Why Switch to Zero Waste Laundry Detergent + 6 Brands We Love

holding two halves of a laundry detergent sheet

Leading commercial detergents are packed with harmful ingredients and tons of plastic. These 6 zero waste laundry detergents are completely effective at getting your clothes clean while also protecting our planet.

Estimated Read Time: 9 minutes

It’s possible laundry day might outrank Monday for the least favorite day. Which is kind of sad because we like clean clothes! Hooray for a machine in our homes (or hopefully close) that does the washing for us. 

As good as we have it, there’s something a little broken about our laundry routines. The detergent comes in a giant plastic tub — the first ingredient being water. Not to mention how heavy and bulky those containers are. 

And what’s even in those detergents? Chemicals that can trigger asthma and allergy attacks, cause rashes and irritation, and contaminate our wildlife with those same chemicals. 

Fortunately we also live in a time where sustainable laundry detergent options are available. We have the ability to research what these companies stand for rather than choosing because someone had enough money to pay for a commercial. And you have us to vet these companies’ sustainable practices, mission, packaging, all that good stuff! 

Here we’ll break down why you should care about eco-friendly laundry detergent, our favorite zero waste laundry detergents & zero waste laundry accessories. 

Why make the switch to a zero waste laundry detergent? 

#1 — Plastic

As the name Zero Waste Store may suggest, our first concern is plastic. Everything about conventional laundry detergent is plastic — the bottle, the cap, the rim, and even the pods have been known to come individually wrapped in plastic. 

Sometimes it’s recyclable, but we’ve all watched enough documentaries to know the chances of it actually being recycled or made into something new, is slim.

#2 — Carcinogenic & Toxic Chemicals

The second concern is ingredients. We’ve been conditioned to think that suds + scent = clean, and that’s simply (and unfortunately) not true. 

Detergents are made of synthetic chemicals designed to be stronger and more powerful than soap. 

You don’t need to be able to pronounce them but you should know Nonylphenol ethoxylates and sodium perborate are commonly found in detergents. One is known to be toxic to marine life, while one can cause irritation to external mucus membranes; both have the potential to affect reproductive health. 

Outside of polluting our waterways, ingredients used to add scent to store-bought detergents have been found in dryer vent exhaust gas and can increase indoor and outdoor air quality as well as contribute to air and water pollution. 

One of the worst ingredients in detergent is 1,4-Dioxane which comes with its own array of problems. Ever started sneezing uncontrollably from the smell of clothes? 

Started having an asthma attack? 

Broken out in hives or rashes? 

You can probably thank 1,4-Dioxane, or a number of other ingredients. It’s even classified as a human carcinogen by the EPA.  

So why is all of this in our detergent? A product we use on the clothes that literally touch our bodies all day. We sweat, sleep, live, and swim in these clothes so they should be cleaned with real, natural ingredients. Not carcinogens produced during the manufacturing process. 

You can always make your own detergent, but if that’s not your style, we’ve put together a list of our favorite sustainable laundry detergents.

Below are our top 6 favorite zero waste laundry detergents! 

1. Kind Laundry Sheets by Kind Laundry

Kind Sheets is an award winning zero waste laundry detergent — Winner of the Best Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent Award of 2021 by Better Homes & Garden to be exact. Made with only 4 ingredients and no toxic chemicals, each sheet is pre-measured for the perfect load of laundry. Compatible in front & top loaders, standard, and HE washers with any water temperature, the number of sheets can be adjusted based on load size and soil level. Available in scented and ocean breeze.

Cardboard box with blue insert pulled partially out and white sheets inside. 2 White sheets are outside box on clay plate. Box reads: let's be kind together laundry detergent sheets. Zero plastic ultra concentrated no mess.

The small box with 60 sheets is slim, easy to store, and even easy to travel with! The box itself contains no plastic and is 100% biodegradable, or recyclable. 

2. Tru Earth Laundry Strips by Tru Earth

Switching to laundry sheets not only frees up a ton of space on your shelf but it lowers transportation pollution during distribution. If everyone switched to this lightweight sustainable laundry detergent, the transportation effect would be equivalent to removing 27 million cars from the roads. 

Unfortunately you will have to actually buy some weights now instead of using laundry detergent jugs. 

1 cardboard package of TruEarth eco-strips sitting in a laundry basket of white clothes. Box reads 32 loads TruEarth eco-strips laundry detergent

Free of 1,4-Dioxane, TruEarth zero waste laundry strips are also paraben free, hypoallergenic, and vegan! The sheets themselves are biodegradable, the packaging is plastic free compostable cardboard, and they are shipped with zero plastic.

3. Laundry Paste by Waste Free Products

Tangie by Waste Free Products’ mission is ”doing more with less, because it’s the right thing to do” and that’s certainly the case with this laundry paste using no plastic of any kind, anywhere.

Made with only a handful of ingredients, a few of those being Coconut Oil, Soap Nuts Liquid, & Saponified Lye, and it’s so small a gallon of product practically fits in your pocket! 

If you have the room you can dissolve the entire bar to create a gallon of laundry detergent, the equivalent of 256 loads, or you can make as much as you need — or can store. Choose naked shipping or packaged in a cardboard box made from 75% post-consumer waste which can be recycled or home composted.

5 small brown cubes surround a mason jar almost full of light brown liquid (dissolved soap).

Tangie also offsets 100% of their carbon footprint by purchasing carbon credits to invest in strategic forest preservation projects.

4. Urban Oreganics Zero Waste Laundry Detergent

Update: Currently out of stock but enter your phone/email for restocking notifications

Urban Oreganics is on a mission to do away with toxic chemicals and disposable cleaning products. Compatible with top-loading and high-efficiency washers, this sustainable detergent is non-toxic, great for sensitive skin and allergies, safe for septic tanks, biodegradable, and (breathe) is made with zero plastic

Even better, than just getting your clothes clean, this washing powder is a deodorizer AND softener. It comes unscented so if you prefer a scent simply add a few drops of your fav essential oil blend to the mix. 

Glass bowl of laundry detergent powder with wooden scoop inside sitting on paper bag. Paper bag reads Urban Oreganics Laundry Soap.

Each order comes with a reusable wooden spoon that can be recycled, composted, or upcycled. It makes a super cute addition to any zero waste storage jars you have on hand. One load of laundry equals one heaping scoop of powder and each bag contains about 60 loads

5. Soap Berry Pods by Nature First

These detergent pods are completely safe for our planet, the water, and our bodies! Compatible with front, top, and HE washing machines and made with only a few non-toxic ingredients, these pods are an excellent addition to your laundry routine. 

Harnessing the power of the natural saponins of the soapberry (plant-based chemical known for creating foam when agitated in water; commonly used but especially in soap), Nature First has created an all natural detergent. Not only does this eco-friendly detergent clean your clothes but while it’s doing that it’s also sanitizing the drum of your machine leaving no residue on your machine, the air, water, or soil. 

A bag of detergent pods sitting in an empty washing machine. Bag reads Nature First - aiure Laundry Pods

Each resealable bag comes with 30 pods for 30 loads of laundry detergent and is completely compostable. 

6. Home Farm Laundry Detergent 

Update: Currently out of stock but enter your phone/email for restocking notifications

Made from a blend of saponified oils (oils turned into soap) and essential oils, this eco-friendly laundry detergent is compatible with HE and front loading washers and perfect for sensitive skin and/or skin allergies. 

This special blend not only cleans your clothes but softens and deodorizes as well. If you feel you still need extra softening, try adding 1/4C distilled white vinegar in the rinse cycle — we pinky promise your clothes won’t come out smelling like vinegar. Aloe Vera also contributes to softening your clothes and has a mild, natural, whitening effect. 

Glass bottle with orange liquid detergent on a white clothe with plants behind it. Label reads: The Home Farm Laundry Detergent

This vegan, cruelty free, 100% non-toxic, plastic free detergent comes in a glass bottle with a metal cap which can all be recycled or upcycled after use!

Zero Waste Laundry Accessories

A laundry routine is never complete without its accessories! Even the experts need assistance every now and then, these zero waste laundry accessories are easy to store, easy to use, and easy on the planet.

5 laundry essentials - guppyfriend washing bag (box and bag shown), TruEarth Laundry strips, stain remover bar, and 3 wool dryer balls

This vegan, cruelty free, 100% non-toxic, plastic free detergent comes in a glass bottle with a metal cap which can all be recycled or upcycled after use!

Microfiber Catching Laundry Bag

Everytime you wash your clothes, microfibers from synthetic materials (think polyester and nylon) are released during the washing process. Waste and chemicals are dumped into rivers and streams during production, then microfibers are released into our sewage system where they’re too small to be filtered out. 

The Guppyfriend Washing Bag collects those fibers which can be removed at the end of the cycle. At the end of its life, send the bag back to the company to be properly disposed of and reused. 

We have a great piece on saying goodbye to fast fashion if you want to know more.

Stain Stick Bar

Every now and then you need some extra help for tough stains. Enter this zero waste stain remover bar. Made with only natural ingredients it works on old stains, new stains, toddler stains and adult stains! Simply wet your item, rub the bar on the stain and toss into the wash as per usual. This bar comes wrapped in a compostable or recyclable paper box. 

Wool Dryer Balls

Wool dryer balls can replace the need for fabric softener. Not only does the wool help to soften clothes, but it absorbs water from the wet clothes but it then releases it during the drying process to help reduce wrinkles. By tumbling around with the clothes, dryer balls can prevent the clothes from clumping which helps the air circulate and reduces drying time. At the end of their life, these little guys can be composted or upcycled into a new life. 

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