Top 9 Green Laundry Detergents

Energy efficient washing machine and dryer laundry room
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As more and more people have become concerned about the impact of certain chemicals on their family's health and the environment, leading detergent manufacturers have developed formulas with fewer toxic ingredients and conformed to government regulations. In addition to the large corporations, small companies are producing plant based detergents that clean laundry well.

Laundry detergent's most significant impact on the environment comes from phosphates and some surfactants, mainly...MORE nonylphenol ethoxylates or NPE. Phosphates were banned from detergents made in America in the 1970s so they are no longer a severe problem in the U.S. but can still be found in other parts of the world.

Surfactants, which help soil to float away from garments, form micelle which surround the piece of dirt so it can be carried away by water. The micelle are toxic to fish because they get into the fish gills and impairs their ability to get oxygen from the water. The largest detergent manufacturer in the United States, Proctor and Gamble (Tide, Gain) stopped using this nonylphenol ethoxylate surfactants several years ago but they can still be found in some products.

Let's take a look at the top ten green laundry detergents that are both good for the environment and deliver the cleaning results you desire.


  • 01 of 09

    Ecos Laundry Detergent is a plant-based concentrated laundry detergent that can be used in all temperatures of water for all washable fabrics. It is safe to use in high-efficiency (he) or standard washers

    Ecos Laundry Detergent is 100 percent biodegradable and free of dyes, 1,4-Dioxane, petrochemicals or formaldehyde. Some varieties contain N.O.P.-certified (National Organic Program–part of USDA) organic essential oils. It carries the Safer Choice designation from the U.S. EPA.

    Ecos Laundry...MORE Detergent is offered in liquid and single-dose laundry packs. The line includes scented and scent-free formulas, Baby Ecos, stain removers and ironing sprays.

    All Ecos detergents do a good job on day-to-day laundry with normal body soil. The clothes come out feeling soft and smelling fresh. There is no need for an additional fabric softener and the clothes are static-free. Because the product uses a natural coconut oil, the towels felt soft to the touch but did not lose absorbency as they would with a commercial fabric softener added. While the clothes have a fragrances, it is not overpowering.

    If you have laundry with lots of stains–particularly oily stains–opt for the ECOS formula with added enzymes. The enzymes are not petroleum based and will give the cleaning boost you need.

    The bottles and caps are clear and the cap is very easy to read to prevent overdosing. One ounce is all that is needed for HE washers and two ounces for standard washers that use more water.

  • 02 of 09

    Seventh Generation is a company founded on the principle of providing environmentally-friendly household products. The name of the company comes from the Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy, "In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations."  Their laundry products line contains liquid and powdered detergents, stain removers and fabric softeners.

    The detergents are plant-based and contain no dyes or optical brighteners and are never...MORE tested on animals. The formulas are available in several scents and unscented.

    Seventh Generation laundry detergent performs well in removing body soil and stains. Use the liquid formula as a stain remover by treating tough stains directly with a bit of the detergent. Work it in with a soft bristled brush and allow to sit for ten to fifteen minutes before washing for best results.

  • 03 of 09

    Tide PurClean is the first Procter & Gamble laundry detergent to seek and gain the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) BioPreferred Certification.

    While the product does contain petroleum based and synthetic ingredients, it qualifies as for the BioPreferred Certification because at least 65 percent of the ingredients are bio-based. In addition to the change in ingredient sourcing, Tide PurClean is manufactured at a Texas facility that uses 100 percent renewable wind power...MORE electricity and produces zero manufacturing waste that ends up in a landfill. 

    The formula contains no dyes, chlorine or optical brighteners. Tide PurClean is HE compatible and can be used in both high-efficiency top load and front load washers as well as standard top load machines. The product can be used in all water temperatures and is safe for all washable fabrics. The product can be purchased in several sizes with a Honey Lavender scent. 

    In every test, Tide PurClean left clothes smelling fresh and removed most soil. Without pretreating, some traces of heavy stains remained–especially oily stains washed in cold water. But, with pretreating, the stains were removed. A little preparation and patience will prevent having to rewash clothes.

  • 04 of 09

    Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day laundry detergent contains 97 percent bio-based ingredients. The laundry product line includes liquid detergent, scent boosters, fabric softeners and dryer sheets.Mrs. Meyer's is a subsidiary of the SC Johnson Company, makers of Windex, Pledge and Raid.

    Scents like geranium, basil, honeysuckle and lemon verbena are a key component of Mrs. Meyer's products. While the line contains no optical brighteners or dyes, there is no unscented version of the products. 

    Mrs....MORE Meyer's detergents contain sufficient enzymes to remove most stains and perform well in removing body soil. They leave clothes feeling soft to the touch and smelling fresh.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Method laundry detergents are manufactured in Chicago using bio-based ingredients that are safe for greywater irrigation systems. The laundry line includes scented and unscented detergents, stain removers, fabric softeners, scent boosters and dryer sheets. 

    Whether you choose the 4x or 8x concentrated laundry detergent, follow the directions carefully so that you don't overdose and waste products. Because the formulas contain little water, you only need a small amount per load of laundry.

    All...MORE Method formulas contain the needed enzymes and surfacants to break down stains and leave your laundry soft to the touch and without odors.

  • 06 of 09

    Gain Botanicals laundry detergent is formulated to be a hypoallergenic and dye-free laundry detergent containing both chemical-based and plant-based cleaning ingredients as well as natural fragrance extracts. 

    Dermatologists have determined that most laundry detergent skin irritants are caused by the addition of synthetic dyes to the product. Finding a product that does not contain added artificial dyes is particularly important for babies and young children or those with sensitive skin.

    Gain...MORE Botanicals is formulated for use in both standard washers and high-efficiency washers in all water temperatures. The product works well for light soil. However, for heavy soil or oily stains, a heavy-duty detergent with more enzymes to break apart stains and soil is recommended.

  • 07 of 09

    Country Save has an interesting beginning. The company was founded by Elmer Pearson of Elmer's Glue fame. When Elmer retired from Borden, he wasn't ready to give up all those years as a chemist. And in 1977, he formulated Country Save Laundry Detergent as a safe, gentle product without dyes, fragrance, phosphates, enzymes or brighteners.

    Because it contains no optical brighteners and is environmentally friendly, Country Save is included in every Health and Comfort Kit purchased by the...MORE U.S. Department of Defense for all branches of military service to use with laundry done in the field.

    Country Save was tested on home laundry in all water temperatures on a range of soil levels. With no added fragrance, clothes smelled clean and fresh with all but the toughest stains removed. The detergent leaves little residue allowing both dryer-dried and line-dried laundry to feel soft.

  • 08 of 09

    If you love mid-century images and style, then you'll want to buy some Nellie's All Natural Laundry products just for the packaging. The reusable metal tins are so cute that you won't mind leaving them out in your laundry room.

    Nellie's Laundry Soda is a back-to-basics laundry soap using a surfactant to lift soil from fabric, soda ash and sodium metasilicate to soften water making soil easier to flush away, and salt to hold it all together.

    Lightly soiled clothes and linens come...MORE out smelling clean and feeling soft. Heavily stained garments will need to be treated to an enzyme presoak before washing.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Formulated with water, washing soda and coconut oil-based detergents, Charlie's Soap liquid and powdered formulas are biodegradable and non-toxic and contains no fragrance or dyes. 

    According to the instructions, when beginning to use Charlie's Soap you should run the washer with a few rags and a large dose of Charlie's to remove residues left behind by other detergents. After several washings with Charlie's your clothes will be free of the residue and softer. It is safe to use in...MORE regular and high-efficiency washers.

    Clothes with light body soil came out smelling fresh and clean. However, most stains should be treated with an enzyme based stain remover before washing. After drying, the clothes did feel soft to the touch; however, there was still some static cling with synthetic fibers.

    Because there are no dyes or fragrances, Charlie's is a good choice for baby clothes, diapers and for those adults with sensitive skin.

    If you love reading labels on products the warranty on Charlie's Soap will be one of your favorites: "If the buyer is unhappy with Charlie's Soap for any reason, Charlie's Soap will, but not gladly, refund the buyer's purchase price."

    There you have it.

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