On cold winter mornings while growing up I loved to grab my clothes out of the dryer just as they finished so I could slip into a warm pair of jeans before heading out the door.
Back then I didn’t give a second thought to the products being used to clean my clothes. Fast forward a few years however and I’ve come to realize that I need to be more mindful of the chemicals I expose myself to.
Many conventional laundry detergents are loaded with chemicals that haven’t been tested. We don’t know how our bodies will be affected by long-term exposure to these chemicals.
We do know some of the potential health risks associated with some of these chemicals. These side effects can include:
- Skin, eye, and throat irritation
- Liver and kidney damage
- Hormone disruption
Negative reproductive and developmental effects have also been discovered in animal studies. Below is a list of laundry detergent chemicals to avoid. You can learn more about their side effects.
If you ever wonder what your laundry detergent has in it you should search through the Environmental Working Group’s laundry products guide to see how they rate your products. Eco-friendly laundry detergents are a good alternative to conventional products. These companies focus on keeping their products free from toxic ingredients.
When it comes to choosing an eco-friendly laundry detergent, however, the sheer number of choices can be a bit overwhelming. After spending some significant time sifting through reviews, fact sheets, and ingredient lists I’ve put together this list of eco-friendly laundry detergents that are safe for your home and the environment.
This article contains affiliate links to products that, if you make a purchase, support Earth911’s editorial mission.
Best Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergents
Started in 2008 by Monica Leonard, Molly’s Suds has a rather unique story. In 2005, Monica gave birth to her third daughter, Molly, who was, sadly, stillborn. After going through this tragedy, Monica, a nurse, wanted to try and find some explanation as to why this happened.
After spending significant time researching, Monica discovered the sheer number of chemicals that are used in today’s cleaning, skincare, and personal care products. With very few of these chemicals ever being tested for human use. Monica set out to create a line of products she knew was safe. And thus, Molly’s Suds was born.
Molly’s Suds focuses exclusively on eco-friendly laundry detergent and related products. Their line of products includes laundry detergent, wool dryer balls, oxygen whitener, and even dog shampoo.
Molly’s Suds laundry detergent is free of harsh chemicals, toxins, fillers, carcinogens, preservatives, and GMO ingredients. Molly’s Suds laundry powder has received an “A” grade from the Environmental Working Group.
Jim Rimer was a sales executive for a chemical supply company in the 1980s. At this time there wasn’t a ton of knowledge on the harmful effects of various chemicals. Jim saw some of the negative side effects his customers and coworkers experienced and tried to institute some changes to educate people on these chemicals. His attempts to help people however weren’t looked upon favorably and he was eventually fired.
Working in his garage, Jim set out to create his own cleaner that was as strong as the conventional cleaning products but safe for people to use. After a serious amount of work, study, and testing, Jim finally found a natural formula that worked. Over the years his company has grown and now sells its cleaning products nationwide.
On its site, Biokleen gives its mission statement:
To produce natural and effective cleaners with a passion for innovation, dedication to performance and a guiding commitment to our customers and their families, pets and our planet.”
All Biokleen products are free of phosphates, chlorine, ammonia, petroleum solvents, alcohol, butyl, glycol ether, brighteners, artificial colors, and artificial fragrance. The Biokleen Laundry Liquid, Citrus Essence received an “A” grade from the Environmental Working Group.
One other thing I love about Biokleen is they package all of their products in #1 or #2 plastic, making them easy to recycle. You can use our recycling search tool to find a recycling location in your area.
Biokleen’s line of laundry products includes liquid and powder laundry detergent, oxygen bleach, stain & odor remover, and baby laundry detergent.
Do you ever spray cleaning products into your mouth? Probably not. But that’s exactly what Better Life cofounder Kevin Tibbs did when he and Tim Barklage appeared on Shark Tank in 2013.
The mission of Better Life is summed up in this statement:
We take great care to ensure our products are free of unnecessary ingredients that may pose health risks for people, pets, marine life, and the planet. They’re packaged using solar energy and recyclable materials, with formulas that biodegrade two-to-five times faster than leading natural and conventional cleaners.
Better Life products are free from Ethoxylates, Parabens, Petroleum Solvents, Phosphates, Phthalates, SLS, Triclosan, Ethers, Chloroform, Chlorine, Bleach, Ammonia, Alcohol, Dyes, and Perfumes. Better Life’s Lavender Grapefruit Laundry Detergent received an “A” grade from the Environmental Working Group.
— Better Life (@CleanHappens) April 19, 2016
Better Life’s laundry product line includes laundry detergent, stain and odor remover, and dryer sheets.
When it comes to established eco-friendly cleaning companies, Seventh Generation is certainly among the oldest. Established over 25 years ago, Seventh Generation has always maintained a commitment to creating products that are safe for you and for the environment.
Their laundry detergent is no exception. Seventh Generation offers a variety of laundry detergents, including those formulated for people with sensitive skin and for infants. The Seventh Generation Natural Laundry Detergent Powder, Free & Clear, earned a “B” grade from the Environmental Working Group.
Seventh Generation laundry detergent is cruelty-free and gluten-free. It is made without synthetic fragrances, optical brighteners, or dyes. One thing to note. Their laundry detergent does contain SLS; however, they are transparent about this and state:
Please know that the SLS we use is always derived from a plant unlike most of the SLS on the market. Our SLS is sustainably derived from Palm or Coconut. When in careful formulation, SLS is not a skin irritant. We do extensive skin patch testing for all our products so you can rest assured they are safe and effective.
Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan are the founders of Method. They run the first LEED platinum-certified soap factory and now have over 60 products that are Cradle to Cradle® certified.
Method’s line of laundry products includes laundry detergent, dryer sheets, and fabric softener. Method products are free from the following ingredients:
- Chlorine bleach
Method’s 8X Free & Clear laundry detergent received a B grade from the Environmental Working Group.
One of my favorite things about Method is their unique bottles. They are bright, colorful, and unique. And guess what, they are also made of 100% recycled plastic and are 100% recyclable bottles.
One thing I love about Mrs. Meyers products as a whole is their variety of scents. I think they do a better job than just about anyone else in providing different scents. This might seem like a small thing but it’s important to me.
I like to mix it up. I don’t do the same lavender or lemon scent over and over and over. I need to change things up. So being able to use scents like Rosemary, Honeysuckle, Basil, and Geranium is a nice bonus.
Mrs. Meyers laundry products are made using anionic surfactants that come from plant-derived sources. Surfactants are a molecule that has a “water-loving end” and a “water-fearing end.” Anionic surfactants have a negative charge on their “water-loving end.” What this means is they grab the dirt and grime from your clothes and suspend it in a little water bubble that then gets washed away, leaving your clothes clean.
Mrs. Meyers laundry products also contain stain-fighting enzymes and essential oils, which are where they get those delicious scents.
As a bonus, Mrs. Meyers Laundry products are also compatible with High-Efficiency washers since they don’t give off many suds.
Another way to be sure that the detergent you use contains only safe ingredients is to make it yourself. Check out DIY Laundry Detergent Recipe Worthy of a Spin.