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The 5 Best Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergents That Won’t Ruin Your Environment or Your Pocket
Not only should a good laundry detergent care for your clothes, a good laundry detergent should also care best for your skin.
A landmark study published in 2014 in the Journal of Dermatology shows how residual laundry detergent – which is often invisible to the naked eye – can be a key risk factor for dry skin and eczema flares. In this study participants were asked to switch from a ‘common anionic, additive enriched detergent to a non-ionic additive reduced detergent’ (more about what these technical terms mean soon) and in just 2 short weeks of use, 76% of participants saw marked improvements in dry skin symptoms.
Fact; a laundry detergent impacts the health, longevity and cleanliness of your skin and your clothes.
How do you choose the best laundry detergent?
Can a laundry detergent be gentle to your skin and effective at general stain removal?
Do kind to skin laundry detergents exist?
What the heck does anionic and non-ionic even mean?
At the end of this article we will quickly have you sorted with;
- The answers to all of these questions
- The best laundry detergent – one which perfectly fits your needs
Let us get going…
What’s in this article:
The Best Laundry Detergent – Attitude Baby Laundry Detergent
Attitude Little One’s Fragrance-Free Baby Detergent is a worthy winner of our best overall laundry detergent. It’s hard to find words to do this best laundry detergent justice. Just look at all these tick boxes;
- Contains just 5 ingredients including water
- Uses mild plant-derived surfactants/detergent actives
- Kind to sensitive skin
- Top marks for general stain removal
- Limited additives (!) – exactly what that 2014 study shows as best for improving overall skin health
What about the detergent actives? Are they anionic or non-ionic? What do those words even mean?
Actives used as detergents fall into 3 categories – it’s really simple if you think about them as a battery or magnet;
- Anionic detergents – have a negative charge
- Non-ionic detergents – have no charge or are not ‘magnetized’
- Cationic detergents – have a positive charge
Non-ionic detergents are the most sensitive to your skin. They hold no charge and therefore lack any kind of interaction with the proteins your skin cells are made from. Having said that, there are also some new age anionic detergents which are considered especially gentle on your skin.
You will see these disclosed on the back of general use detergents like Fairy Non-Bio Washing Powder for Sensitive Skin. The box states it contains 5-15% anionic surfactants and <5% non-ionic surfactants. However, Unilever – the maker of this detergent does not tell us what these surfactants are. It could contain 15% of the most irritating anionic detergent which is sodium lauryl sulfate.
We just do not know. Hence we’d never review that particular detergent. As long-time readers of this site are all too aware, we only review products where the manufacturers have disclosed the ingredients.
Attitude Little One’s Baby Laundry Detergent declares all of its ingredients. We therefore know it uses 1 anionic detergent called sodium coco-sulfate – which is much milder than the most commonly used anionic detergent – sodium lauryl sulfate. The second detergent – lauryl glucoside is non-ionic and therefore especially sensitive to skin.
Pro-tip; disregard the word baby from Attitude Little One’s Baby Laundry Detergent, this hero laundry detergent is best for all skin types, including sensitive ones.
For you if; you have babies, have sensitive skin, have hyper-reactive skin, have eczema or atopic dermatitis. Attitude Little One’s Baby Laundry Detergent is also a fantastic laundry detergent to have on hand for those cold winter months which commonly cause the dreaded winter itch.
|Attitude Baby Laundry Detergent is on sale now|
|With only 5 carefully selected ingredients, this highly effective fragrance-free, biodegradable and environmentally safe laundry detergent is kind to you, your environment and your wallet. A worthy winner|
The Best Laundry Detergent Runner Up – Better Life Laundry Detergent
Better Life Laundry Detergent fought valiantly for the first place best laundry detergent prize. It’s literally just a few points off. Look at all these reasons to love Better Life laundry detergent;
- Gentle biodegradable formula
- Cleans as well as regular detergent
- Concentrated formula – you only need to use a little – environmentally friendly
- 1 fairly mild anionic detergent, 2 non-ionic detergents
- Also contains soap bark – a natural extract with natural detergent properties
- Contains enzymes which help to breakdown stains – excellent stain removal
For you if; your primary driver for switching laundry detergents is to be kinder to the environment, your skin and your family’s health – without compromise on cleaning performance.
|Better Life Laundry Detergent is on sale now|
|Our favorite biological cleaner, Better Life Laundry Detergent offered great cleaning power with relatively gentle, cruelty free, biodegradable ingredients.|
Joint 3rd Place Best Laundry Detergent Winners
We really couldn’t pick. All 3 of our 3rd place winners scored an even 4.5 out of 5 stars. We’re allowing all 3 here as proof natural, gentle and biodegradable laundry detergents are not few and far between… that is if you know where to look. You have you to guide you here.
First up – Mollys Suds Laundry Powder
Molly’s Sud’s Laundry Powder contains a super simple formula with just 5 ingredients. A stand out from our first and second place winners as this is a powder.
Pro-tip; if you live in a hard water area – this formula is perfect for you. Hard water can inactivate laundry detergents. Mollys Suds Laundry Powder contains a significant amount of water softeners i.e. sodium carbonate.
Tick boxes; non-biological, effective cleaning, cost-effective.
Note; this formula contains peppermint oil and is not the best laundry detergent for sensitive skin types – instead, choose Attitude Little One’s Baby Laundry Detergent.
For you if; you want a simple, cost-effective laundry powder replacement.
|Mollys Suds Laundry Powder is on sale now|
|Our favorite washing powder - Molly's Sud's is possibly our favorite detergent is you live in a hard water area.|
Second up – Biopuro Fragrance-Free Baby Laundry
A fantastic mixture of actives in a sensitive to skin, fragrance-free formula. Rather than the complete simplicity of our #1 winner Attitude Little One’s Baby Laundry Detergent, Biopuro Fragrance-Free Baby Laundry uses a different approach. A combination of detergents for effective cleaning power, plus skin-soothing actives such as hydrolyzed wheat protein.
For you if; you want cleaning performance that is guaranteed plus sensitive skin-friendly.
|Biopuro Fragrance-Free Baby Laundry is on sale now|
|An outstanding liquid cleaner that ran the top spot close.|
Third up – Bunchafarmers Laundry Detergent
A 100% natural laundry detergent. Bunchafarmers Laundry Detergent formula works in a completely different way to all of our other best laundry detergent winners. How does it work? With borax – natural water softening active which can convert small amounts of water into hydrogen peroxide – a natural bleach and cleaner. Plus it contains sodium bicarbonate – a natural deodorizer that can soften water and aid detergency.
For you if; you want a 100% natural laundry detergent. Also for you if you suspect you or a family member have a skin type which is reactive to classic anionic and even non-ionic detergents. Ideal for clothes which don’t have heavy staining but which need a light clean/odour elimination.
Note; contains natural fragrance – lemon oil.
|Bunchafarmers Laundry Detergent is on sale now|
|A 100% natural formula that cleans well without the addition of artificial surfactants.|
The Best Laundry Detergents
While we love every one of our winners, there’s far more choice available should you wish to look for an alternative.
Here are the best laundry detergents on the market today
The fragrance-free Baby Laundry Detergent from Attitude is a great option for new parents and their babies, moms and dads-to-be, and those who simply want a non-toxic option for their family and anyone with sensitive skin.
The few ingredients used in the formula are derived from natural sources, biodegradable, and appear safe and non-toxic. Attitude has taken a great deal of care and effort to come up with this formulation. The fact it washes so well is incredible considering how few ingredients are in there.
We definitely recommend giving it a try. Even if you don't have babies!
Better Life have done it again. This laundry detergent cleans as well as your regular detergent, but has a gentle biodegradable formulation that has been put together with a great deal of expertise.
This non-biological laundry powder from Molly's Suds is a great product, formulated with a great deal of care and thought.
It's a product that we definitely recommend, although those with highly sensitive skin may check that you don't react with sodium carbonate and peppermint oil. As long as you have no reason to be concerned about these two ingredients, we think you should definitely give this product a try. It cleans well, the ingredients are plant based, it comes in a concentrated formula and Molly's Suds laundry powder proves itself to be a cost-effective solution.
If you're on a mission to wash your clothes with a natural laundry detergent free from toxins and chemicals, then Buncha Farmers Country Fresh Laundry Detergent is just what you're looking for! This laundry soap boasts a short list of natural ingredients, and it leaves clothes clean and smelling fresh. It contains no fragrances and no harsh chemicals, so you can rest assured you are cleaning your family's clothes with a safe, natural product.
BioPuro baby laundry detergent is an eco-conscious sensitive skin friendly mixture of great washing ingredients with low to no irritancy. It's an easy to use liquid, in-drum formula also with natural wheat proteins to help add extra soothing power.
Excellent washing performance, good stain removal, high skin sensitivity.
Ecoegg's Laundry Egg is a fantastic revolution in affordable, natural, sensitive skin friendly washing detergent. Approved by the National Eczema Foundation and Allergy UK our analysis of Ecoegg's ingredients supports the Ecoegg Laundry Egg as being great for sensitive, allergic and reactive skin types.
However, it should be noted a separate stain remover is a necessity for heavily soiled clothing - read our full review for details.
I absolutely love the premise behind this company and the man who began it. This detergent washes well and smells great. The ingredients are all plant-based and biodegradable. While it's gentle on the environment, there are one or two questionable surfactants, and this particular edition isn't fragrance-free.
If you're not sensitive to fragrances, I highly recommend checking this product out for yourself. If not just to reduce your carbon footprint and waste, than for the pure fun and effectiveness of the product.
Just make sure to rinse your clothes properly!
A superbly eco-friendly laundry liquid based on a kind to skin non-ionic surfactant called coco glucoside. A skin friendly laundry detergent with added softening qualities and in-wash lemon-scent. It's the lemon scent that sensitive skin sufferers need to be aware of - if you're sensitive to fragrances you'll probably want to look elsewhere.
A gentle, effective, fragrance free laundry detergent made by a company with a conscience.
Anyone looking for a safe yet effective laundry detergent should look no further.
If you want to make a fantastic choice for the environment and have slightly sensitive skin, we'd highly recommend Sodasan Comfort Sensitive washing powder.
It contains nothing particularly harsh, its cruelty-free, it's plastic free, the ingredients are biodegradable and it performs exceptionally well.
The only mystery is why they are so coy about the formulation. It's fantastic once you actually find it!
Sonnett Laundry Liquid has been formulated with a great deal of care and attention. If you suffer from contact dermatitis, this liquid should be on your short-list of laundry detergents to try.
Even if you're not sensitive to detergents, the environmentally-responsible formulation and lack of carcinogens make the Sonett laundry liquid an attractive purchase. Of course, a laundry detergent must do a good job of actually cleaning laundry, which we're happy to say this one does.
This does come with a caveat - it doesn't clean microfibres. This can be hugely annoying if you like cycling or are of an athletic disposition. For most of us, the annoyance is limited.
Nellies All-Natural Laundry Soda is a non-toxic powder detergent with a fun vintage design and packaging.
This powder is more concentrated, more cost-effective, and more eco-friendly than liquid detergent packaged in plastic.
It washes really well and there's only 4 ingredients!
Two of these ingredients may irritate if left on clothing so just make sure you rinse fully after washing.
The fragrance-free laundry powder from Grab Green is certainly a better option for individuals and families wanting a safer, non-harming and non-toxic detergent. For those who don't have sensitive skin or strong reactions to cleaning products and detergents, it should be just fine and not cause any irritation whatsoever. But for those with sensitive skin or who tend to react to personal care products, you may want to use caution when trying this product. If you want to give it a try, first test it out on a towel or rag and wear it on the skin for a bit to see if it causes any reactions. If you don't want to take any chances, look for a simpler non-toxic laundry detergent, like Molly's Suds, that has a far fewer chance of causing any sort of reaction.
If you suffer from skin irritation associated with dyes, fragrances, and other ingredients in most traditional laundry detergents, Presto! Laundry Detergent Powder should be on your short-list. Unlike many other more 'natural' laundry detergents, Presto! Is also affordable and easy to acquire - it's an Amazon product.
There are one or two less-than-ideal ingredients in the powder, but seeing as how the powder is safer than most in terms of both the environment and human health, this one is worth a try. It cleans well, and with very little powder required per load, a canister goes a long way.
Savvy Green Laundry Detergent is a top quality, high performing, well-formulated detergent. Just be careful when handling the ingredients, keep it away from kids, use the recommended amount, and make sure your clothes are fully rinsed.
I just wish they used cardboard instead of plastic packaging!
Charlie's Soap Liquid Laundry is a safe and eco-friendly alternative to conventional laundry detergents on the market that contain harmful sulfates, fragrances, and brighteners.
Made with an incredible 3 ingredients, it is formulated for working on all types of stains, and on both soft silks and hardy rags. Made for all washing machines, the Liquid Laundry leaves clothes feeling and smelling clean.
While it is a generally safe and non-toxic product, we recommend very sensitive skin users take caution due to the sodium carbonate and C12-15 Pareth-2 surfactant used in the formula.
Dropps Unscented Laundry Detergent Pods are great for people who are environmentally-conscious. The use of biodegradable, plant-based ingredients plus 100% recyclable packaging makes this product an earth-friendly choice.
The detergent cleans gently, yet effectively and the unscented, dye-free option also makes it a great option for users with sensitive skin.
ECOS Laundry Detergent isn't a one-size-fits-all green laundry solution. It'll produce great visual results with certain fabrics, but it won't impress your guests when they're presented with rough bath towels.
With one or two tweaks, it could be a great detergent. They need to improve its washing ability as well as replace one or two preservatives to be truly considered a great product.
But, if you want to take a small step towards achieving a greener lifestyle, feel free to road test it yourself.
Puracy's natural laundry detergent is a great step towards using natural, environmentally conscious products in your home. This detergent is uniquely formulated with many plant-based cleansers, and it does an amazing job of cleaning the dirtiest of laundry loads. However, the product does contain some harsh synthetic chemicals as well, which conflict with the company's 'free and clear' promise.
Seventh Generation are a company with fine principles. This fragrance-free laundry liquid certainly cleaned well. Even heavily soiled and stained clothes come out looking fresh. In addition, we appreciate the lack of fragrances and dyes in the formula and the company's transparency.
It's the inclusion of known allergens and potential carcinogens should make you think twice before buying. If you suffer from skin irritation, there are enough potential problems here to prompt looking elsewhere.
Mrs Meyers Laundry Detergent smells good, it washes well and despite being slightly more expensive than supermarket detergents represents great value for money.
Unfortunately,it contains two preservatives that can have such an extreme allergic reaction in sufferers I'm at a loss to explain their inclusion. Especially considering how much care and attention they applied in choosing the other ingredients.
How We Chose the Winners
We’ve reviewed hundreds of cleaning products. And when I say review, I mean a pharmacist/product formulator has assessed the formulation and a cleaning expert has tried the product under numerous conditions.
You will find no review here at Safe Household Cleaning that is not backed by science.
We do not review products based on subjective facts i.e. we like the scent or think the cleaning performance was great for us. Both of these facts change based on who you are and how hard your water is.
Instead we use science to grind down to the nuts and bolts of each formula. How do they work? Should they work? Are the ingredients known to be skin friendly? How skin friendly?
Of course we also in house test each formula we review – but this testing comes secondary to chemistry and science.
Our aim – we’re aware of the numerous issues and problems with the cleaning product industry – so we’re here to provide you with well researched solutions for Safe Household Cleaning.
What to Look For In a Laundry Detergent
We will keep this simple, usable and understandable – you already know the most important part;
What kind of detergent does a laundry detergent contain? Detergents tend to have names which end in sulphate or glucoside. Google search the ingredient names on an ingreidents list and you can easily find out if they’re anionic, non-ionic or cationic.
This matters because;
- Anionic i.e. sodium lauryl sulfate – can be extremely irritating to skin
- Non-ionic – the most sensitive to skin
(Cationic surfactants are not as common in laundry detergent as they do not have good cleaning power, but instead can condition i.e. are found in fabric conditioners)
Next – is there fragrance in the formula? You may find this as the word parfum or fragrance, but you can also find this as natural oils i.e. peppermint oil or lemon oil. Fragrance free is best for sensitive skin types.
Finally – Is there a combination of detergents and does the product contain water softeners? More than 1 detergent usually means a better overall cleaning performance. For example our top reviewed Better Life Laundry Detergent. Water softeners such as sodium carbonate allow detergents to work just as well in hard water areas – plus help to minimise irritating detergent deposits on your clothes.
Liquid vs. Powders
Is there a key difference? Is a liquid detergent better than a powder detergent? New formulas in each category make it a much closer decision than it once was. In general here are the key deciders;
- Liquid detergents tend to use less fillers/water softeners than powder detergents. Liquid detergents also tend to rely on a combination of milder detergent actives – usually without bleaching ingredients. They can be used effectively in lower temperature washes and are easier to pre-treat with.
- Powder detergents tend to be most environmentally friendly for lack of plastic wastage. You’re also not shipping gallons of water in a laundry powder Powder detergents tend to use large amount of water softening actives i.e. sodium carbonate – these can be helpful/give better cleaning performance if you live in a hard water area.
How to Use a Laundry Detergent
Here are our top tips for getting the most out of your laundry detergent;
- Be sure to follow the dosing guidance especially when trialling one of the best laundry detergents from this list. Do this even if you’ve used a similar liquid or powder detergent before – every formula is different and detergent concentration is critical to cleaning.
- Pay attention if you have a top loader – you will need a detergent which works even when copiously diluted with water – it will also need to create a lot of foam to be effective (foam helps detergents to spread around).
- Steer clear from harsh anionic detergents for careful fabric care – delicate items of clothing are best washed with delicate and gentle laundry detergents. They can also help to extend the life of non-delicate clothing. Choose either our 1st or 2nd place winner to be sure clothes look and feel their best.
- Don’t be afraid to pre-treat stains with laundry detergent – sometimes you really don’t need a separate stain treatment. Pre-treating with a laundry detergent concentrates actives in that particular area, increasing efficacy.
 Residual Washing Detergent in Cotton Clothes: A Factor of Winter Deterioration of Dry Skin in Atopic Dermatitis. Takashi Kiriyama Hisashi Sugiura Masami Uehara. The Journal of Dermatology Volume 30, Issue 10, October 2003, Pages: 708-765
 Laundry Detergents: An Overview. Divya Bajpai, V.K. Tyagi. Journal of Oleo Science, 2007 年 56 巻 7 号 p. 327-340