The 8 Best Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergents of 2023

Puracy Natural Free & Clear laundry detergent is our top choice for a green clean.

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Man doing laundry with kid

Courtesy of Getty

All of the water that runs through your washing machine will eventually make it back to our oceans, lakes, and streams, even if it makes a stop at a treatment facility along the way. You can make a big impact on the environment by carefully choosing the laundry detergent you use to get your clothes clean. Where you can, try to use natural household ingredients like vinegar or baking soda to reduce the chemicals you use and release into our water systems.

Treehugger put together this list of top-rated, widely available environmentally responsible laundry detergents to help you make this simple, positive transition toward protecting our waterways. As you’ll discover, it is difficult to find a quality detergent whose ingredients and packaging tick all the right boxes, so keep that in mind as you make your choices. If the first detergent you try isn’t a good fit for your lifestyle, try another one until you find what’s right for you.

Ahead, the best eco-friendly laundry detergents.

Best Overall

Puracy Natural Laundry Detergent

4.8
Puracy Laundry Detergent

Puracy

To earn our Best Overall spot, the detergent must be safe for sensitive skin, affordable, effective, and free of harmful chemicals. Puracy Natural Free & Clear laundry detergent fits the bill. It was originally developed with help from physicians for those with sensitive skin and allergies. A bonus is that this liquid detergent is plant-based, cruelty-free, and has never been tested on animals.

Because this product is at a concentration ten times traditional liquid detergents, using Puracy means the bottle is smaller, so less energy is used in shipping and you’ll generate less plastic waste. Puracy comes in a 24-ounce recyclable bottle that does 96 loads and a 64-ounce foil refill that can cover 256 loads. For comparison, a typical 100-ounce jug will handle just 64 loads. Using just 0.25 ounces of Puracy per load, you’ll reduce your plastic waste by 80% compared to traditional detergents.

A special combination of four hard-working enzymes removes stains and odors while leaving clothes soft and fresh. Their formula contains no sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium Laureth sulfate (SLES), sodium coco sulfate (SCS), petrochemicals, sulfates, caustics, phosphates, dyes, chlorine, gluten, tree nut allergens, or optical brighteners.

Although the formula contains some alcohol ethoxylates that are concerning in high concentrations, EWG gives it an “A” grade overall when compared to other detergents. Puracy is also made in the United States and has a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Price at time of publish: $16

Best Budget

ECOS Hypoallergenic Liquid Laundry Detergent Free & Clear

ECOS Hypoallergenic Liquid Laundry Detergent Free & Clear

Courtesy of Amazon

Making positive purchases shouldn’t put too much pressure on your wallet. Earth Friendly ECOS Hypoallergenic Free & Clear Liquid detergent is a sound compromise. It is doubly concentrated so you’ll use half as much as traditional liquid detergents. It is plant-based, 100% biodegradable, and free of chlorine and petroleum-based ingredients. It's safe for a baby’s sensitive skin and gentle enough for delicate fabrics.

This detergent is made of just six ingredients. That’s unusually low for laundry detergent. ECO’s surfactant, a soapy ingredient of detergents whose job is to break up stains, is made from anionic coconut kernel oil.

One ingredient of some concern is methylisothiazolinone. It is used in small concentrations as a preservative to extend shelf life. In the aquatic environment, this chemical is toxic to some organisms and for some with sensitive skin, it can be an irritant. Despite this, ECOS has earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Choice Certification.

Made in the United States, the company is based in California and is majority women-owned. Depending on what size and where you buy it, you’ll spend just $0.05 to $0.15 per load. That’s less than half what you’d pay for many traditional brands.

Price at time of publish: $24

Best Detergent Sheets

Lazy Coconuts Laundry Detergent Strips

Lazy Coconuts Laundry Strips

Courtesy of Lazy Coconuts

There are a number of detergent strips available, but most have not yet been evaluated by groups like EWG. We chose Lazy Coconuts Eco-Friendly Detergent Strips because they contain better ingredients than the Tru Earth brand which earned a C grade from EWG. Those ingredients are septic-safe and gentle on sensitive skin.

Lazy Coconuts Strips are also vegan and free of parabens, bleach, chlorine, and dyes. They are ideal for anyone who has to trek to the laundromat or shared laundry room, and they're also handy for traveling and camping. They’re a little cheaper than many comparable brands.

Price at time of publish: $15

The Dirt on Detergent Strips

Detergent strips are relatively new on the laundry detergent front, but a variety of them are popping up in response to demand from consumers to reduce the plastic waste associated with liquid laundry detergent bottles. Because they are also 20 times lighter than the equivalent in liquid detergent, the amount of fossil fuel used for transportation is also decreased, reducing the carbon footprint of your clean laundry.

The idea is that instead of measuring out a volume of liquid or powder, you simply tear off a detergent strip (similar to dryer sheets) and pop it in the washer. The concentrated dried ingredients fully dissolve in water and do the same hard cleaning work of liquid and powdered detergents, but without the plastic bottles. Most are packaged in recyclable cardboard.

Best Powder

Molly's Suds Unscented Bulk Laundry Detergent Powder

4.9
Molly's Suds Unscented Bulk Laundry Detergent Powder

Amazon

Molly’s Suds Laundry Powder is a great choice because it’s made from some of the same simple ingredients the pioneers used. It contains only four earth-derived vegan ingredients that are safe for sensitive skin. You won’t find dyes, optical brighteners, chlorine, or parabens here.

You’ll use just a tablespoon per load, so the carbon footprint for shipping is smaller than many liquid detergents on a per-load basis. Molly’s Suds also receives an “A” grade from EWG. Its most dangerous ingredient is peppermint oil (only a concern if you happen to be allergic to this essential oil) in the optional peppermint-scented detergent, so you can feel good about your purchase.

If you have hard water, the manufacturers recommend you add a splash of white vinegar to each load. Those with soft water can use even less than a tablespoon in each load.

Price at time of publish: $28

Best Liquid

Aspen Clean Laundry Detergent Liquid

4.8
Aspen Clean Laundry Detergent Liquid

Aspen Clean

There are many things to like about this liquid detergent. First, it's made with 100% natural ingredients, as certified by EcoCert, including organic ingredients. It has earned a number of other trustworthy certifications, including EWG Verified (meaning it means the highest standards set out by the non-profit) and is also Leaping Bunny certified cruelty-free. Finally, it comes is a jug that's made from 100% recycled plastic.

Our tester found it to clean effectively, and said that it didn't trigger any any skin irritation among herself or her family members. We tested the Lavender & Lemongrass scent, which is quite strong if you take a whiff from the bottle but the fragrance is very mild once clothes have been through the washer and dryer. There's an unscented version and a eucalyptus and rosemary option.

Price at time of publish: $29

Best Pods

Dropps Sensitive Skin & Baby Detergent

4.4
Dropps Sensitive Skin & Baby Laundry Detergent

Amazon

Pods, also known as packs or pacs, have grown in popularity, now outselling powdered detergents. They’re convenient because you don’t have to worry about spilling or measuring. Each “dose” is generally wrapped in a polyvinyl alcohol casing that dissolves quickly in water and works equally well in all types of machines. More concentrated than their non-concentrated cousins, they have a smaller carbon footprint related to shipping.

But pods also come with some disadvantages. They tend to be more expensive per load, and because they’re premeasured for an average load, you can’t vary the amount based on the size or dirtiness of the load. Look carefully at the packaging as well. Although you’ll eliminate plastic bottles of liquid detergents, they’re often individually packaged in non-recyclable foil. One other con is that some pods are mistaken by children or others for candy, so keep them out of reach.

Dropps Sensitive Skin & Baby Laundry Detergent pods have found a way to offer all the positives of this delivery method while also eliminating some of the negatives. With plant-based ingredients and water, they receive an “A” grade from EWG. One of those ingredients is a proprietary bittering agent that helps reduce the chance of accidental poisoning.

Dropps also come in recyclable and compostable cardboard packaging and are made in the United States. On a per-load-basis, they are only slightly more expensive than our Best Budget pick.

Price at time of publish: $16

Best for Sensitive Skin

ATTITUDE Baby Laundry Detergent

Attitude Laundry Detergent

Courtesy of Amazon

Many eco-friendly detergents are by nature safe for sensitive skin, but Attitude Little Ones laundry liquid contains the ancient medicinal herb chamomile. This herb is well known for its ability to help you sleep—commonly as tea, but it also has been used for centuries for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Although it was formulated for babies and children, this detergent is almost free of scent so adults don’t have to worry about smelling like a baby or being irritated by unnecessary scents. If you suffer from eczema or other skin issues, this might be a fit for you.

Its plant-based ingredients are vegan and cruelty-free. It's certified by both PETA and ECOLOGO, so you can be sure that the manufacturing process for this product harms no animals and is sustainably produced. It also received an “A” grade from EWG and is formulated for cold water, meaning it works well while you save money on your energy bill.

Price at time of publish: $30

Best Smelling

Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Laundry Detergent Pacs

Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Laundry Detergent Pacs

Amazon

From a widely trusted brand, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day, the fresh lemon verbena scent of these laundry pods was inspired by flowers and herbs but still packs a punch in the laundry room. All of their cruelty-free scents are made from plant-derived ingredients and essential oils that are never tested on animals.

These pacs are made without chlorine, artificial colors, parabens, phthalates, monoethanolamine (MEA), and diethanolamine (DEA).

Some of the ingredients used to make the scent cause this option to earn a “B” grade from EWG because they can be irritating to those who are sensitive to scents or who have sensitive skin.

Price at time of publish: $29

Final Verdict

Puracy Natural Free & Clear liquid laundry detergent is our top choice thanks to good performance, health ratings, and safety for the environment. Or go back to the simple basics that work with Molly’s Suds Laundry Powder.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Can I make my own eco-friendly laundry detergent?

    Yes! Before laundry detergents were widely available at grocery stores, our grandmothers made their own from simple ingredients. Many people have found success with those same recipes—or improved with essential oils. Try your hand at making your own powdered or liquid laundry detergent.

  • Why is it good to use eco-friendly laundry detergent?

    For many people, taking good care of our skin includes caring about what touches it. Conventional laundry detergents contain a number of chemicals that are not good for our skin, or that may be harmful to our lungs. Some of these same chemicals may be harmful to aquatic organisms in our streams, lakes, and oceans.

    For example, the phosphates in laundry detergent are disruptive to natural phosphate cycles in the environment as well as being toxic to marine animals. Phosphates are just one of many chemicals found in traditional laundry detergents that are worth avoiding. Luckily, there is a range of quality eco-friendly alternatives on the market, like the ones on this list.

  • Are "eco-friendly" laundry detergents actually eco-friendly?

    The term “eco-friendly” can be misleading because it might imply that eco-friendly laundry detergents cause no harm to the environment. In reality, perhaps no cleaning product can ever be completely free of environmental impacts. That’s because no matter what we use to wash our clothes, energy is consumed to make the product and its packaging. Even recyclable or reusable packaging requires energy to be repurposed. The spent ingredients of our detergent, however benign, are being discharged to pass through our water treatment plants and then into our waterways.

    Instead, when we use these terms like “eco-friendly,” we’re comparing these alternatives to the traditional products that haven’t typically considered a concern for the environment. Perhaps terms like “more eco-friendly” or “greener” are more accurate.

    In addition, because the term “eco-friendly” is not a technical term, any manufacturer can claim it. Some products that carry this label actually contain chemicals that are known to be toxic. So it’s important to look at ingredients and choose products that have received certifications from third-party nonprofit organizations such as the Environmental Working Group to back up their claims. In the end, the best thing we can do is find new ways to do less laundry, and therefore, impose less human impact on our environment.

  • What are other ways to lower the environmental footprint of doing laundry?

    When looking at what you can improve around your home to help the environment, taking a good, hard look in the laundry room is an excellent place to start. At the top of the list for saving time, money and energy is to find new ways to do less laundry. Every load you avoid saves an average of 15 to 30 gallons of drinking water in a high-efficiency front-loading machine or 30 to 45 gallons for an older washer.

    There are a number of small changes you can make to further cut your water use and increase efficiency. To save time and energy use in the dryer, consider adding a few reusable dryer balls to each load. Or skip the dryer altogether and use a drying rack.

Why Trust Treehugger?

To make this list, we deeply researched the detergent market, carefully reviewing the ingredients lists and considering packaging formats. Generally, we’ve chosen detergents that are phosphate-free to protect the environment and fragrance-free for those with sensitive noses and/or skin. But most brands are also available in scented form. We’ve also considered their rating by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG), which ranks products based on the toxicity of their chemical ingredients, and packaging.

Lorraine Wilde has done more laundry than she’d like to admit over the last 17 years with her twins. She has only the highest of standards for what goes on her family’s skin. Lorraine also holds a Master’s degree in environmental science and is a firm believer that consumers can make healthy, informed and environmentally conscious choices to protect their families and our planet.

View Article Sources
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  2. Wang, Ming, et al. "Laundry Detergents and Detergent Residue After Rinsing Directly Disrupt Tight Junction Barrier Integrity in Human Bronchial Epithelial Cells." Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, vol. 143, no. 5, 2019, pp. 1892-1903., doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2018.11.016

  3. Basketter, D.A., et al. "Enzymes, Detergents and Skin: Facts and Fantasies." The British Journal of Dermatology, vol. 158, no. 6, 2008, pp. 1177-1181., doi:10.1111/j.1365-2133.2008.08561.x

  4. "Indicators: Phosphorus." Environmental Protection Agency.

  5. "Clothes Washer." Home Water Works.