Are you struggling with the environmental guilt that comes with every load of laundry? The harsh chemicals, the plastic waste, the energy consumption – it all adds up, doesn’t it?
Well, I get it.
If we’re serious about living more sustainably and having a cleaner, greener planet, every choice we make matters – even the ones we make in our laundry rooms.
Traditional laundry detergents can be pretty rough on the environment. They’re full of chemicals that significantly harm our waterways and ecosystems once washed down our drains.
Because of this, I made it a personal mission of mine to find the most eco-friendly alternatives to traditional laundry detergents.
I wasn’t just looking for something that would get the stains out of my family’s shirts. I wanted to find detergents that couldn’t potentially harm our skin, empty our wallets, or hurt our planet.
Long story short, my search was successful! During this time, I discovered eco-friendly detergents that not only do a fantastic job on dirty laundry but were also easy to find. I could even make some of these at home with natural, everyday ingredients.
These alternatives actually surprised me with how well they worked. It’s just another example of how the simple act of trying something different can lead to unexpected results.
They’re the perfect answer to the problem I was wrestling with, helping my family tread more lightly on the earth, boosting the variety of life around us, and even improving our health by cutting down our exposure to nasty chemicals.
In this article, we’ll look at how these green laundry alternatives can help clean your clothes and your conscience at the same time.
We’ll discuss their benefits and compare them to their traditional detergent counterparts. We’ll also look at their ingredients, how you can make them at home, and their impact on the environment, a crucial aspect that led me to this quest.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I might get a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you choose to make a purchase through any of these links. Please read the full disclosure for more information.
Have you ever stopped to consider the impact your laundry routine has on the environment?
Standard laundry detergents are good at getting our clothes clean, but at what cost?
They often contain chemicals that aren’t friendly to our health or environment. Here are just a few of the most harmful chemicals found in laundry detergents:
- Dioxane: Dioxane is a carcinogen that has been linked to liver and kidney damage. Even low-level exposures over a lifetime can increase the chance of cancer.
- Synthetic Surfactants: Synthetic surfactants, such as alcohol ethoxylates and alkyl sulfates, are used to lift stains and dirt from fabrics. However, some surfactants can cause skin irritation and respiratory problems.
- Fragrances: Laundry detergents frequently include fragrances to give a fresh scent to your clothes. They can be complex mixtures of multiple chemicals, the specifics of which are often not disclosed by the manufacturers. The reason for this lack of transparency is that these fragrance formulas are considered trade secrets. Listing all ingredients on product labels is not mandatory by law, making it challenging for consumers to know what they’re exposed to.
Research by David W. Schindler and John R. Vallentyne revealed that when these substances get into our drain systems, they can over-enrich our waterways and trigger a process known as eutrophication. When this happens, it creates an excessive growth of algae, which depletes oxygen levels in the water, making it inhospitable for aquatic life.
But the damage isn’t just limited to oxygen depletion. These chemicals disrupt the water’s natural balance, altering water temperatures, increasing salinity, clouding the water, and even shifting its pH levels. These disturbances can destabilize the delicate balance of aquatic ecosystems and harm biodiversity within these habitats.
Furthermore, these chemicals can build up in the tissues of fish and other aquatic organisms, posing a risk when these fish are consumed by other wildlife or humans.
The environmental impact of these detergents extends beyond just water pollution. Their production often involves using non-renewable resources, leading to significant carbon emissions and contributing to climate change.
Additionally, these detergents are packaged in plastic bottles, adding to the environmental burden. The production and disposal of plastic significantly contributes to our ongoing pollution problem, as most plastic isn’t recycled and can take centuries to break down. This plastic pollution can harm wildlife that might ingest it or become entangled in it, whether they’re on land or in our oceans.
So, what makes a laundry detergent eco-friendly? These detergents are specifically formulated with the environment in mind, aiming to minimize their impact throughout their entire lifecycle. One of the key characteristics of these detergents is their biodegradability. This means they break down naturally in the environment and help mitigate water pollution problems.
Another important aspect is the absence of harmful chemicals. This is particularly beneficial for people with sensitive skin and allergies and in households with younger children and babies.
Most eco-friendly detergents stand out not only in their manufacturing but also in their packaging. They are often produced using sustainable manufacturing processes that minimize carbon emissions, contributing to a reduced carbon footprint. They’re designed to excel in low-temperature washing performance and produce low foam, enhancing their energy efficiency and reducing water consumption.
In addition to their sustainable production, most of these detergents also come in environmentally conscious and recyclable packaging, which significantly reduces waste and promotes a circular economy. Some brands go a step further by offering packaging designs that allow for quantitative dispensing, further reducing waste.
These combined characteristics play a significant role in defining a laundry detergent that is truly eco-friendly. They not only contribute to more sustainable laundry routines but also assist you in reducing your carbon footprint.
There are many environmentally friendly washing solutions out there that clean our clothes just as well as the traditional liquid detergents, but are much kinder to our planet.
These include natural options like soap nuts, innovative laundry options such as detergent sheets, detergents made from plants, and even DIY options to make your own detergent at home.
Each option comes with unique benefits, contributing to a more sustainable laundry routine. Let’s take a closer look at these eco-friendly laundry detergent alternatives.
1. Soap Nuts
Soap nuts are nature’s own detergent and have been used for centuries to clean clothes. They are natural berries harvested from the Sapindus Mukorossi tree, which is native to several parts of the world, including the tropical regions in India and Nepal.
The nuts contain saponins, a natural surfactant (as opposed to synthetic) that lifts stains and dirt from clothing when in contact with water, acting much like soap. They also act as great natural fabric softeners. These eco-friendly alternatives are not only effective but also hypoallergenic, making them an excellent choice for those with sensitive skin or allergies.
According to a study on the potential of soap nuts as an alternative to traditional laundry practices, it was determined that they have a low environmental impact, contributing to their growing popularity among eco-conscious consumers.
One of the most significant advantages of soap nuts is their sustainability. The harvesting process is environmentally friendly, and the soap nuts themselves are completely biodegradable, meaning they won’t contribute to landfill waste. Moreover, they are economical, as one batch of soap nuts can be used for multiple washes, making them a cost-effective choice for your laundry needs.
2. Laundry Detergent Sheets
Laundry detergent sheets provide another eco-friendly alternative to traditional laundry detergents. These sheets come pre-measured with the correct amount of detergent based on your load and can be simply tossed into the drum of your washing machine along with your clothes.
Made from biodegradable materials and free from harsh chemicals, they are safe for both the environment and those with sensitive skin or allergies.
In addition to being environmentally friendly, these chemical-free laundry sheets offer incredible convenience and a mess-free experience, eliminating the need to measure out powder or liquid detergents.
Their lightweight and compact nature takes up less space than traditional detergent containers, making them an excellent choice for those with smaller laundry rooms or for traveling.
The best part about these sheets is that if you’re in a pinch and need to wash a really small load, you can easily tear them into smaller strips. This not only makes them more economical but also a great zero-waste laundry detergent option.
3. Plant-based or Bio-based Detergents
These eco-friendly alternatives use plant-derived surfactants and enzymes to effectively clean clothes. The surfactants and enzymes work by breaking down stains and dirt, allowing them to be washed away more easily, much like nature’s way of dealing with dirt and grime.
Plant-based detergents often offer a gentler touch on both your skin and fabrics, making them another fantastic choice if you have sensitive skin or delicate clothes. Free from harsh chemicals, they are a refreshing change for those seeking to avoid adding any harmful substances to their wash.
One of the significant advantages of these detergents is their environmental impact. Because they use naturally-derived ingredients, they’re renewable and have a lower carbon footprint than petroleum-based detergents.
This means you can enjoy fresh, clean clothes without compromising your health or the environment. They’re just as effective at tackling stains and odors as their chemical-laden counterparts, proving that going green doesn’t mean sacrificing quality or effectiveness.
While there are plant-based options available that prioritize minimal packaging or use alternative packaging materials like cardboard or glass, not all plant-based detergent brands follow this approach.
Some brands still use plastic bottles for their plant-based laundry detergents so it’s important to read product labels or do research on specific brands to determine the packaging materials used for their plant-based detergents.
4. DIY Laundry Detergent Powder
Crafting your own homemade detergent is not only a green alternative but also a surprisingly straightforward and cost-effective method. This is an excellent way to lessen your environmental impact, take control of the ingredients you’re using, and save some money. Plus, it still leaves your clothes clean and smelling fresh.
If you’d like to try making your own, here’s a simple step-by-step guide to making your own eco-friendly and chemical-free laundry detergent using natural and gentle ingredients, including baking soda, kaolin powder, wheat flour, salt, and green tea powder. Each ingredient plays a crucial role in the cleaning process, and together they make an efficient and natural laundry powder.
DIY Homemade Laundry Detergent Ingredients:
- Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) powder (1.5 cups): Baking soda is a natural abrasive that gently removes dirt and stains from clothes. It neutralizes odors and acts as a natural fabric softener, making it a green alternative to harsh chemical detergents.
- Kaolin powder (3 tablespoons): This type of clay is gentle on fabrics and aids in removing dirt and stains. It also has a natural whitening effect, making it a great addition to laundry detergent.
- Wheat flour (1/3 cup): Wheat flour, another natural and gentle abrasive, helps to remove dirt and stains from clothes. It also has a natural softening effect on fabrics.
- Salt (2 tablespoons): Salt softens hard water, making it easier for the detergent to clean clothes. It also helps to brighten colors and prevent fading.
- Green Tea Powder (2 tablespoons): Green tea powder has natural antibacterial properties that help to kill germs and bacteria on clothes. It also naturally deodorizes, leaving clothes smelling fresh and clean.
- 16oz Mason Jar
- Begin by measuring each ingredient separately using a measuring cup or spoons.
- Place the baking soda in a clean, dry bowl.
- Add the kaolin powder to the bowl containing the baking soda.
- Add the wheat flour to the same bowl.
- Follow with the salt and green tea powder.
- Mix the ingredients together using a whisk or a spoon until you have a uniform mixture.
- Ensure that all ingredients are well incorporated and there are no clumps.
- Transfer your mixed eco-friendly laundry detergent into a 16oz mason jar.
- Store the jar in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.
- Make sure the jar is properly sealed when not in use to prevent moisture from getting in.
To use, add 1-2 tablespoons of this laundry powder to your load (depending on the size of the load) and wash as usual. If desired, add a few drops of organic or vegan oils for a natural fragrance. Popular all-natural oils that can be used are lemongrass, lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint, and orange.
Always check a small portion of colored fabric for colorfastness before using the detergent. Ensure it’s always kept out of reach from children and pets, and enjoy the satisfaction of your homemade, eco-friendly laundry detergent! It’s a simple but effective way to make a positive environmental change right from your laundry room.
5. Other Natural Ingredients for DIY Laundry Detergent
In addition to the ingredients listed in the recipe, there are several other common household items that can be used to make natural laundry detergent.
- White Vinegar: As a versatile household item, white vinegar serves as a natural fabric softener, eliminating stiffness from clothes. It also aids in removing soap residue, ensuring your clothes are thoroughly clean and free from any detergent leftovers.
- Lemon Juice: Known for its natural bleaching properties, lemon juice is particularly effective on white fabrics, helping to maintain its pristine appearance and combat dullness.
- Washing Soda: A natural water softener, washing soda enhances the effectiveness of your detergent by adjusting the water’s pH. It also has stain-removing properties, making it a valuable addition to your laundry routine.
- Castile Soap: Castile Soap is a gentle and natural soap that is highly effective in cleaning clothes. Its mild nature makes it suitable for all types of fabrics, ensuring a thorough cleaning without damaging your clothes.
- Citric Acid: A renewable option that is vegan-safe and biodegradable. Citric acid helps to break down mineral deposits and can enhance the detergent’s cleaning effectiveness.
- Vegetable Glycerin: Derived from plant oils, vegetable glycerin is a natural moisturizer that can soften fabrics. It also helps to reduce static cling, making your clothes more comfortable to wear.
- Vegan or Organic Essential Oils: These Essential oils add a natural, pleasant fragrance to your laundry detergent. With a variety of scents available, they provide an eco-friendly way to infuse your clothes with your favorite aromas, enhancing the freshness of your laundry.
While these ingredients can be considered eco-friendly, it is important to research and choose brands that prioritize sustainability and ethical sourcing when purchasing them. Feel free to experiment with these ingredients to create a homemade natural laundry detergent that suits your specific needs and preferences.
6. Laundry Balls and the EcoEgg
Laundry balls, including variations like the EcoEgg, are an innovative solution for washing your clothes without any detergent at all. These products are designed to replace traditional laundry detergents and fabric softeners, offering a more sustainable and cost-effective solution for your zero-waste laundry needs.
Laundry balls work by changing the molecular structure of the water in your washing machines. While many contain ceramic beads that emit far infrared rays and negative ions, the materials used can vary depending on the brand and specific product. Some may use mineral pellets, bio-ceramic beads, or other materials.
Regardless of the specific materials used, these components alter the pH level of the water and help to remove dirt and stains from your clothes. The water molecules are micronized, allowing them to penetrate the fibers of your clothes and clean them without the need for chemical detergents.
In addition to being environmentally friendly, laundry balls are also cost-effective, as one set can last for hundreds, even thousands, of washes. They are easy to use and can be left in the washing machine for the wash, rinse, and spin cycles. No additional detergent or fabric softener is needed, as the components within the laundry balls work to eliminate odors and dirt, leaving your clothes clean and fresh.
The EcoEgg, a popular variant of the laundry ball, is a product from a company bearing the same name. Like other laundry balls, the EcoEgg is rooted in eco-friendly principles, but it distinguishes itself with a unique feature: a dual-pellet system.
This system employs two types of pellets – white washing pellets and black tourmaline pellets. The combination of these two pellets enhances the cleaning effect of the EcoEgg, providing a green laundry solution for a more thorough and environmentally-friendly wash.
7. Eco-Friendly Detergent Pods
These liquid, chemical-free laundry detergent pods are made with a water-soluble film that dissolves completely in your washing machine during the wash cycle without leaving any harmful residues in the environment. The film of these pods are typically composed of a biodegradable and environmentally friendly material called polyvinyl alcohol (PVA or PVOH). While most brands have switched to using this material, the eco-friendly part comes from what’s actually used in the detergents.
The detergent within these pods is often bio-based, meaning it’s derived from plants and other renewable resources. These bio-based detergents can include a variety of ingredients, from natural cleaners derived from plant extracts to enzymes designed for low-temperature washing.
These ingredients provide effective cleaning power while being more environmentally friendly than traditional, petroleum-based detergents.
8. Natural Soap and Stain Remover Laundry Bars
Natural soap and stain remover laundry bars are another eco-friendly alternative to traditional laundry detergents. They provide a powerful, yet environmentally friendly, solution for removing tough stains and cleaning clothes, making them a must-have for any eco-conscious consumer. These bars are made from natural ingredients like coconut oil, olive oil, and essential oils, which are known for their cleaning and stain-removing properties. Additionally, they can easily be made at home giving you another DIY homemade option.
The process of using a laundry bar is simple and straightforward. For general laundry cleaning, you can grate the soap bar and use the shavings just like you would use powdered detergent. To use a stain remover bar, simply wet the stained area of your clothing, and rub the bar directly onto the stain. After letting it sit for a few minutes, you wash the garment as usual. The bar works to penetrate the stain, breaking it down so that it can be washed away during the laundry cycle.
One of the significant benefits of using these bars is their minimal packaging. Most are packaged in paper or cardboard, reducing plastic waste. They’re also compact and lightweight, making them convenient for travel. Plus, because they’re concentrated, they last longer, so you won’t have to replace them as often.
There are many brands available that offer natural soap and stain-remover laundry bars. Some even offer bars specifically designed for certain types of stains or fabrics.
However, not all soap bars are created equal. Some may contain palm oil, a controversial ingredient due to its impact on deforestation and wildlife. So when you’re choosing a soap bar, look for brands that are palm oil-free and committed to sustainable practices to ensure they align with your eco-friendly goals.
While switching to environmentally-friendly detergents is a commendable first step towards a sustainable laundry routine, it’s just the beginning. True sustainability involves adopting new habits that collectively reduce your environmental footprint and save you money on your energy and water bills. Here are basic practices to help you:
- A good habit to develop is to start washing some of your fabrics such as cotton and linen in cold water. According to Cold Water Saves, about 90% of the energy that a washing machine uses is from heating the water. This not only saves energy but will reduce your water heating bill.
- Consider washing your clothes less frequently where appropriate. This can extend the lifespan of your clothes and can help save water and energy. When it’s time to dry them, leave your clothes on a clothesline when possible instead of using a dryer. Air-drying your clothes can save a considerable amount of energy and reduce your carbon footprint.
- When choosing a detergent, look for laundry detergents that have received environmental certifications, such as the USDA Certified Biobased Product label, EcoLogo, Green Seal, or U.S. EPA Safer Choice Label. These certifications assure consumers of the product’s eco-friendliness and indicate that the product has met specific environmental standards. They consider factors like the product’s ingredients, biodegradability, packaging, and the manufacturing process. This way, you can feel confident that you’re making a truly eco-friendly choice.
- Separate organic fabrics from synthetic ones during washing. Synthetic fabrics can shed microplastics during washing, which can end up in our waterways. By washing them separately and using a specially designed washing bag, you can help reduce the amount of microplastics that enter our environment.
By incorporating these tips into your laundry routine, you can make a significant contribution to environmental conservation right from your laundry room.
The next time you do your laundry, remember that every load counts. Choose eco-friendly alternatives, adopt sustainable practices, and let’s make our planet cleaner, one load at a time. Thank you for reading!
FAQs about Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent Alternatives
If you’re wondering what the closest thing to laundry detergent is among natural ingredients for DIY laundry detergent, you might want to consider Washing Soda. Washing soda, also known as sodium carbonate, is a natural ingredient that closely resembles traditional laundry detergent in its cleaning power. It is a natural cleaner and a powerful water softener. When used in laundry, it helps to remove tough stains and grime, making it a great alternative to commercial laundry detergents.
Eco-friendly alternatives to liquid laundry detergent include laundry detergent strips, soap nuts, and DIY laundry detergents that can be made from natural ingredients like washing soda, baking soda, kaolin powder, white vinegar, and natural bar soap. These alternatives not only reduce plastic waste but also contain fewer harmful chemicals, making them safer for both your health and the environment.
The most environmentally friendly laundry detergents are those that are biodegradable, free from harsh chemicals, and packaged in recyclable or compostable materials. Laundry detergent strips and soap nuts are highly sustainable options.
What are the common differences between non-phosphate-based laundry detergent and laundry detergent marketed as eco-friendly?
Non-phosphate-based laundry detergents and eco-friendly detergents both aim to reduce environmental harm. However, while non-phosphate detergents simply eliminate phosphates, eco-friendly detergents go a step further. They often avoid all harsh chemicals, are biodegradable, and prioritize sustainable packaging. Eco-friendly detergents also often have certifications from environmental organizations, verifying their green claims.
Green cleaning products are a great choice for both your home and the environment. They don’t have the harsh chemicals found in many regular cleaning products, which means they’re safer to use around kids, pets, and those with allergies. Plus, they’re often made from everyday items like vinegar and baking soda, so they can be easier on your wallet. They also avoid harmful chemicals that can damage aquatic life. So, by choosing green cleaning products, you’re looking after your family’s health and helping protect the environment.
Brett Knighton is the proud owner of GreenLifeResource.com, a platform dedicated to promoting sustainable living and environmental consciousness. His journey towards sustainability was inspired by his daughter’s love for nature and being outdoors. Through her, he realized the importance of preserving the environment not just for his daughter, but for all children.
Today, Brett shares his knowledge and experiences on greenliferesource.com, hoping to inspire others to join him in making more environmentally-friendly choices. His goal is to bring families and friends closer together through shared respect and care for our planet.