Zero Waste Laundry Detergent: 16 Plastic Free Laundry Soaps

Zero Waste Laundry Detergent: 16 Plastic Free Laundry Soaps

Have you ever thought about switching to zero waste laundry detergent? If the answer is no, don’t worry, for a long time it didn’t even occur to me that I may need to rethink. Why? Because I bought laundry power in a cardboard box and I didn’t think twice about the chemicals that were poisoning our waterways, the environment and me!

Not only that but most laundry detergents come in plastic bottles. In fact, around 700 million detergent jugs are thrown away in the USA every single year! And while, in theory these jugs are recyclable, only around 30% of them end up being recycled and even then, they will need virgin plastics to reinforce the material as recycled plastics lose their integrity every time they are recycled.

Ready to have a think about changing up your laundry detergent? AMAZING! Keep on reading for answers to some of the most common questions about sustainable laundry detergents and a few recommendations to try out!

FYI, this is a guest post written by Little By Lottie, a zero waste advocate and blogger. This post contains affiliate links. This means if you choose to purchase one of these items I will make a very small commission at no extra charge to you. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

Zero Waste Laundry Detergent: 16 Plastic Free Laundry Soaps

What is the best plastic free laundry soap?

Well, this is really a matter of opinion. It will totally depend on what you currently prefer using. If you prefer pods, you can use pods. If you prefer powder, there are powder options! Personally, I absolutely love to use laundry detergent sheets as they are super easy to pop in with a wash and don’t result in a lot of mess.

What laundry detergent has no fillers?

First of all, what is a filler? A filler is an additive to your laundry detergent that are used to alter the consistency of the product. These fillers on the whole don’t actually help with the quality of the wash and can actually cause more harm than good. Some budget brands add fillers to deceive the consumer into thinking that the product is a better deal than it is. While other fillers can actually do harm to your clothes and washing machine.

Fillers are not all doom and gloom though! There are some bad fellas that you want to steer clear of such as 1,4 dioxane, gluten, limestone, alcohol and added colorings – all of which are harmful to either you or the planet. But there are some good fillers too such as sodium sulphate and water – which help with the consistency of the product and aid cleaning. As well as, sodium silicate which helps keep your washing machine free from corrosion.

In short, there are too many detergents out there to list all the ones with and without fillers. But what I suggest, is that you rephrase your question. Instead, when purchasing detergent, check the ingredients list to make sure none of the bad fillers are included. If you don’t have time for this (we are all busy people), keep on reading for a few suggestions to try.

What is the most toxic laundry detergent?

Unfortunately, most detergents that you find at the grocery store are toxic. And not just for you, but the planet too. Evidence has been found to suggest that the average dryer vent can emit seven or more air pollutants, derived directly from the detergents.

Worse yet, a lot of traditional detergents contain phosphates which build up in waterways and lead to eutrophication – big algae blooms that can deplete the water of oxygen and kill off fish. 

The best option is to opt for a natural, organic alternative – keep reading to find out some awesome brands you should check out.

(Not so) fun fact… Formaldehyde, a chemical used to preserve dead bodies, can actually be found in some laundry detergents!

How do you wash clothes with zero waste?

Well, it is essentially the same as you wash your clothes now. Sustainable laundry doesn’t mean you need to sit with a bucket and washboard. But you can create a more eco-friendly routine by:

  • Choosing a zero waste detergent (like the ones listed below)
  • Using wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets
  • Washing your clothes less to reduce water waste and microfiber pollution
  • Hanging your clothes to dry to save energy
  • Washing in cold water
  • Using a Cora Ball to catch microfibers

Are soap nuts good for laundry?

YES!! I have to say I absolutely love them. These are some of the quirkiest and truly natural detergents you can buy. Be careful though, soap nuts are often a target for greenwashing! Nothing worse than thinking you are doing something good, only to find it is delivered with a totally unnecessary plastic bag – we have all been there!

For those of you who have absolutely no idea what a soap nut (technically a berry) is, a dried berry that comes from the soapberry tree, native to India. They contain Saponin – a natural soap – which is released when water is absorbed by the berry. They are a totally natural, compostable option which are known to be super gentle on the skin (even baby skin) and are kind to the waterways too.

Why homemade detergent is bad?

This is a bit of a tricky one because it will mostly depend on the hardness of the water in your area. If you live in a soft water area, you are likely to have less issues here and if you want to make your own I suggest checking out this recipe here.

However, if you, like me, live in a hard water area – I honestly don’t recommend you give homemade detergents a go. Hard water has minerals such as calcium and magnesium in it which reacts with the soap in homemade detergents. This reaction will leave a residue on your clothes and in your washing machine. Much like a soap-based shampoo bar, if you have ever felt that waxy/greasy feeling in your hair you will know what I mean. This residue can degrade your clothes,  shorten the lifespan of your machine and ,worst case, even leave mould and mildew behind. This is the last thing you want when you are trying to make sure your clothes are fresh as a daisy!

In reality, there is no such thing as a homemade detergent, you are simply making washing soaps. This is because washing detergents are carefully formulated with natural and synthetic compounds to keep you and your washing machine safe. What is important to remember is that natural does not necessarily mean safe and in the same way synthetic does not always mean harmful.

What should I look for in an eco-friendly laundry detergent?

Personally, there are several criteria I look for in a product and recommend you do too. I look for products that are cruelty free, plastic free and have compostable (or no) packaging. In terms of ingredients, I like to make sure that the detergent doesn’t contain any bad fillers such as SLS, bleach and other things mentioned above.

Zero waste laundry detergent: 16 plastic-free brands to try

Now that you know what to look for, here are some of the best zero waste laundry detergents on the market. Many of them have refill programs, and most are plastic-free. If they do contain plastic, it’s usually recycled plastic.

Zero Waste Laundry Detergent: 16 Plastic Free Laundry Soaps

1. Dropps

  • Laundry pods
  • Variety of scented and unscented options
  • EPA Safer Choice Approved
  • Suitable for babies and pets
  • Transparent about ingredients – all non-toxic of course!

If you are like me and you go to wash your clothes and realize you have once again forgotten to pick detergent up at the store, Dropps are a great option for you! They run a subscription service, that means your detergent pods will arrive on your door mat at specified intervals. There are truly no strings attached so you can cancel at any time.

The orders come in completely compostable packaging using carbon neutral shipping! One thing I do absolutely love about this brand is that they are completely transparent about their non-toxic ingredients. They list every single one, with a justification, specifying whether the ingredients are natural or synthetic. More companies should be like Dropps! Possibly the best part about this company is they are a US based company which truly offer powerful cleaning with the environment as their top priority.

Zero Waste Laundry Detergent: 16 Plastic Free Laundry Soaps

2. Tru Earth

  • Laundry detergent sheets
  • Saves water – Less CO2 emissions from transporting the product
  • Compostable packaging
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Variety of scents (Fresh Linen, Baby and Fragrance Free)

Tru Earth are quickly becoming one of the most well-known eco-friendly laundry brands in the world. The Canadian based company offer super simple and easy laundry detergent sheets which are ultra-concentrated to reduce water usage and CO2 emissions for transportation. They company are certified to be free from parabens, dyes, chlorine, animal products and all the other nasties. If you are a little bit clumsy like me, who often ends up with detergent powder or liquid all over my laundry room, then these super compact and hassle free sheets are an awesome addition to your laundry routine!

Zero Waste Laundry Detergent: 16 Plastic Free Laundry Soaps

3. Clean Cult

  • Liquid detergent
  • Plant Based
  • Various Scents to choose from
  • 100% Recyclable packaging
  • Carbon neutral shipping

Clean Cult is a super cool brand driven by a group of PhD Scientists in Puerto Rico. They’re focused on growing their local economy, creating job opportunities and rebuilding the islands infrastructure all in one.

The product itself is a liquid detergent which comes in 100% recyclable carton refills with a beautiful glass bottle for storage. They are keen to reduce CO2 emissions from transporting the product so it has been specifically formulated to be ultra-concentrated meaning you only need 0.5oz of liquid per load! This is the perfect option if you prefer to use liquid detergents.

Zero Waste Laundry Detergent: 16 Plastic Free Laundry Soaps

4. Blueland

  • Powder laundry with Oxi Booster Powder + PVA-free laundry tablets
  • Female founded, BIPOC owned
  • Refills in compostable packaging
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Leaping Bunny Certified
  • Vegan friendly

Blueland is a US based company specializing in innovative powder-based cleaning products for all over your home. The laundry detergent is great as it comes in a “Forever Tin” – one for the detergent tablets and one for the Oxi Booster Powder. Once it is time to refill, all you need to do is send of for the compostable refill packs and top up your forever tin! Not only does it save on packaging but also minimizes CO2 emissions from transporting heavy packaging! It is a win-win.

Zero Waste Laundry Detergent: 16 Plastic Free Laundry Soaps

5. Eco Nuts

  • Laundry Nuts
  • Completely compostable
  • Suitable for sensitive skin
  • Vegan Friendly

I won’t say too much here as I have already talked to you about soap nuts above, but Eco Nuts are an awesome distributor of soap berries! They are one of the only truly natural detergents you can find which are awesome for your clothes and the environment. Although this might seem a little bit of a more alternative option, I 100% recommend giving them a try.

Zero Waste Laundry Detergent: 16 Plastic Free Laundry Soaps

6. Meliora

  • Laundry powder
  • 100% plastic free
  • Palm oil free
  • 1% For The Planet
  • Subscription service available

If you are more of a powdered detergent kind of person Meliora might just be for you! They offer completely plastic free and ultra-concentrated laundry powder. They offer various scents for you to try, a super convenient reusable metal scoop. Like some other brands, they offer no strings attached subscription services, so you never have to worry about running out of detergent again.

On top of all of this, my favorite part about this brand is that they are committed to the 1% for the planet scheme – where 1% of every sale goes towards environmental causes.

Zero Waste Laundry Detergent: 16 Plastic Free Laundry Soaps

7. Zero Co

  • Liquid Detergent
  • Send Back Refill Scheme
  • Carbon Negative Shipping
  • Removes plastics from the oceans and landfill

Zero Co is an Australian based company with a really cool business model! They are committed wholly to ditching single use plastic and have a wide range of innovative products for all over your home. You will only ever need one bottle – made of plastics saved from the ocean, beaches and landfill. Then when you are ready to fill up, you send back a detergent pouch to be topped up again! This means you will only ever need one bottle and one pouch. You may be thinking “hang on… isn’t all this toing and froing increasing the CO2 emissions?”. Well the answer is NO! They go one step further than most and are actually a carbon negative company.

Something I really love about this brand is if you are nervous about making sustainable changes because you are quite set in your ways, you will hardly notice a difference in your laundry routine! I highly recommend checking out this brand, especially if you live down under.

Zero Waste Laundry Detergent: 16 Plastic Free Laundry Soaps

8. Zero Waste Laundry Soap

  • Dissolvable Detergent Paste for Liquid Detergent
  • Leaping Bunny Approved
  • Suitable for Sensitive Skin
  • Fragrance Free
  • Plastic Free Packaging

So, this may show you just how tragic I really am but I was honestly so excited when I discovered this product. This is an entirely unique laundry soap. Unlike other laundry soaps where you rub the soap on stained areas, this you can actually dissolve the paste in water to make a liquid laundry detergent. It is a super effective solution if you love liquid detergents but want to reduce the fuel used to transport unnecessary water. Honestly, this is genius!

Zero Waste Laundry Detergent: 16 Plastic Free Laundry Soaps

9. Bestowed Essentials

  • Powder
  • US Veteran Owned Business
  • PETA approved
  • Women owned, handmade products
  • Compostable Packaging

This laundry powder will arrive at your door in a simple compostable paper bag. This small female owned company have sustainability at the heart of it as they handmake all of their products.  In addition to this, this is probably one of the most budget friendly options on this list. All the ingredients are non-toxic and carefully formulated to create a laundry powder with a low carbon footprint which is also palm oil, paraben, sulfate and artificial fragrance free.

Zero Waste Laundry Detergent: 16 Plastic Free Laundry Soaps

10. Kind Laundry

  • Laundry Detergent Sheets
  • Refills in compostable Packaging
  • 100% satisfaction guarantee
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Travel Friendly

One of the main things I hear when talking to people about sustainable products is that they are worried about spending money and not liking the product. With Kind Laundry, if you don’t get on with the product you are able to get 100% of your money back. This is awesome especially for those of you who are new to zero waste living, and a little hesitant about whether the products will be right for you. As with all the products on this list, they are completely non-toxic!

Zero Waste Laundry Detergent: 16 Plastic Free Laundry Soaps

11. Earth Breeze

  • Laundry Detergent Sheets
  • Refills in compostable Packaging
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Various Scents available
  • Vegan Friendly and Gluten Free

If you haven’t noticed, I LOVE detergent sheets! Earth Breeze is another awesome brand offering these. They are available worldwide and have an amazing compact design weighing only 10% of the weight of a traditional detergent jug. This means that by simply opting for this brand you are reducing the fuel wasted from transporting needless fillers such as water. The company themselves have a strong focus on “planet before profit” which is really unique approach. They also do this without compromising the efficiency of the product. I highly recommend giving Earth Breeze a go, especially if you are limited on cupboard space! Oh, and they donate 1% of their profits to environmental causes AND have carbon neutral shipping.

Zero Waste Laundry Detergent: 16 Plastic Free Laundry Soaps

12. Nature First

  • Detergent pods
  • Natural Ingredients
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Cruelty Free
  • Vegan Friendly

Remember those soap berries we talked about? If you are a bit unsure about popping dried fruit in your wash but like the natural element of the products this is definitely a solid option for you! These detergent pods are made from soap berries and aloe vera but are in a more familiar form. They are naturally anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal and are also incredibly gentle on your skin.

Zero Waste Laundry Detergent: 16 Plastic Free Laundry Soaps

13. Ethique

  • Solid Laundry and Stain Remover Bar
  • Available worldwide
  • Hypoallergenic
  • PETA approved
  • Vegan Friendly

You have probably heard of Ethique for their incredible shampoo bars; however they aren’t a one trick pony. They also make some really awesome solid laundry bars which are really great for stain removal. These bars really should be your go to if you are looking for a compact option for your delicates or even for travelling. If you want to, this is also safe to use to wash your hands and dishes. And an added bonus… all the packaging is compostable!

Zero Waste Laundry Detergent: 16 Plastic Free Laundry Soaps

14. Etee

  • Ultra-Concentrated Laundry Powder AND Stain Remover Bars
  • Subscription Service Available
  • Safe for the whole family
  • Cruelty Free
  • Microplastic Free

Etee is another brand offering multiple products around the home. For laundry they have two options, a laundry detergent powder and a stain remover bar. Something I love about this brand is they offer a trial pack so you can find out if the product suits your needs without having to fork out a substantial amount of money. As well as this, they also offer a subscription service with allows you to have 20% off your order and is super convenient, meaning you will never run out of detergent again!

Zero Waste Laundry Detergent: 16 Plastic Free Laundry Soaps

15. The Simply Co.

  • Concentrated Laundry Powder
  • Recyclable glass jar packaging
  • Organic Ingredients
  • Safe for babies
  • Vegan Friendly

Founded by Lauren Singer, the owner of the blog Trash is for Tossers and the Package free shop, this is a specially formulated laundry detergent powder that requires as little as 1 Tbsp of powder per wash. This is a fantastic low waste option which means that the super concentrated and natural formulation is not only great for your clothes but also for wallet too!

Zero Waste Laundry Detergent: 16 Plastic Free Laundry Soaps

16. The Good Fill

  • Concentrated Laundry Powder
  • Refills in compostable Packaging
  • Free from SLS
  • Fragrance Free
  • Vegan Friendly

The Good Fill is an online small business with a variety of refill products for around the home. One of my favorites is their laundry powder. It comes in an ultra-concentrated powder form and a refillable glass jar to keep the product fresh. You only need 1bsp per load meaning you can fit a whopping 64 loads worth of detergent in the jar. What is awesome about this product is there is no water fillers, so there is no need to add to the fuel wastage! Once you are finished with the product you can simply order a refill in a compostable bag, and it will come straight to your door.

Zero Waste Laundry Detergent: 16 Plastic Free Laundry Soaps

What’s your favorite zero waste laundry detergent? Did I miss anything? Leave your favorites in the comments!

For more information, be sure to check out this zero waste laundry post.

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Little By Lottie

Guest post: Hi, my name is Lottie and I have my own zero waste blog too (it’s littlebylottie.co.uk if you want to check it out or @littlebylottie on Instagram). I live across the pond in England and am super passionate about sharing easy changes you can make in your life to have a huge impact on the planet. I’ve been lucky enough to have a chat with Ariana on a few occasions. I’m so pleased to have this opportunity to write for her page.

By Ariana Palmieri

Ariana Palmieri is the founder of Greenify-Me, a blog dedicated to zero waste and sustainability. Her work has also been featured on Going Zero Waste, Green Matters, Mother Earth Living and several other online publications.

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