Conventional laundry detergents may leave our clothes smelling fresh, but most contain enough toxic chemicals to make an entire household sick. Optical brighteners, synthetic fragrances, chlorine, distillates and other harsh chemicals can all linger in clothes after washing, causing everything from irritation of the eyes, mouth and skin to reproductive effects and cancer development. Manufacturers aren’t required to list ingredients on laundry products, and few ingredients used in detergents have even been tested for safety.
Instead of dousing your clothes in a chemical bath next time you do laundry, try one of these five natural laundry detergents, all safe to use in both HE and standard washers, and all tested by Mother Earth Living editors. Free of toxic chemicals, these laundry detergents will leave your clothes naturally clean and fragrant.
Get a load (or 50) of these natural laundry detergents.
Method Ultra-Concentrated Laundry Detergent
Method’s ultra-concentrated laundry detergent brings new meaning to the phrase “good things come in small packages.” Just 20 fluid ounces of the company’s super-concentrated, Cradle-to-Cradle certified formula is good for 50 loads. The pump top means you can easily dispense the required amount without any drips or spills (and did we mention that it’s kind of fun to use, too?). And thanks to Method’s handy refill pouches, you can keep using that little bottle over and over, cutting back on the amount of waste laundry day generates.
Cost: $15 for 20-ounce bottle (50 loads); $20 for 32-ounce refill pack
Biokleen All-Temperature Citrus Laundry Liquid
For a fresh pile of laundry that you’ll want to bury your nose in while folding, try Biokleen’s Citrus Laundry Liquid. Extracts of grapefruit seed, orange peel and coconut combine to create a wonderful, long-lasting scent that lingers on clothes after washing—but without the addition of lingering chemicals. Biokleen’s laundry liquid is free of phosphates and chlorine and is three times concentrated so you can use less liquid to wash more clothes.
Cost: around $7 for a 32-ounce bottle (64 loads)
Eco-Me “Emma” Laundry Soap
Eco-Me’s all-natural laundry soap was crafted with the health of both our bodies and the environment in mind. Made with basic ingredients like jojoba, coconut and olive oil soap, this simple laundry soap is free of colorants, dyes, chemical preservatives, synthetic fragrances, sulfates and phosphates for a clean that you can feel good about it. The detergent comes in Eco-Me’s signature Sweet Tea scent, but if this Southern smell isn’t to your liking, don’t worry—it doesn’t permeate into the clothing.
Cost: $10 for 32-ounce bottle (64 loads)
Seventh Generation Natural 4X Laundry Detergent
Seventh Generation’s ultra-concentrated natural laundry detergent is free of optical brighteners, dyes and synthetic fragrances. Instead of the typical plastic jug, its biodegradable formula comes in a compostable bottle made from 100 percent recycled fiber. Couple that with a biodegradable, ultra-concentrated formula—one bottle is good for about 60 loads—and using this natural detergent can help you cut down on your waste stream.
Cost: $15 for 50-ounce bottle (66 loads)
Soap berries or soap nuts
For an all-natural laundry solution, try using soap berries, also called soap nuts. These small berries grow on Sapindus trees and, when mixed with water and shaken, give off a soapy residue that cleans clothes naturally. Soap nuts are available at a range of price points from several suppliers, including Green Virgin Products, Eco Nuts, and NaturOli.
Cost: $3.99-$10.99 for 83-100 loads
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