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12 best eco-friendly laundry detergents, according to experts

Experts explain how to find laundry detergent that’s better for you and the environment.
When shopping for eco-friendly laundry detergents, experts recommend paying attention to ingredient lists, ecolabels and packaging type.
When shopping for eco-friendly laundry detergents, experts recommend paying attention to ingredient lists, ecolabels and packaging type.Target ; Amazon ; AspenClean

When people say they’re shopping for natural, eco-friendly or “green” laundry detergent, they’re generally looking for options that don’t contain potentially harmful ingredients. But many standard laundry products have "harsh chemicals" that may negatively impact us, our homes and the environment, said Marilee Nelson, consumer chemical expert and co-founder of Branch Basics.

Determining which laundry detergents are eco-friendly is easier said than done, however. As Select previously reported in our guide to eco-friendly cleaning products, though some companies package and promote their products eco-friendly, natural or “green," there are no specific criteria detailing what these designations mean — and that makes shopping challenging.

Learning what to look for and what to avoid when shopping for eco-friendly laundry detergent can help you choose the best product for your needs. With that in mind, we talked to experts about how to shop for eco-friendly laundry detergent and rounded up a handful of options that meet their guidance.

Best eco-friendly laundry detergent

Experts recommended purchasing cleaning products — including laundry detergent — with ecolabels, which the Environmental Protection Agency defines as “marks placed on product packaging that help consumers identify products that meet specific environmental performance criteria and are therefore deemed ‘environmentally preferable.’” Ecolabels are the best way to ensure a product is actually designed to be safe for the environment to some degree, as well as better for human health, according to experts, since an ecolabel means a third party (like a government agency, a nonprofit environmental organization or a private group) evaluated the products and came to its own conclusions about eco-friendly claims before giving the product an ecolabel.

Though any ecolabel is a good option, two they recommended looking for when shopping for eco-friendly laundry detergent are the EPA’s Safer Choice Standard and the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Verified mark. Both evaluate products' ingredients against what the experts called strict standards and require that products disclose ingredients to consumers, a practice that’s not required by law nationwide. Additionally, the EPA says it conducts annual audits once a product meets the Safer Choice Standard to verify that standards are being upheld over time, and the makers of products with the EWG Verified mark agree that the organization can randomly test products to ensure they continuously meet its criteria.

With this guidance in mind, we recommended eco-friendly laundry detergents that either meet the EPA’s Safer Choice Standard or have earned the EWG Verified mark. Since that includes dozens of laundry detergents, we chose products across laundry detergent types like liquid, powder and pods, and highlighted scented and unscented varieties to give you an overview of your options.

We also made sure all of the products below are compatible with HE washing machines — these machines run on a longer cycle but heat up less and use less water, thus cutting back on how much energy is used, said Alexandra Wojenski, a sustainable cleaning expert at Grove Collaborative. With less water, you’ll need less detergent. Wojenski noted that most laundry products today are HE safe, but it’s always good to double check.

Dirty Labs Free & Clear Liquid Laundry Detergent

Ecolabel: EPA Safer Choice Standard and EWG Verified

Dirty Labs’ fragrance-free laundry detergent is available in two sizes: 8.6 ounces, which the brand says is enough for about 32 loads, or 20 ounces, for about 75 loads. The detergent comes with a cap that’s labeled with lines to help you measure how much you’ll need, and the bottle, cap and spout are all recyclable, according to Dirty Labs.

9 Elements Eucalyptus Liquid Laundry Detergent

Ecolabel: EPA Safer Choice Standard

9 Elements’ laundry detergent is formulated with vinegar, which the brand says helps get rid of residues and odors. The detergent gets its eucalyptus scent from essential oils, and it comes in a recyclable plastic bottle with a cap that doubles as a measuring cup. You can purchase the detergent in a 46-ounce, 65-ounce or 92-ounce container.

Grove Care & Renew Lavender & Rosemary Liquid Laundry Detergent

Ecolabel: EPA Safer Choice Standard

Grove Collaborative’s lavender- and rosemary-scented laundry detergent comes in a 24-ounce pouch, enough for about 33 loads of laundry, the brand says. The detergent is designed to be poured into the brand’s reusable detergent dispenser to help you measure out how much you’ll need. In addition to buying pouches of detergent as needed, you can subscribe to get the detergent at a discounted price. To recycle the detergent’s packaging, you can email Grove and get a prepaid return label (more details on the product page).

Tide purclean Unscented Liquid Laundry Detergent

Ecolabel: EPA Safer Choice Standard

This laundry detergent from Tide is made from 75% plant-based materials and the container (which has a measuring cap) is designed with post-consumer recycled plastic and can be recycled after use, according to Tide. It comes in a 69-ounce container, giving you enough detergent for about 48 washes, says the brand.

Defunkify Lavender Liquid Laundry Detergent

Ecolabel: EPA Safer Choice Standard

Defunkify’s laundry detergent is composed of 87% bio-based ingredients, gets its lavender fragrance from essential oils and the bottle is made from recycled plastic packaging, the brand says. You can purchase a pack of two 37.7-ounce bottles of detergent, each of which gives you enough for about 62 loads, according to Defunkify.

Seventh Generation Free & Clear Laundry Detergent Packs

Ecolabel: EPA Safer Choice Standard

Seventh Generation’s laundry packs are filled with fragrance-free detergent and come in a recyclable plastic pouch with either 45 or 75 packs. You can drop the packs directly into your laundry machine — the brand recommends using two packs for large loads or heavily soiled items. Seventh Generation says the laundry packs are made from 94% plant-based ingredients.

Charlie’s Soap Natural Powder Laundry Detergent

Ecolabel: EPA Safer Choice Standard

This fragrance-free powder laundry detergent from Charlie’s Soap can be added directly into your washing machine — it comes with measurement instructions on the back of the package so you know how much to use. The detergent’s pouch is recyclable after use, according to the brand, and it comes in three sizes: 1.3 pounds, enough for about 50 loads; 2.64 pounds, enough for about 100 loads; or 8 pounds, enough for about 300 loads. You can purchase the detergent as needed or subscribe to get it at a discounted price.

Dropps Unscented Stain & Odor Detergent

Ecolabel: EPA Safer Choice Standard

Each Dropps pod contains 9 grams of unscented laundry detergent — it is designed to be added directly into your washing machine. You can purchase the pods in packs of 64, 128 or 192, and there is an option to subscribe and save to get them at a discounted price. The pods come in a recyclable box.

Blueland Laundry Starter Set

Ecolabel: EWG Verified

Blueland’s laundry detergent comes in what the brand calls “dry-form tablets” — they’re similar to laundry detergent pods but don’t have a lining around them. The Laundry Starter Set comes with 60 fragrance-free laundry tablets and a steel Forever Tin, which you can use to store the tablets. You can order 60, 120 or 240 detergent tablets separately to refill the tin, or subscribe to get refill tablets at a discounted price. The refill tablets come in a compostable paper pouch, according to the brand.

AspenClean Eucalyptus Laundry Pods

Ecolabel: EWG Verified

AspenClean says its laundry pods are made with eucalyptus and rosemary essential oils to give them their herbal scent. The pods — which you can add directly to your washing machine — come in a recycled paper package that’s compostable, according to the brand. The pods come in a pack of 36, and you can purchase them as needed or subscribe and save to get the detergent at a discounted price.

Attitude Nature+ Wildflowers Laundry Detergent

Ecolabel: EWG Verified

Attitude’s liquid laundry detergent gets its wildflower scent from plant-based ingredients, and it’s available in three sizes that provide 35, 40 or 80 loads, according to the brand. The plastic bottles are recyclable, according to the brand, but they’re designed to be reused — you can purchase detergent refills when you run out, or subscribe to get them at a discounted price.

Branch Basics Oxygen Boost

Ecolabel: EWG Verified

Laundry detergents that advertise whitening or brightening capabilities often contain chemicals, according to the experts, so they recommended adding an eco-friendly laundry booster to your load instead. Boosters can help make the detergent more effective, especially if you’re cleaning items that are stained or have an odor, like workout clothes.

Branch Basics says its Oxygen Boost is free from bleach, ammonia, dyes and fragrances. It comes with a reusable plastic scoop and should last you about 64 loads of laundry, according to the brand.

How to shop for eco-friendly laundry detergent

Shopping for eco-friendly laundry detergent involves many of the same considerations you’ll want to make when purchasing any type of laundry detergent:

For eco-friendly laundry detergent specifically, there are a few other areas it’s important to pay attention to: the ingredient list, whether products have any ecolabels and the packaging the detergent comes in. Below, we broke down each of these criteria to help guide your shopping.

Ingredients

The primary ingredients in most laundry detergents — standard, eco-friendly or otherwise — are enzymes, which break down stains, and surfactants, which lift dirt and grime away from clothing, experts told us. One of the main ingredient groups people tend to focus on, however, is fragrance — many want their clothes, linens and other items to have a nice scent after being washed. However, if a detergent advertises being heavily scented or having brightening abilities, it’s a good indicator that the product contains chemicals and other artificial ingredients you want to avoid, according to Wojenski. These include preservatives like parabens, phthalates and formaldehyde, as well as phosphates, which can adjust the pH level of a product. Wojenski said parabens and phthalates have been shown to disrupt the endocrine system, meaning they may interrupt your body’s hormones. She noted that formaldehyde has been found to irritate the lungs, eyes and skin, while excess phosphates can contribute to the increased growth of algae in water and harm other organisms, as also noted by the EPA.

Eco-friendly laundry detergents are generally free from synthetic fragrances, Wojenski said. They’re usually either unscented or get their fragrance from essential oils or botanical (plant-derived) extracts. Wojenski said these natural scents will not be as strong and may fade faster compared to detergents made with artificial fragrances. However, experts said eco-friendly detergents clean items just as well as other options, even though you may not be able to necessarily smell it.

Ecolabels

The EPA runs two of its own ecolabel programs: Safer Choice, which covers all-purpose cleaners including laundry detergent, and Design for the Environment, which certifies antimicrobial products like certain disinfectants. But the agency notes that ecolabels can also be owned by other government agencies, nonprofit organizations and private sector entities. For example, experts we spoke to suggested looking for laundry detergent that’s verified by the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit activist organization that evaluates products and assigns hazard ratings for a variety of cleaners and ingredients, plus rates cleaning products according to its own standards. You may also see laundry detergents with ecolabel certifications like Green Seal, Ecologo and Cradle to Cradle.

Retailers like Amazon and Target have also developed their own standards and partnered with ecolabels to highlight eco-friendly products they sell. For example, you can browse laundry detergents that meet Amazon’s Climate Pledge or Target’s Clean standard online.

So how do you decide which ecolabel to pay attention to if there are numerous ones to consider? It’s a matter of personal preference, experts told us. Different ecolabels evaluate products according to different criteria, so experts recommended finding one that aligns with what’s important to you and then using that ecolabel’s database to browse products that meet its marks.

Packaging

If your detergent comes in a paper, plastic or tin container, check to see if it can be recycled or is made from recycled (or compostable) materials — better yet, seek out a recyclable and fillable container. When it comes to laundry pods, pay attention to what the pod itself is made from — pods are usually made from a polyvinyl material (a type of plastic) that’s not very eco-friendly, though some brands make pods from plant-derived ingredients.

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