Nobody wants to hurt themselves or the environment, but you probably already are and don’t know it. Cleaning products, especially those for the laundry, are full of dangerous and harsh chemicals.
Choosing a safe and eco-friendly laundry detergent is the best way to avoid this, but it isn’t exactly easy. Laundry detergent manufacturers mislead consumers about their products to earn sales, and ingredients themselves can be confusing. And don’t even get me started on the packaging.
I spent time with what appear to be the safest laundry detergents on the market to see if they actually worked while still being non-toxic and avoiding any harm to the environment.
Here’s how it went.
Safest laundry detergent: Earth Breeze Eco Sheets
- Non-toxic, biodegradable, and hypoallergenic formula
- Plastic-free and eco-friendly packaging
- Works extremely well on whites and colors
- Affordable price tag
- Charitable contributions with every purchase
- Lacks the popularity of older brands
Earth Breeze laundry detergent sheets are the safest laundry detergent on the market. They contain only natural ingredients that don’t harm sensitive skin, activate allergies, or affect the environment. They’re also safe to use on baby clothes and delicate fabrics.
None of the ingredients are based on harmful or destructive materials, making it completely eco-safe. And since the biodegradable formula doesn’t suds up, it also won’t impact your septic system or any gray water.
Despite how gentle the formula is, it cleans effectively, even working great on stains. It wasn’t overwhelming enough to cause any damage, though, no matter how delicate the test samples were. My whites came out whiter and my brights didn’t fade at all.
Since Earth Breeze uses lightweight and compact packaging, its shipping process relies on less energy and carbon output than heavy liquid detergents in plastic jugs. The brand even put effort into making sure it’s completely carbon neutral by offsetting its few carbon emissions by contributing to planet-restoration efforts.
What sets the company apart from others is that it takes a hands-on approach to environmental contributions and really puts its money where its mouth is. It partnered up with 1% for the Planet and We are Neutral to help the environment, and it’s involved with charitable campaigns that help vulnerable communities.
Earth Breeze is a new kid on the block, and doesn’t have the same popularity as its competitors. It has yet to establish a trusted reputation. But if its many positive reviews are any indication, that’s about to change.
With its hands-on eco-initiatives, excellent cleaning power, and affordable price, Earth Breeze is the safest and best detergent to pick up today.
Second place medal: Tru Earth Eco-Strips
- Completely hypoallergenic and eco-friendly
- Excellent cleaning power, even on baby clothes
- Comes in compostable and biodegradable packaging
- Involved in multiple environmental initiatives
- Dissolves well in hot and cold water
- Complete line of eco-friendly cleaning products
Tru Earth had to be ranked as the second safest detergent because of the sheer amount of effort it puts into being safe for people and the environment. This shows in quite a few ways, such as its plant-based and biodegradable ingredients. These are all dermatologically tested, so you don’t need to worry about it irritating sensitive skin.
They can even be used on baby clothes and delicate fabrics. The laundry detergent strips are effective in all types of washing machines, and dissolve well in both hot and cold water, something not all strips can boast. While it’s a delicate and natural formula, that doesn’t mean compromising on cleaning quality. One strip is more than enough for a large load, no matter how stained it is.
Paper envelopes are used for packaging, making Tru Earth even more sustainable than many competitors. This produces 98% fewer carbon emissions than options coming in plastic jugs. The brand offsets the emissions it does create by being involved in tree planting and ocean cleanup efforts, something most other brands haven’t even considered.
Tru Earth’s contributions don’t stop there, as it donates 32 laundry strips to food banks and frontline workers with each subscription.
The main reason I couldn’t give this the top spot was the $0.56 per-wash price tag. While a lot of this money goes to a good cause, Earth Breeze manages to do as much while costing much less. The monthly subscription discount brings this down to $0.40 per load, but it’s still an expensive option.
If you don’t mind the price, Tru Earth is a safe, worthwhile detergent.
Other laundry detergents I tested
Earth Breeze and Tru Earth are the safest laundry detergents I could find, but they’re far from the only ones I tested. I found quite a few others that claim to be a non-toxic and safe laundry detergent, but my tests found that was far from the case with many.
Most laundry detergents hide their ingredients and don’t list the toxic chemicals they use, keeping consumers in the dark. Others, while legitimate non-toxic laundry detergents, came up short in a few ways.
Here’s how it went.
Some laundry detergent manufacturers put so much effort into trying to make the safest laundry detergents they can, they overlook cleaning performance. They end up not being able to get rid of stubborn stains, or performed disappointingly in other ways. These detergents came up short in specific ways.
Dropps Laundry Detergent Pods
Dropps is one of the safer laundry detergents to pick, thanks primarily to its dedication to keeping harmful chemicals out of its formula. Its ingredient list is free of chlorine bleach, surfactants, parabens, dyes, and phosphates, so it’s great for the environment and your skin. It’s also EPA Safer Choice certified.
There’s also a range of detergents for delicate clothes, baby clothes, and sensitive skin, and you can choose between scented or fragrance-free options. The natural and biodegradable formula also doesn’t slouch in the cleaning department, and I couldn’t find any stains or damage on my test fabrics.
Another nice thing about Dropps is that it’s completely carbon neutral, thanks to its Clearloop partnership, through which it funds solar initiatives around Jackson, TN.
On the downside, Dropps may not clean all that well. The pods don’t always dissolve well in cold water and some users have reported an odd odor, including one review that cited a “wet dog” smell.
Meliora Laundry Powder
Meliora laundry detergent powder caught my attention simply because of how much time and effort it put into using safe and non-toxic ingredients. The formula includes only baking soda, coconut oil, sodium cocoate, washing powder, and glycerin, all of which are safe for the environment. It also gives back heavily to environmental and social causes.
The first real negative I found is that it doesn’t clean as effectively as the top detergents. I found yellow stains in my whites after a wash cycle, so I couldn’t rank Meliora any higher.
The $0.29 per load price is quite affordable, but free shipping isn’t available for orders under $49. A monthly subscription could bring the price down even further.
Another positive is Meliora’s packaging, which comes in zero-waste and plastic-free steel cans. Refills are even sent in paper bags.
As attractive as the company’s packaging and ingredients are, it’s Meliora’s contribution to the planet that really caught my attention. As a 1% for the Planet and Women’s Voices for the Earth partner, it donates 2% of its annual revenue to eco-friendly initiatives.
That’s significantly more than most of the other detergents on this list. The detergent is also Made Safe, B. Corp, and Leaping Bunny certified to back up all of its claims.
While Meliora is a good detergent overall, you’ll need to use more than the manufacturer-recommended amount to clean clothes.
Molly’s Suds Original Laundry Detergent Powder
Molly’s Suds is great with its ingredient disclosure, and it lists all of them on its website. The detailed list also includes an explanation of all the chemicals on its list. It’s a truly safe and non-toxic laundry detergent that doesn’t harm your skin or the environment. Leaping Bunny and EPA Safer Choice certifications back this up.
Molly’s Suds couldn’t rank any higher because of its cleaning performance, however. The laundry powder simply isn’t up to scratch.
With the certifications and effort the brand puts into its ingredients, I was expecting something similar with its packaging. That’s why the plastic pouches came as a surprise. Molly’s claims the ingredients aren’t stable in other materials, but since other brands come in steel or silicone bags, this excuse doesn’t hold any water.
It does come at a relatively affordable $0.32 per-wash price tag, and you get 5% off with a subscription. The free shipping, however, is only available if you order more than $75 worth of product.
Molly’s Suds puts this money to good use, though, and the brand donated money to families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It also volunteered to wash 850 families’ clothes for free during this time. Its efforts led to the company being awarded a Hey Good Social gold medal.
While you’ll need to use some extra detergent during the wash—and possibly put it through another wash cycle—it’s still a natural and non-toxic laundry detergent.
Pardo Natural Laundry Detergent
Pardo Natural Laundry Detergent’s formula uses only environmentally friendly ingredients, including castile soap, baking soda, and washing soda. None of these harm the environment or sensitive skin.
The scented version, however, adds citrus lemon peel, which could be enough to set off any allergies. I’d suggest getting a patch test for this if you’re worried about it.
As great as Pardo is for your skin and the environment, it isn’t great for clothes. The formula simply doesn’t get rid of any tough stains. Some more castile soap or another readjustment to the formula could be enough to overcome this, but it’s an ineffective choice as it stands.
Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap
Dr. Bronner’s had to be included on the list, as it boasts multiple certifications focused on its safety. In addition to being certified USDA Organic, it’s certified by B. Corp, Leaping Bunny, Oregon Tilth, and Vegan Action.
One of the more interesting things here is how many uses Dr. Bronner’s can apply to—you can replace many of your cleaning products with it. Floors, dishes, and even your teeth can be cleaned with this.
I’m a bit skeptical of brushing my teeth with something that cleans floors, though.
One negative with Dr. Bronner’s is that the concentrated liquid detergent needs to be diluted before you can use it. It’ll cause damage to your clothes otherwise.
Failing to do so also means it might not clean laundry as effectively as it should. That’s a lot of extra hassle, which you don’t get with other laundry detergents.
I was also disappointed to find Dr. Bronner’s doesn’t support any eco-friendly or charitable causes. It clearly knows the importance of protecting the environment, but doesn’t put any effort into this beyond using natural ingredients.
Biokleen Liquid Laundry Detergent
Biokleen’s older ingredients couldn’t exactly be called safe, but the brand has clearly been putting in effort with its newer options. It uses 70% less plastic than it used to in its packaging, and it’s certified by EPA Safer Choice. Despite this, it doesn’t do nearly as much as the top choices in this list.
Its cleaning performance was abysmal, and I noticed stains even after two wash cycles, especially on my whites. Since it costs $0.34 per wash—plus delivery charges—it’s one of the more expensive detergents to buy. It isn’t worth the price.
Biokleen also doesn’t donate to environmental or social causes. The money it generates goes straight to its bank account and stays there.
Grab Green Laundry Detergent
Grab Green is a safe and natural laundry detergent. Its formula is phosphate free, dye free, chlorine free, and paraben free, and the ingredients are EPA Safer Choice certified.
The pods even come in plastic-free packaging, so there’s no need to worry about how the brand impacts the environment. The only claim I couldn’t verify was that it doesn’t test on animals.
Grab Green’s performance disappointed me. It just didn’t clean the laundry well enough. I noticed a few grease stains after a wash cycle, and the manufacturer-recommended amount clearly isn’t enough detergent to achieve this.
It’s also not an affordable detergent to pick up, costing $0.50 per load for a one-time purchase. A subscription brings this down to $0.42, but there are more effective detergents at half the price.
“Safe” isn’t limited to ingredients alone. A few popular options remained in my quest to find the best safe and non-toxic laundry detergent. Many of these popular laundry detergents fared poorly in several ways, so I couldn’t rank them any higher.
Botanical Origin Laundry Detergent
Botanical seems to be one of the best non-toxic laundry detergents at first glance, as it uses plant-based essential oils and is free from harmful chemicals. The recycled plastic jug the detergent comes in also appears to be great, but plastic is plastic, and it ends up harming the environment regardless of whether it’s recycled.
The plant-based ingredients also don’t have a great cleaning performance. But if you’re serious about choosing a laundry detergent that’s safe for humans and the environment, it’s time to move on from plastic jugs.
Presto Laundry Detergent Pacs
The first thing I noticed about Amazon’s Presto Laundry Detergent Pacs is that they come in a large plastic container. That doesn’t bode well for an option claiming to be an eco-friendly laundry detergent. I was more and more disappointed with the brand as I continued my testing.
The packs don’t dissolve well in cold water, so you’ll need to make sure you use hot water. You’ll find gunk on your clothes otherwise.
Considering the $0.58 per wash price, I expected this to be better. The lack of discounts—even of orders above a certain price—was also disappointing. None of this money reaches environmental or charitable causes. Since more affordable brands can manage this, I don’t see why Presto can’t.
Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent
Seventh Generation is one of the safest laundry detergents you can pick up, as it uses a completely non-toxic formula and a natural fragrance. It’ll be just as good for a sensitive skin and nose as it is for the environment.
Considering it a “safe” laundry detergent only applies to the ingredients, however, because Seventh Generation’s laundry detergent comes in a plastic jug, which ends up harming the environment.
The non-toxic formula also isn’t great at cleaning, and I found quite a few tough stains in my test samples after a wash. If it could clean clothes better and came in more eco-friendly packaging, it’d rank higher as one of the safest laundry detergents.
Tide Free & Gentle Liquid Laundry Detergent
Tide Free & Gentle liquid laundry detergent cleans pretty well, explaining why it’s been so popular since it came out. But clean clothes don’t exactly mean good for the environment, and a few of the ingredients are harsh and harmful.
This liquid detergent is rated a D by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). It includes sodium C10-16 alkylbenzene sulfonate, a chemical identified by the European Union to be highly toxic to aquatic life and have low anaerobic biodegradability. It’s also likely to irritate sensitive skin and exacerbate asthma. It also includes C16-10 pareth, a substance linked to genetic defects, cancer, and reproductive problems.
Not so free. Not so gentle.
I couldn’t find the safest laundry detergent without having some kind of process that made testing and analyzing the detergents easy while still being fair. As well as making sure they were a non-toxic laundry detergent, I considered multiple factors.
Here’s what that process was.
To start with, I needed to get as much information as possible about the most popular laundry detergents on the market. This didn’t take long, as Wal-Mart, Amazon, and the manufacturer websites had quite a bit of information. It let me know which detergents consumers preferred, so I started with options that claimed to be safe and non-toxic laundry detergents and boasted a large number of reviews and sales.
From there, I went through the ingredients in each formula., Some manufacturers made this easy with a convenient ingredient disclosure policy. I checked for various harmful and toxic chemicals like surfactants, phosphates, optical brighteners, synthetic fragrances, sodium borate, and more. These can harm aquatic life, the environment, and human health, as well as irritating sensitive skin and allergies. Detergents with plant-based and natural ingredients were rated higher than those with questionable ingredients.
I also wanted to look at the packaging itself. Many options come in plastic containers, which damages the environment. More and more detergents are coming in biodegradable, plastic-free, and compostable packaging that doesn’t leach into the environment and threaten wildlife or aquatic life or worsen climate change.
Before I got my hands on each laundry detergent, I wanted to see what other people thought. Customer reviews were a great start for this. Browsing Amazon and similar platforms gave me plenty of reviews to go through, giving me an increasingly informed picture of how the apparently safe detergents would fare during my tests.
Reviews shouldn’t be taken at face value, however, since they’re relatively easy to fake. Since some manufacturers are happy to mislead consumers about their claims, I wouldn’t put it past them to have fake or paid reviews online. I needed to go a step further by actually talking to people who I could verify had used the laundry detergents.
Doing so not only gave me accurate information I knew I could rely on, but gave me unique perspectives on areas I might not have otherwise been able to check, such as sensitive skin and certain allergies. These consumers also told me about the cleaning performance they saw, which helped me come up with initial results to refine later on.
Since I was already talking to people, it seemed fair to speak with all the cleaning products’ manufacturers. Getting their insights into how they manufactured and shipped their detergents would help me get a more accurate picture of them while giving me a better view of each product.
As transparent as some companies were with their ingredient disclosure and other information, others weren’t so helpful. They didn’t just fail to answer my questions, but they failed to respond to my requests for comments at all. That was a bit concerning, and it led me to believe they had something to hide.
I needed to go about finding out if they were hiding something.
Now it was time to get more hands-on with the laundry detergents. There’s no point reading about the safest laundry detergents. I needed to see how they worked firsthand, so it was time to start cleaning. Could they get rid of any stubborn stains without causing any fading or other damage to clothes?
I put together identical test samples for each laundry detergent. They all had the same fabrics and were identically stained to make my tests as fair as possible. I replicated what would happen to them in real life as soon as possible, applying grass, dirt, grease, and chocolate stains.
After putting them through a cycle in my HE washing machine, I left them to air dry before carefully analyzing them under UV light. Outside of stains, I looked for any signs of fading as well.
I also gave them a smell to see what the scent was like and determine whether this was overpowering.
The top two safest laundry detergents performed exceptionally in every way, but the rest all performed poorly in a few ways.
I noted this during my tests and ranked them accordingly.
With all of the information I needed about each non-toxic laundry detergent, it was time to actually start ranking them. Each detergent was analyzed and reviewed based on specific criteria to make sure I could get an accurate picture of each. The safest laundry detergents would meet the following important criteria:
- Plant-based, biodegradable, and non-toxic ingredients
- Plastic-free, zero-waste, and compostable packaging
- Carbon-neutral manufacturing and shipping
- Cleaning performance
- Cost per load, discounts, and free shipping
- No optical brighteners, sodium laureth sulfate, artificial fragrances, phosphates, or other harsh chemicals
- No skin irritation or allergic reactions
- Environmental and charitable contributions
I weighed each criteria differently, focusing on a lack of toxic chemicals, such as optical brighteners and sodium laureth sulfate. How they cleaned and smelled also played a role, with the difference in laundry products really surprising me.
My findings: The safest laundry detergent that still removes tough stains
When you’re comparing the safest laundry detergents, it’s easy to get confused. You’ll have to deal with misleading marketing claims—if not outright lies—varying cleaning performances, and similar factors.
Just because a particular detergent boasts a lot of sales and claims it’s a safe detergent doesn’t mean it actually is. I spent a week with the “safest” laundry products to see how they actually measured up and put them to the test. Some fell at the first hurdle, but others were surprisingly good.
Earth Breeze is the safest laundry product I could find, taking the top rank for multiple reasons:
- Absence of ingredients that could irritate sensitive skin or set off allergies
- Zero-waste, biodegradable, and plastic-free packaging
- No toxic ingredients or harmful chemicals
- Gives back to the environment as a 1% for the Planet partner
- Gives 10 laundry detergent sheets to charity with each purchase
- Excellent cleaning performance
- Low cost at $0.20 per wash
Despite being new to the market, it’s a genuinely eco-friendly and non-toxic laundry detergent getting more and more praise for its plant-based ingredients, excellent stain removal power, and commitment to environmental causes. Earth Breeze is a genuinely safe detergent, free from harsh chemicals, and doesn’t cause allergic reactions. It’s safe for you, your clothes, and the planet.
Wrapping it up
If you don’t want to harm the environment, your skin, or your clothes, finding a safe laundry detergent might seem difficult given the misleading marketing claims widespread in the industry.
Earth Breeze Eco Sheets meet all the requirements of a safe laundry detergent, and even go above and beyond in various ways. They don’t contain any harmful chemicals, their packaging is completely plastic free, and they’re one of the most affordable laundry detergents on the market.
Earth Breeze provides all of that without compromising on performance, as it’ll get rid of any tough and stubborn stains without damaging your clothes.
Then there’s the carbon-free—and actually free—shipping, subscription discounts, and no-risk return policy. Factor in the charitable and eco-friendly causes it’s actively engaged in, and it becomes the complete package.
If you want a safe laundry detergent that cleans your clothes without damaging them, benefits the environment, and doesn’t cost a lot, Earth Breeze should be your first choice.