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Switching to a green laundry detergent is an easy way to be gentler on both the environment and your skin. These detergents tend to be free of—or at least contain less of—the chemicals that can irritate the skin, damage clothing over time, and pollute the environment. And since the formulas are often highly concentrated, you won't need as much to clean your clothes.
Read on for the best options to add to your laundry routine.
When it comes to clean, green products for your house, Mrs. Meyers knows what she’s doing.
We love this concentrated laundry detergent, which yields one load for every ounce. Thanks to powerhouse plant-derived enzymes and surfactants, it does an excellent job of removing stains and smells from clothing—no parabens or phthalates needed. The biodegradable liquid is safe for use in both high-efficiency (HE) and regular washing machines and isn't tested on animals. And while the packaging itself isn't biodegradable, it can be recycled. You can also opt for a larger size to cut down on waste.
Another cool thing about Mrs. Meyer's cleaning products is that when you find a scent you love, you can buy the entire line (including hand soap, candles, and dryer sheets) to give your home a signature smell.
"Our toddler has particularly sensitive skin, so we were eager to see how he’d react to Mrs. Meyer’s detergent. He’s prone to eczema, but we didn’t notice any flare-ups after using the green detergent. If your skin is sensitive to dyes or scents, though, you may want to look for a different formula." —Katie Begley, Product Tester
This powerhouse detergent is popular for a reason. While incredibly effective at getting stains out, the plant- and mineral-based formula is also very gentle on both your family and the environment. It's made of 96 percent plant-based ingredients and has been tested by dermatologists for use on sensitive skin.
And not only is the bottle easy to recycle curbside, but it's also been made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic. Each 40-ounce bottle comes with enough detergent for 53 regular loads.
"By following Seventh Generation’s recommended pretreatment instructions, we found that most common stains came right out. The only stain we had trouble removing was the result of a diaper blowout from our 3-month-old, but that would be a challenge for any detergent. If you’re regularly dealing with stubborn stains, you may need to use an additional stain remover to get them out." —Katie Begley, Product Tester
Depending on the retailer, you might be able to find this detergent costing as little as eight cents per load—talk about affordable! Made with just six ingredients, this simple detergent from ECOS is free of optical brighteners, parabens, phosphates, and phthalates. It's also been deemed safe for both septic tanks and home greywater systems, which take water from baths, showers, and laundry and reuse it for jobs like lawn irrigation.
The formula is hypoallergenic and has been tested by dermatologists, making it gentle enough for both kids and adults with sensitive skin. Because of the concentrated formula, each 100-ounce bottle has enough product for 200 loads.
For a simple, green clean, this laundry detergent from Method is hard to beat. Method is certified by the Cradle-to-Cradle Institute, which recognizes companies for green product design, safe formulas, and responsible manufacturing.
This plant-based formula is biodegradable and hypoallergenic, but also tough on dirt and stains. In addition to a Free & Clear option (ideal for those with sensitive skin), it also comes in scents like Fresh Air, Spring Garden, and Nectarine Blossom. Since the formula is concentrated, each 53.5-ounce bottle contains enough detergent for 66 loads, and it can be used in both HE and standard washers.
Less is more when it comes to this powder detergent, which has just three ingredients: castile soap, baking soda, and washing soda. It's a staple home product from Pardo Naturals, a Black-owned, family-run line created with sensitive skin in mind.
For a high-efficiency machine, you'll need just one tablespoon of this powder; regular machines require two. Choose from three fresh-smelling scents (lavender, lemon-lavender, or citrus) or, if your skin is über sensitive, opt for the unscented formula. To combat stiffness, Pardo recommends adding up to one cup of white vinegar to your machine's fabric softener compartment. This will also help freshen up your washing machine—always a welcome plus!
If you don’t want to mess with measuring and pouring in a liquid or powder detergent, these Stoneworks pods are a convenient alternative. Available in scents like Rose Petal and Olive Leaf, they have a fairly short ingredient list that omits phosphates, chlorine, and dyes. The company also pledges that 94 percent of the compounds used are naturally derived from plants or minerals. Each bag comes with 50 pods.
Powder detergent is often more concentrated than your conventional liquid formulas. This option from Biokleen is three-times concentrated, and each 10-pound box comes with enough detergent for up to 150 loads.
With just 10 ingredients (most of which, like unscented grapefruit seed extract, are plant-based), the Free & Clear laundry powder is perfect for sensitive skin. You can also opt for a citrus-scented option, and another that's made with oxygen bleach.
As a company, Biokleen promises not to use ingredients like phosphates, chlorine, ammonia, or artificial fragrances in any of their products. They also use number 1 and 2 plastics for their packaging, which are accepted by most curbside recycling programs.
Dryer balls are a reusable, chemical-free alternative to dryer sheets. They help soften clothes, prevent static cling, and reduce drying time—saving energy and costs in the process.
Unlike your standard grey or cream, the LooHoo wool dryer balls are available in a variety of gorgeous pastel colors that will make you smile every time you do laundry. They're guaranteed to last for hundreds of drying cycles.
LooHoo, a Black-owned, family-run company based in Maine, sources its wool from a local mill. Along with its dryer balls, the company also sells chemical-free coconut oil stain sticks, lavender essential oil, and wool tug toys for dogs. They've pledged to plant one tree for each product purchased.
Our best overall pick is Mrs. Myer's Clean Day Laundry Detergent, which has a highly concentrated formula that works well even on tougher stains. It's also available in a variety of fresh-smelling scents, which you can coordinate with their other products. Those with sensitive skin might opt for Pardo Naturals Natural Powder Detergent (view at Pardo Naturals), which goes back to basics with only three ingredients.
Scent It used to be that green laundry detergents featured little to no scent, but today’s varieties include some pleasing natural essences. However, unscented formulas are still widely available and may be the best option for people with especially sensitive skin or allergies.
Form Choose from laundry detergent available in powder, liquid, or pod form. With powder or liquid detergent, you’ll need to measure the output each time you wash, but you can adjust for the size and soil level of the load more easily. However, you may prefer the convenience of ready-to-go laundry pods.
Ingredients Not all laundry detergents are created equal, and the same is true for eco-friendly formulas. While some substances are almost universally omitted—including phthalates, phosphates, and non-biodegradable surfactants—other questionable ingredients may or may not be present in a certain formula. If you have specific allergies or avoidances, read labels carefully to make sure that unwanted additives aren’t included.