Zero Waste Laundry Detergent: 10 Options for Fresh Clothes

Written by • Last Updated April 20, 2021

Ah, laundry. It’s my least favorite chore, and one that leads to a lot of plastic waste. That is, unless you make the switch to zero waste laundry detergent!

It may seem small, but a zero waste laundry routine is exactly the type of minor change that adds up to a big impact. Ditching single use plastics (and unnecessary chemicals) like these is a great stepping stone towards a waste free life.

Speaking of which: do you really know what’s inside your go-to laundry detergent?

The “zero waste” label isn’t just about the packaging. After all, many name brand laundry companies offer powdered detergents in compostable cardboard containers. However, the detergent itself produces microplastics once dissolved, which either wind up in the soil where they never fully breakdown, or get into the water supply.

While our clothes are responsible for a lot of these microplastics (which is why I recommend investing in eco brands and slow fashion rather than fast fashion), learning how to wash clothes zero waste is a key part of the battle against plastic pollution.

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Why switch to zero waste laundry detergent

Linen bag with zero waste laundry soap nuts coming out from opening.

Switching to waste free laundry detergent isn’t just better for the environment–it’s also good for your skin and your clothes.

The chemicals and toxins found in most laundry detergents will dull the colors on your clothes and are more likely to irritate your skin. In fact, many laundry detergents are responsible for triggering eczema in children (and even adults). Fabric softeners don’t solve these issues and can actually worsen them.

From liquids to powders, I’ve used my fair share of zero waste laundry detergents. And believe me, not all of them work! Below are my most recommended plastic free options.

Best Zero Waste Laundry Tablets and Strips

Tru Earth Fragrance Free Laundry Detergent Strips

Tru Earth’s strips are an awesome sustainable laundry detergent option that will leave your clothes clean and fresh-smelling. Just pop a strip in with your laundry, turn on the machine, and it’s good to go! The strips are completely biodegradable and will dissolve in hot or cold water

Plus, Tru Earth listened to feedback and changed their packaging from plastic sachets to recycled paper, making it totally plastic free. And, because these strips take up so little space, they also cause 94% less transportation pollution than leading laundry detergent brands. The weight is also an added benefit if you have to hike down to use a communal washing machine.

Tru Earth’s affordable zero waste laundry detergent strips are vegan, hypoallergenic and made without parabens, phosphates, dyes or chlorine.

Dropps Stain and Odor Laundry Detergent Pods

Dropps’ eco friendly laundry detergent is great for the planet–and your clothes! The pods are 100% biodegradable, chemical free, vegan, and incredibly easy to use. The only quirk is that they should be put in the washing machine BEFORE your clothes, and you need to handle them with dry hands.

Whereas most laundry pods will leave behind plastic microparticles after they dissolve, that’s not that case with Dropps. Instead, these tablets are made from a water soluble film of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), and PVA microparticles are easily broken down by microorganisms frequently found in nature. Studies show PVA will completely break down in river water in one month with no ill effects on the environment.

The pods are packaged in a 100% recyclable, repulpable, and compostable cardboard box.

Best Zero Waste Laundry Powders

Meliora Eco Laundry Powder

When it comes to zero waste, Meliora knows what they’re doing (they also make one of the best zero waste dish soaps). Their plastic free laundry detergent comes in a stainless steel canister that you can easily recycle or reuse at the end of its life. It’s actually a great size for knick knacks, or even pens.

All of the ingredients used are all natural, vegan, and ethically sourced. They don’t use any palm oil and the scented powders are made using Certified Organic essential oils.

Meliora is a 1% for the Planet company, meaning they donate 1% of their annual profits to charity. However, Meliora actually pledges to donate at least 2% of all sales towards nonprofits. Their partner of choice is Women’s Voices for the Earth, a women-run non-profit dedicated to eliminating toxic chemicals from products through corporate responsibility.

Bestowed Essentials Zero Waste Laundry Powder

Isolated image of Bestowed Essentials zero waste laundry powder in brown bag.

Bestowed Essentials is one of my favorite sustainable companies. They also make some of my favorite zero waste shampoo and dish soap. So naturally when I found out they made their own plastic free laundry detergent, I was all in.

And it does not disappoint. 

As with all their products, this is vegan and Certified Cruelty-Free by PETA. It is also made without any parabens, sulphates, preservatives, artificial colors or fragrances. Because Bestowed Essentials rigorously researches all of their ingredients and suppliers, I know that only the best ingredients are in their products.

This affordable zero waste laundry detergent comes packaged inside of a compostable paper bag with a plant based, compostable interior lining, so it’s very eco friendly.

biokleen Laundry Detergent Powder

biokleen is one of the biggest names in sustainable laundry detergent. While their liquid detergent is great, you’ll have to use their powder detergent for a completely zero waste laundry routine.

All of their detergents are plant based, cruelty free and made without colors, preservatives, or artificial fragrances (all scents are made from all natural essential oils). They are paraben and phosphate free, making them perfect for those with skin sensitivities.

biokleen also purchases renewable energy offsets for production of their products. Their powder comes in a 100% recyclable or compostable box.

Save me for later!

Best Zero Waste Liquid Laundry Detergent

It’s impossible to find 100% zero waste laundry detergent in liquid form, but these eco-friendly brands are the closest you’ll find!

Cleancult Natural Liquid Laundry Detergent

Cleancult makes one of my favorite liquid detergents. Although it isn’t 100% plastic free, it’s about as close as you can get with liquid detergent, and it uses 90% less plastic than leading brands.

Unlike most liquid laundry detergents, Cleancult uses paper based milk cartons rather than all-plastic bottles, which means you only have to worry about the screw lid at the top. Technically the milk cartons are refills, and Cleancult makes a refillable and reusable glass container to store the detergent and easily measure it out.

All of Cleancult’s eco friendly laundry detergents use completely natural plant based and vegan ingredients. Their shipping is also carbon neutral.

Seventh Generation EasyDose Laundry Detergent

Seventh Generation makes some of the greenest liquid detergents available. Although they use plastic for their packaging, a little bit of their detergent goes a long way. And because it lasts so long, you buy less of it, meaning less plastic gets used overall.

They recently changed their formula, which allowed them to reduce the size of their bottles without compromising the number of loads in each bottle. Their 66-load bottles went from 100 oz to just 23! And rather than the usual lid-full, all you need is ONE squirt to clean your clothes.

Seventh Generation is a B Corporation company, and all their detergents are plant based, cruelty free and USDA certified. Their eco friendly laundry detergent is packaged in 100% post-consumer recycled plastics.

Dr. Bronner’s 1 in 18 Pure-Castile Liquid Soap

While this isn’t technically a laundry detergent, Dr. Bronner’s 1 in 18 Pure-Castile Liquid Soap has multiple uses, including laundry.

This multi-purpose soap is a very effective liquid detergent, and while it isn’t plastic free, all their bottles are made from 100% post consumer recycled plastics, which is still pretty green. The soap is also good for the environment since they are made with completely biodegradable and all-natural, vegan ingredients and free from synthetic additives.

Dr Bronner’s is dedicated to being as eco friendly as possible. They have six basic tenets: (1) Word hard and grow, (2) do right by customers, (3) treat employees like family, (4) be fair to suppliers, (5) treat the earth like home and (6) fund and fight for what’s right! They are a company I am happy to support, and they are a fan favorite in the low waste community.

Best All Natural Laundry Detergent

This section is all about the magic that is soap nuts (also called soap berries). If you’ve never heard of them, you’re gonna go nuts over this eco friendly laundry detergent alternative.

Soap nuts (Sapindus mukorossi) are a wild berry found in the Himalayas, and come mostly from India and Nepal. And it turns out that when they come into contact, these nuts have natural cleaning capabilities. Once wet, they release saponin, a natural cleansing agent that not only cleans your  clothes, but softens them too.

Sound too good to be true? That’s what I thought. But after trying out two different brands, it turns out this amazing zero waste laundry detergent is totally legit. They can even be used to clean your hair (and give it some extra shine).

All you have to do is add 4-5 berries per wash (inside a provided cloth bag) and let them do their thing. Each berry can be used for up to 10 washes and then put into the compost where they will naturally biodegrade.

Always make sure the berries are ethically sourced and never imported from China, as these are not compliant with USDA’s Agricultural Organic Safety Standards & Regulations.

Here are the two soap nut laundry detergents that I recommend and why:

Eco Nuts Soap Nuts Laundry Detergent

Key Features:

  • USDA Organic Certified by Oregon Tilth 
  • Certified Cruelty Free by Leaping Bunny
  • Sustainably Sourced
  • 100% recyclable packaging & shipped in packaging made from recycled content 
  • Cost 8-10 cents per load (depending on if you get 100 or 360 load containers)
  • Compatible with HE washing machines
  • Comes with reusable cloth bags

NaturOli Soap Nuts/Soap Berries

Key Features:

  • Green Dot award winner
  • USDA Organic Certified
  • Ethically sourced
  • Comes with reusable cloth bag
  • Comes with trial of NaturOli’s Extreme 18X Liquid (concentrate made from soap nuts)
  • Packaged in the USA
  • Compatible with HE washing machines

Looking for more zero waste swaps? Check out these posts!

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