Laundry might not be everyone’s favorite chore (anyone else not a fan?), but we all need clean clothes. While it’s not exactly the most exciting part of my week, I’ve started paying more attention to it because, much like my skincare routine, it can affect both our planet and our health. So, I thought I’d take a moment to share some of the simple laundry tricks I’ve added to my routine. These tips and tricks are not only eco-friendly but also better for my overall well-being and the health of our planet. If you’re looking for simple ways to reduce waste, avoid questionable chemicals, and increase the lifespan of your clothes, then eco-laundering is a great place to start! And if you’re seeking eco-friendly laundry detergent recommendations, hang tight until the end of this article. I’ll be sharing 12 different eco-friendly laundry detergent brands that I wholeheartedly recommend for your eco-friendly laundry routine.
5 Simple Sustainable Washing Tips
1. Wash less
According to Levi’s, washing your jeans every 10 times they’re worn, instead of every 2 times, reduces energy use, climate change impact, and water intake by up to 80%. Plus, not washing your jeans as often will help to preserve them so you can wear them longer.
How to keep your clothes fresh in between wears:
- Airing Out: Hang your clothes outside or in a well-ventilated area after wearing them. Fresh air can help eliminate odors and refresh the fabric.
- Brushing: Use a clothes brush or lint roller to remove surface dust, dirt, and lint. This helps keep your clothes looking clean and fresh.
- Steam Your Clothes: Consider investing in a clothing steamer to remove wrinkles and odors. Steaming also kills bacteria and refreshes fabrics. If you don’t have a steamer, hang your clothes near the shower when you take a hot shower. The steam can help freshen them up.
Extend the lifecycle of your jeans: To help preserve your jeans, always turn them inside out before washing, and instead of using a dryer, opt for air drying. High heat from dryers can cause jeans to shrink, fade, and wear out faster. Air drying helps maintain the shape and quality of the denim.
2. Hand Wash
When possible, hand wash your items. I realize most of us don’t have time to wash all our laundry by hand. But when it comes to washing delicate items such as silk, cashmere, lace, etc., hand washing garments, when done properly, can help extend the life of your garments. Taking care of clothes = buying less + sending fewer textiles to landfills!!
Best way to hand wash delicates?
- Step 1: Fill a clean sink or bucket with cold water.
- Step 2: Add a small amount of detergent to the cold water.
- Step 3: Submerge your delicate garment into the sink. Ensure it’s fully immersed and let it soak for a few minutes, gently stirring it occasionally. If your garment is exceptionally dirty, consider extending the soaking time for an additional 10 or 15 minutes.
- Step 4: Rinse all the soap from your garment. Instead of wringing out excess water, gently press it between two clean towels to remove moisture.
- Step 5: Hang your washed garment to dry. I usually hang my wet items in the tub; this allows for any excess water to drain out rather than create tiny little puddles on the floor. Alternatively, you can use a padded hanger or lay the garment flat on a clean towel to air dry. Tip: To prevent stretching, avoid hanging delicate items by the straps.
3. Hang Dry
I’ve never been a fan of line-drying my clothes. Why line dry clothes when you can toss them in the dryer? Not to mention, line drying can take up space. But, the reality is line drying is much more economical, eco-friendly, and extends the lifecycle of your clothes.
Benefits of Line Drying?
- Line drying clothes in direct sunlight actually helps to disinfect your clothes. The sun’s ultraviolet light has disinfecting properties.
- Air drying your clothes is much gentler compared to using the heat of a dryer. It helps preserve the fabric’s fibers and elasticity, which extends the life of your garments.
- Drying your clothes on the line, whether you do it indoors or let the sun do its thing outdoors, is not just a money-saver but also a planet-friendly choice. Plus, it gives your clothes a longer lease on life.
- Air-drying clothes can reduce the average household’s carbon footprint by a whopping 2,400 pounds a year. If all Americans line-dried for just half a year, it would save 3.3% of the country’s total residential output of carbon dioxide.
If you’re up to giving it a try, here are some handy tips to make the process easier:
- Invest in a collapsible drying rack or wall-mounted drying rack that can be conveniently folded up when not in use. These racks offer multiple levels for hanging clothes and fit perfectly in compact spaces like bathrooms, balconies, or laundry rooms.
- If space is truly limited, consider laying a mesh or netting material over your bathtub or any flat surface to create a makeshift drying area, ideal for small items such as delicates.
- Keep in mind that line drying may not be permitted in all states or neighborhoods. If you live in an area where outdoor line drying is restricted, you can still line-dry your clothes indoors.
Although I don’t line dry my laundry after every load, I do find it particularly beneficial for smaller loads, delicate items, and workout clothes, as it helps preserve their elasticity and overall quality.
Washing activewear tip: More often than not, activewear is not dryer-friendly. The heat can be harsh on the elastic properties and weaken the material, which can result in tears, holes, picks, and runs. To extend the lifecycle of your athletic wear, it’s best to line dry pieces like sports bras and leggings. Additionally, washing your activewear in cold water is a good practice to maintain its quality and elasticity.
4. Avoid Dryer Sheets
There is ongoing debate regarding the potential negative health effects of dryer sheets. Some argue that they release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and that their fragrances might pose health concerns, while others argue against it. However, it’s important to note that more conclusive research is still required in this area.
Regardless, drier sheets can create a lot of unnecessary waste. Instead of dryer sheets, consider opting for a more eco-friendly choice, like wool dryer balls. These balls do an excellent job of reducing static in your laundry without contributing to waste or exposing you to added fragrances. Of course, if you find it challenging to part with dryer sheets completely, consider opting for eco-friendly, fragrance-free varieties.
5. Reduce Microfibers
Did you know every time we do a load of laundry, our clothes shed tiny microfibers (aka tiny plastic filaments woven together to make fabrics like polyester, nylon, acrylic, etc.) that end up in our waterways? Yup, true story. These microfibers are so tiny that they slip through wastewater treatment facilities and find their way into our rivers, lakes, and oceans.
Incredibly, a recent study by the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management revealed that approximately 64,000 pounds of microfibers infiltrate U.S. water systems every single day. Even more concerning, studies have identified plastic microfibers in the fish we consume, with one in four fish sampled at a California fish market containing these tiny plastic particles.
According to Surf Rider, “preliminary studies have linked accumulated microplastics in humans with disrupted gut microbiome and enhanced inflammatory response.” Ongoing research suggests that we may be inadvertently ingesting more microplastics than previously thought. (You can read more about the research here.)
Simple ways to reduce microfibers from entering our waterways
- Use a Cora Ball: The Cora ball is a laundry ball designed to catch microfibers during washing. If 10% of U.S. households used a Cora Ball, it could prevent the equivalent of over 30 million plastic bottles from entering our waterways each year. That is enough water bottles to reach from New York City to London.
- Use a Guppyfriend Washing Bag: This unique bag collects microfibers from synthetic clothing during the wash. Simply place your clothing inside the bag before washing.
- Install a Microfiber Filter: Brands like Planet Care offer microfiber filter solutions for washing machines. According to their website, their cartridges will filter out 80 – 90% of microfibres from your laundry. You can return the filled cartridges, and they will send you replacements.
- Choose Natural Fibers: Opt for clothing made from natural fibers like cotton or wool when possible. Doing so will help reduce the amount of microfibers released during washing since synthetic fabrics shed more.
Simple tips to help increase the lifespan of your clothes:
- Avoid Overwashing: Don’t wash your clothes after every wear, especially items like jeans or sweaters that don’t get dirty quickly. Overwashing can cause fabrics to break down faster.
- Zip and Button Up: Before tossing clothes into the washing machine, zip up zippers, button buttons, and close hooks to prevent them from snagging on other garments.
- Turn Clothes Inside Out: Turning your clothes inside out before washing can help protect the outer fabric and prevent colors from fading.
- Use a Delicate Bag: For delicate items, consider using a mesh laundry bag to protect them from friction and snagging in the washing machine.
- Cold Water Wash: Whenever possible, wash your clothes with cold water. This not only saves energy but also contributes to the longevity of your clothing. Since cold water is less harsh on fabrics, washing with cold water can extend the life of your clothing helping to preserve colors and elasticity.
- Skip the Dryer: As mentioned, avoid using the dryer for delicate items like bras, swimwear, and activewear. Instead, hang them to air dry.
- Use Mild Detergent: Opt for a gentle, mild detergent to reduce wear and tear on your clothes.
- Read Care Labels: Always follow the care instructions on the clothing labels to ensure proper care.
Key Factors to Consider When Selecting Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent
When looking for a laundry detergent that’s both effective and environmentally friendly, consider avoiding ingredients that have been found to be both harmful to your health and the environment. Here are some top ingredients to avoid in laundry detergents:
Phosphates are known water softeners commonly found in traditional laundry detergents. They can lead to water pollution, particularly in freshwater bodies, causing harmful algal blooms and oxygen depletion, which can harm aquatic life.
Optical Brighteners (e.g., Disodium Diaminostilbene Disulfonate, DMS, Fluorescent Brighteners, OBAs, Organic Fluorescent Dyes)
Optical brighteners are chemicals added to laundry detergents to make clothes appear whiter and brighter. They can be toxic to aquatic life and may cause skin irritation in humans.
Synthetic fragrances can contain harmful chemicals, including phthalates, which are linked to health concerns such as endocrine disruptors. Opt for detergents with natural or fragrance-free options.
Harmful Surfactants (e.g., Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate)
Some surfactants can be harmful to aquatic life and do not readily biodegrade.
Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPEs)
NPEs are surfactants used in some detergents that can break down into toxic nonylphenols, which are harmful to aquatic life and have been detected in waterways. Health Concerns: NPEs are also considered endocrine-disrupting chemicals and can have negative effects on human health. They may mimic natural hormones in the body and potentially disrupt hormone function.
This is a potential carcinogen often found as a byproduct in detergents with surfactants like Sodium Laureth Sulfate Polyethylene, polyethylene glycols (PEG), Polysorbate (20, 30, 80). Prolonged exposure to 1,4-dioxane can potentially increase the risk of cancer. Look for products that explicitly state they are 1,4-dioxane-free.
Commonly used in fragrances, these disrupt hormones and harm the environment. Choose detergents that are fragrance-free or scented with essential oils.
Ethanolamines (MEA, DEA, TEA)
These compounds can react with other chemicals to form carcinogenic nitrosamines. Opt for detergents without ethanolamines, such as Monoethanolamine (MEA), Diethanolamine (DEA), or Triethanolamine (TEA).
Benzene and Related Compounds (e.g., Alkyl benzene sulfonate, Benzenesulfonic acid)
Exposure to benzene is associated with an increased risk of cancer and other health issues.
Artificial colorants can contain potentially harmful chemicals. Choose detergents without added dyes.
Often found in household products, this known carcinogen can cause short-term water contamination and various health risks. Prolonged or repeated exposure to formaldehyde, mainly through inhalation, can increase the risk of cancer. Additionally, some people may experience skin reactions or allergies when exposed to formaldehyde through clothing or bedding washed with detergents containing this chemical.
Eco-Friendly Certification Labels
Look for eco-friendly certifications or labels to help make your choice.
Safer Choice (U.S. EPA): This label, managed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, is awarded to products that are safer for human health and the environment. Laundry detergents with this label have safer chemical ingredients without sacrificing quality or performance.
Made Safe: MADE SAFE® is the only human health and ecosystem-focused product certification program. This comprehensive certification screens for toxic chemicals such as carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and heavy metals, among others. Products bearing the Made Safe label are verified to be free from harmful substances, ensuring they are safe for use in homes and around families.
Green Seal: Green Seal-certified laundry products must meet stringent performance, health, and environmental criteria. This includes being concentrated to reduce packaging and being free from carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxins, and other harmful ingredients.
EcoLogo: Also known as UL ECOLOGO, this certification ensures that products, including laundry detergents, meet strict environmental standards in their life cycle—from manufacturing to disposal.
Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent Brands
1. Molly’s Suds
Specializing in eco-friendly laundry products, Molly’s Suds offers a range of detergents from Laundry Powder to All Sport liquid wash. I love that this brand uses minimal, earth-friendly ingredients and avoids harmful chemicals like 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde, ensuring a safer choice for both people and the planet.
Products: Laundry detergent sheets, fabric softener, laundry pods, swimsuit and delicates cleaner, wool dryer balls, etc.
Dropps offers a variety of pods for laundry and dishwashing needs, including laundry detergent pods, oxi-booster pods, fabric softener pods, and dishwashing detergent pods. Committed to safety and transparency, their products are entirely free of harmful ingredients and come in recyclable cardboard packaging. Plus, Dropps was awarded the 2017 EPA Safer Choice Partner of the Year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and holds B-Corp Certification.
Products: Active Wash Detergent Pods, Fabric softener pods, hand soap, dishwasher detergent, cleaning accessories, etc.
3. Aspen Clean
Aspen Clean provides eco-friendly laundry pods and liquid detergent made using plant and mineral-derived ingredients. Bottles are packaged in 100% post-consumer resin, while pod containers are 100% zero-plastic and compostable. These eco-friendly laundry detergents are hypoallergenic and contain absolutely no synthetic fragrances, toxins, or irritants that are harmful to your health or skin. Aspen Clean is EWG-verified, Eco-Cert certified, and Leaping Bunny Certified.
Products: Laundry Liquid, Detergent Pods, Bathroom Cleaners, Cleaning kits, Glass Cleaner, etc.
4. Healthy Baby
While maybe best known for being the first and only EWG verified diaper, Healthy Baby also also offers a line of laundry detergents. Made without any harmful chemicals their eco-friendly laundry detergents are designed with a custom blend of natural cleansers, effective for cleaning yet gentle to baby’s skin. Committed to environmental responsibility, Healthy Baby ensures that their products come in non-plastic, sustainable packaging. Healthy Baby is EWG verified, Made Safe certified, and B-Corp Certified.
Products: Laundry, disposable and reusable diapers, wet wipes, deodorant, skincare and prenatal vitamins, and more!
5. Earth Breeze
Earth Breeze specializes in creating top-notch, eco-friendly laundry detergent sheets, focusing on diminishing single-use plastic waste. Their laundry detergent sheets are formulated without plastic, parabens, bleach, dyes, phthalates, and phosphates and come in environmentally friendly cardboard packaging. Committed to making a positive impact, Earth Breeze is a proud partner of 1% for the Planet and maintains carbon-neutral operations. Additionally, Earth Breeze collaborates with non-profits to provide meals and donate laundry detergent to those in need. In fact, for each purchase of Laundry Detergent Eco Sheets, Earth Breeze donates 10 loads of laundry detergent to the partner category of your choice!
Products: Eco-friendly laundry detergent sheets, dishwasher tablets, paper towel replacement.
Known for their Laundry Essentials Kit, which includes eco-friendly laundry detergent dry form tablets, Oxi Booster Powder, and Wool Dryer Balls. They’re all about plastic-free, refillable, planet-friendly cleaning solutions, adhering to the philosophy of ‘Buy one, refill forever!’ BlueLand’s products feature compostable wrappers and pouches and avoid harmful chemicals like chlorine bleach and phthalates. I love that they offer refill packs, forever bottles, and tins to help reduce waste. BlueLand also holds numerous certifications: Cradle to Cradle Certified, Carbon Neutral Certified, EPA Safer Choice Certified, Made Safe Certified, USDA BioPreferred, and EWG Verified. For those seeking a brand with a strong emphasis on certifications and environmental responsibility, BlueLand is a great place to start!
Products: Detergent, wool dryer balls, hand soap, dish soap, cleaning sprays and personal care.
Best known for their EPA-registered disinfectants that effectively kill 99.9% of viruses, Force of Nature also offers laundry detergent sheets. These eco-friendly laundry detergent sheets are crafted without fragrances, dyes, phosphates, optical brighteners, bleach, phthalates, parabens, VOCs, or plastic. They are also hypoallergenic, making them a great choice if you have sensitive skin. Each box contains 50 pre-measured, no-waste laundry detergent sheets, compatible with high efficiency (HE), regular, top-loading, and front-loading washing machines.
Products: multi-purpose cleaner and refill capsules, laundry detergent sheets, reusable cleaning cloths.
Price: $$-$$$ (but pays for itself over time!)
Branch Basics produces a wide variety of highly efficient, eco-friendly cleaning products, including laundry detergents. Their products are safe and effective, catering to individuals seeking hypoallergenic and environmentally responsible options. Committed to minimizing chemical exposure in everyday cleaning, Branch Basics uses only natural ingredients derived from plants and minerals. Their fragrance-free products hold Made Safe Certification and EWG Verification.
Products: concentrate multi-purpose cleaner, oxygen boost, laundry
8. Tru Earth
Tru Earth offers eco-friendly laundry detergent strips, providing a sustainable solution for your laundry needs. Their detergent strips are free from parabens, phenols, phosphorates, bleach, and dyes, are vegan, and work in both HE and standard machines. Plus, for every $25 spent on their products, Tru Earth donates laundry detergent to one person for a whole month! As they put it, “We believe clean clothes is a human right.” And, to top it off, they don’t use any plastic in their packaging!
Products: Laundry detergent strips, wool dryer balls, toilet bowl cleaner, multi-surface cleaner strips, reusable cotton pads, etc.
Meliora provides environmentally friendly and chemical-free home cleaning products, including eco-friendly laundry detergent. Their laundry powder is a must-have for anyone looking for a 100% plastic-free laundry detergent. Not only does it match the effectiveness of liquid detergents, but it’s also ultra-concentrated, preservative-free, and crafted with non-toxic ingredients. Meliora actively commits to sustainability and ethical manufacturing practices. It also holds Made Safe Certification, B-Corp Certification, and is woman-owned
Products: laundry powders, all-purpose cleaner, bath and body soap bar, and more!
This brand is well-known and easy to find, which is why I added it to this list. Their Free & Clear Natural Liquid Laundry Detergent is formulated without dyes, fragrances, or artificial brighteners. Seventh Generation is dedicated to using sustainable, plant-based ingredients and is committed to transparency in product formulations and labeling. Additionally, Seventh Generation is a partner of the US EPA Safer Choice program. They also offer a diverse range of eco-conscious products, including household cleaners, baby products, and personal care items.
Products: eco-friendly laundry detergent, toilet paper, disinfectant sprays, baby diapers, wipes, all-purpose cleaners, and more!
ATTITUDE offers a range of natural and non-toxic household products, from deodorants to laundry detergents made without harmful ingredients. They formulate their eco-friendly laundry detergents with naturally sourced ingredients and package them in refillable aluminum bottles featuring a minimalist design. Additionally, they dedicate themselves to reducing plastic use by offering refill options for many of their products – which I love. Additionally, ATTITUDE is EWG verified and certified vegan and cruelty-free by PETA.
Products: soaps, shampoo, deodorant, sunscreen, laundry detergent, dish detergent, etc.
Ecos is a pioneer in eco-friendly cleaning products, notably achieving Climate Positivity. Recognized as the first company globally to produce carbon-neutral, water-neutral, and TRUE Platinum Zero Waste facilities, Ecos has set a high standard in sustainability. Ecos offers an extensive range of homecare products, including various laundry detergents, available as liquids and in sheet form. These plant-powered, hypoallergenic products are crafted without harmful ingredients, ensuring their effectiveness and gentleness on the environment. Ecos is also proud to be US EPA Safer Choice certified, boasting 120 Safer Choice-certified cleaning products suitable for home and workplace environments.
Products: laundry detergent liquid and sheets, multi-purpose cleaner, dish soap, hand soap, stainless steel polish, etc.