There really is nothing like the fresh scent of newly washed laundry, so it’s too bad that some of the products we use to get our clothes clean are downright scary. Many detergents are petroleum-based and can contain a whole slew of potentially toxic chemicals and most dryer sheets are made with tallow (or animal fat). While some companies can voluntarily tell consumers what’s in their products, technically they’re not required to do so even if consumers ask. So how do you choose the best eco-friendly laundry products off a shelf that is becoming increasingly laden with new, eco-friendly products? That’s why we’re here to help – check out a few of our favorites!
Homemade Laundry Detergent
The best way to ensure that your laundry detergent is 100% eco-friendly is to make it yourself. So grab a big bowl and start mixing! The recipe is pretty simple, but it does include the natural cleaning agent borax, which is a substance that comes from a volcanic stew and needs to be mined (clearly a very non-eco-friendly process).
Seventh Generation’s laundry products contain no optical brighteners, dyes, fragrance, or phosphates. They’re safe for septic and gray-water systems and do not contain any animal derived ingredients. Seventh Generation also discloses all ingredients. They also offer a concentrated baby laundry product. According to Grist’s review, the fragrance free formulation works well but smells vaguely of Play Doh.
Biokleen products claim to be tough on dirt and gentle on the earth. They’ve been around since 1989, offering a wide range of laundry products including laundry powder, liquid, chlorine free oxygen bleach and super-concentrated citrus liquid detergent for stain removal. You won’t find them in the cleaning aisle at just any store though. Whole Foods typically carries them, but otherwise you have to go to specialty stores to find them. Luckily, you can also buy them online and have them shipped directly to your laundry room.
Then there’s new Method Laundry with Smartclean technology. The San Francisco company basically kicked off the (now Walmart-supported) ultra concentrated “small and mighty” detergent trend. They disclose all the ingredients and repackaged the new product in a surprisingly small but nonetheless swanky recycled bottle. The new formula is 95% plant-based and highly concentrated. Four pumps equals one load of laundry. It uses dramatically less water than other brands and the revamped packaging uses about 36% less plastic than the previous form and is made from 50% post-consumer recycled plastic.
This detergent grows on trees. The dried fruits of the Chinese soapberry tree contain saponin, a natural cleaning agent that the native Indians used for generations before detergents came along. Pop a few nuts into a cotton sack and drop them in the machine. The soap nuts naturally brighten colors, act as fabric softener, are completely hypoallergenic and 100% biodegradable. Eco-launderists concur that these little bad boys really work.
Again, if you’re the DIY type, make your own fabric softener. This way you know exactly what goes into it: vinegar and baking soda. Add a bit of essential oil for a natural perfume.
If you don’t like the idea of tossing your clean laundry in the dryer with chemically-scented animal fat, then try out vegan-friendly reusable Static Eliminator Dryer sheets. These leave no chemical residue on your clothes and are made from hypoallergenic 99% polyester/1% nylon sheets which can soften over 500 loads.
Mrs. Meyers uses a vegetable-derived softener in these biodegradable sheets in a great variety of garden-fresh scents like basil, lavender, lemon verbena, and geranium. For greenies who still love the perfume of fresh laundry wafting through the house, this is a great alternative. Better yet, Mrs. Meyers is readily available at major retailers like Linens n’ Things, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Target.
From the Great White North comes Attitude’s vegan-friendly fabric softener made with soy-based surfactants. This product is free of tallow, enzymes, carcinogens, color dyes, and artificial fragrances. While not yet available on shelves at any of the major mainstream retailers, you can find Attitude at Whole Foods and online through Amazon.
Then there’s Nellie’s all-natural products packaged in adorable throwback packaging from the fifties. Nellie’s PVC-free dryer balls are a great alternative to either liquid fabric softener or dryer sheets. The nubby balls lift and separate fabrics while relaxing fibers, creating less lint, fewer wrinkles, and of course, softer clothes. They tend to reduce drying time by up to 25% which saves you in energy costs in the long-run. They also last up to 2 years.