Conventional detergents come in a plastic bottle and lead to a lot of waste, ultimately harming the environment in myriad ways. Plastic laundry jugs end up in waterways, landfills, and other areas, where they pollute the soil, air, and water for hund reds of years, forever changing the planet. If you want to switch to an eco-friendly laundry routine, it’s time to make the switch now.
That’s easier said than done. Marketing and product packaging are designed to be misleading. To get around this, I spent time with the top options to find out what the best zero-waste laundry detergent is.
I focused on each waste-free laundry brand’s packaging, environmental efforts, cleaning performance, and ingredients to compare and rank them.
Before I name the best zero-waste laundry detergent, you need to know more.
What does “zero waste” even mean?
There are a lot of new terms being thrown around in the fight to save the environment, and they can often be misinterpreted, “zero waste” among them. According to the Zero Waste International Alliance, zero waste means “the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.”
To put it simply, nothing goes to a landfill or incinerator or pollutes soil, water, or air at any stage.
Here’s what I found:
Best zero-waste laundry detergent: Earth Breeze Eco Sheets (4.6/5)
- A completely zero-waste and cruelty-free laundry detergent
- Plant-based and natural ingredients
- Phosphate free
- Plastic-free, compostable packaging
- Fragrance-free option
- Powerful cleaning performance in HE washing machines
- Multiple environmental and charitable causes
- Economical $0.20 per wash price tag
- Not as well known as other detergents
Earth Breeze is the best zero-waste laundry detergent because it excels in every area I tested for. It uses completely plastic-free packaging and carbon-neutral shipping—one of the few plastic-free laundry detergents for which this is true. Add in the nontoxic ingredients, and it’s completely safe for sensitive skin and the environment.
Unlike most laundry detergents that don’t use harmful chemicals like chlorine bleach, it also boasts an excellent cleaning performance, removing even the toughest stains. Even half of one sheet is more than enough to get the job done. That performance doesn’t come with any harm to your clothes, either, and I couldn’t find any fading or other damage to my test samples. Brights were bright and colors still had their pop.
Earth Breeze’s gentle formula includes all-natural essential oils, but if you have allergies or a sensitive nose, it also offers a just-as-effective fragrance-free option.
But at what cost? Well, Earth Breeze is also one of the most economical detergents to choose. While the $0.33 per wash price seems expensive, it’s still lower than some of the most expensive detergents on this list. And the monthly subscription brings the cost down to $0.20 per load, making it one of the more affordable eco-friendly detergent options. Free shipping and a great refund policy make this even better.
Factor in the charitable and environmental work that Earth Breeze is involved in, and this all-natural laundry detergent looks even better. It donates 10 laundry sheets to charities with each subscription, and consumers even get to choose where these donations go. It’s also a 1% for the Planet partner, giving 1% of its annual revenue to environmental initiatives. Earth Breeze is a zero-waste laundry detergent that actually puts effort into giving back to the planet.
The only real negative I found with Earth Breeze is that it isn’t well known. It’s not yet as popular as it should be. In time, however, that shouldn’t be a problem—it’s a great addition to anybody’s laundry room.
If you want the best zero-waste laundry detergent, and something that actually cleans, doesn’t cost too much, and gives back to the environment, Earth Breeze is more than worth its price.
While Blueland couldn’t take the title of the best zero-waste laundry detergent, it’s quite close to it. It comes in a reusable tin canister that you fill from Blueland’s paper bag refills. All of this packaging isn’t only recyclable, it’s also sustainable and environmentally friendly, with Cradle to Cradle and B.Corp certification to back this up.
All of Blueland’s ingredients are safe for the environment and sensitive skin. Unlike other “eco-friendly” detergents, particularly laundry pods, this doesn’t come wrapped in PVOH (also known as PVA, a controversial ingredient, even among environmentalists), making it completely plastic free. It’s one of the only laundry tablets that can genuinely say this.
The cleaning performance is also exceptional, and I couldn’t find any stains or damage on my test samples after the first wash. The tablets are also highly dissolvable in hot or cold water, so you don’t need to worry about gunk being left on your clothes.
Blueland misses out on the top spot for a few reasons, however. It’s not involved in any environmental initiatives, so even though it doesn’t damage the environment, it doesn’t give back to it either. Despite being a zero-waste and plastic-free laundry detergent, it could still learn a few things from Earth Breeze.
Blueland is also quite costly at $0.41 per wash, but you can lower this slightly with a subscription. Still, with that price, I would’ve thought it’d actually do something for the planet.
If you don’t mind the price and lack of environmental support, then it’s worth considering Blueland.
Other eco-friendly laundry detergent brands I tested
I tested much more than Earth Breeze and Blueland on my hunt for the best zero-waste laundry detergent so I could accurately determine the top pick. As effective as the top two are, the rest suffered multiple issues, including high prices and bogus claims of zero waste.
Here’s how they performed.
You want the best detergent at the most reasonable price. The following detergents were either too expensive overall or too expensive and didn’t clean well. They’re zero waste, though, so I had to include them.
Tru Earth Eco-Strips
Tru Earth Eco-Strips have a concentrated formula that works great on stains, so a single sheet will get your clothes clean. Coming in a compact design and recyclable packaging, there aren’t many carbon emissions associated with the product. Since Tru Earth is also plastic free, it’s also a completely zero-waste laundry detergent.
Unlike some laundry strips, these dissolve well in washing machines and you don’t have to worry about any leftover gunk on your clothes after a wash. It’s great in an HE washing machine, and works effectively on all the fabrics and stains I tested against.
Tru Earth is also involved in several charitable and eco-friendly initiatives, and it donates 32 laundry sheets to underprivileged communities with each subscription. It also donates 1% of its yearly revenue to 1% for the Planet, which is involved in environmental programs around the world.
One nice thing about Tru Earth is that it has a whole line of zero-waste laundry accessories and products to outfit your laundry room with a variety of eco-friendly tools.
While this is a plastic-free, eco-friendly, and zero-waste laundry detergent, all that comes at a cost. It’s $0.56 per load for a one-time purchase, and only lowers to $0.40 per load if you choose a monthly subscription, making it one of the most expensive zero-waste laundry detergents to pick up.
If you don’t mind the price, it can be a great option, but Earth Breeze offers much better for a lower cost.
Net Zero Co. Laundry Detergent Strips
Net Zero is a completely zero-waste and plastic-free laundry detergent that actually puts effort into being as eco-friendly as possible. Made from ingredients safe for the environment and sensitive skin, these laundry strips don’t harm the planet or your skin.
Net Zero is also involved in a few environmentally positive initiatives, such as a Silicone Takeback Program. You can send it any silicone waste leftover after using its products, and they’re more than happy to recycle it. Net Zero also plants a tree with every purchase, helping to offset its carbon emissions.
Cleaning-wise, it performs better than many of its alternatives, but that only seems to be the case with colors. Whites needed to be washed a second time to get them properly clean.
That’s a shame, especially considering the $0.56 per wash cost, making it one of the least economical options. There isn’t a subscription discount to make it more affordable, and you’ll only get free shipping if you buy more than $80 of product.
Dropps Laundry Detergent Pods
Dropps laundry detergent pods aren’t just a zero-waste laundry detergent, they’re also cruelty free, completely natural, and vegan. The laundry pods won’t irritate sensitive skin or impact the environment. The recyclable packaging adds to this, and its compact nature reduces its carbon emissions during shipping. The size also makes it a convenient addition to the laundry room.
The downside to Dropps laundry detergent pods is that, like most laundry pods, they don’t dissolve well. You’ll need to make sure you use the laundry pods in warm water, otherwise they’ll form sticky clumps in your washing machine. That’s a major drawback compared to alternatives, most of which can be used in hot or cold water. Dropps detergent pods also perform better in an HE machine than a top-loader alternative, so bear that in mind before buying.
These also cost more than alternatives at $0.40 per load. While there’s a subscription discount available, this only brings the per wash price down to $0.33 per wash.
While Dropps are technically cheaper than Blueland, Blueland actually dissolves and works. And if you really want to save money, go with Earth Breeze.
The Unscented Co. Laundry Tabs
Unscented Co. laundry tabs come in zero-waste and recyclable packaging, and you’ll only find biodegradable and safe ingredients in its formula. You don’t need to worry about how this affects the environment or sensitive skin.
The cruelty-free ingredients also offer an excellent cleaning performance, and there’ll be no problem getting rid of any tough stains. They even dissolve quickly in the wash and shouldn’t leave any gunk on your clothes after a cycle.
The zero-waste laundry detergent isn’t cheap, and comes in at $0.40 per wash, making it more expensive than my top picks. Despite this high price, Unscented Co. isn’t involved in any charitable or environmental causes. More affordable options are able to donate to these causes, so I don’t see why this option can’t.
The Unscented Co. doesn’t offer free shipping or subscriptions, which increases the cost. To get better value for your money—and actually help the environment—Earth Breeze is more deserving of a purchase.
Biokleen Liquid Laundry Detergent
Biokleen liquid laundry detergent comes in recycled newspaper and cardboard instead of the plastic bottles found with other detergents. It’s not completely plastic free, but this liquid detergent uses 70% less plastic than comparable options. Despite not being a plastic-free laundry detergent, the effort Biokleen puts into this is better than most other options. Few other detergents put this effort in.
The liquid laundry detergent also goes above-and-beyond with its ingredients, which are biodegradable and plant based. There’s no certification to back up some of Biokleen’s other claims, such as being cruelty free and vegan friendly.
I couldn’t rank this laundry liquid any higher because it doesn’t put any effort into making the world a better place, besides reducing the plastic waste associated with its packaging. It isn’t involved in any environmental or charitable initiatives like Earth Breeze and similar brands are.
It’s better going with a zero-waste laundry detergent that actually puts effort into this.
Well Earth Ultra Laundry Detergent Strips
Well Earth is a completely zero-waste and plastic-free laundry detergent, both the packaging and the safe ingredients. It only has an average cleaning performance, however, and you’ll need to either tolerate leftover stains or give them another wash.
Considering the $0.67 per wash price, I would’ve expected a lot more bang for my buck. It only gets more disappointing from there, as Well Earth doesn’t make any environmental or charitable contributions. The company doesn’t seem to be involved in anything other than selling detergent. For an eco-friendly laundry detergent, I would’ve expected more.
Well Earth also claims to be cruelty free, hypoallergenic, and vegan, but it doesn’t have any certifications to authenticate this. I’m a bit skeptical about its claims. Brands have lied about themselves before, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Well Earth does too.
The following laundry detergents either didn’t perform well or weren’t truly waste free.
Ethique Flash! Laundry Soap Bar
Ethique Flash laundry soap bar is a truly zero-waste laundry detergent that also doesn’t use any plastic in its packaging, so I couldn’t leave it off my list.
The eco-friendliness also extends to the laundry soap bar’s biodegradable ingredients. These are also certified as hypoallergenic and cruelty free. Ethique also puts a lot of effort into helping the planet, and donates 2% of its annual revenue to animal welfare, sustainability, and environmental causes. Each purchase of this laundry soap bar really does some good for the planet.
That’s far from the only way this zero-waste and plastic-free laundry bar helps the environment. Ethique partners with Project Blue, HUHA, Rainforest Trust, and Oxfam, helping each with their various environmental and charitable causes. It also regularly donates 10,000 bars to vulnerable communities through its Super Soap Project, while striving for fair wages and working conditions for suppliers.
I couldn’t rank the Ethique laundry bar any higher on my list because it has anti-corrosion characteristics, so it can’t be used in washing machines. You’ll need to handwash with it, adding a lot of time and effort to doing your laundry.
Keep Ethique in mind for your next camping trip or travel abroad, though. It’s a good ethical laundry soap.
Meliora Cleaning Products
Meliora’s entire list of laundry products is vegan and cruelty free, making all of its products worth considering. The laundry powder stands out in this department, as it comes in zero-waste, reusable steel and cardboard canisters, and the refills come in a recyclable paper bag.
The company is also involved in environmental efforts. A 1% for the Planet partner, it donates 1% of its annual revenue to the charity, funding various environmental efforts.
Meliora couldn’t rank higher on my list because its cleaning performance is subpar. It doesn’t work well with HE washing machines, and it’ll leave gunk on your clothes with other machines. You’ll need to give it another wash to overcome this.
Meliora’s laundry powder costs a relatively low $0.28 per wash, but only if you buy more than $49 of product to qualify for free shipping. It’ll be a little more expensive if you don’t.
Since you want a zero-waste laundry detergent, why not go with one of the top picks? They boast better prices and performance while still being involved in charitable and environmental causes.
Molly’s Suds Laundry Detergent Powder
Molly’s Suds is incredibly transparent with its laundry powder’s ingredients, which are safe for all skin types and don’t harm the environment. The packaging is also biodegradable, making it a completely zero-waste laundry detergent.
Buying Molly’s powder detergent also benefits society, since Molly’s Suds is involved in multiple charitable efforts. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the brand donated its laundry powder to charities and even did laundry for underprivileged communities. It continues to be involved in such efforts, so buying this powdered laundry detergent really makes a difference.
The only reason I couldn’t rank this any higher was its cleaning power. The laundry powder simply doesn’t compare to other options in this department, and it couldn’t get rid of tough stains with a wash. You’ll need to either rewash them or use a decent bit of the laundry powder in your wash, making it more expensive to use.
Grab Green Stoneworks Laundry Detergent Pods
Grab Green Stoneworks laundry detergent pods come in zero-waste and plastic-free paper pouches, setting it apart from some of the company’s other detergents. The ingredient list is also free from phosphates, chlorine bleach, surfactants, dyes, and parabens, making it a good option for people with sensitive skin. The scents, however, might be too much for anyone with allergies.
The company also claims it doesn’t test on animals when making the laundry detergent. Unlike other detergents that make the same claim, however, there aren’t any certifications that back this up. It also isn’t involved in any eco-friendly or charitable initiatives, a disappointment compared to other zero-waste laundry detergents.
Then there’s Grab Green’s stain removal power, which is lacking compared to many of the other options listed above. There were still a few grease stains in my test samples after a wash. You’ll get a lot better for less money with the top picks.
Kind Laundry Strips
Kind Laundry strips are a zero-plastic and eco-friendly laundry detergent, primarily because of the plastic-free cardboard box the strips come in. Lightweight and compact, the packages only have a minimal carbon footprint, a positive sign for any detergent claiming to be environmentally friendly.
The four-ingredient formula is also nontoxic and free of harsh chemicals, so it’s great for sensitive skin and the environment.
The company isn’t involved in any kind of charitable or environmental causes, however, so it looks as though the efforts with its packaging and ingredients may simply be to bring in more customers. It’s technically an eco-friendly laundry detergent, but it could do much more for the environment.
Earth Breeze costs less and is involved in several causes, so it’s entirely possible for Kind Laundry to do something similar. It also doesn’t offer much in the way of cleaning power, which is another disappointment. Don’t be surprised if your clothes come out still stained.
Clean People deserves to be on this list because it’s a zero-waste laundry detergent and uses environmentally friendly ingredients. The formula also doesn’t irritate sensitive skin. Outside of that, almost everything about the brand is underwhelming.
That starts with the cleaning performance, which is average, at best. You’ll need a decent amount of the laundry detergent to get any stains out.
Then there’s the environmental contributions it’s involved in. Clean People plants a tree for every 96 products it sells. Not every one. Ninety-six. That’s far from the effort other brands put into this and isn’t much better than doing nothing. Your money’s best spent elsewhere.
Nellie’s Laundry Soda
Nellie’s vegan laundry detergent soda uses a simple and straightforward formula that includes only five ingredients: sodium carbonate (baking soda), linear alcohol ethoxylate, sodium chloride, sodium metasilicate. Each of these are apparently eco-friendly and safe for sensitive skin, but there aren’t any certifications to back this up. What the detergent does have going for it is the zero-waste refillable tin, which is why I included it on my list.
It doesn’t clean well, however, and you’ll need to use a lot of the laundry detergent to get your clothes clean. Nellie’s also doesn’t put any effort into benefiting the environment, a shame compared to several of the other options on this list.
Finding the best zero-waste laundry detergent isn’t something you can go into blind. I needed some kind of process so I could fairly rank them and determine which detergent actually outperforms the rest.
I applied this process to each apparently zero-waste laundry detergent to determine my rankings.
Here’s the process I used.
I started off by looking for each of the zero-waste laundry products that were popular among consumers, narrowing down my list based on the number of sales and online reviews they had. Each brand’s website, Amazon, Wal-Mart, and similar platforms all proved great help with this.
Then it was a matter of figuring out whether or not these were actually zero-waste laundry products, which meant checking the packaging materials and ingredients to see if everything matched up. I looked at many products, from liquid laundry soap and detergent pods, to powders, tablets, and sheets. For information about sheets, read my article reviewing the best detergent sheets on the market.
Bonus points went to those detergents that came in recyclable or biodegradable packaging. I spoke with a few environment-focused professionals to get a better idea of this, and took things from there.
Then it was time to check out each detergent’s online reviews, which gave me a rough idea of how they performed. With how popular Amazon is, it was one of the best resources I had for this, but I also checked out other online platforms, and even each brand’s website.
That gave me a general idea of how the products performed, but I remained skeptical of reviews. Online reviews are notoriously easy to fake. Some brands pay people to post positive reviews about them, while also paying to talk negatively about other brands, no matter whether or not they actually used the detergents.
I took things a step further by talking to verified customers. While this meant getting fewer reviews, it also meant I was getting accurate information from people who genuinely used the eco-friendly and zero-waste laundry detergents. I knew I could rely on their information.
At this point, I decided to reach out to the brands I was reviewing and comparing to see what they had to say for themselves. It was only fair, and it gave each “environmentally friendly” laundry detergent a chance to respond to any questions I had. Some were more than happy to respond to me—and even more transparent than I thought they’d be—while others refused to speak to me outright. That was concerning, as it makes it look like they’re hiding something.
To know for sure that your laundry detergent engages in ethical and safe production, read my guide to ethical laundry detergent.
There’s no point in just talking about each of the zero-waste detergents. I needed to get my hands dirty by cleaning real clothes with each of the brands I found. While I already had a general idea of which brands would be a great addition to a zero-waste laundry room, I needed to see how well they cleaned clothes.
I also wanted to see whether they’d cause any damage to colors and certain fabrics. To do this, I put together test samples for each zero-waste laundry detergent, making sure each had a mix of natural and synthetic fabrics, such as denim, wool, cotton, and nylon. They were all stained in identical ways to make the tests as fair as possible, including tough stains like grease and grass.
These were all cleaned in an HE washing machine with the manufacturer-recommended amount of laundry detergent before being left to air dry. Each test sample was analyzed under UV light to see if I could find any leftover stains, as well as any fading or similar damage. How the products smelled after a wash also played a factor to see if they’d retain unpleasant odor or irritate a sensitive nose.
The top two options ranked as great waste-free detergents and performed well under my tests. They got rid of tough stains, didn’t cause any visible damage, and had my test samples smelling nice. The others, however, all failed my tests in some way. They either weren’t genuinely zero waste, lacked cleaning power, were too expensive, or had similar issues, and were ranked accordingly.
Now that my tests were done, it was time to start ranking each of the zero-waste detergents I analyzed. I developed a rating system to make sure I could do this fairly as possible:
- Zero-waste, biodegradable, and recyclable packaging
- Contributions to environmental and charitable causes
- Plant-based and eco-friendly ingredients
- Cleaning performance
- Carbon-neutral shipping
- Cruelty-free and vegan production
- Cost per wash
Each factor had a certain rating, such as making sure they were genuinely zero-waste and offsetting carbon emissions with environmental outreach. There’s no point in saying something is the best zero-waste laundry detergent if it leaches plastic into the environment.
Detergents that completely missed this were set aside.
My findings: The best zero-waste laundry detergent that removes stains
Having a zero-waste laundry room isn’t an easy process because of the misleading marketing claims many brands make, coupled with the sheer volume of options to choose from. Even if an option says it’s an eco-friendly laundry detergent, it might not be.
I spent a week sorting fact from fiction and testing various options to find the best zero-waste laundry detergent on offer. Some options showed a lot of appeal, but others fell flat.
Earth Breeze takes the win on all fronts, thanks to its packaging, affordability, transparency, and contributions to various charities and environmental causes. It also boasts a few other benefits:
- Zero-waste, plastic-free, and compostable cardboard box packaging
- Delicate enough to use on baby clothes
- Phosphate free, with no synthetic fragrances, chlorine bleach, or other harmful chemicals
- Completely carbon neutral
- $0.20 per-load price
- Hands-on approach to environmental and charitable causes
Despite being a relatively new brand, Earth Breeze is gaining more and more attention, with the laundry detergent already having countless positive reviews.
Wrapping it up
If you’re done with harming the environment every time you wash your clothes, choosing a nontoxic, plastic-free, and zero-waste laundry detergent is vital. The only thing better for the environment would be to make your own laundry detergent or stop washing your clothes completely, but that’s not exactly realistic.
Earth Breeze is the best zero-waste laundry detergent because it’s not just completely zero-waste, but also donates extensively to the environment and society, and has an affordable price, carbon-neutral shipping, and a great returns policy, as well as offering an effective cleaning performance.
No other liquid laundry detergent, laundry soap, powder, bar, or detergent even comes close to how well it performs in every way I tested.
It’s the best zero-waste laundry detergent on the market. If you want an option that gets rid of tough stains, smells great after a wash, and actively benefits the environment, pick Earth Breeze.