Guide to the Safest Laundry Detergents of 2023
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Do you want to be sure you are using the safest laundry detergent? This unprecedented research into about 100 laundry detergents will guide you through laundry detergent ingredients and popular brand names. Additionally, the comparative analysis of what are, in my opinion, the worst, bad, better, and best options will show you how to determine non-toxic laundry detergents. To learn the difference between conventional and organic laundry products, read my blog post Is Organic Laundry Detergent Best?. And visit my shop to get access to my review of 73 popular DISHWASHER detergents.
In this post:
- I Did Extensive Research into the Laundry Detergent Industry.
- Ingredients You Want to Be Careful About in Your Non-Toxic Laundry Detergent
- Reasoning Behind the Laundry Detergent Safety Classification
- Laundry Products from the Worst Category
- Bad and Almost Better Categories
- Better Laundry Options
- Safest Laundry Detergents
- My Personal Favorites Among the Safest Laundry Detergents
- Summary of the Safest Laundry Detergent Guide
I Did Extensive Research into the Laundry Detergent Industry.
To begin with, I have been doing ingredient research since 2012. That year I was preparing for the birth of my son looking for a safe baby shampoo. Honestly, the number of toxic ingredients on popular baby shampoo labels shocked me to the core!
I realized that knowing about ingredients and choosing safe products is a consumer’s job. Simultaneously, I realized how time-consuming and arduous it would be, especially for parents, to study ingredients. So, I established the I Read Labels for You website where I share my research and findings.
Frankly, the subject of toxic chemicals’ effect on human health is personal to me. Indeed, my father died of cancer at the age of 57, and then I was diagnosed with two autoimmune conditions. (Read my blog post to learn if breast implants can cause autoimmune diseases and how explant surgery affected my health.)
Therefore, it has become my mission to help make the consumer market safer. The most extensive step of my research is studying a particular industry. To form my opinions about the safety of ingredients, I use original sources and read scientific studies (learn more here).
Similarly, to find the safest laundry detergents, I studied and compared the ingredients of about 100 popular laundry options. Thanks to the California Cleaning Product Right to Know Act, most companies disclose most of their ingredients now, even fragrance ingredients! Based on my opinions about laundry detergent ingredients’ safety, I categorized the products as the worst, bad, better, and best.
Ingredients You Want to Be Careful About in Your Non-Toxic Laundry Detergent
For starters, let’s discuss the laundry detergent ingredients I find of high to medium concern (❌) and of low concern (⚠️). In my opinion, the safest laundry detergents are those that have close to none of these ingredients.
|BENZISOTHIAZOLINONE❌||potential allergen and skin sensitizer (ECHA)|
|DISODIUM DISTYRYLBIPHENYL DISULFONATE❌||optical brightener (makes the laundry appear brighter rather than really clean it); under assessment as persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (ECHA)|
|ENZYMES⚠️||may cause respiratory irritation and sensitization if airborne and inhaled on a regular basis, e.g., in powder laundry detergents, or broken pods or packs|
|ESSENTIAL OILS⚠️||potential allergens (learn more here)|
|ETHOXYLATED INGREDIENTS❌||made with carcinogenic ethylene oxide, hence may contain residues of carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane (learn more here)|
|FLUORESCENT BRIGHTENER 71 ❌||optical brightener (makes the laundry appear brighter rather than really clean it); nonbiodegradable and threatening to aquatic life (ECHA)|
|FRAGRANCE❌||many fragrance ingredients are potential allergens and sensitizers (learn more here)|
|LIMONENE, LINALOOL❌||potential allergens (learn more here)|
|METHYLCHLOROISOTHIAZOLINONE❌||potential allergen and skin sensitizer (ECHA)|
|METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE❌||potential allergen and skin sensitizer (ECHA)|
|OCTYLISOTHIAZOLINONE❌||potential allergen and skin sensitizer (ECHA)|
|POLYOXYALKYLENE SUBSTITUTED CHROMOPHORE (BLUE) ❌||dye that makes laundry appear cleaner, no safety data|
|PRESERVATIVES ABSENT⚠️||unclear how the manufacturer prevents bacteria growth and mold contamination|
|SODIUM BORATE⚠️||in bigger quantities may be toxic to reproduction (learn more here)|
|TRIETHANOLAMINE❌||causes serious eye damage and is suspected of damage to reproduction (ECHA)|
|UNDISCLOSED COMPOSITION and/or UNNECESSARY❌||e.g., “copolymers” and “proprietary color blends”|
Reasoning Behind the Laundry Detergent Safety Classification
Based on the number of concerning laundry detergent ingredients in the products, I classified them as the worst, bad, better, and best. Thus, those that I consider non-toxic laundry detergents have very few or none of these ingredients. Conversely, the “worst” ones have many or all of them.
Further, the main difference between the “worst” and “bad” detergents is the presence of optical brighteners in the “worst” ones.
To clarify, instead of cleaning, optical brighteners make the laundry LOOK clean. By adhering to the fabric, they absorb and reflect the light, and, thus, make the laundry APPEAR brighter or whiter. Although they have been around for decades, optical brighteners (aka fluorescent whitening agents) lack safety data. Meanwhile, the EPA encourages manufacturers not to use them, or to use safer alternatives. Apparently, they do not biodegrade and pose a threat to aquatic life. The good news is that non-toxic laundry detergents, or even detergents in the “bad” category, do not contain optical brighteners.
Also, some of the safest laundry detergents from the “best” category contain enzymes because they are beneficial cleaning agents. Just be careful not to inhale them if they become airborne and watch out for broken pods and packs.
Finally, I generally recommend avoiding essential oils in baby products but consider them fine in adult products. However, if you are sensitive to essential oils, then your best choice would be an unscented product altogether.
Laundry Products from the Worst Category
In my opinion, the following products belong in the worst category because they contain many concerning laundry detergent ingredients.
It is important to note, though, that the use of these products does not automatically cause sickness. Yet, some people may experience irritation from and allergic reactions to the residues of laundry detergents.
If you do use them, know that you have an opportunity to switch to a safe laundry detergent. This will help you reduce your overall exposure to potentially harmful chemicals that also end up in our oceans and drinking water. So, by switching to a better or best non-toxic laundry detergent, you can help decrease environmental pollution.
|ALL® Baby Liquid||C12-15 alcohols ethoxylated, sodium laureth sulfate (ethoxylated), triethanolamine, fragrance ingredients, disodium distyrylbiphenyl disulfonate, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone|
|ALL® Free Clear Powder||C12-15 alcohols ethoxylated, fluorescent brightener 71, protease (enzyme)|
|ALL® Stainlifter® Liquid||C12-15 alcohols ethoxylated, sodium laureth sulfate (ethoxylated), fragrance ingredients, disodium distyrylbiphenyl disulfonate, methylisothiazolinone, polyoxyalkylene substituted chromophore (blue)|
|Gain Powder (Lavender)||C10-16 pareth (ethoxylated), fluorescent brightener 71, organosilicone copolymer (undisclosed composition), fragrance ingredients, subtilisin, amylase, lipase (enzymes)|
|Method Detergent Pour||C12-16 pareth-7 (ethoxylated), fragrance ingredients, disodium distyrylbiphenyl disulfonate, methylisothiazolinone, benzisothiazolinone, proprietary colorant blend (undisclosed composition and unnecessary) (learn more about Method here)|
|Tide Free and Gentle Powder||C10-16 pareth (ethoxylated), fluorescent brightener 71, organosilicone copolymer (undisclosed composition), subtilisin, amylase, lipase (enzymes)|
|Tide Simply Free & Sensitive Liquid (Unscented)||sodium and MEA laureth sulfate (ethoxylated), fluorescent brightener 71, sodium borate (plus fragrance ingredients in scented options)|
Bad and Almost Better Categories
Yes, I had to sneak in an “almost better” category between the “bad” and the “better” ones. The products there, in my opinion, are not exactly “bad.” Yet, due to some concerning laundry detergent ingredients, they fall short of being “better” either. As for the main difference between the “worst” and the “bad” categories, it is optical brighteners present in all the “worst” products and absent in the “bad” ones. (Stay with me to discover which products I consider the safest laundry detergents and which non-toxic laundry detergent I use.)
|ECOS Liquid||methylisothiazolinone, fragrance ingredients|
|Dreft||C10-16 pareth (ethoxylated), fragrance ingredients, polyethyleneimine alkoxylated (undisclosed composition, most likely ethoxylated), sodium borate|
|Dropps (both scented and unscented)||alcohols, C12-16 (ethoxylated), fragrance ingredients, subtilisin, lipase, alpha amylase, pectate lyase, mannanase; odor control ingredients: furan, 5-(hexyloxy)tetrahydro-2,2-dimethyl- (skin sensitizing), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) (being assessed as endocrine disrupting)|
|Mrs. Meyer’s||laureth-7 (ethoxylated), fragrance ingredients, methylisothiazolinone, benzisothiazolinone (learn more about Mrs. Meyer’s here)|
|Seventh Generation||laureth-6 (ethoxylated), methylisothiazolinone Some formulas contain either octylisothiazolinone or benzisothiazolinone, fragrance ingredients, amylase, protease, mannanase (enzymes)|
|Biokleen Citrus Powder||laureth-7 (ethoxylated), limonene|
|Biokleen Liquid (Scented)||C12-16 pareth-7 (ethoxylated), linalool|
|Biokleen Sport Liquid, Lavender Eucalyptus||C12-16 pareth-7 (ethoxylated), lavender essential oil, linalool|
|Puracy Natural – Free & Clear||C10-C16 alcohol ethoxylate, benzisothiazolinone, sodium borate|
Better Laundry Options
As you will see below, the “better” options still have some points of concern in terms of laundry detergent ingredients. Although there is just one or two of them, they still fall short of being included in the “best”, or the safest laundry detergents, category. However, I’m glad that we have quite a few safer and several non-toxic laundry detergent options.
|Attitude Little One (Fragrance-Free) Attitude (Scented)||At the time of publishing the post, we saw no preservatives, which is a risk for mold and bacterial growth. (See what happened to The Laundress.) Recently, they started either disclosing or using the sodium benzoate preservative. However, this preservative is listed only on their website, not on iHerb.|
|Biokleen Liquid – Free & Clear||C12-16 pareth-7 (ethoxylated)|
|Biokleen Powder – Free & Clear||Laureth-7 (ethoxylated)|
|Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder||C12-16 pareth-9, C10-14 alcohol (ethoxylated)|
|Dirty Labs Free & Clear||I see no preservatives.|
|ECOS ECOSNEXT™ Liquidless – Free & Clear||PEG-12 dimethicone (ethoxylated)|
|ECOS Hypoallergenic – Free & Clear||Methylisothiazolinone|
|Nellie’s Laundry Soda||Linear alcohol ethoxylate|
|9 Elements (Scented)||C12-16 pareth (ethoxylated), essential oil|
|Norwex Ultra Power Plus||Alcohol C10-12, alcohol C9-11 (ethoxylated)|
|Rosey Powder (Thrive Market) (Lavender)||Limonene, protease (enzyme)|
|Rosey (Thrive Market) (Unscented)||Laureth-7 (ethoxylated), no preservatives|
|Seventh Generation Packs – Free & Clear||Laureth-6 (ethoxylated)|
|The Honest Company Baby Laundry||Laureth-7 (ethoxylated)|
|Tru Earth Eco-Strips Platinum BLUE (Fragrance-free) and Tru Earth Eco-Strips Platinum GREEN (Fragrance-free)||Glycereth cocoate (ethoxylated); ingredients not disclosed on the packaging; ingredient discrepancies; did not answer my questions|
|Truly Free (Unscented)||The ingredient disclosure is not clear. For example, we can’t identify what Tetrasodium Salt and Polyacrylic Acid Sodium Salt are and received no clarification from the company.|
Safest Laundry Detergents
Some of what in my opinion are the “best” products contain essential oils and enzymes among their laundry detergent ingredients.
As I mentioned previously, I would not use products with essential oils on babies. And, of course, if you are sensitive to essential oils, it is a good idea to avoid them, too. (Read more about essential oils and fragrance oils in my post about natural fragrance.) As for enzymes, they are beneficial for cleaning purposes, just avoid inhaling them.
All in all, I consider these products the best non-toxic laundry detergent options.
|Branch Basics Concentrate (READ15 for 15% off)||None|
|Earthley Wellness Powder||Bromelain (enzyme), essential oils in the citrus version|
|ECOS Packs – Free & Clear||None|
|Humble Suds Laundry Soap (IRLFY10 for 10% off)||None, essential oils in the scented versions|
|Meliora Laundry Powder||None, organic essential oil in the scented versions|
|Molly’s Suds All Sport Activewear (Unscented) ($5 or 5% off)||None|
|Molly’s Suds Powder (Peppermint) ($5 or 5% off)||Organic peppermint essential oil|
|Molly’s Suds Powder (Unscented) ($5 or 5% off)||None|
|Nellie’s Baby Laundry Soda ($5 or 5% off)||None|
|Pure Haven Laundry Detergent||Protease, amylase (enzymes)|
|Rosey Powder (Thrive Market) (Unscented)||Protease (enzyme)|
|Whole Foods Organic (Unscented)||None (natural fragrance with undisclosed ingredients in the scented options)|
|Young Living Thieves Laundry Soap||Essential oils|
My Personal Favorites Among the Safest Laundry Detergents
First, due to its safe laundry detergent ingredients, I consider Humble Suds Laundry Soap one of the best non-toxic laundry detergent options. Read more about Humble Suds non-toxic cleaners here and activate the IRLFY10 code by clicking on this link.
Second, I have also used and liked Meliora Laundry Powder. In my opinion, all Meliora eco non-toxic cleaning products are safe. Plus, they do not use any plastic packaging.
Next, Pure Haven Laundry Detergent is safe (as well as other Pure Haven products) and works well in hard water.
Finally, my current favorite is Branch Basics Concentrate, which should work well in hard water, too. In fact, the concentrate ingredients are so safe that you can wash a baby with it. Actually, you can use this concentrate to make cleaners for windows, dishes, floors, and other surfaces. You can learn more about the concentrate dilution instructions and other Branch Basics cleaning products here. I also appreciate the fact that they have glass refillable spray bottles. (Use the READ15 code for 15% off by clicking on this link to activate the code.)
Summary of the Safest Laundry Detergent Guide
To sum up, this blog post has guided you through laundry detergent ingredients and popular brand names. It is the result of unprecedented research into about 100 laundry detergents requested by my FB and Instagram followers. (Get your access to my review of 73 popular DISHWASHER detergents here.)
Further, the comparative analysis of the worst, bad, better, and best options has shown you how to determine non-toxic laundry detergents. Thus, it is a good idea to avoid products with optical brighteners, fragrance, ethoxylated ingredients, harsh preservatives, and some other ingredients.
The safest laundry detergents from the “best” category have no high or medium concerns. Some of the laundry detergents that should be safe even for the most sensitive people are Humble Suds Laundry Soap (IRLFY10 code), Meliora Laundry Powder, and Branch Basics Concentrate (READ15 code).
If your laundry detergent is not addressed here, you can use this information to estimate its safety by yourself. Alternatively, you can book a product review by email.
To learn the difference between conventional and organic laundry products, read my blog post Is Organic Laundry Detergent Best?. And to find other non-toxic products, check out the IRLFY shop section and rating list ebooks.
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Have you done any research on dryer sheets/balls? I couldn’t find any articles on it when I put dryer in she search button. I’ve tried using 100% wool dryer balls and even putting all 6 balls in the dryer on the lowest temp my clothes come out still staticky. Thanks!
Hi, Elisabeth! We appreciate your interest! We haven’t done deep research into dryer sheets, but so far, we haven’t found safe dryer sheets. Thank you for the suggestion!
Place your clean clothes on the ground for an hour or so. Fold them and stack them on the ground. When you put them away, most of the static will b gone.
Have you ever done research on THE LAUNDRESS
NEW YORK? I don’t see it listed anywhere in the search option or in any of your free articles. They list their MDSD online. From following your blog I know your anti-fragrance but I’m wondering your thoughts. Thanks!
Hi, Elisabeth! Thank you for your question! A quick glance at this product’s list of ingredients revealed that it contains fragrance, benzisothiazolinone, and ethoxylated ingredients (e.g., sodium laureth sulfate). I Read Labels for You does not consider these ingredients safe. We hope this helps!
When you say which if the cleanest are your favorites (then post a coupon code) I’m concerned about possible conflict of interest. I ask this genuinely, as I’ve followed for some time and trust your research. But a little nagging voice on the back wants to know. Thank you.
Hi, Lari! Thank you for reaching out to I Read Labels for You! Your question is totally legitimate!
I Read Labels for You receives lots of offers for affiliate connections with attractive commissions (as happened with Monat, for example).
However, our priority is safety, and we stay true to our core values: integrity, honesty, and thoroughness. So, we study ingredients, do research, and contact the manufacturers. (You can learn more about the steps we take on our website.)If a product meets our standards for safety, we accept the company’s offer for affiliate connection. Other times, we reach out to the company ourselves to participate with them in spreading safe products. Moreover, some companies do not have affiliate programs, but if their products meet our safety requirements, we choose to promote them anyway to make the consumer market a safer place. And sometimes, companies would change their ingredients from safe to less safe, and we break our affiliation with them. As for discount codes, we are happy to help our readers and followers to save money!
At the same time, our intention has never been to make our followers believe us blindly. It is for this reason that we keep writing and publishing free educational blog posts so that our readers would read them and educate themselves about ingredients and learn to estimate their safety on their own. Plus, we always encourage our readers to contact manufacturers and do their own research regarding the safety of the product in question.
Therefore, it is great that the question about the conflict of interest has risen in you, Lari! It shows that you are a thinker and do not “eat” any information blindly. We believe that you will be successful at doing your own research and contacting companies, which we strongly encourage because the more of us ask questions, the sooner the manufacturers make changes for the better.
If and when your product ingredient research contradicts ours, please bring it to our attention – we are open for communication and changes. We are all in it together and we will definitely appreciate your help!! Thank you for your active participation!!!
Hello! Why are Dr Bronner’s products rarely included in your wonderful research? Thank you 🙂
Hi, Marian! Thank you for reaching out to I Read Labels for You! If you are talking about Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds, it is fine!
I’ve been using Ecos Hypoallergenic Laundry Detergent with Enzymes – Free & Clear as it does not have Methylisothiazolinone as a listed preservative. Perhaps it’s a reformulation such as with the dish soap?
Hi, Christen! Thank you for reaching out to I Read Labels for You! You are doing a great job reading ingredients and picking products based on safety – thank you for that! As for the ECOS products, in our blog post we mention ECOS Hypoallergenic Laundry Detergent – Free & Clear. As of today (May 23, 2022), ECOS website lists Methylisothiazolinone among its ingredients. At the same time, ECOS Hypoallergenic Laundry Detergent with Enzymes – Free & Clear does not list Methylisothiazolinone. These are two different products (the former is without enzymes and the latter is with enzymes). We hope this helps!
Hello – I am curious about Grab Green products? I don’t see those listed? They are very popular.
Hello Jess! Thank you for reaching out to I Read Labels for You! We selected products for our laundry detergent guide based on requests of our Instagram followers, namely, we included those brands that were most frequently asked about (interestingly, Grab Green was selected for a dishwasher detergent guide: https://ireadlabelsforyou.com/product/dishwasher-detergent-guide/). The section of our Laundry Detergent guide called “Ingredients You Want to Be Careful About in Your Non-Toxic Laundry Detergent” will help you determine the safety level of any laundry detergent on your own. If you still feel like you need our help, you can take advantage of our email product review service: https://ireadlabelsforyou.com/pick-brain-product/ We hope this helps!
Hello, what are your thoughts on eco sheets, like Earth Breeze? Thanks for sharing all your research and insight!
Hello Andrea! Thank you for reaching out to I Read Labels for You! Please, use the instructions for an email product review in the “Services” tab in the top menu of our website.
Thank you for all the work that you do. I have purchased many of your guides. I was wondering if you reviewed Better Life Laundry Detergent, Lavender Grapefruit in this guide? Thanks so much!
Thank you for reaching out to I Read Labels For You!
While Better Life per se is not included in this review, you could, if you would, figure out its safety by reading the ingredients on its label and comparing them with the ingredients of concern assembled in the ‘Ingredients You Want to Be Careful About in Your Non-Toxic Laundry Detergent’ section of this blog post. Or, email the ingredients to us for a private email product review.
I see Propylene Glycol is in 9 elements. Is this ingredient not a concern?
Hi Brittany! Thank you for reaching out to I Read Labels For You! If you will, please send us the information and scientific data you have found that make you think this ingredient is of concern, so we review the info and update our post, if necessary. We appreciate your interest!!
What are your thoughts on Mama Suds Laundry Detergent as I don’t see it listed. I have used it for well over a year and I love it. I don’t see any ingredients for concern as I am an avid label reader.
Hi Marilyn, there is one ingredient – sodium borate – that we do not recommend in skincare. It is probably ok in a laundry detergent, though. Please make an informed decision based on the information in our blog post: https://ireadlabelsforyou.com/borax-and-boric-acid-safety/
Do you have any concerns with Clean People laundry sheets?
Hi Susan! Thank you for reaching out to I Read Labels For You! Please follow this link to get a product ingredient review: https://ireadlabelsforyou.com/pick-brain-product/
Any thoughts on blueland laundry tablets?
Hi Kayla! Thank you for reaching out to I Read Labels For You! Please follow this link to get a product ingredient review: https://ireadlabelsforyou.com/pick-brain-product/
Thank you so much for your research. I would like to know if you have done any research on Doterra laundry soap. They have a few and I am interested in the On- Guard line. Also, has there been any research on which detergent gets the clothes the cleanest? Safest and best for stain removal etc. I love all the safe products but my husband doesn’ think they clean his clothes. Is there some research I can share with him?
Hello Genevieve! Thank you for reaching out to I Read Labels For You! To see what we have to say about a certain product, just type the search word in the search bar on our website. The same about stain removers – we have a few non-toxic and well-performing options in our shop. In case you don’t find the info you are looking for, you can always use one of our professional consulting or product ingredient review services: https://ireadlabelsforyou.com/services/
Hello what do you think of Arm & Hammer Detergent Sensitive Skin Free & Clear?
Hi! For a professional product ingredient review, please follow this link: https://ireadlabelsforyou.com/services/ingredient-review/