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Would you like 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 best, better, bad, and worst options will show you how to determine non-toxic laundry detergents on your own. Plus, I will share my personal preference among the most eco-friendly laundry detergent options on the market. Find out if organic laundry detergent is best here and get access to my review of 73 popular dishwasher detergents here.
Safest Laundry Detergents
To begin, 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 diseases. (My health update is available here.)
Therefore, to help make the consumer market safer, I study product industries and form my opinions about the safety of product ingredients with the help of scientific studies and ingredient databases (learn more here).
Similarly, to find non-toxic laundry detergents, I studied and compared the ingredients of about 100 popular laundry options. Based on my opinions about the safety of laundry detergent ingredients, I’ve categorized the products as the best, better, almost better, bad, and worst. Those that I consider the safest laundry detergents have very few or none of the concerning ingredients. Conversely, the “worst” ones have many concerning ingredients.
“Best” Laundry Detergents
Most products in this category contain no concerning ingredients. Some of them have essential oils, which may be concerning for sensitive people and babies (so, avoid using them, please), and enzymes, which may be concerning if you inhale them (so, don’t inhale them).
|Branch Basics Concentrate (READ15 for 15% off)||None|
|Earthley Wellness Powder||Bromelain (enzyme), essential oils in the citrus version|
|ECOS Packs – Free & Clear||Enzymatic blend|
|ECOS Laundry Detergent Sheets – Free & Clear||Protease enzyme blend|
|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) ($10 or 10% off)||None|
|Molly’s Suds Original Laundry Detergent Powder (Peppermint) ($10 or 10% off)||Organic peppermint essential oil|
|Molly’s Suds Powder (Unscented) ($10 or 10% off)||None|
|Nellie’s Baby Laundry Soda ($10 or 10% off)||None|
|Pure Haven Laundry Detergent||Protease, amylase (enzymes)|
|Rosey Powder Unscented (Thrive Market)||Protease (enzyme)|
|Whole Foods Organic Unscented||None (natural fragrance with undisclosed ingredients in the scented options)|
|Young Living Thieves Laundry Soap||Essential oils|
My Favorite Non-Toxic Laundry Detergents
In addition to being eco-friendly laundry detergent options, the following safest laundry detergents are the best, in my opinion, due to their safe laundry detergent ingredients and good performance:
- Branch Basics Concentrate (READ15 on starter kit) (contains baking soda – some washing machines may have special instructions about using detergents with this ingredient, so read yours carefully; should be able to clean your clothes well in hard water and cold water; learn more about Branch Basics cleaning products here)
- Humble Suds Laundry Soap (IRLFY10) (contains baking soda – some washing machines may have special instructions about using detergents with baking soda, so read the instructions to your machine carefully; learn more about Humble Suds non-toxic cleaners here)
- Meliora Laundry Powder (contains baking soda – read the instructions to your washing machine carefully; more on Meliora eco non-toxic cleaning products here)
- Pure Haven Laundry Detergent (should work well in hard and cold water; more on Pure Haven products here)
Laundry Detergent Ingredients Of Concern
The presence of some or many of the following ingredients determined the category the products fell into: better, almost better, bad, and worst. To clarify, the ingredients I find of high to medium concern are marked with ❌, and the ingredients I find of low concern are marked with ⚠️. In my opinion, the safest laundry detergents are those that have close to none of these ingredients.
|❌BENZISOTHIAZOLINONE||potential allergen and skin sensitizer (learn more in my post about benzisothiazolinone)|
|❌DISODIUM DISTYRYLBIPHENYL DISULFONATE||optical brightener (makes the laundry appear brighter rather than really clean it); under assessment as persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (ECHA)|
|❌ETHOXYLATED INGREDIENTS||made with carcinogenic ethylene oxide, hence may contain residues of carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane (learn more in my post about hidden ingredients)|
|❌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 in my post about natural fragrance)|
|❌LIMONENE, LINALOOL||potential allergens (learn more in my post about natural fragrance)|
|❌METHYLCHLOROISOTHIAZOLINONE||potential allergen and skin sensitizer (learn more in my post about methylchloroisothiazolinone)|
|❌METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE||potential allergen and skin sensitizer (learn more in my post about methylisothiazolinone)|
|❌OCTYLISOTHIAZOLINONE||potential allergen and skin sensitizer (ECHA)|
|❌POLYOXYALKYLENE SUBSTITUTED CHROMOPHORE (BLUE)||dye that makes laundry appear cleaner, no safety data|
|❌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”|
|⚠️PRESERVATIVES ABSENT||unclear how the manufacturer prevents bacteria growth and mold contamination|
|⚠️SODIUM BORATE||in bigger quantities may be toxic to reproduction (learn more in my post about borax and boric acid)|
|⚠️ENZYMES||may cause respiratory irritation and sensitization if airborne and inhaled on a regular basis, e.g., in powder laundry detergents, or broken laundry detergent pods or packs|
|⚠️ESSENTIAL OILS||potential allergens (learn more in my post about natural fragrance)|
Does Laundry Detergent Expire?
As a matter of fact, laundry products do have expiration dates, past which the laundry detergent ingredients may start breaking down and disintegrating. This is especially true for liquid laundry detergents due to the presence of preservatives. The milder the preservative, the shorter its shelf life. It is for this reason that some of the least safe laundry detergents use such strong and harsh preservatives as benzisothiazolinone, methylchloroisothiazolinone, and methylisothiazolinone. While a preservation system in a liquid laundry detergent is a must, I would not use products with these preservatives as I do not consider them non-toxic laundry detergent options.
Popular Laundry Detergents Reviews
“Better” Laundry Options
The non-toxic laundry detergents in the ”better” category have some points of concern in terms of laundry detergent ingredients. Although there is just one or two of them, in my opinion, they still fall short of being included in the safest laundry detergents category.
|– Attitude Baby Fragrance-Free ($10 or 10% off)|
– Attitude Wildflowers ($10 or 10% off)
|– No preservatives listed (risk for mold and bacterial growth) |
– Natural fragrance
– The sodium benzoate preservative is listed only in the “Wildflowers” scent.
|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. |
– Protease (subtilisin), alpha-amylase, cellulase, mannanase, pectate lyase (enzymes).
|ECOS Hypoallergenic – Free & Clear||Methylisothiazolinone|
|Nellie’s Laundry Soda ($10 or 10% off)||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 Lavender (Thrive Market)||Limonene, protease (enzyme)|
|Rosey Liquid Free & Clear (Thrive Market)||Laureth-7 (ethoxylated), no preservatives listed|
|Seventh Generation Packs – Free & Clear ($10 or 10% off)||Laureth-6 (ethoxylated), enzymes|
|The Honest Company Baby Laundry||Laureth-7 (ethoxylated), enzymes|
|– Tru Earth Eco-Strips Platinum BLUE Laundry Detergent Sheets |
– Tru Earth Eco-Strips Platinum GREEN (Fragrance-free) Laundry Detergent Sheets
|PEG-20 Glyceryl Cocoate (ethoxylated)|
|Truly Free Unscented||– Tetrasodium salt (unclear what it is; I asked for clarification and received no response from the company.)|
“Almost Better” Options
The products in this category, in my opinion, are not completely non-toxic laundry detergents, yet they are not exactly “bad” either. Yet, due to some concerning laundry detergent ingredients, they fall short of being “better” either.
|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|
“Bad” Category Options
The products in this category are farther from being called “the safest laundry detergents” due to the presence of multiple concerning laundry detergent ingredients.
|ECOS Hypoallergenic Magnolia & Lily Liquid Laundry Detergent||Methylisothiazolinone, fragrance ingredients|
|Dreft Free & Gentle Baby Liquid Laundry Detergent||C10-16 pareth (ethoxylated), polyethyleneimine alkoxylated (undisclosed composition, most likely ethoxylated), sodium borate, subtilisin, amylase, cellulase, mannanase (enzymes)|
|Dropps Stain & Odor Unscented Laundry Detergent Pods||Alcohols, C12-16 (ethoxylated), subtilisin, lipase, 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 Clean Day||Laureth-7 (ethoxylated), fragrance ingredients, methylisothiazolinone, benzisothiazolinone (learn more in my post about Mrs. Meyer’s cleaning products)|
|Puracy Natural – Free & Clear Liquid Laundry Detergent||C10-C16 alcohol ethoxylate, benzisothiazolinone, sodium borate, protease, amylase, lipase, mannanase (enzymes)|
|Seventh Generation Free & Clear Liquid Laundry Detergent||Laureth-6 (ethoxylated), benzisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, amylase, protease, mannanase (enzymes)|
“Worst” Laundry Detergent Options
The main difference between the “worst” and the “bad” categories is the optical brighteners present in all the “worst” products and absent in the “bad” ones.
Specifically, optical brighteners don’t actually clean your clothes but just make them 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. So, in my opinion, true non-toxic laundry detergents should not contain optical brighteners.
|ALL® Baby Liquid Laundry Detergent||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® Sunshine Fresh with Stainlifters® Liquid||C12-15 alcohols ethoxylated, sodium laureth sulfate (ethoxylated), fragrance ingredients, disodium distyrylbiphenyl disulfonate, methylisothiazolinone, polyoxyalkylene substituted chromophore (blue)|
|Arm & Hammer Sensitive Skin Liquid Laundry Detergent||– C10-16 pareth (ethoxylated), sodium laureth sulfate (ethoxylated), fragrance ingredients, acrylic acid homopolymer (undisclosed composition, unnecessary), disodium distyrylbiphenyl disulfonate (optical brightener), nitrilotriacetic acid (suspected of causing cancer) |
– I don’t see any preservatives listed.
|Gain Original Powder||C10-16 pareth (ethoxylated), fluorescent brightener 71, organosilicone copolymer (undisclosed composition), fragrance ingredients, subtilisin, lipase (enzymes)|
|Method Free + Clear||C12-16 pareth-7 (ethoxylated), fragrance ingredients, disodium distyrylbiphenyl disulfonate, methylisothiazolinone, benzisothiazolinone, proprietary colorant blend (undisclosed composition and unnecessary) (learn more in my post about Method cleaning products)|
|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||C10-16 pareth (ethoxylated), fluorescent brightener 71, sodium borate, (plus fragrance ingredients in scented options)|
Summary Of The Safest Laundry Detergent Guide
The Safest Laundry Detergents Do Not Have Harsh Preservatives, Fragrance, Optical Brighteners, And Ethoxylated Ingredients.
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 best, better, almost better, bad, and worst options has shown you how to determine safe laundry detergents. In my opinion, it is a good idea to avoid products with optical brighteners, fragrance, ethoxylated ingredients, harsh preservatives, and some other ingredients, listed in the table above.
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:
- Branch Basics Concentrate (READ15 code for starter kits)
- Humble Suds Laundry Soap (IRLFY10 code)
- Meliora Laundry Powder, and
- Pure Haven Laundry Powder.
If your laundry detergent is not addressed here, you can use this information to estimate its safety on your own. Alternatively, you are welcome to use one of my services.
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