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There’s nothing better than fresh, clean clothes. Except for a planet that’s equally clean and fresh—that’s definitely better.
Thank goodness then that there are so many zero waste laundry detergent brands in Earth’s current spin cycle.
And since we’re all spending more time at home these days, we all have to tweak our practices and up our zero waste game. Conscious consumerism has never been more important to give the world a clean slate… hence all the zero waste detergent brands hopping on board.
So, why should we clean up our laundry act, you ask?
More than one billion laundry jugs are discarded every year— just in the United States! And, that’s before we’ve even touched on the myriad of harmful chemicals and non-biodegradable surfactants in regular laundry soaps that enter the water table, damage our septic systems, and kill aquatic life.
Obviously the best thing to do in this situation is to avoid buying anything and opt for DIY zero waste laundry detergent instead (which we’ll totally tell you how to do). But if you’re short on time and don’t want to read yet another DIY tutorial, we’ll help you find the best alternative non-toxic and plastic free laundry detergent.
As an added laundry bonus (because, why not?), we’ll help you zero waste-ify the entire laundry process—from hamper to hanger. There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to a waste free laundry room, and we’ve got just the perfect dryer ball, guppy bag, and lint brush to keep your clothes nice and plastic out of our oceans.
While all these brands have sparkling sustainability, a few provide the brightest whites: Eco Nuts gets the award for possibly the best zero waste laundry detergent on this list, if for no other reason than it’s really unique. We can’t not mention Ethique for their effective plastic free products and Dropps, the original laundry detergent pods packaged in a compostable and recycled box.
So, how exactly did we remove the stains of toxic and polluting laundry detergent? Click here to head to the bottom of the article to see how we assessed these brands to find the best.
Dropps laundry detergent pods pack a powerful stain fighting punch.
Between naturally-derived lavender and eucalyptus scents, sensitive skin varieties, and either stain or odor fighting formulas, they make something to fit just about every lifestyle.
We love these plastic free packaging laundry detergent pods! They’re made using polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH) which is non-toxic and completely dissolvable in any type of machine washer (cold temperatures included), without leaving any microplastics or non-biodegradable material.
As for the packaging—Dropps use a fully compostable and recyclable cardboard box. It’s made from approximately 50% post-consumer recycled material and 50% Forest Stewardship Council certified cardboard.
Dropps is the original laundry detergent pod. They were the first at combining sustainability and powerful cleaning. They partner with an organization dedicated to ocean conservation:
“Dropps is partnering with Oceana to educate consumers on the impact of their actions and choices, and encourage them to care about the massive global plastic pollution crisis.”
The brand uses exclusively plant-based ingredients, manufactures in the United States, and does not support the use animal testing. They do use palm oil, but only source RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil.
Dropps gets even better when you find out that they use carbon-neutral shipping (meaning they offset it 100%).
home/bestowed-essentials-zero-waste-laundry-powder-64-loads/?ref=sustainablejunglel” target=”_blank” rel=”noreferrer noopener nofollow” class=”rank-math-link”>Bestowed Essential’s laundry powder uses hypoallergenic, safe, and natural clothes washing magic that has a much lower carbon footprint than most laundry detergents.
It’s palm oil free, vegan, and cruelty-free, too.
When it comes to eco-friendly packaging, Bestowed Essentials is supreme! Their laundry powder comes in a 3 lb compostable bag made from recycled paper and a plant-based liner.
Even better, customers can also go the bulk laundry detergent zero waste route by ordering a 40 lb bulk option that comes in a reused and reusable plastic pail. When it’s empty, send it back, use it as an upcycled planter for your apartment garden, or as a pre-composting kitchen scrap collector.
Bestowed Essentials started as an Etsy shop in 2017 and has since then taken over the world of eco-friendly cleaning and personal care products. They’re made up of an all-female team dedicated to helping the planet in all that they do.
Bestowed Essentials really cares about their team—they provide flexible work hours, living wages, and unlimited time off for mental health. They also pay employees for 2-4 hours of volunteering every month!
To make their personal care and zero waste cleaning products, they partner with eco-friendly companies that share the same vision for a healthy and sustainable planet. They also order most things in bulk to minimize the packaging and emissions associated with the purchase of their materials.
They offer as many unpackaged products as possible and use recycled, compostable, and reusable materials for everything else.
They also go above and beyond with their retail store, Hippie Haven Shop (and podcast of the same name!), which serves as both a store and a community space. Here, they have educational workshops, a free library, a recycling center, and a space for small business pop-ups. And they’ll soon be doing more by launching their Zero Waste Business Alliance!
Available: home/bestowed-essentials-zero-waste-laundry-powder-64-loads/?ref=sustainablejunglel” target=”_blank” rel=”noreferrer noopener nofollow” class=”rank-math-link”>EarthHero
But considering our other zero waste beauty guides that’s pretty standard for Ethique.
Made with 100% biodegradable ingredients and pure essential oils, the bar smells beautiful and lasts way longer than you’d think. And another benefit of a bar, is that it comes with minimal packaging—just an easily recyclable or compostable cardboard sleeve.
The general consensus of converts is how well this product works, especially at removing stains and even making whites brighter. And who doesn’t love the fact that it’s lasting longer than other laundry detergents?
While it can only be used to hand wash clothes, it’s great for traveling, camping, backpacking, or just washing hands or dishes. It’s not suitable for washing machines, but maybe we should all be using our washing machines a little less often, eh?
Ethique may have started in New Zealand a few years back, but now their plastic-free and natural products are found all over the world.
We’re big fans of their zero waste shampoo and zero waste deodorant. And we’ve also just uncovered their organic face wash.
Ethique ticks all the boxes when it comes to sustainability—their products are vegan, cruelty-free, non-toxic, and palm oil free. They also use thoughtful packaging (all products are in bar form!) and ethical sourcing.
Earlier this year, they launched a plastic-free warehouse in the US. Plus they’re a certified B-Corp and unlike most other zero waste brands are certified climate neutral!
Not only do they offset their carbon emissions, but they also contribute to charity projects each year. In 2020, they partnered with Offset Earth and made a commitment to plant one tree for every order placed. They also launched a Super Soap Project to donate soap to vulnerable communities.
Before you think it can’t get any better, here’s what they have to say about their future direction: “So far we’ve saved over 8 million plastic bottles from entering landfill, and we’re just getting started: our next goal is 50 million by 2025.”
If you’re looking for natural and environmentally friendly laundry detergent, sometimes less is more—and with Eco Nuts, this is definitely the case.
While they do have a liquid version, we’re going nuts over their soap nuts!
Soap nuts (or soap berries) come from a tree that grows in the Himalayas. When agitated in water, they produce saponin, non-synthetic and biodegradable surfactant (which is what allows laundry soap to clean otherwise water repellent oils from your clothes).
The soap berries come in a plastic-free cardboard box that’s easily recyclable and Eco Nuts also offers bulk sizing to lessen shipping frequency and minimize environmental impact.
Eco Nuts started in 2009, though admittedly soap nuts are still so underrated a decade later.
They produce a variety of other organic and natural cleaning products in Earth-friendly packaging. None of which contain any chemical residues, harsh odors, or fake filler ingredients.
If you’re looking for variety, Meliora provides a vegan and plastic free laundry detergent for every scent preference and cleaning need – from unscented to lavender, lemon, lemon lavender clove and more (all derived naturally from Certified Organic essential oils).
They also carry a home/meliora-natural-laundry-stain-stick/?ref=sustainablejunglel” target=”_blank” rel=”noreferrer noopener nofollow” class=”rank-math-link”>stain removing soap stick to lighten up your whites.
All their laundry products are vegan, cruelty-free, and MADE SAFE Certified. They also come in a plastic-free and reusable canister.
Meliora Means Better—and they’re achieving this by making products that are better for people and the planet. They make several different home and body care products, and even have a plastic-free collection, making them a great zero waste online store.
Meliora is certified by B Corp and Leaping Bunny. They’re also women-owned, provide living wages, use low-impact products and packaging, and give back a percentage of profits through partnerships with 1% For the Planet and Women’s Voices for the Earth.
Environmental sustainability and transparency are embedded in every step of their production process—so much so that you can arrange an appointment to have a tour of their Chicago factory!
When it comes to zero waste laundry detergent powder we’re feeling pretty sudsy over Shower Treat Soap.
It’s made from scratch, and they only do so with ingredients that are safe enough for the whole family. This includes just cold process soap, Borax (sodium borate), essential oil, and sodium carbonate. For those who feel a little iffy about the Borax (or live in Europe where it’s banned), they have an even better Borax-free formula.
Their zero waste laundry detergent comes in a fully home compostable, biodegradable package. You can also buy it in a larger bulk size to reduce how often you need to order (and how many shipping emissions you’ll be responsible for). They don’t even include a plastic scoop unless specifically requested.
Reviewers are in love with how good the detergent smells, how great it works, and how awesome the zero waste packaging is!
The only downside is that their essentials oils are sourced from other unknown countries which may include China (who test on animals). While Shower Treat themselves would never test on animals, they technically can’t guarantee everything is cruelty free. Perhaps you can request an essential oil-free version to be safe!
Shower Treat Soap is a small family soap business based in Portage, Michigan, and this power family has been handcrafting soaps and body care items since 1997.
While not all their products are zero waste (some come in plastic bags), they do offer plenty of zero waste products to satisfy all the zero waste needs of folks like us.
All ingredients except their essential oils are sourced in the USA and most products are palm oil free and vegan. The only exceptions are some bars which contain RSPO-certified palm and 2 goat milk soap bars made from the milk of their friend’s own well cared-for goats (and only when there is extra).
Plus, since they sell mainly on Etsy (and local farmer’s markets), you can order from a platform that offsets 100% of their shiping carbon emissions.
Etsy also partners with 3Degrees to support a variety of environmental projects—all without charging buyers or sellers a single penny! So shopping here benefits small business AND the environment!
Just place one of these premeasured laundry detergent strip papers in the wash, set your cycle, and walk away.
Aside from no measuring or wasted laundry room space, these strips have no palm oil, gluten, SLS/SLES, parabens, phosphates, added dyes, chlorine bleach, 1,4-dioxane (certified by labs), or animal-based ingredients.
Instead, they contain a dermatologist-certified hypoallergenic formulation using soy vegetable glycerin (for natural softening), plant starch, a coconut oil-based foam booster, and mineral and essential oils. They even contain a water softener that’s plant derived, food grade, and biodegradable so folks with hard water can still reap the benefits.
They do not tolerate testing on animals by either themselves or their ingredient suppliers.
Available in either fresh linen scent and fragrance-free, these OECD 310D-certified biodegradable papers are suitable for all washing machines, including HE.
“If it’s so eco-friendly, how the heck does it get my clothes clean?”
If you share this opinion by former skeptic and Tru Earth co-founder, let this brand change your mind. It’s designed to “seek out and dislodges dirt molecules and stains, keeping them in suspension until they are rinsed away.”
All in a tiny, paper strip manufactured in Canada.
Aside from reducing your carbon footprint at home, they reduce your carbon footprint before it even gets to you. Since these strips weight only 3 grams, they’re 94% lighter than traditional laundry detergent.
The brand has calculated that if everyone switched to Tru Earth Eco-Strips, the yearly savings would amount to saving 700 million plastic jugs from hitting the landfills and taking 27 million cars off the road (that’s the equivalent of planting 9 million trees!).
Dr. Bronner’s doesn’t sell laundry detergent per se, but their 18-in-1 liquid castile soap, is a shampoo, soap, organic body wash, dish soap, and laundry detergent (and 13 other things…).
If you’re looking to truly minimize all your home and personal cleaning, Dr. Bronner’s is the best there is.
Just mix ⅓ to ½ cup ofthe soap with ½ cup of vinegar (or divide this recipe in half for HE washing machines) it makes a natural and effective laundry soap. It’s kind of like a homemade zero waste laundry detergent, but without all the work that goes into responsible ingredient sourcing and mixing.
Now we know that Dr. Bronner’s does come in a plastic bottle so whether it’s zero waste is debatable. But the fact that it can be used for a variety of purposes means that it still greatly reduces the amount of packaging that purchasing different products (i.e shampoo, body wash, dish soap, etc.) would require. Plus,it’s so concentrated that one of these bottles will last you a long time.
Plus, many local zero waste shops, organic grocery stores (like many Whole Foods), and health food stores sell bulk refills of Dr. Bronner’s, meaning you can refill the same bottle again and again.
If you’ve ever read the Dr. Bronner’s book (ahem, label), you’ll know that there are “cosmic principles” that drive everything the brand does. These include themselves, their customers, their employees, their suppliers, their earth, and their community.
Dr. Bronner was started by Emanuel Bronner in the 1960s, amidst the beginnings of the organic and fair trade movement. Ever since then, they’ve been using the purest organic and fair trade ingredients. After all, any product that can be used to wash your clothes AND brush your teeth must be made of some seriously cosmic stuff.
Don’t take our word for it, look at their credentials. Their products are Regenerative Organic Certified, USDA Certified, home” target=”_blank” aria-label=” (opens in a new tab)” rel=”noreferrer noopener” class=”rank-math-link”>Fair for Life Certified, Oregon Tilth Certified Organic, NSF Certified, Leaping Bunny Certified, OK Kosher Certified, and Non-GMO Project Verified. And they’re a Certified B-Corp.
They use equitable supply chains, fair trade sourcing, renewable organic agriculture practices, renewable energy, and 100% post-consumer recycled plastic packaging. In house, they also offer 100% free health care for all employees, a cap on executive salaries, and profit sharing for full-time employees.
We could go on, but Dr. Bronner’s gives back in too many ways to count.
*Note: We have attempted to confirm the policies directly with this brand with no response to date
Laundry detergent… in a paper strip? Yeah, we found it hard to believe, too.
Well Earth Goods combines hypoallergenic ingredients with eco-friendly cleansing power in a pre-measured strip of detergent—without the bottle. And they’re super versatile, for use in either a washing machine or for hand laundering your clothes.
For anyone with sensitive skin, rest easy knowing these hypoallergenic strips are fragrance-free, paraben-free, chlorine bleach-free, 1,4-dioxane-free, and vegan.
For stubborn stains, they also sell a zero waste laundry stain stick wrapped in some compostable kraft paper.
Well Earth Goods went with a strip instead of a bottle because of its light-weight cleaning power. With reduced weight from no liquid or bottle comes reduced transportation costs and a 94% reduction in carbon emissions generated by shipping.
Plus, the envelope packaging is both recycled and recyclable/compostable.
Well Earth Goods takes their love for zero waste even further by offering a complete range of zero waste store products. This includes things like reusable silicone storage bags, NotPaper towels, and zero waste dish soap. They’re a one-stop-shop for all things eco friendly!
Based in Oregon, USA, their mission statement says it all: “Our goal is to partner with you and bring change to an issue that has become a worldwide epidemic, while simultaneously becoming better stewards of this beautiful planet we have been given.”
Attention all Australian readers: Zero Co. is launching in October 2020! Customers can sign up to receive single-use plastic free deliveries of their incredible personal-care and home-cleaning products.
Zero waste laundry detergent is one of them, which will aim to help customers “take a load off mother earth”. Plus, it’s sure to smell delicious as it contains Lemon Myrtle and Australian Grey Gum.
We actually interviewed the founder Mike Smith on our Podcast and he’s the real deal.
All packaging is made from recycled materials (like plastic found in the ocean) and can be sent back to be refilled!
All products (including their liquid laundry detergent) are vegan, cruelty-free, plant-based, free of palm oil, grey water safe and made in Australia. They end up being cheaper than what you’d get at the supermarket and feature some of the most natural ingredients.
We’re pretty excited to order some of this zero waste laundry detergent refill soon!
Available: Zero Co.
Did you know that most laundry liquids contain up to 90% water? Not Happi.Earth!
Without the unnecessary water, each pack of zero waste laundry liquid comes ultra-concentrated with only essential (and safer) ingredients and less plastic, considering it comes in kraft paper refill pouches.
Speaking of safe ingredients, all of the ingredients in Happi.Earth are Certified Organic—no nasties or GMOs. With organic eucalyptus and orange essential oils, you’ll be bound to smell great too (naturally!). Pssssst, this is one of the brands on this list that is palm oil free.
When it comes to zero waste liquid laundry detergent, the best option is probably refill and reuse—and that’s what you’ll get with Happi.Earth. Not only are their unique packages made with kraft paper that are BPA-free, but they can also be sent back “hassle-free” for reuse.
Each refill pouch replaces 13 plastic bottles of laundry detergent and each one can be used over and over again, meaning smell-good clothes and less plastic pollution for our oceans!
The actual bottle is made with stainless steel (which will last a long time and can be recycled eventually) and the boxes are packed with potato starch instead of polystyrene peanuts. Just chuck the potato starch in the garden and let it compost!
Not only are you saving plastic when you wash with Happi.Earth, but the brand plants one mangrove tree for every purchase. These trees are great at carbon sequestration (removing carbon dioxide from our atmosphere), and provide perfect breeding areas for marine animals.
If you’re a zero waste hero or well into your eco-friendly journey, you might want to take the next step and make your own laundry detergent. There are few better ways to really control what goes into the products you use and reduce waste. Here are a few of our favorite recipes:
- Homemade Powder Detergent from Wasteland Rebel: Combining solid castile soap with baking soda and washing soda is so easy it can be done in just seven minutes. Just grate the bar of castile soap into flakes and combined with other ingredients before adding it to the washer—it’s really that simple!
- Natural Laundry Detergent from Tom’s: Tom’s of Maine (a natural product brand) has come up with a similar recipe that also includes epsom salt and powdered citric acid. The process is similar, too. Just combine castile soap shavings with the other ingredients, mix in a blender, and you’re good to go! This works great as a zero waste recipe for cold laundry detergent too!
A zero waste laundry room means more than just eco friendly laundry detergent. Here are some of the best zero waste laundry accessories to help you in your quest for clean clothes and a happy planet.
- DRYER BALLS: If you want soft, fluffy, and static-free clothes, chuck in a dryer ball with your next load. Say buh-bye to all of the waste that comes with a new dryer sheet for every load. These ones from Harmony Heritage Farm (along with tons of others on Etsy) are made from 100% organic wool.
- GUPPYFRIEND: Did you know that every time you wash your synthetic clothes, small plastic pieces (microfibers) are released and end up in apparel-oceans” target=”_blank” class=”rank-math-link”>waterways (and therefore in fish and the humans that eat the fish)? Yikes. Fortunately, that’s what Guppyfriend wash bags are for; they trap all of the microplastics so that you can dispose of them properly. You can find them from a number of sustainable fashion brands, like Reformation.
- LINT BRUSHES: How annoying is lint? Fortunately, you can get rid of it in a way that doesn’t damage the environment. That’s why we like the handcrafted lint brush from Earth Hero—there’s no plastic here. It’s made from sustainably sourced rubber bristles and sustainably harvested beechwood. You can find other similar reusable ones on Etsy too.
Obviously “Thoughtful Packaging” is a crucial consideration in our zero waste guides. For us, zero waste laundry detergent generally means plastic free laundry detergent. Naked bars, compostable paper sacks, reusable glass, and recyclable metal containers are obvious first choices.
However, while we prioritize plastic-free brands, we don’t necessarily discount one for using a little bit of plastic packaging, so long as they offer a take-back / refill program (ideally from a bulk online store to reduce emissions) and do their best to ensure a little plastic from them will replace a whole lot. Dr. Bronner’s is a good example here.
Packaging isn’t the only thing we look for when seeking out these brands. Here are some other considerations:
- Non-toxic: When it comes to the ingredients, we look for brands using natural and non-toxic ingredients (ideally organic) organic materials. Ticking such criteria means the soap will be biodegradable, completely breaking down into water, CO2, and biomass in under a year. It’s especially important that sustainable laundry soaps are made with natural, biodegradable materials, rather than detergents.
- Detergents, by definition, are synthetic phosphate-rich substances that are NOT biodegradable. Meaning every time you wash your clothes, a lot of nasty surfactants are being dumped into the world’s sewage systems, where it can then slowly leach into the environment.
- This harms septic systems, sometimes pollutes drinking water, causes death and disease to fish and other aquatic life, and leads to eutrophication in natural waterways. Which is the overabundance of phosphorus (hence the phosphates in detergents) and leads to overgrowth of science/article/abs/pii/0043135484902240″ target=”_blank”>aquatic plants like algae leaving oxygen-depleted “dead zones”.And because 50% to 75% of phosphorus in lakes and rivers is now detergent-derived, we’re basically expediting the natural eutrophication process from thousands of years, to just decades.
- And because 50% to 75% of phosphorus in lakes and rivers is now detergent-derived, we’re basically expediting the natural eutrophication process from thousands of years, to just decades.
- Vegan: Because animals don’t belong in your clothes, let alone in the stuff used to clean them.
- Cruelty-free: No animal testing! Even if a product doesn’t have any animal byproducts, we need to make sure it doesn’t fall into the gap between vegan and cruelty free.
- Palm oil free: Palm oil is one of the most environmentally devastating crops; to see why, we strongly recommend you read our other article on the matter. That’s why being palm oil free (as well as free of its derivatives) is critical. And if they aren’t totally palm oil free, they must at least use RSPO certified palm.
- Ethical sourcing/manufacturing: We look at how brands source their materials, what other organizations they work with, and what they do to make their manufacturing process as green as possible. Brands who used carbon offsets got bonus points!
- We also checked in on what brands were doing in terms of fairness. Did they ensure fair and safe working conditions? Did they pay living wages? Did they provide added benefits like free health insurance?
Lastly, while not a necessity here, we also consider what brands are doing to give back. A lot of the smaller ones don’t have the capacity which is more than fair, however, we are always super impressed by any who do have a charitable program or initiative for social or environmental good.
Before you hit the start button, think for a second. For a lot of us, washing our clothes is a (mostly) thoughtless process. But in fact, it’s a routine that, with just a few small tweaks, can become zero waste and environmentally friendly.
We hope that by reading this article you realize that even small changes make the biggest impact.
Now it’s time to pair your eco-friendly laundry soap with other sustainable washing habits, like washing with cold water and using the most natural dryer of all. The sun of course! Which is a hugely impactful change, because clothes dryers use a ton of energy and are the single biggest source of wear-and-tear on your clothes.
What does your sustainablesuds and bubbles process look like? Do you use any of these brands or are there some that we’re missing? If you’ve got a DIY laundry detergent recipe, let us know in the comments!