How clean is your soap? Conventional soaps are pretty dirty when you think about it! Harmful for you, and harmful for the environment.
They’re full of harmful chemicals and synthetic fragrances, wrapped in plastic, and huge amounts of unnecessary packaging.
Many use ingredients like Palm Oil and its derivatives, that are problematic for the environment and for the communities that live where they’re produced.
So, how do you get clean with a clean conscience?
Thankfully, there are many great eco-friendly soap brands out there!
Today, we’re covering what makes soap eco-friendly, the best eco-friendly soap brands to try, and how to make your own natural soap at home.
Let’s dive right in!
What Makes Soaps Eco-Friendly?
Eco-friendly soaps are consciously manufactured, packaged, and distributed in ways that reduce their impact on the environment and our health.
They steer away from the harmful ingredients that are found in many cleaning, cosmetics and skincare products, like makeup, shampoos and conditioners, and even hand sanitizers. These chemicals are often toxic to humans and animals. They also contribute to water pollution and eutrophication, killing aquatic life and crippling the ecosystems that depend on those water sources.
Using natural ingredients, ideally organically grown, goes a long way to eliminating the impact of these harmful chemicals.
Eco-friendly soaps use sustainable packaging, to reduce the impact of packaging manufacture and waste on the environment. They’re often concentrated formulas that require less packaging and produce fewer transport emissions too.
In addition to the above, eco-friendly soap brands are brands that support sustainable and ethical practices. Responsibly and ethically sourced ingredients, good labor, and trade practices and cruelty-free products are great indicators of how well a brand is caring for the environment.
Our Eco-Friendly Soap Selection Criteria
Here is what we looked for when we selected the brands on this list:
- Fewer or no harmful chemicals
- Natural and/or organic ingredients from responsible sources
- Palm Oil free (or at least certified as responsibly sourced)
- Sustainable packaging that is plastic-free, biodegradable, or compostable
- Recycled and recyclable plastic packaging where plastic is used
- Refill services or packaging take-back services
- Concentrated formulas for minimal packaging and reduced transport impacts
- Carbon emission offsets and other methods of reducing the carbon footprint
- Vegan and/or cruelty-free options
- Natural fragrances like essential oils rather than synthetic fragrances
All the brands we selected score well against this list of eco-friendly criteria. They’re also effective and lovely on your skin. No compromises!
We have included a mix of soap bars, liquid body washes, and concentrates so there is something for everyone here:
12 Best Eco-Friendly Soap Brands
1. Butter Me Up Organics – Handmade Organic Soaps
Based in Livermore, California, Butter Me Up Organics makes all-natural, zero-waste personal care and beauty products. They use only responsibly sourced natural ingredients, most of which are certified organic, cruelty-free, and fair-trade.
Butter Me Up Organics uses only use sustainable packaging for their products, which is all zero-waste, compostable, recyclable, or reusable. Their shipping materials are also 100% recycled, recyclable, and completely plastic-free.
All their products are made with sustainability and human health in mind. They’re all completely natural and safe to use on your skin and most of their ingredients are edible!
Butter Me Up Organics Jasmine, Atlas Cedar, & Pine Organic Soap is hand-made with natural clay, pure essential oils, and nourishing plant oils. Like all their soaps, it contains no harsh chemicals, no dyes, and no synthetic fragrances.
Price Range: $9.75 – $10.95
Where to Buy: Butter Me Up Organics
2. Ethique – Zero Waste Soap Bars
Ethique is an eco-friendly, zero-waste brand from New Zealand. They’re one of the most well-known eco-friendly soap brands, with a huge range of zero-waste soaps, shampoo bars, and deodorants.
Ethique offers a dozen different body wash products that are all non-toxic, do not contain palm oil, and are both cruelty-free and vegan. All their ingredients are sustainably sourced and biodegradable.
Their packaging is minimal, recycled, recyclable, and compostable. They do not use plastic at all in their packaging or their shipping processes!
Ethique is climate-neutral and a certified B Corp. They donate an impressive 20% of their profits to charities and non-profits that work to rehabilitate and protect the environment animals.
Ethique is also Direct Trade certified, dealing directly with the farmers who supply their ingredients and ensuring that they’re being paid a fair price.
Price Range: $6 – $13 (body bars)
Where to Buy: Ethique
3. Friendly Soap – All Natural Vegan Soaps
Friendly Soap is an eco-friendly soap brand from the UK. They make a great range of bath soaps, exfoliating soaps, shampoo bars, and conditioner bars using all-natural, plant-based ingredients.
Friendly Soap uses essential oils and no synthetic fragrances. Their soaps are naturally SLS, paraben-free. The waste product from the soap-making process is re-used, and the whole cycle is waste-free.
Their soaps are vegan and cruelty-free and do not contain palm oil. They are plastic-free, using natural ingredients like hemp bran and poppy seeds in their exfoliating soaps so that there are no plastic microbeads.
Friendly Soap’s packaging is also plastic-free and made from 100% recycled and recyclable materials. They even use brown paper packing tape on their parcels!
As a business, they go out of their way to source materials from ethical sources and they ensure that they use suppliers who pay a living wage to their workers.
Price Range: £2.25 (soap bars) – £4.95 (conditioner bars)
Where to Buy: Friendly Soap Online
4. Bathing Culture – Mind and Body Wash
Bathing Culture is a carbon-neutral, zero-waste skincare brand from California. They make all-natural and mostly certified organic, plant-based, cruelty-free, vegan soaps that are 100% biodegradable.
They use only locally sourced ingredients and do not use palm oil in any of their products. Bathing Culture uses essential oils and does not use any synthetic fragrances. Their soaps are free of all harsh and toxic chemicals.
Bathing Culture’s packaging is made to be zero-waste. They use only recycled and recyclable plastic and most of their products come in refillable glass bottles, which can also be recycled if necessary.
You can refill at any of their retail partners or you can buy bulk refills directly from them and top up as you need.
Price Range: $18 (8 oz) – $175 (1 gallon)
Where to Buy: Bathing Culture Online
5. Dr. Bronner’s – All-in-One Castile Soap
Dr. Bronner’s All-in-One Castile Soap concentrate can be used for just about everything, from bath soap to floors, dishes, and laundry!
It is made using only natural, certified organic, fair-trade, palm oil-free ingredients and comes in a bottle made of recyclable, 100% post-consumer recycled plastic.
Dr. Bronner’s is a great option for those of us on a zero-waste journey. Despite being in plastic, the formula is super concentrated and it can replace so many other household products that you’re going to eliminate a huge amount of waste from your life!
As a company, Dr. Bronner’s is one of the oldest and most well-established eco-conscious companies you can choose. They hold several sustainability certifications, such as B Corp certification, several organic certifications, Leaping Bunny certified and OK Kosher certified.
Dr. Bronner’s emphasizes ethical practices throughout their business model. They treat their employees well, with free health care for all employees and profit-sharing for full-time staff.
Price Range: $5.94 (8 oz) – $65.99 (gallon)
Where to Buy: Dr. Bronner’s Online
6. Willow – Luxury Organic Face & Body Soaps
Willow is based in the New Forest in Hampshire, England, and makes a unique range of natural and organic products. Their range includes a line of Soil Association certified organic skincare products that are age-sensitive work for different generations.
All of Willow’s products are cruelty-free and made with natural or certified organic ingredients. They do not contain any parabens, microbeads, sodium laurel sulfates, palm oil, or mineral oils.
Willow uses sustainable and environmentally friendly materials for its packaging, including glass, silk, paper, and cardboard. The plastics they use are all fully recyclable.
Willow’s all-natural and plastic-free Rose, Argan & Seaweed Vegan Face Soap is made with Rose oil to cleanse and soothe, Argan oil to hydrate, and Seaweed to reduce inflammation.
Seaweed is also beneficial for soothing skin conditions like Rosacea. Can be used on the body as well as the face and is suitable for all skin types.
Price Range: £12.00 – £23.00
Where to Buy: Willow
7. Plaine Products – Zero Waste Soaps
Plaine Products make a wide range of vegan, zero-waste soaps, body washes, hand sanitizers, and hair care products. As a company, they hold some impressive eco-friendly credentials.
Plaine Products is certified B Corp, vegan, cruelty-free, carbon-neutral, and members of 1 for the Planet!
They use safe, non-toxic ingredients and they do not use anything that is deemed unsafe by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Their soaps are paraben and sulfate-free, and contain no palm oil. Plaine Products’ soaps even ‘no tears’ baby safe, which is great for parents looking for eco-friendly, non-toxic baby care products.
Completely zero-waste, they offer a refill service and all their products are packaged in aluminum bottles, with a reusable plastic pump.
When your bottle is empty, you keep the pump to use in your refill and send the empty back to them in the (recycled) box it came in!
Price Range: $5 – $30
Where to Buy: Amazon
Blueland is a company whose mission is to make being environmentally responsible easier. They do this by focusing on eliminating one of the biggest contributors to environmental waste, single-use plastic packaging.
Blueland takes the notion of “just add water” to new heights. Their Forever Packaging is designed to be purchased once and re-used forever.
With squirt bottles, tins, squeeze bottles, and shakers, you don’t have to sacrifice ease of use to be sustainable.
Their dry soap tablets and powders ship in recyclable shipping boxes with water-based inks, compostable refill packaging, and paper-based tape to lower their and your carbon footprint.
Blueland’s tablets are proudly made in the USA, and they have worked closely with Cradle to Cradle to responsibly manufacture their packaging with partners abroad.
Finally, their refills are available at major retailers like The Container Store and Bed Bath & Beyond, or you can have them delivered to your door with their subscription service.
Price Range: $7 – $21 (refill packs)
Where to Buy: Blueland
Soapply asked, “What if people could change the world by washing their hands?” Their answer was to tie every purchase of their liquid soap to a donation toward efforts to bring water, sanitation, and hygiene to African countries that don’t have access to these basic human needs.
The founder was moved to this mission while living and working in Africa and seeing how much impact hygiene access has on health, education, and inequality in impoverished areas.
Their efforts to improve access focus on one site, one school at a time, so they can directly track their donations’ impact.
Using a 300-year-old method, their soap is formulated to be safe for you and the planet. Their soap is made with no parabens, synthetics, artificial colorants, or added fragrance.
This luxurious soap is made with certified food-grade organic oils that keep your skin balanced and healthy without stripping away surface oils which are healthy and protective layers of your skin.
Price Range: $55 – $85 (Multiple product sets)
Where to Buy: Soapply
10. Common Good
Common Good is all about transparency and excellent ingredients. The founder looked into the ingredients of the cleaning products her family used and realized that many products that were considered “green” were far from it.
An unsuccessful search for a genuinely natural and plastic-free cleaning product resulted in the creation of the Common Good product range, which includes handwashes, dish soap, laundry detergents, and surface cleaners that are gentle on people and nature.
To reduce their plastic use, Common Good offers refills at more than 300 locations across the country, where you can fill any container you like or use their sleek and stylish glass bottles, which look good on the counter.
Common Good is very transparent about its ingredients, where they come from, and what they do, so you can be completely informed of what your family is exposed to.
See the complete breakdown on their ingredients page.
Price Range: $15 – $16 (34 Fl oz refills)
Where to Buy: Common Good
11. Soap Sense
Soap Sense wanted to focus on two significant environmental issues, single-use plastic packaging and harmful chemicals used in conventional hand soaps. The best way to achieve this was to create their formulas from entirely natural and plant-based ingredients.
Their foaming hand soap tablets are vegan-friendly and paraben, phthalate, and artificial colorant free. Scents are made with 100% essential oils and are very easy to use.
Drop a tablet in your bottle of choice, add water, and you’re good to go!
They work even better than standard store-bought soaps in testing, showing a 50% decrease in remaining microorganisms after washing.
There are plenty of scents, like grapefruit, eucalyptus mint, lavender, and unscented. Moreover, they offer a permanent 15% discount and free shipping on their monthly subscriptions.
Price Range: $11.99 (Soap Tablets)
Where to Buy: Soap Sense
Method takes environmental responsibility into account with every decision they make.
Their purpose-built factory is powered by a wind turbine, green roof, and solar tracking trees to power their operation from renewable sources while producing pesticide-free produce for the local community.
Their factory is positioned to distribute their products efficiently across the US and handles every step of production in-house, reducing their carbon footprint significantly.
Method offers a vast range of cleaning products that cover home and surface cleaners, laundry detergents, dish soaps, body washes, and hand soaps with complete ingredient lists that are independently researched and proven non-harmful for humans and the earth.
Their hand washes use a biodegradable formula made with plant-based cleansers and are paraben and phthalate free; and now come in recyclable refill packaging, which is itself made from 50% recycled materials and reusable aluminum bottles.
Price Range: $4.49– $14.49 (Liquid soaps)
Where to Buy: Method
How to Make Your Own Soap with All-Natural Ingredients
If you’re keen to make your own eco-friendly soap, there are loads of great recipes out to try! It’s much simpler than it seems and making your own means you can make exactly what you want.
There are so many different recipes out there and many use a soap base that you can buy pre-made on Amazon.
For those, you just melt the soap base and add whatever you like to give it texture, scent, and additional properties. Lavender, tea tree oil, and other essential oils are a popular choice.
However, if you want full control of the whole process, and absolute certainty about the ingredients you’re using, you can make cold-pressed soap from scratch.
Here is a detailed video recipe by Lovely Greens that details the whole process from start to finish:
This recipe requires some equipment and a little caution when you’re working with lye, so remember to check that you have everything you need before you begin!
In conclusion, conventional soaps are made with many toxic ingredients that are harmful to our health and the environment.
They’re wrapped usually wrapped in plastic, bulked up with water and bulking agents and they use a great deal of unnecessary packaging. Shipping unnecessarily large volumes is also less efficient and causes more carbon emissions.
Thankfully, many great eco-friendly soap brands use natural and organic ingredients, do not contain harmful chemicals, and are thoughtfully packaged.
Today, we have covered five of the best eco-friendly soap brands to try, as well as how to make your own soap at home!
Which will you try first?
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes soap eco-friendly?
Eco-friendly soaps are made with natural, non-toxic ingredients from responsible and ethical sources. They're packaged in biodegradable packaging without any or only minimal plastic. They're manufactured and distributed with the environment in mind and minimize the negative impacts on the environment at every step of the supply chain. Read the full guide for more info on what makes soap eco-friendly.
Which form of soap is more environmentally friendly?
Solid soap bars are generally better for the environment. It uses less electricity to make, requires less packaging and is easier to package without plastic. Bars are lighter and more compact, reducing the impact of their transportation. Check out the full guide for more on why solid soap bars are better for the environment.
What are the best eco-friendly soap brands?
There are loads of great eco-friendly soap brands on the market. The five best are:
1. Common Good
2. Plaine Products
3. Bathing Culture
5. Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap
Check out the full guide for more info on what these brands are the best eco-friendly soap brands to try.
References and Useful Resources
Environmental Working Group (EWG): Skin Deep Cosmetics Database
Lovely Greens: Soap Making for Beginners: 3 Easy Soap Recipes
Treehugger: Never, Ever Use Soap in a Lake