Top 10 Most Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergents

Written by Moss Lane Staff

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There’s a lot to consider when looking for the best eco-friendly laundry detergent. You want to evaluate the detergent’s impact on the environment both before and once it hits the wash, as well as its impact to yourself and your loved ones. Additionally, you want to consider its packaging and manufacturing and overall ethos of the company you’re buying from. And, most importantly, you want a product that cleans your clothes effectively while not hitting your wallet too hard.

The good news is there are many wonderful sustainable laundry detergent options. It comes down to personal preference (do you want pods, powder, or detergent?) and anything else that might be an important priority for your household.

Best Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent

Dropps Pods, Unscented

Dropps Laundry Pods are an eco-friendly laundry solution that cover many bases. They have a range of options from scented to unscented to special formulas for sensitive skin, as well as load sizes (whether you’re a family of one or two or even more). You can also trial each of their formulas with their trial kit to find the best fit for your household.

Their eco-friendly laundry pods work with all types of washing machines and are made in the USA. Their formula is biodegradable and plant-based (there are no dyes, colorants, or fillers) and meet the EPA’s Safer Choice standards. Their packaging is made of recyclable and compostable cardboard packaging, making it an excellent plastic-free option. 

We believe Dropps are the most eco-friendly laundry pods because their ingredients are safe for both you and the environment and their packaging is low waste (and bonus – they do not test on animals!).

What Customers Love

  • It’s cost-effective
  • It’s pre-measured (so you don’t have to worry about over using of laundry detergent, which apparently 53% of people have a bad habit of doing)

What Customers Don’t Love

  • The scented versions of these eco-friendly laundry pods, while utilizing essential oils, can be overwhelming to some. The Lavender Eucalyptus seems to be the most bothersome.
  • The Sensitive Skin drops don’t seem to clean as strongly as their non-sensitive versions.

Meliora Laundry Powder

RUNNER UP (if you prefer powder)

Meliora Laundry Powder

Meliora’s Laundry Powder is an eco-friendly laundry detergent that is safe for both the planet and your household. Their products are free of synthetic fragrances, preservatives, dyes, and brighteners. They offer both scented and unscented options for this product.

This product is shipped in cardboard canisters. Once you run out, you can order their paper refill bags.

The product is MADE SAFE and Leaping Bunny certified, woman-owned, made in the USA, and they give 2% of their annual revenue to mission-complimenting non-profits.

What Customers Love

  • The lavender smell, in particular. 
  • It’s concentrated so a little goes a long way!

What Customers Don’t Love

  • The powder can be messier than drops or detergent.
  • Many detergent dispensers aren’t meant to handle powder, running into some issues for users.
  • There are complaints of it not working as well with cold water (which a lot of eco-minded consumers will prefer to use).

Cleancult

RUNNER UP (if you prefer detergent)

Cleancult

With Cleancult’s model, you can purchase one of their refillable, glass laundry bottles and then purchase their refill cartons as needed. Their cartons are made from 80% paper, 15% plastic, and 5% aluminum. So while not totally plastic free, it is 100% recyclable. They even have a program where you can ship cartons back to Cleancult to ensure they’re properly recycled.

Their sustainable laundry detergent formula is biodegradable, non-toxic and made in the US.

What Customers Love

  • You don’t have to buy the bottle and can just use a measuring cup instead. 

What Customers Don’t Love

  • While some customers do like the scent, it is one of the most complained about features of the product.
  • Some customers have found the consistency too thick to pour as needed. Cleancult does recommend you store at room temperature to not cause any issues with the formula.

Best Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent For…

While the 3 products above are the overall best eco-friendly laundry detergents, there are still many strong options out there that may be better suited for you if you have something in particular you’re shopping for. 

Here are the best products for specific needs.

Best All-Purpose Solution

branch-basics

All-Purpose Solution

Branch Basics

The Concentrate

DETAILS

  • Biodegradable formula packaged in recycled plastic
  • Woman-owned company

We are big fans of trying to get a single product you can use for multiple purposes. When you purchase an all-purpose solution like Branch Basics The Concentrate, you can use this not only for your laundry, but for cleaning almost all the surfaces in your house. This one little bottle can replace dozens of items.

Branch Basics is a non-toxic, biodegradable formula that is packaged in recyclable plastic. The company is woman-owned and does not test on animals. The product is MADE SAFE certified.

You can also purchase the Branch Basics Oxygen Boost to help with tougher loads. This same powder can be used in other parts of your home, like tubs or pans, that need a deeper clean. 

Best for Fragrance and Skin Sensitivity

attitude-baby-laundry-detergent

Sensitive Skin

Attitude

Baby Laundry Detergent

DETAILS

  • Hypoallergenic and fragrance-free
  • ECOLOGO certified

While any of our top picks should work well for those that want to avoid fragrance or have very sensitive skin, we wanted to set aside a sustainable laundry detergent that is a clear winner if absolutely nothing else will work for you or a particular member of your household. 

Attitude’s Baby Laundry Detergent is hypoallergenic and fragrance free. This product is certified vegan and cruelty-free through PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies, is ECOLOGO certified, and made in Canada. While its bottle is plastic, it is made from recyclable plastic.

For each product sold, they plant a tree in partnership with the Eden Reforestation Project and One Tree Planted. 

Best Low-Cost Option

country-save-laundry-detergent

Low Cost

Country Save

Powdered Laundry Detergent

DETAILS

  • Biodegradable, hypoallergenic, fragrance and dye-free
  • EPA Safer Choice product

Country Save’s Powdered Laundry Detergent is an eco-friendly laundry detergent that packs a lot into one little box. It is biodegradable, hypoallergenic, fragrance and dye-free and an EPA Safer Choice product. It is packaged in paperboard and the company is majority-Veteran owned. You can get up to 160 loads in an HE washer from one 10 lb box. 

Fun Fact: This product was developed by Elmer Pearson, who created the first version of what we all know as Elmer’s Glue.

Best All Natural Solution

eco-nuts-laundry-detergent

All Natural

Eco Nuts

Organic Laundry Detergent

DETAILS

  • Leaping Bunny and USDA Organic Certified.

A good bet for a sustainable laundry detergent is to go as natural as possible, and Eco Nuts Organic Laundry Detergent is a wonderful way to do so. These are actual berries that you put in a provided organic cotton bag, and when mixed with water, they sud up just like you’d expect from soap (while also acting as a natural fabric softener). The berries can be used up to 10 times. The company does recommend that if you have a front loading washer, you consider their liquid detergent instead.

This product is Leaping Bunny and USDA Organic Certified.

Best Packaging

tru-earth-eco-strips

Best Packaging

Tru Earth

Eco-Strips

DETAILS

  • Vegan strips dissolve completely into water
  • Compostable packaging

Tru Earth Eco-Strips has the most eco-friendly packaging and product design. Their packaging is compostable, and their strips dissolve completely no matter the type of water you’re using. They’re small and light, which reduces fuel consumption for shipping. This eco-friendly laundry detergent is vegan, and claims to be good for sensitive skin.

However, the one downside about this sustainable laundry detergent is it’s the only one on our list with a C rating from the EWG. You can find out more about why here.

Best Scent

Best Scent

AspenClean

Laundry Detergent

DETAILS

  • Non-irritating lavender scent
  • Packaging made out of 100% recycled plastic

AspenClean Laundry Detergent in Lavender Lemongrass is a wonderful choice for when you want a non-irritating scent as you wash. This is a very difficult combination to find, but AspenClean Laundry Detergent really checks all the boxes. It is all natural and both Leaping Bunny and Ecocert certified. Their bottles are made from 100% recycled plastic. This eco-friendly laundry detergent is manufactured in Canada.

Best Dryer Sheet Alternative

friendsheep-dryer-balls

Dryer Sheet Alternative

Friendsheep

Wool Dryer Ball

DETAILS

  • Can be used for 1,000 loads

One of the easiest sustainable swaps you can make for laundry is by ditching the dryer sheets and switching to a wool dryer ball.

Friendsheep Wool Dryer Ball is our top pick for a fabric softener alternative. They could be used for up to 1,000 loads and even help reduce drying time.

These dryer balls are handmade from 100% cruelty-free New Zealand wool.

We appreciate that the company calls out its manufacturing practices as well, highlighting that the product is handmade in Nepal by workers “receiving fair wages in ethical and environmentally friendly working conditions.

Through the Eden Reforestation Project, they plant one tree with each product purchase. These dryer balls are fully compostable and come in recyclable and compostable packaging. 

Shopping by Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Laundry Brands

If you choose to shop by brand and prefer to keep an eye out for brands to look for in-store, laundry is a tougher category for eco-friendly products than other cleaning categories. None of the big players made our list, so we would really encourage you to consider buying online for one of the recommended products.

That being said, if you’re in store and looking for the most eco-friendly laundry detergent, Seventh Generation is always a reliable pick (keep an eye out for their zero plastic laundry tablets), and ECOS is a brand doing a ton of great work who has made significant strides regarding their manufacturing practices. Puracy is another brand you can find in some store, and has the highest EWG rated product of the 3 brands listed here. 

Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Laundry Detergent Buying Guide

When shopping for the most eco-friendly laundry detergent, there are 3 “buckets” of things to consider: the ingredients, the packaging and shipping, and the manufacturing practices and overall company ethos you’re buying from. Here’s what to watch for:

While not an exhaustive list, avoid detergents that list the following in their ingredients. They either could harm marine life or yourself, which we want neither of:

  • Bleach and optical brighteners – harmful to the environment and you. 
  • Phosphates – harmful to the environment.
  • Synthetic or petroleum-based surfactants – harmful to you and/or the environment depending on the type.
  • Nonylphenol ethoxylates – harmful to the environment.
  • 1,4 Dioxane – harmful to you.
  • Phthalates – harmful to you. These are particularly hard to find on a label – usually masked under fragrance. This is why fragrance free or something scented only with essential oils is ideal.
  • Silver nanoparticles – harmful to the environment. 
  • Formaldehyde – harmful to you. 
  • Quaternium-15 – harmful to you.

Packaging and shipping can be a bit more straightforward than ingredients. Reusable, plastic-free options are the best here, followed by single-use paper products. Then we head to our plastic options, which an ideal is a bottle and cap made from recycled plastics that can also be recycled in any facility. Lastly, if you’re having the product shipped, check to see what information the company offers about how it packages products. Some will note they package in paper only, which is a plus. Also consider the weight of the product – lighter products create less of a transportation burden.

Lastly, manufacturing and overall company practices can be the hardest information to find, but there are a few things to follow. If made in the USA, you’ll be more familiar with the laws in place to protect workers. Additionally, this is where you look for companies that are putting information out there about climate-friendly practices they may be following. Whether they’ve reached carbon or water-neutrality, or are headed in that direction. This category is often a “reward” for those willing to be transparent than assuming this worst if someone hasn’t put that information out. But even when a company is putting that information out there, it can be tough to verify, so this is where knowing a company’s certifications can be helpful. On that note—certifications can (sometimes) be costly and involve many steps that can be overwhelming for a lot for a small business to take on. If you know a brand is a small business, be prepared that they may not have certifications or have only chosen one or two. Be more weary of larger brands that don’t have certifications, as they certainly have the means to pursue these if they’d like. Also keep an eye out for other ways companies may be contributing to a more sustainable world, such as through charitable donations.

Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Laundry Tips

Beyond changing products you use, laundry is a chore that offers a few more eco-friendly and sustainable alternatives. When you change to an eco-friendly laundry detergent, also consider:

  1. Using cold water for your loads. Up to 90% of the energy used by your washing machine goes towards heating the water. Using cold water instead helps conserve energy, is better for your bill, and even better for your clothes.
  2. Wash less often. Chances are you can get more wears out of your clothes before tossing them in the wash. Levi Strauss found that “washing every 10 times a product is worn instead of every 2 times reduces energy use, climate change impact, and water intake by up to 80%.” Also only try to do a load when you know it will be a full one. This can also be good for the longevity of your clothes.
  3. Consider air drying. This is likely the toughest on this list to adopt, especially considering your own time and the environment you’re in. But in the moments you can find to skip the dryer and hang your clothes to dry, you’ll not only be cutting back on energy use, but like everything else on this list, it can be even better for preserving the quality of your clothes
  4. Use a microfiber laundry ball. These neat little contraptions help capture any microplastics that may enter your laundry and keep them from getting back into our waterways. It can also help reduce the possibility of a sewage back-up or issues and having to pay the hefty price tag for a septic replacement.

Our Research Process

We started our research on best eco-friendly laundry detergents referencing the reviews, ingredients, and packaging for well-known green leaders in the space, such as:

  1. Branch Basics
  2. PUR Home
  3. Dropps
  4. Cleancult
  5. Blueland
  6. Grove Collaborative
  7. Seventh Generation
  8. ECOS
  9. Biokleen
  10. Ecover
  11. Mrs. Meyers
  12. Method
  13. Dr. Bronner’s
  14. Meliora
  15. The Laundress
  16. Puracy

Once that was complete, we cross-referenced the EWG’s guide on Healthy Cleaning to check packaging and sustainability practices for any products rated an A or B. If listed in their directory, every product on our list holds a B or better rating on EWG, unless noted otherwise (like in the case of Tru Earth).

After we’ve finalized the list of products that meet our standards for eco-friendly and sustainable, we read user reviews, apply our personal experience, as well as that of friends and family to assess the effectiveness of the product itself, which leads to the results you see above.

While you’re shopping for non-toxic and eco-friendly home goods and lifestyle swaps, take a look at our guides to the best vegan and non-toxic candles, natural dog food, and eco-friendly toilet paper.

Article Sources

  1. https://www.ewg.org/guides/categories/9-Laundry/
  2. https://www.dropps.com/pages/the-dropps-story
  3. https://www.dropps.com/pages/our-impact
  4. https://meliorameansbetter.com/pages/about-us
  5. https://branchbasics.com/pages/our-story
  6. https://attitudeliving.com/pages/our-attitude
  7. https://edenprojects.org/
  8. https://onetreeplanted.org/
  9. https://econutssoap.com/pages/the-eco-nuts-story
  10. http://www.countrysave.com/news_price_comparison.php
  11. http://www.countrysave.com/about.php
  12. https://cleaningproducts.aspenclean.com/pages/eco-friendly-cleaning-products-supplies
  13. https://www.tru.earth/About-Us
  14. https://www.friendsheepwool.com/pages/our-commitment
  15. https://www.ecos.com/climate-positive/
  16. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffkart/2019/02/01/science-says-laundry-balls-and-filters-are-effective-in-removing-microfibers/
  17. https://mygreenfills.com/join/five-toxic-chemicals-in-your-laundry-room
  18. https://greenopedia.com/natural-laundry-detergent-softeners-natural-bleach/#avoid
  19. https://thegoodshoppingguide.com/ethical-laundry-detergents/

Moss Lane Staff

The Moss Lane Staff is comprised of seasoned content professionals who specialize in synthesizing large amounts of information and making it accessible to every day readers. This article was written and edited by multiple members of our staff to ensure comprehensive coverage of the topic.