Which of the many options out there is actually the BEST all natural laundry detergent for baby and you? Find out in this post where I write my reviews!
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could trust companies to actually label their products accordingly? If the word “natural” and “non-toxic” actually MEANT something? Wouldn’t that be grand? After doing gobs of research in my quest to find the best all natural laundry detergent , I discovered something rather shocking–that even products that I thought I could trust were either environmentally unfriendly, or bad for one’s health, or both. Surprise!
I am going to focus on the laundry detergents you may THINK are safe for your baby, your family and you–but aren’t. The ones that have clean and honest sounding names, and perhaps come from companies that you’ve come to trust. Much like moms who buy their children granola bars presuming they are healthier than candy bars (only to find out they are laden with sugar and hydrogenated oils), many of us who try and buy more healthy, more natural alternatives to standard laundry soap are actually purchasing products that are not safe.
Despite labels using words like “pure”, “all-natural” and “free of…” and lovely picture of birds or trees on the bottle, these products are secretly and deceptively toxic.
As I was doing my research, I was pretty appalled by just how many eco-friendly-seeming products actually contained toxic ingredients. In order not to end up writing a book, I decided to focus my efforts on the most egregious, most misleading, and more widely available laundry detergents out there. In particular, I focused my research on the companies I thought I could trust, just to see if my trust was well-placed.
Let’s Start with the Worst …and work our way up to the Best!
Eco-Friendly Girl’s Grade? F
Oh Mrs Meyers. How much I wish I could trust you. With lovely sounding laundry products fragranced with “basil” and “lemon verbena”, and your attractive, hipster packaging…sigh. Too bad ALL THE SCENTS contains harmful ingredients that affect human development, reproductive and endocrine functions. Bad bad bad. Also, it contains propylene glycol and methylisothiazolinone, a powerful synthetic biocide (think ‘suicide’–since ‘cide’ means KILL). The company has been bought by SC Johnson, which continues to test cosmetics and personal care products on animals despite not being required to do so by law.
Mrs Meyers is one of those companies that just sound so…trustable (is that a word? I think trustworthy would probably be more grammatically correct….) First off, the company really did seem to have good intentions in the beginning. But as with many small companies that are bought out by large corporations, money ruled over sustainability, as evidenced by the inclusion of inexpensive and more easily-sourced toxic chemicals in its laundry detergent.
Seventh Generation Natural 2x Concentrated Liquid Laundry Detergent (White Flower and Bergamot Citrus)
Eco-Friendly Girl’s Grade? F
Contains harmful ingredients that affect developmental, endocrine and reproductive functions. Contains methyhlisothiazolinone (see above) as well as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which causes acute toxicity in aquatic animals; in addition, SLS is often contaminated with dioxane, a known carcinogen for which labeling is not required.
Like The Honest Company below, Seventh Generation is a private company that many eco-minded consumers have come to trust. It was one of the very first independent companies to focus on environmentally-friendly consumer products, which is why it is doubly disappointing that they continue to use hazardous chemicals in their products.
Tide Free & Gentle Liquid Detergent Eco-Friendly Girl’s Grade? F
Contains ethanolamine, a known respiratory irritant which also attacks the nervous system. The Centers for Disease Control calls for a full-face respirator to be used in areas where ethanolamine exceeds 30 parts per million (ppm) so as to reduce health risks. In Europe, safety limits for this chemical are much lower, more on the order of 2-3 ppm.
Tide has clearly been trying to cash in on the green movement by producing misleading products like this one. The very fact that they use words like “free” and “gentle” on the package is intended to make the consumer believe they are buying something more “pure” and environmentally safe. So misleading! In addition, Tide is owned by the massive Procter & Gamble company, which has received consistently horrible scores from animal groups over its continued animal testing. Its environmental record is similarly awful: Greenpeace has reported that P&G sources palm oils from companies directly connected to deforestation. This deforestation has contributed to the near extinction of the Sumatran tiger.
Eco-Friendly Girl’s Grade? D
Contains methyhlisothiazolinone (see above) and cocomidopropyl betaine, an acute and chronic aquatic toxin. The Environment Canada Domestic Substance List considers this ingredient to be an environmental toxin.
The Honest Company is founded on the principals of ethical consumerism and, let’s face it, honesty. When a company brands itself as the company to trust, as the “honest” company, their laundry detergent should not contain environmental toxins. That’s just a slap in the face to consumers who are truly trying to make the right choice. Nonetheless, I do think this company is trying to do the right thing; they are quite new, and I think they have a ways to go to earn my trust, “honest” or not.
BioKleen Laundry Liquid (all scents and unscented)
Eco-Friendly Girl’s Grade? C
This detergent contains sodium lauryl sulfate as well as cocomidopropyl betaine, an acute and chronic aquatic toxin. The reviews on Amazon are quite good, but most of the reviews came before the addition of the sodium lauryl sulfate, to which many people have skin reactions (especially babies).
I really want to love this product–I like the company’s mission statement (“All Biokleen products are free of phosphates, chlorine, ammonia, petroleum solvents, alcohol, butyl, glycol ether, brighteners, artificial colors, artificial fragrance”) and their strong anti-animal testing stance. To be sure, the product is better than the other detergents listed above. But the fact that they continue to include toxins in their product is a no-go for me.
Ecover Laundry Liquid 2.5X Concentrated Zero Eco-Friendly Girl’s Grade? B
Please note this grade only applies to the exact version of Ecover listed here; there are others that contain different ingredients. This version DOES contains sodium lauryl sulfate, an aquatic toxin. All other ingredients in the product are safe or reasonably so, with the exception of formic acid. Formic acid, while considered of low toxicity, has been linked to kidney damage and skin allergies. This particular detergent actually cleans quite well as I have found from personal use, and gets pretty rave reviews on Amazon. If I were looking for a liquid detergent that cleans well and has a pretty good environmental and health profile, I might choose this one.
A bit about the company: Ecover is a 30 year old private company based in Belgium. They recently bought out Method cleaning products, which are widely available in the States (and no, I don’t recommend Method laundry detergent-more on that in a later post). Ecover is attempting to expand its “refill” project nationwide, wherein customers bring back their empty bottles to have them refilled, there by reducing waste. Nice. However, in 2014, Ecover was found to be researching synthetic, genetically modifed algae as a replacement to palm oil; many environmentalist feel that using GMO products goes against Ecover’s environmental mission and protests ensued.
So what laundry detergent comes out on top for your family?
Yes, SOAP NUTS.
Eco-Friendly Girl’s NUMBER ONE choice for all natural
laundry detergent with an A Rating: soap nuts!!!
These little soap nuts are simply amazing! Let me tell you why they are my absolute, no-holds-barred, number one choice for the best all natural laundry detergent out there today.
- They are completely natural. Soap nuts are actually wild harvested, sun-dried Sapindus Mukorossi soap berries that are absolutely chemical-free and unprocessed. They are sourced from India and Nepal, but packaged in the United States. They have won a Green Dot Award, which called them “possibly the most significant green innovation in history for everyday household cleaning needs.”
- Yes, they work. They contain saponin, which is a natural detergent. Users (including myself) have found they are incredibly effective at cleaning even smelly workout clothes. They leave my laundry soft and fresh, with very little scent (I see that as a good thing, mind you–no nasty chemical fragrance for me!)
- Extremely cost-effective. One bag contains enough soap nuts for 250 loads, at a total cost of only $18.95. That works out to about 7.5 cents a load. Compare that with our next closest competitor above, Ecover. If you use one ounce of Ecover per load, the detergent would last for just 51 loads at a cost of 25 cents per load. That adds up over time!
- The packaging is the ONLY truly ecologically friendly packaging I have encountered. The soap nuts arrive in a reusable muslin bag which can be used for laundering delicates or carrying toiletries when you travel. No plastic–not even any cardboard! Nothing to throw away at all–big score in my book.
- How do they work? The soap nuts come with 5 ‘wash bags’ into which you place about 5 soap nuts. Place this in the washing machine along with dirty laundry. If you have hard water, add 1/2 cup of baking soda, but I have not found this necessary. There will be very little, if any, suds. Before moving the laundry to your dryer (assuming you use one), take the wash bag out of the laundry to reuse in your next load (or if need be, replace the nuts with new ones). The soap nuts can be reused up to 7 times. I find after about 5 times they begin to lose effectiveness, but your results may vary. They can be used with an HE washing machine.
- What if you REALLY aren’t up to trying something new, and simply want an effective laundry liquid? If you can’t abide the idea of change and simply MUST have a liquid detergent, try this liquid made from soap nuts. Very effective, a bit less environmentally friendly. But still a solid A- from Eco-friendly Girl.
I truly hope you found this review of the various all-natural laundry detergents helpful. Please post any questions you might have below and I will do my best to answer them!
Oh, and yes, I get a small (tiny, really) affiliate fee if you click on any of these links–but it will NOT change the price you pay one iota.
ETA: A couple of people have asked me about STAINS. Do the soap nuts get them out? Yes and no. I have found them very effective for the majority of stains that my family gets on their clothing. But once in a while, for heavy duty grease stains in particular, I have needed to pre-treat the clothing. For pre-treating, I highly recommend the organic, non-toxic Stain Stick – Goat Milk Soap Half Felted Stain Stick. It is really good. Even my husband, a life-long user of Shout stain remover (I know, awful) concedes that this product is just as effective.