent Powder
We love the Meliora Laundry Detergent Powder for its beautiful scent and effective cleaning. They are a B Corporation Certified company, ensuring that they meet the strictest sustainability and ethical requirements. They also use plastic-free packaging, with is reusable and zero-waste. What’s not to love here?!
Top Pick #2: Dropps Laundry Detergent Pods
We love that Dropps Laundry Detergent Pods are so easily available that they make a number of different types, to suit a variety of needs. They’re packaged in recycled and responsibly sourced cardboard and no plastic. The pods are non-toxic and biodegradable. They also use carbon neutral shipping, are cruelty-free, and support Oceana for healthier oceans!
References and Useful Resources
Cultivating Capital: Certified B Corporations: Everything You Need to Know
Lenntech: Detergents Occurring in Freshwater
Sciencing: How Do Phosphates Affect Water Quality?
US Environmental Protection Agency: Safer Choice Label for Detergents
World Wildlife Fund (WWF): What is Palm Oil? Facts About the Palm Oil Industry
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do Laundry Detergents Impact the Environment?
Laundry detergents contain chemical compounds that pollute water resources and waterways, use excessive amounts of packaging that is often not recyclable or biodegradable, and their manufacture and shipping cause unnecessarily high levels of carbon emissions. Check out the full article for more info!
What Makes a Laundry Detergent Eco-friendly?
Eco-friendly laundry detergents aim to actively reduce the negative impacts associated with traditional laundry detergents through conscious manufacturing, packaging, and distribution. Most eco-friendly detergents:
- Use low-waste packaging that uses little plastic and is easily recycled or composted
- Use ingredients that are responsibly or ethically sourced
- Use ingredients that are non-toxic
- Are vegan and/or cruelty free
- Do not contain highly problematic plant-based ingredients like Palm Oil
Read the full review for more info!
Are eco-friendly and zero-waste laundry detergents the same thing?
No. However, there is often a considerable overlap because companies that aim to produce little or no waste are often eco-conscious in other ways too. That said, a traditional laundry detergent can be zero-waste if it is packaged in a way that produces no waste (fully compostable, recycled etc.). To be eco-friendly, a detergent needs to be more than just conscious of its packaging and reduce or eliminate environmental impacts throughout it's life cycle. Read the full article for more info!