Zero Waste Laundry Detergent: A Simple Swap

zero waste laundry detergent ideas

Are you looking to reduce your waste, cut down on single-use plastic, and have a greener household? 

Using zero waste laundry detergent will help your family cut down on the 1.6 million barrels of oil that are used to produce plastic bottles alone each year, according to the Daily Sabah.

It will also help reduce the number of plastic laundry detergent bottles entering our environment each year. Because the ugly truth is that it can take 450 years for those bottles to decompose. 

Even then, then the plastic has just decomposed into microplastics.  

Reducing (or eliminating) plastic products from your laundry room is an easy zero waste swap to make that can make a positive impact on our environment.

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BENEFITS OF ZERO WASTE LAUNDRY DETERGENT

There are many benefits to buying or making your own zero waste laundry detergent and you should consider switching to a zero waste option for the following reasons:

1. Eliminate or Drastically Reduce Single-Use Plastic

As part of the zero waste lifestyle, we strive to eliminate single-use plastic as much as possible.  Zero waste laundry detergent is an easy way to do so. Thankfully, there are several innovative and natural products available to us. 

2. Cut Down on the Amount of Plastic Waste in Our Oceans

If you haven’t heard (which you probably have), our oceans are in serious trouble and are predicted to have more plastic (by weight) than fish by 2050. Hearing that motivates me more than anything! Let’s keep our oceans clean and our marine life safe by making this easy switch to zero waste laundry detergent! 

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

From Visually.

3. Avoid Toxic Ingredients in Your Laundry Detergent

Many zero waste laundry detergents are also natural and non-toxic – because what’s good for the planet is good for us too! You’ll find that most, if not all, zero waste laundry detergents are free of harmful chemicals and toxins. Keeping you and your family safe is a top priority too!

IS YOUR LAUNDRY DETERGENT SAFE FOR YOUR FAMILY?

Did you know that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has an amazing database called the EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning?  

You can search for safe cleaning products on their website and also input your current laundry detergent to see how it rates on the scale from A – F (just like a school grading system).

The shocking fact is that 79% of the laundry detergents in the EWG database do not receive a passing grade and earned a C, D, or F rating! How does your current laundry detergent rate?

INGREDIENTS TO AVOID IN YOUR ZERO WASTE LAUNDRY DETERGENT

1. Fragrance

Fragrance is probably the most common ingredient in a laundry detergent that would earn it a bad rating on the EWG’s website. 

Unfortunately, the ingredient “fragrance” is actually a blend of ingredients that can contain up to 4,000 undisclosed ingredients. This is problematic because many of those ingredients can include harmful toxins, such as phthalates. 

I discuss this in more detail in my post, What is “Fragrance” and Is Fragrance Harmful? So be sure to check that out to learn more about why you want to avoid fragrance in your household and personal care products. 

2. Phthalates

Phthalates are commonly found in synthetic fragrance, as well as in PVC plastics and other solvents.  Also, phthalates are harmful and have been found to disrupt hormone activity, reduce sperm count, cause reproductive malformations, lead to allergies and asthma, and increase the risk of cancer, according to the EWG.

3. Bleach

Bleach is harsh and releases a strong odor which can cause respiratory problems if inhaled.  It is also a skin irritant and can irritate your eyes, mouth, and lungs. Bleach can also be dangerous if mixed with other household cleaners, such as ammonia.  

4. SLS/SLES

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are surfactants that can trigger allergies and lead to skin irritation. SLES is sometimes also contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which can cause irritation to your eyes, nose, and throat, or if exposed to larger quantities can cause kidney and liver damage, according to The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).

5. Parabens

Parabens are found in a lot of personal care and cleaning products and are used as a preservative to prevent the growth of harmful mold and bacteria.  Parabens are rapidly absorbed by the skin and can enter your bloodstream. 

According to the EWG, “Parabens can act like the hormone estrogen in the body and disrupt the normal function of hormone systems affecting male and female reproductive system functioning, reproductive development, fertility and birth outcomes. Parabens can also interfere with the production of hormones.”

6. Beautycounter’s Never List

The Never List by Beautycounter is a list that I refer to often to help me understand the ingredients in my personal care and cleaning products and determine the ingredients that I need to avoid. This list includes over 1800 questionable or harmful chemicals that Beautycounter promises to never include in their skincare products, but it is also a handy guide for us all. 

TOP 3 ZERO WASTE LAUNDRY DETERGENT OPTIONS

Dropps Laundry Detergent 

Dropps zero waste laundry detergent

Dropps Laundry Detergent is our family’s favorite zero waste laundry detergent! We use the Sensitive Skin Laundry Detergent Pods in Unscented because we avoid scented products due to allergies and skin sensitivities in our family.  I’m happy to report that this laundry detergent is not only safe but also very effective.  It’s hands down our preferred choice due to all the safe ingredients and zero waste, plastic-free packaging. 

  • Safe Ingredients: 
    • Free of dyes, chlorine, phosphates, enzymes, optical brighteners
    • Free of fragrance and perfumes
    • Contains plant-derived ingredients
    • Gentle on sensitive skin, non-irritating
    • Laundry pods are made of a water-soluble film that completely dissolves, even in cold water. 
  • Sustainable Packaging:
    • 100% Compostable and recyclable packaging
    • Product packaging doubles as a shipping container – less waste & weight
    • Plastic-free packaging
  • Certifications:
    • EPA Safer Choice certification
    • Partners with Oceana to educate about the plastic pollution crisis
  • Other Key Features: 
    • Compatible with all washing machines, including HE
    • Manufactured in the USA
    • Pioneered the original laundry detergent pod in 2005
    • Carbon neutral shipping
  • Value/Cost: for Sensitive Skin Laundry Detergent Pods, Unscented
    • One-time purchase: 64 loads for $24.00 ($0.38 per load)
    • Subscription: 64 loads for $16.80 ($0.26 per load)
    • (Prices vary for each product)

Well Earth Goods Laundry Detergent Strips 

Zero waste laundry detergent strips

These laundry detergent strips by Well Earth Goods are plastic-free and zero waste! According to the company, “All Well Earth Goods products are packed in 100% recyclable paper-based materials including recycled paper tape, recycled labels, recycled mailer envelopes and recycled paper for cushioning.  No plastic is ever used, and the smallest boxes or envelopes possible are used to reduce materials.” 

  • Safe Ingredients: 
    • Free of fragrance, parabens, phosphate, added dyes, chlorine bleach
    • Free of 1,4-dioxane, as certified by independent testing
    • isothiazolinone free
    • Hypoallergenic
  • Sustainable Packaging:
    • Plastic-free packaging and shipping
    • Bottle free
    • The light-weight strips reduce “transportation fuel consumption and carbon emissions by 94%” according to Well Earth Goods
  • Other Key Features: 
    • Compatible with all washing machines, including HE
    • Biodegradable
    • Vegan
    • No testing on animals
    • Pre-measured strip of detergent without the bottle
    • 1 strip = 1 load
  • Value/Cost: 
    • One-time purchase: 64 loads for $28.00 ($0.44 per load)
    • Subscription: 64 loads for $26.04 ($0.41 per load)

Eco Nuts Soap Berries

Eco Nuts Soap Berries are so fascinating and on my list of zero waste laundry “detergents” to try next. I included them in this guide to bring you all the promising options that I have researched.  My box of Eco Nuts is on its way for our family to test out, and I will update this post once very soon! 

These soap berries or interesting looking “nuts” are actually berries from a tree that is found in the Himalayas. According to Eco Nuts, “when agitated in water, they produce a naturally occurring surfactant called saponin, which gently cleanses laundry…” The best part is that the soap berries can be used up to 10 times each, which makes these a very cost-effective zero waste laundry detergent option. 

  • Safe Ingredients: 
    • Free of all synthetic ingredients
    • Non-toxic
    • No hidden chemicals
    • Nut allergy safe
    • Biodegradable
    • Ethically sourced soap berries
  • Sustainable Packaging:
    • Biodegradable paperboard
    • FSC Certified Paper and Soy Ink
  • Certifications:
    • certified USDA Organic by Oregon Tilth
  • Other Key Features: 
    • Compatible with all washing machines, including HE, but the company recommends the liquid detergent for HE machines. 
    • Reusable up to 10 loads
  • Value/Cost: 
    • One-time purchase: 100 loads for $14.99 ($0.15 per load)
    • One-time purchase: 360 loads for $44.99 ($0.12 per load)
    • Least expensive option

OTHER ZERO WASTE LAUNDRY DETERGENTS TO CONSIDER

There are a couple of other zero waste laundry detergent options that I am considering and have started researching. However, until I have tested them myself and fully completed my research on these products, I will leave them here in the “other options to consider.”  As always, you can research these options for your family, and I will be sure to update this post as I learn more.  

Ecoegg 

While I haven’t tried the Ecoegg myself, a good friend of mine has and wrote a thorough review of it on her blog, Your Mom Village. Lisa has been using the Ecoegg for over 1 year and recommends it. Check out her full review to see if it’s the right fit for your family.  

I will say that the fact that it is a plastic egg has me a little unsure if it’s the most sustainable option on the market.  However, it is not single-use and is warrantied to last 10 years.  So in the long run, this is still a better option than conventional liquid or powder laundry detergents that come in single-use plastic bottles.

  • Safe Ingredients: 
    • Non-toxic ingredients
    • Vegan and never tested on animals
    • Safe for sensitive skin
    • Fragrance-free option available
  • Sustainable Packaging:
    • The plastic egg is designed to be reused for 10 years
    • The plastic egg can be fully recycled 
    • FSC Certified Paper and Soy Ink
  • Certifications:
    • Allergy UK’s ‘Allergy Friendly Product’ award since 2011
  • Other Key Features: 
    • Compatible with all washing machines, including HE
  • Potential Cons:
    • Mineral pellets can not be composted, must be thrown in the trash
    • Source of the ingredients is unclear
    • Although it can work in HE machines, you may need to adjust water levels
  • Value/Cost: 
    • One-time purchase: 70 loads for $14.95 ($0.21 per load)
    • Refill Packets: 50 additional loads for $11.49 ($0.23 per load)

My Green Fills

My Green Fills is another eco-friendly and non-toxic laundry detergent that is based on a refillable system. Buy ONLY one “forever jug” and then order refill packets every time after that.  The goal of My Green Fills is to cut down on single-use plastic bottles and to keep them from entering the environment.  While I haven’t tried this product myself, it is another option to consider to cut down on your single-use plastic waste.

  • Safe Ingredients: 
    • Non-toxic ingredients
    • Free from SLS, perfumes of any kind, glycol, dyes, fillers, phosphates, 1,4-dioxane, chlorine, DEA, thickeners, formaldehyde, petrochemicals, or optical brighteners
    • Hypoallergenic
    • Vegan and cruelty-free
  • Sustainable Packaging:
    • Refillable plastic “forever jug”
    • Refill packets to reduce the need for more plastic jugs
    • Refill packets are recyclable
    • Members have saved over 2,000,000 plastic jugs from entering the environment
  • Other Key Features: 
    • Compatible with all washing machines, including HE
  • Value/Cost: 
    • One-time purchase: 50 loads for $18.00 ($0.36 per load)
    • Member’s Price: 50 loads for $14.00 ($0.28 per load)

OTHER ZERO WASTE LAUNDRY TIPS

1. Don’t Wash Your Clothes if They Aren’t Dirty

Most people feel it’s necessary to wash clothes more frequently than may be necessary.  You can cut down on the amount of laundry and be more eco-friendly in general by running the washing machine less often. Clothes like bluejeans and pajamas may be able to be worn more than once.  

2. Hang Clothes to Dry

Avoid using the dryer, if possible, and hang your clothes to dry.  This will cut down on the energy used to power the dryer and is more eco-friendly!

3. Limit Wrinkles By Folding Clothes Promptly

If you do choose to use the dryer, don’t let your clothes sit in the dryer for hours and become wrinkly.  I know I’m guilty of this at times and need to “fluff’ the clothes to get the wrinkles out.  This is an unnecessary and avoidable drain on our electricity – not to mention the extra cost too!

FINAL THOUGHTS ON ZERO WASTE LAUNDRY DETERGENTS

Imagine if we all ditched the plastic laundry detergent bottles? 

Making the choice to switch to a zero waste laundry detergent will help our planet work towards solving the plastic pollution crisis.  

It’s definitely a step in the right direction! Once you make this zero waste swap, it’s easy to set it on autopilot.  Find the product you love and you’ll never have to think about it again. 

Want to save time and money finding the zero waste swaps for your family? Download the FREE guide to 9 Zero Waste Swaps Every Family Can Make!

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zero waste laundry detergent

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Zero Waste Lifestyle Tips (A Guide for Beginners)

Top 5 Zero Waste Toilet Paper Options

Zero Waste Shampoo: 5 Options for Beginners

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8 Comments

  1. June 25 / 3:10 PM

    I have never used any of these options before! Next time we are looking I will definitely check them out.

    • Rebekah
      Author
      June 26 / 1:51 PM

      Great! Glad it was helpful to see some new options!

  2. Amy Witbeck
    June 26 / 9:07 AM

    This is so interesting! I have tried (and like) soap nuts but I didn’t know that there were pods that were more natural. And I have never heard of laundry strips, that is such a cool idea! I am definitely going to do a little research and give a few of these a try. Thanks for opening my eyes to all of the options!

    • Rebekah
      Author
      June 26 / 1:51 PM

      You’re welcome! Glad it helped! I’d love to know how it goes for you.

  3. June 26 / 11:12 AM

    Being zero-waste is something I strive to – and it’s a constant struggle. HOwever laundry is one area where we do quite well!
    We don’t use dryer sheets, but hang-dry whenever possible. I reuse my laundry soap containers for all sorts of things, including holding our new homemade laundry detergent.

    Lots of good things to think about here – thank you!

    • Rebekah
      Author
      June 26 / 1:52 PM

      Yes, we are all striving but never actually getting to zero waste, right? It is a struggle, but every little step helps! You’re doing amazing!

  4. June 26 / 1:59 PM

    This is great info! My favorite bulk laundry detergent is no longer available in bulk so I am on the hunt for new sustainable options. Good to know there are so many different ones out there!

    • Rebekah
      Author
      June 27 / 6:52 AM

      Thanks Jennifer! I’m so glad it was helpful in your search!

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