This post will review the best non toxic laundry detergents that are not only good for your health but actually work well too! Here you will find eco-friendly, plant based, natural, and organic laundry detergents including liquids, powders, strips and pods.
Laundry. One of those things that we all have to do. Cleaning your clothes, towels, cloths etc is important to keep them looking beautiful and fresh, but it's also important to remove stains, smells and odours, marks, sweat and dirt. Because of that, you want a laundry detergent that works well and is effective. And because your clothing touches your skin all day, you also want to use a laundry detergent that is safe, non toxic and non irritating.
Unfortunately, the personal care and cleaning industries are poorly regulated when it comes to harmful ingredients. There are many ingredients that can be used in laundry detergents that can be dangerous to health, including ingredients which are allergens, respiratory irritants, carcinogens and more. Hormone disruptors or endocrine disruptors can also commonly be found in laundry detergents. For these reasons, you want to be careful when buying laundry detergent, and only choose brands that use safe and healthy ingredients (for further reading on this topic please see the reference section at the end of this post).
Fortunately, in recent years more and more brands are starting to formulate with safer ingredients, so it is becoming easier to find safe and effective laundry detergents. You no longer have to shop at specialty stores to find non toxic laundry detergents, as most drug stores, department stores and grocery stores now carry safe options. You can now find safe and effective laundry detergents that come in scented and unscented options, as well as products that are safe for babies, kids and pets.
In this post I will review the best non toxic laundry detergents, and provide you with many different options including laundry detergent liquids, powders, strips and pods.
The Best Non Toxic Liquid Laundry Detergents
Aspen Clean Laundry Detergent
Aspen Clean is one of my favourite non toxic cleaning companies and their liquid laundry detergent is an amazing product. Not only does it work really well but it's formulated with natural ingredients. The Aspen Clean Laundry Detergent is eco-friendly, EWG verified, made with organic scents, or no scent at all, is artificial fragrance free, hypoallergenic and baby safe.
Attitude Laundry Detergent
Attitude Laundry Detergent uses plant based and mineral based ingredients to help clean clothes naturally. It is made with natural ingredients like green tea extract and their gentle formula is great for sensitive skin. Attitude laundry detergent is made without dyes, optical brighteners or artificial fragrances and is vegan and cruelty free. It is also ECOLOGO certified, meaning it is sustainable and biodegradable as well as EWG verified.
Better Life Concentrated Laundry Detergent
Better Life Concentrated Laundry Detergent is a great non toxic laundry detergent option which is plant based, sulfate free, biodegradable and uses 100% plant-derived cleaning agents and scents. It is safe for HE and standard washing machines and is great at removing dirt and grime from clothing. It comes in unscented and lavender grapefruit.
Common Good Laundry Detergent
The Common Good laundry detergent uses plant derived enzymes and is great for those with sensitive skin and babies. It is Leaping Bunny certified, biodegradable and made in the USA.
Dapple Baby Laundry Detergent
Dapple Baby Laundry Detergent is a non toxic laundry detergent formulated specifically for baby's and their extra delicate and sensitive skin. Dabble Baby laundry detergent is hypoallergenic, dermatologist tested and paediatrician recommended. This laundry detergent is safe for HE laundry machines and standard washing machines and uses an award winning formula.
Defunkify Liquid Laundry Detergent
Defunkify Liquid Laundry Detergent is low sudsing for HE machines and is formulated for cold water performance. It comes in unscented or scented options, but they only use essential oils to scent their products so they are artificial fragrance free. Defunkify liquid laundry detergent is also formulated with ingredients that are approved by the EPA Safer Choice Program.
Dirty Labs Scent Free Laundry Detergent
The Dirty Labs Scent Free Laundry Detergent is another great non toxic option. It's EWG verified, cruelty-free, vegan, hypoallergenic, and safe for babies and pets. The Dirty Labs laundry detergent uses Phytolase, which is an advanced enzyme cleaning technology that targets stains and odors, while being extra gentle. The formula is concentrated, so you use less, and comes in a recyclable aluminum container.
GO by GreenShield Certified Organic Laundry Detergent
GO by Greenshield Organic Laundry Detergent is made with no harsh chemicals and is fragrance free. It is also safe for HE washing machines.
Hello Bello Concentrated Laundry Detergent
Hello Bello Concentrated Laundry Detergent is made with organic soap berries and botanical extracts, and is a plant based laundry detergent that is tough on stains and gentle on fabrics. This laundry detergent is made without artificial fragrances, dyes, optical brighteners, phosphates, phthalates and petrochemicals. It's also a gentle formula that is great for kids and babies sensitive skin.
9 Elements Natural Laundry Detergent
9 Elements Natural Laundry Detergent is formulated with vinegar to help get clothing extra clean, but don't worry, your clothes won't end up smelling like vinegar. They use minimal ingredients (never more than 9 ingredients) and use no artificial preservatives, dyes, thickeners, or brighteners and is gentle on sensitive skin. The 9 Elements laundry detergent is also safely scented with essential oils and has the EPA Safer Choice label.
The Best Non Toxic Laundry Detergent Powders
Country Save Laundry Detergent
The Country Save Laundry Detergent Powder is a great alternative to powdered Tide. This laundry detergent is made with biodegradable surfactants, making it an eco friendly option that works well in both soft water and hard water. Country Save laundry detergent is all natural, fragrance free and dye free, making it safe for babies and those with sensitive skin. It removes tough stains without harsh chemicals so there is no need for additional fabric softeners. This laundry detergent powder is also EPA certified.
Earthley Wellness Laundry Detergent
Earthley Wellness Laundry Detergent is an all natural, safe and gentle and effective laundry detergent. It uses plant based ingredients and is scented with essential oils. The Earthley Wellness Laundry Detergent is septic safe, and safe for HE washers.
Good Natured Brand Laundry Soda
Good Natured Brand Laundry Soda is both effective and gentle and uses salt based minerals to help gets clothes clean and fresh. Good Natured Brand is a woman founded company and their products are made in the USA. This laundry soda is also pet friendly and safe for kids.
Molly's Suds Unscented Laundry Detergent Powder
Molly's Suds Unscented Laundry Detergent Powder is made with natural, sustainable ingredients and is safe for use in all washing machines. This laundry powder is made in the USA with plant and earth-based ingredients that are peanut free, vegan, and certified cruelty-free. Molly's Laundry Detergent Powder is septic and grey water safe, and soil tested.
Nellie's Laundry Soda
Nellie's Laundry Soda is made with just a few simple ingredients and is free from SLS, SLES, gluten, phosphates, fragrance and chlorine. This laundry powder is a great safe alternative to powdered Tide.
Defunkify Powder Laundry Detergent
Defunkify Powder Laundry Detergent is a powerful laundry detergent powder that is great for removing stink and odor from clothing and fabrics. This laundry detergent powder has no fragrance, no dyes, and no fillers. The Defunkify laundry detergent powder is made with ingredients approved by the EPA Safer Choice Program to ensure industry-leading safety.
The Best Non Toxic Laundry Detergent Tablets and Pods
Aspen Clean Laundry Detergent Pods
Aspen Clean Laundry Detergent Pods are a great option that is plastic free and made from safe, non toxic ingredients. Aspen Clean is a Canadian company and their cleaning products are some of my favourite. This laundry detergent is EWG verified, and comes in unscented, as well as naturally scented options including lavender and eucalyptus.
Dropps Laundry Detergent Pods
Dropps Laundry Detergent Pods are great if you are trying to decrease your environmental impact. These pods come in low waste packaging and are plastic free. This laundry detergent is made in the USA, with powerful, sustainable, plant-based ingredients. Dropps laundry pods are free from synthetic fragrances, dyes, enzymes, optical brighteners, parabens, phosphates, and pthlalates.
Grab Green 3-in-1 Laundry Detergent Pods
Grab Green 3-in-1 Laundry Detergent Pods are free of any optical brighteners, chlorine or dyes, and these pods work on all water temperatures in standard and HE machines. These laundry pods are septic safe and made from naturally derived plant and mineral based ingredients to ensure the best clean with no phosphates, phthalates, chlorine, toxins, dyes or masking agents. They are also cruelty-free, never tested on animals and made in the USA.
Seventh Generation Ultra Power Plus Laundry Detergent Packs
Seventh Generation Ultra Power Plus Laundry Detergent Packs are made without synthetic fragrances, dyes or artificial brighteners. These laundry packs are an EPA Safer Choice Certified Product, and a USDA Certified Bio based Product. They are fast dissolving and also work really well to get your laundry clean and fresh.
The Best Non Toxic Laundry Detergent Strips
Lazy Coconuts Laundry Detergent Strips
The Lazy Coconuts Laundry Detergent Strips are a great option for getting your laundry clean, and also reducing your environmental impact. There is no waste with these strips and absolutely no plastic. These are also great for travelling. The are made without parabens, phthalates, artificial fragrances, bleach, phosphate. These laundry strips are also vegan, biodegradable and hypoallergenic.
Nature Clean Laundry Detergent Sheets
The Nature Clean Laundry Detergent Sheets are plastic free and great for the environment and travelling. These non-toxic laundry strips are hypoallergenic, and are free from phosphates, 1,4 dioxane, parabens, chlorine, and dyes. They are safe for newborn and infants. These laundry sheets remove tough stains, whiten whites and brighten colors. They also works in standard and HE machines.
Ingredients to avoid in laundry detergents:
If you are reading labels on laundry detergents and trying to determine which ingredients can be potentially harmful to health, here is a list of ingredients to watch for and avoid. For further reading and more information on these ingredients please refer to the articles in the reference list at the end of this post.
The problem with fragrances is that they are considered to be trade secrets (this applies to fragrances used in any industry – whether it be laundry detergents, air fresheners, candles, shampoos, body washes, deodorant etc). This means that a company doesn’t have to disclose the ingredients used to make that fragrance. The problem with this is that some of the ingredients used in fragrances can be carcinogens, hormone disruptors, allergens, airway irritants, neurological-toxins and ingredients linked to infertility.
One of the ingredient classes commonly used in fragrances that can be bad for our health are phthalates. Phthalates are used to help fragrances last longer. Unfortunately, phthalates can be hormone disruptors that are linked to infertility, weight gain, lowering the IQ of children, and cancers.
As well, according to the Environmental Working Group, 95% of chemicals used in synthetic fragrances are derived from petroleum and include benzene derivatives, such as toluene, which is known to cause urothelial or bladder cancer. Phthalates in fragrances have also been linked to bladder cancer.
To avoid fragrances in products look for the words "fragrance", "perfume" or "parfume" on the product ingredient list.
1,4-dioxane is not supposed to be used in laundry detergents. But unfortunately, studies have found it to be present in many laundry detergents. When cleaning products and detergents are made using a process called ethoxylation, 1,4-dioxane is created as a byproduct. Since it is a byproduct of ethylene oxide reacting with other ingredients, 1,4-dioxane is considered to be a contaminant and doesn't have to be included on product labels, so unfortunately, even if you are reading labels carefully, you won't see this ingredient listed.
When it comes to health issues, 1,4-dioxane is a known carcinogen and is also known to cause liver disease, kidney disease and respiratory problems.
Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs)
Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs for short) are chemicals that are widely used as surfactants in detergents. Unfortunately, they are known hormone disruptors, or endocrine disrupting chemicals, and mimic estrogen in the body. They can cause hormone problems, nervous system problems, immune system problems, obesity, allergies and breast cancer. They are also known to increase the toxicity of other endocrine disrupting chemicals and they are harmful to marine and aquatic life.
Surfactants are used widely in laundry detergents because they help the products clean your clothes more effectively. Unfortunately, not all surfactants are created equally and some have concerning health risks. There are 3 types of surfactants on the market:
These are derived from vegetable or animal fats and are the safest for our health.
Naturally derived surfactants
Naturally derived surfactants are made by modifying coconut oil or other plant-based fatty acids. Unfortunately, even though they are naturally derived they do have potential health risks. Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS) are naturally derived surfactants that can be eye irritants and skin irritants. While these are generally pretty mild health concerns, another concern regarding these chemicals is that they are known to be toxic to aquatic life. So while the human health concerns are pretty mild, their toxicity and harm to other animals and species must also be considered.
Synthetic or petroleum based surfactants
Synthetic surfactants have potential health effects and their potential for contamination with other harmful ingredients is higher. One examples of a synthetic surfactant is Ammonium Laureth Sulfate (ALES). Ammonium Laureth Sulfate can be an irritant to the skin, and eyes, but of even greater concern is that it is easily contaminated with ethylene oxide during the ethoxylation process, which leads to the creation of 1,4-dioxane, and as we previously discussed, 1,4-dioxane is a known carcinogen.
Polyethylene glycol (PEG) is another synthetic surfactant that can be an allergen to some people, and while for most people this should not be an issue, the other concerns with PEGs is that depending on the manufacturing process, they may become contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. Unfortunately, current labelling rules do not require brands to test for or disclose this contamination information so it would be very difficult for you to find out if the PEGs used in a product are contaminated or not.
Phosphates are known to be toxic to aquatic life and harmful to the environment. There is less information regarding their potential toxicity in humans, but there is some evidence linking them to heart disease and osteoporosis.
Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs)
Ammonium quaternary compounds (also known as quats or QACs) are used as sanitizing and antibacterial agents in many different industries, including in laundry detergents. The problem with QACs is that they are toxic to many aquatic organisms including fish, daphnids, algae, rotifer and the microorganisms used in wastewater treatment systems. Antibiotic resistance has also emerged in microorganisms due to excessive use of QACs in household and industrial applications. Animal studies have also shown QACs to cause mitochondrial dysfunction, decreased fertility, skin irritation, weight loss and lung problems if inhaled.
Benzyl acetate is used as a flavoring agent in foods, as a fragrance in soaps, perfumes and detergents, as a solvent for cellulose acetate and nitrate, and as a component of printing inks and varnish removers. Animals studies have shown this chemical to cause cancer, reproductive toxicity as well as damage to the brain, liver, kidneys, tongue and skeletal muscles if ingested. Human studies have shown it to be a skin irritant and unfortunately topical application of benzyl acetate leads to absorption of this chemical through the skin.
Formaldehyde and Quaternium-15
Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen that toxic to both humans and animals. Some companies add formaldehyde directly to their products, while others add Quaternium-15 which is a preservative that releases formaldehyde into the product.
Artificial colours, preservatives and dyes
Some companies will add artificial colors to their laundry detergent to give them a pretty color. Unfortunately, artificial colors and dyes are linked to behavioural issues and ADHD while artificial preservatives, like BHT and BHA, may be carcinogenic or endocrine disruptors.
Frequently asked questions:
Tide powdered laundry detergent is not considered to be a non toxic laundry detergent. The original powdered Tide formula is made with ingredients that can be unsafe and harmful to health including sodium polyacrylate, PEG-75, fragrance, and disodium diaminostilbene disulfonate, just to name a few.
Arm & Hammer powdered and liquid laundry detergents would not be considered to be safe or non toxic. They contain a number of ingredients which can be harmful to health including fragrances, polyacrylic acid, sodium alkyl aryl ether sulphates, alcohol ethoxylates (C12-15), and sodium tripolyphosphate, just to name a few.
Other health info you will like:
- The best non toxic toothpastes
- The best non toxic body lotions
- The best non toxic body washes
- Are candles toxic?
- Is there mercury in your mascara?
- How to choose a safe deodorant
- How to choose a safe sunscreen
- Epigenetic alterations induced by genotoxic occupational and environmental human chemical carcinogens: A systematic literature review.
- Fragrance: emerging health and environmental concerns.
- Environmental Determinants of Chronic Disease and Medical Approaches: Recognition, Avoidance, Supportive Therapy, and Detoxification.
- Inhibition of Polyisoprenylated Methylated Protein Methyl Esterase by Synthetic Musks Induces Cell Degeneration.
- Determination of 1,4-Dioxane in Household Detergents and Cleaners
- Advances in bioremediation of 1,4-dioxane-contaminated waters
- Binary mixtures of alcohol ethoxylates, nonylphenol ethoxylates and pesticides exhibit comparative bioactivity against three pests and toxicological risks to aquatic organisms
- Fact Sheet: Nonylphenols and Nonylphenol Ethoxylates
- Toxicity of nonylphenol and nonylphenol ethoxylate on Caenorhabditis elegans
- Human and Environmental Toxicity of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): Evidence for Safe Use in Household Cleaning Products
- Final report of the amended safety assessment of sodium laureth sulfate and related salts of sulfated ethoxylated alcohols
- What is ammonium laureth sulfate?
- Clinical manifestations and impact on daily life of allergy to polyethylene glycol (PEG) in ten patients
- Technical Fact Sheet – 1,4-Dioxane
- Toxicological Profile for 1,4-Dioxane
- EPA Phosphorus Review
- Aquatic Toxicity Assessment of Phosphate Compounds
- Substitutes for phosphate containing washing products: Their toxicity and biodegradability in the aquatic environment
- The Quaternary Ammonium Compounds in Sanitization
- Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs): A review on occurrence, fate and toxicity in the environment
- Human health hazard assessment of quaternary ammonium compounds: Didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride and alkyl (C12-C16) dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride
- NTP Toxicology and Carcinogenesis Studies of Benzyl Acetate (CAS No. 140-11-4) in F344/N Rats and B6C3F1 Mice Feed Studies)
- Formaldehyde Toxicity—New Understanding
- What is quaternium-15 and where is it found?