Ditch the Laundry Jugs and Go Plastic-Free

sustainable laundry detergents in glass containers with towels and clothespins

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One of the easiest ways to reduce the amount of plastic in your household is to stop using big plastic jugs of liquid laundry detergent. Over 35 billion loads of laundry are done annually in North America, using approximately 40 grams’ (1.4 ounces) worth of detergent each, which adds up to an obscene number of plastic laundry jugs that serve no greater purpose than to hold detergent for a relatively short amount of time.

A horrifying 1 billion laundry jugs are discarded in the United States annually. Once empty, only an estimated 30 percent of these high-density polyethylene (HPDE) jugs, which can also be used to contain milk and water, are recycled. The remaining 70 percent ends up in landfills, with many escaping and clogging oceans and waterways.

If you don’t use liquid, then be careful about what kind of powdered detergent you buy. Many of the boxes come lined with plastic, with a plastic handle, a plastic strip embedded in the cardboard to facilitate opening, and a plastic scoop. Most of that packaging will never be recycled.

There are less wasteful, greener options on the market that are slowly becoming easier to find, as long as you look beyond the laundry aisle of the supermarket. Check the alternative products section, visit your local health food store, order online, or mix up your own detergent. Here are some products that work well.

Pure Soap Flakes

Soap flakes are made from a concentration of pure castile soap saponified with vegetable oils. They are a mild cleaner, free from chemicals, dyes, bleaches, synthetic surfactants, and phosphates. Soap flakes are versatile; you can use them for laundering clothes, but also for bathing, cleaning your house, and washing produce, etc.

You must dissolve in hot water first, prior to washing with cold water. Soap flakes can be paired with other natural ingredients for more intense cleaning ability, such as baking soda, washing soda, borax, and hydrogen peroxide (see detailed list of uses here).

You can order pure soap flakes online, or look at your local health food store.

Pure Laundry Soap Powder

Just slightly more complex than soap flakes, laundry soap powder contains borax. It’s organic, biodegradable, free from all detergents, non-polluting, and does not require the use of fabric softeners or anti-static. It does need to be dissolved in hot water prior to adding cold water for laundry.

The brand I like is made in Toronto, ON, by The Soap Works and comes in a brown paper bag.


Dizolve makes an innovative ‘eco-strip’ made of laundry soap that’s deceptively small but surprisingly effective. The strip is the size of a movie ticket, but you only need a single one per load. The soap it’s made of is biodegradable, hypoallergenic, phosphate-free, free from dyes, chlorine bleach, dioxane, and parabens, and is vegan.

Weighing just under 3 grams, each strip represents an impressive 94 percent reduction in the average amount of detergent used per load. It works well in cold water.

The strips come in a paper box. You can get 32 strips / loads per box for $19.95 and there’s free shipping. They're marketed under the brand name Tru Earth and you can order online.


When you first start buying TrulyFree—formerly known as MyGreenFills—you will receive a plastic laundry jug – but it’s the last jug you’ll ever buy. Whenever you need more laundry soap, you simply buy a refill of powdered laundry soap that comes in a paper sleeve, and then mix it up yourself in the laundry jug.

The products are all-natural, safe, and more easily dissolvable than soap flakes. It works very well in cold water. You can also buy fabric softener, color-safe brightener, and enzyme stain remover.

The Simply Co.

“Whoever said you need to use toxic chemicals to wash your clothes?” This three-ingredient laundry soap, launched by Trash Is For Tossers founder Lauren Singer, contains only washing soda, baking soda, and organic castile soap. Sure, it’s easy enough to make at home, but for those of you who don’t feel like it, this is the next best option.

Singer takes waste very seriously. The Simply Co. laundry detergent comes in a glass jar with a metal lid, and the ingredients are sourced with minimal packaging.

Make Your Own

Make your own laundry detergent at home using just a bar of soap and a cup each of borax and washing soda. For a powder version, just grate the soap bar into the borax and washing soda mixture. For a liquid detergent, grate the bar of soap into a pot and heat it over medium-low with two cups of water until it's melted and thoroughly mixed in. Take off the heat and mix borax and washing soda together in a five-gallon bucket. Add in your soapy water mix and enough extra water to fill about three-quarters of the bucket. Allow the liquid to set overnight before using.