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 Scented||alcohols, C12-16 (ethoxylated), undisclosed fragrance ingredients, subtilisin, lipase, alpha amylase, pectate lyase, mannanase (enzymes, except Dropps Sensitive Skin)|
|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)||I see no preservatives. The company could not explain to me how they prevent mold and bacterial growth.|
|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.|
|Dropps Active Wash (Unscented) Dropps Sensitive Skin & Baby (Unscented) Dropps Stain & Odor Detergent (Unscented)||Alcohols, C12-16 (ethoxylated)|
|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.|
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.
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.