If you’re looking for a laundry detergent that’s gentle on your clothes, tough on stains, and better for the environment, opt for a green laundry detergent. Green cleaning is the process of using cleaning methods, products, and solutions to reduce the introduction of harmful chemicals into the environment and your home. Greener cleaning products contain fewer chemical ingredients that irritate the skin, damage clothing, or pollute the air and waterways.
When shopping for green products, take note that “plant-derived fragrances” doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s an eco-friendly product. “Choose products that explicitly say what their product’s scents are made of,” says Sydney Swanson, healthy living science analyst for the Environmental Working Group.
We researched the best green laundry detergents on the market, evaluating each on cleaning power, ingredients, and environmental impact.
Here are some of the top eco-friendly laundry detergents that can help you join the green cleaning movement.
Puracy Natural Laundry Detergent
Minimal plastic in packaging
Not effective in hard water
Limited retailer availability
Puracy Natural Laundry Detergent wins our best overall spot because it ticks all the boxes for a “green” laundry detergent. It’s safe for sensitive skin, has minimal packaging, and was developed with the help of physicians.
Dermatologist-tested products are tested by experts to determine whether products and ingredients are safe and effective. Expert testing is important since the personal care product industry isn’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That means a company doesn't have to state the chemicals in their products—including added fragrances.
Puracy Natural’s cleaning power comes from naturally-occurring enzymes rather than petrochemicals, sulfates, caustics, phosphates, dyes, or chlorine that can end up in surface waters. The EWG gave it an A-rating. Why is that important? It means the non-profit found this product contains few known or suspected hazards, and has transparent ingredient disclosure.
Puracy wins when it comes to packaging, too. The 64-ounce foil refill reduces plastic waste, so less plastic packaging will find its way to landfills and waterways. However, some reviewers found that the detergent didn’t work well in homes with hard water. It’s also not readily available in stores—you'll have to add it to your online cart, instead.
Price at time of publish: $17
Type: Liquid | Amount: 64 ounces | Number of Loads: 256 | Scent: N/A | Safe for High-Efficiency Machines: Yes
Biokleen Free & Clear Laundry Powder
Never tested on animals
May clump in cold water
Could have a more transparent ingredient list
Thanks to mineral-based cleaning agents and the stain-fighting prowess of oxygen bleach (instead of potentially harmful chlorine bleach), Biokleen Free & Clear packs some serious cleaning power in this powdered laundry detergent.
This detergent is three times more concentrated than its liquid counterparts making it a budget-friendly option. It also scores high marks for its cardboard box packaging; plus, it consists of only 10 ingredients (most are plant-based).
Biokleen Free & Clear is a fragrance-free hypoallergenic formula that is never tested on animals. It’s safe for use in HE washers, but it can get clumpy in cold water, so it’s best to dilute it before adding it to your washer. It scored a B-rating from the Environmental Working Group, which we still consider a good rating.
Price at time of publish: $27
Type: Powder | Amount: 10 pounds | Number of Loads: 150 loads | Scent: Unscented | Safe for High-Efficiency Machine: Yes
Defunkify Liquid Laundry Detergent
EPA Safer Choice-approved ingredients
Not great at removing heavy stains
Works best in cold water
This odor-crushing liquid detergent from Defunify cleans between the fibers of your fabric to remove both stinks and stains. The company chooses ingredients approved by the EPA Safer Choice Program, and it’s free from fragrance and dyes. It received an EWG Verified rating from the Environmental Working Group. Basically, this is an outstanding green liquid laundry detergent.
Defunkify can be used in HE and traditional machines. While it can be used in hot water, it’s formulated for cold-water performance. Some reviewers have found it less effective on deep stains.
Price at time of publish: $40
Type: Liquid | Amount: 37.7 fluid ounces | Number of Loads: 62 | Scent: Unscented | Safe for High-Efficiency Machines: Yes
Dropps Unscented Laundry Pods
Safe on delicates
Pods may not fully break down in a front-load washer
May leave microplastics in waterways
Want a detergent option that minimizes plastic waste, comes in compostable packaging, and is super convenient? Consider Dropps Active Wash Laundry pods. Toss one of these in your standard or HE washing machine, and your clothes will be clean in no time.
Dropps has been a leader in the single-dose detergent market since 2005. Their go-to formula is free of artificial dyes, phosphates, phthalates, and parsons. The stain-fighting enzymes are effective on delicates, cotton, and polyester. Plus, it’s A-rated by the EWG. One downside is that the water-soluble polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) may not be broken down during wastewater treatment. This means it could make its way into the environment in the form of microplastics.
Price at time of publish: $15
Type: Pod | Amount: 64, 128, or 192 count | Number of Loads: 1 load per pod | Scent: Unscented | Safe for High-Efficiency Machines: Yes
Ingredients Matter Soap Powder
Safe for septic and gray water systems
Works in regular and high-efficiency machines
Powder is very fine
Ingredients matter when it comes to choosing a greener laundry detergent, and, as the name suggests, Ingredients Matter Soap Powder understands that. This is a petroleum-free option. Instead, it’s composed of coconut soap flakes that promise to break down dirt, stains, smells, and microbes. In addition, table salt and baking soda help soften fabrics. The scented versions are made from essential oils.
This eco-friendly laundry powder works in all machines at all temperatures. It’s also safe for septic and gray water systems. It tops off its green cleaning cred by earning an EWG A-rating and is EPA Safer Choice certified. However, it is higher priced per ounce than similar products. Take note that the fine powder may irritate your lungs if inhaled while pouring.
Price at time of publish: $23
Type: Powder︱Amount: 36 ounces︱Number of Loads: 72 loads︱Scent: Lemongrass, lavender, or fragrance-free︱Safe for High-Efficiency Machines: Yes
Best for Babies
ATTITUDE Baby Laundry Detergent
Safe for those with sensitive skin
Most effective in cold water
When choosing a detergent for your little one, it’s important to look for one designed for delicate skin. Attitude Little Ones is formulated for use on baby and kids’ clothing, but it’s a great option for anyone with sensitive skin or allergies. Dermal safety studies via clinical trials help evaluate the safety of consumer products and that’s why Attitude had their product tested by dermatologists and the National Eczema Association (NEA). It’s free of unnecessary scents and dyes and earned an EWG Verified rating from EWG.
Attitude’s plant-based ingredients include the medicinal herb chamomile, known for its sleep-enhancing properties. Attitude detergent is certified by PETA and ECOLOGO to be cruelty-free and sustainably produced. It works best in cold water, which saves you money on your energy bill, too. However, sometimes you need hot water to tackle your baby’s stains, so you may need a separate option for when that happens.
Price at time of publish: $23
Type: Liquid | Amount: 35.5 or 67.6 fluid ounces | Number of Loads: 35 or 80 | Scent: Chamomile, pear nectar, and sweet lullaby | Safe for High-Efficiency Machines: Yes
Best for Sensitive Skin
Dirty Labs Bio Laundry Detergents
Safe for sensitive skin
Recognized by the National Eczema Association
Can only be purchased direct to consumer
Dirty Labs tackles tough stains and odors while being gentle on the skin. Recognized by the National Eczema Association (NEA) and EWG Verified, it’s free of dyes, sulfates, parabens, and all California Prop. 65 chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm.
It gets bonus points for using eco-friendly packaging, too. The bottle, for example, is made of recyclable aluminum, while the cap and spout are made of recyclable BPA-free plastic. This detergent is HE machine-compatible and safe for septic systems, too. Dirty Labs is sold direct-to-consumer and only ships within the United States.
Price at time of publish: $15
Type: Liquid︱Amount: 8.6 or 21.6 fluid ounces︱Number of Loads: 32 or 80︱Scent: Unscented︱Safe for High-Efficiency Machines: Yes
Best for Hard Water
Charlie's Soap Fragrance Free Laundry Powder
Might need to add a laundry booster
Contains sodium bicarbonate
Hard water is no problem for this laundry powder from Charlie’s Soap. Charlie’s is tough on stains with minimal environmental impact as each bag contains only four ingredients—including baking soda, a versatile ingredient for cleaning. However, this ingredient can irritate sensitive skin, but the fragrance-free formula is safe for hand-washing and septic systems.
Charlie’s is also available in liquid or packet formulations. It scored a B-rating from the EWG and is EPA Safer Choice Certified, meaning the product contains ingredients that are safer for human health and the environment. One bag is long-lasting, too, as you only need to use one tablespoon per laundry load. Some reviewers found the company’s laundry booster was needed to remove set-in stains.
Price at time of publish: $40
Type: Powder, liquid, or packet| Amount: 8 pounds | Number of Loads: 300 standard loads | Scent: Unscented | Safe for High-Efficiency: Yes
Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Laundry Detergent Pacs
Plant and essential oil-derived scents
Safe for HE washers
Not the best option for those with sensitive skin or allergies
Pods may leech microplastics into waterways
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day laundry pods are a favorite for those who prefer a scented formula. All four scents are derived from plant-based ingredients and essential oils. They’re produced without chlorine, artificial colors, parabens, phthalates, monoethanolamine (MEA), and diethanolamine (DEA). However, The EWG gives these laundry pods a B-rating because they contain ingredients that can be irritating to those with scent or skin sensitivities.
Mrs. Meyer's Laundry pacs are safe for use in both high-efficiency and conventional washing machines. However, pods may not break down properly during wastewater treatment, which could leech microplastics into waterways.
“We haven’t found a Mrs. Meyer’s scent we don’t like, but the honeysuckle fragrance is especially nice for summer use,” says our product tester, Katie Begley. “It’s a good balance between fruity and floral and we particularly appreciate that the scent is derived from actual honeysuckle flower extract, orange peel oil, and ylang ylang flower oil.”
Price at time of publish: $18
Type: Pods | Amount: 45 pacs | Number of Loads: 45 | Scent: Lavender, lemon verbena, basil, and honeysuckle | Safe for High-Efficiency Machines: Yes
Ecover Zero 2X Laundry Detergent
Eco-friendly bioplastic packaging
Works in cold water
Poor cap design
Like any good concentrated liquid laundry detergent, a little Ecover goes a long way. Tough on stains in cold water, it’s made of plant-based, biodegradable ingredients. It’s packaged in bioplastic made from sugarcane, which emits less carbon emissions during production.
A fragrance-free option, it earned an A-rating from the EWG. However, it does contain the preservative methylisothiazolinone, which can be an allergen for some people. Some reviewers found the product’s cap to be poorly designed because it created soap residue around the top.
Price at time of publish: $25
Type: Liquid | Amount: 93 fluid ounces | Number of Loads: Unknown | Scent: Fragrance-free | Safe for High-Efficiency Machines: Yes
Best for Septic Systems
Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap
Multiple uses beyond laundry
Scented natural ingredients could be an issue for those with allergies or asthma
May leave a soapy residue on clothing
Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap is a concentrated, versatile option (dilute it to wash dishes and household surfaces!) that’s safe for septic systems. To be “septic safe,” a laundry detergent needs to be free of ingredients that interfere with the function of the on-site systems that treat waste. Ingredients to avoid include chemical dyes, fragrance, surfactants, enzymes, chlorine bleach, 1,4-Dioxan, parabens, phosphates, phthalates, and synthetic foaming agents and thickeners. Some users claim the product can leave a soapy residue on clothing.
Dr. Bronner’s is made from 90 percent organic natural oils and vegan ingredients, and no animals were harmed during the production process. Most scents are A-rated by EWG, yet scented options may still affect those with chemical sensitivities. The company is also committed to ethical working conditions and fair wages for workers.
Price at time of publish: $23
Type: Liquid | Amount: 16 ounces | Number of Loads: Unknown | Scent: Peppermint, lavender, rose, eucalyptus, and tea tree | Safe for High-Efficiency Machines: Yes
Puracy Natural Laundry Detergent is our top pick for a green laundry detergent because it’s effective, safe for sensitive skin, and a low-waste option. For those looking to reduce their environmental footprint on a budget, Biokleen Free & Clear powder detergent is a concentrated option made of only ten ingredients. Plus, it comes in a recyclable cardboard box.
What to Look for in a Green Laundry Detergent
Like traditional laundry detergents, green laundry detergents also come in liquid, powder and pod form. Powdered detergents are effective on stains and ground-in dirt. However, they can clump in cold water. You can avoid this by adding the detergent before you add your clothing or dilute it with hot or warm water.
Liquid detergent bottles tend to come with a twist-off cap that doubles as a measuring cup. Liquid detergents are also great for pre-treating stains, small loads, or hand-washing garments.
Want to skip the measuring altogether? Single-use packs or "pods" are convenient and straightforward, especially if you use a laundromat or other community laundry room. They're pre-measured for average-sized loads, so it's easy to toss one in before you start your washer. Keep them away from small children or pets who may mistake them for candy or treats.
No matter which type of green laundry detergent you prefer, remember to consider the packaging and its effect on the environment.
You can easily calculate the laundry detergent cost per load by taking the package price and dividing it by the total number of loads listed. For example, a detergent that costs $11.99 and can wash 40 loads means that detergent costs $0.30 per load.
While single-use pods remove the need for measuring, they're designed for smaller loads. That means you may need to double up for larger loads or set-in stains, so they are not always the most cost-efficient option.
Ingredients and Certifications
When shopping for green laundry detergents, avoid ingredients that are harmful to humans and the environment. Sulfates and phosphates are in thousands of household products and have been linked to many health effects, including cancer and endocrine disruption. Some laundry detergent ingredients also include known carcinogens, which means they've been highly correlated with or proven to cause cancer, including benzene (listed as Dichlorobenzene (P-Dichlorobenzene/Benzene), dioxane (listed as 1,4 Dioxane/Diethylene Dioxide/Diethylene Ether/Dioxane), and formaldehyde.
Unfortunately, there's no legal or standard definition of what makes a detergent "green." Some manufacturers list every laundry detergent ingredient on the label, but most do not, since it's not required under United States law. To help consumers narrow their choices, the EPA offers a list of safer products on its SaferChoice website — including laundry detergent, fabric softeners, and boosters. Applying for certification is currently voluntary, but the certification means that every chemical, regardless of percentage, is evaluated through EPA's rigorous scientific process.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) also provides valuable information and ratings about cleaning products in their Guide to Healthy Cleaning.
Green laundry detergents can be scented or unscented, but those with chemical sensitivities should take note: "Fragrance is an umbrella term that can include up to 4,000 unnecessary chemicals added to a product," Sydney Swanson, healthy living science analyst for the Environmental Working Group says. Swanson adds that this includes masking scents that cover other fragrances to make them seem unscented. Since manufacturers don’t have to provide the ingredients in their fragrance formulas, you can avoid any potential side effects or exposure by choosing fragrance-free products.
Do green laundry detergents work?
“Green cleaners and detergents have demonstrated over and over to work just as effectively as their conventional counterparts,” says Swanson. Many green laundry detergents also work well in cold water, which means they require less energy usage.
How are green laundry detergents different from traditional laundry detergents?
The main difference is that green laundry detergents are often derived from plants rather than chemical ingredients such as phosphates and non-renewable petroleum-based ingredients. These chemicals pollute waterways, impact aquatic life, and potentially irritate our skin.
What are the best places to buy green laundry detergent?
Green laundry detergents can be found online at retailers like Amazon and Walmart. They can also be purchased directly from manufacturers, department stores, and even in a local co-op.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Heidi Wachter, a freelance writer and climate journalist. She has firsthand experience using and testing eco-friendly laundry detergents, including several options featured on this list. In addition to her personal experience, she read advice from medical professionals and scoured numerous third-party reviews to find the best green laundry detergents on the market. Wachter prioritized options that are affordable, widely available, have small ingredient lists and are well rated by environmental product databases. She also interviewed Sydney Swanson, EWG healthy living science analyst, for her insight.