Last Updated on November 19, 2022 by The Filtery
Why should you switch to non-toxic laundry detergent? It’s kind of ironic: you wash your clothes, sheets, and towels, expecting them to be fresh and clean, but really you just end up coating them with a bunch of synthetic chemicals that could potentially cause problems for you and your loved ones over time.
The most popular laundry detergent brands carry ingredients that have been linked to everything from allergies and dry skin all the way to cancer. Even the baby and “Free & Clear” versions contain chemicals that pose a risk to your health.
There are so many great smelling non-toxic laundry detergent brands that are completely effective, so why NOT choose the safer bet? Below are our researched and recommended brands for the best non-toxic laundry detergent.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if you choose to make a purchase. We only make recommendations that are genuine and meet our ingredient safety standards.
Our Picks at a Glance
Best Overall: Branch Basics
Best Smelling: ATTITUDE
Best Unscented/Fragrance-Free: Grab Green
Best Low-Waste/Plastic-Free: Blueland
Most Affordable/Best Value: Rosey by Thrive Market
Best Certified Organic: Happi Earth
Best Laundry Powder: Meliora
Best Detergent Pods: Dropps
Best Detergent Sheets: EcoRoots
- Sweat, Odors, & Tough Stains: Dirty Labs
- Babies: Healthynest
- Delicates: Molly’s Suds
- Hard Water: Truly Free
Best at Target: 9 Elements
Best at Walmart: GO By Greenshield Organic
What Are the Harmful Effects of Detergents?
Whether or not your laundry detergent will actually cause issues depends on a lot of different factors, including age, total toxic burden, other health concerns, and more. Those who are extra sensitive or have chronic health concerns may be more likely to react negatively to the ingredients in common laundry detergents compared to those who are healthier and more equipped to process certain toxins and get them out of their bodies.
Common ingredients found in conventional laundry detergents have been linked to issues like:
- Skin irritation and allergies
- Respiratory problems
- Nervous system issues
- Endocrine (hormone) disruption
- Damage to vision
- Organ damage
Even those individuals who don’t have strong or immediate reactions to specific brands of detergents would do well to consider switching to a safer alternative since these chemicals, especially when used in small quantities, tend to show the most damage over long periods of time (both to our bodies and to our ecosystems!).
Toxins in Laundry Detergent: Chemicals to Avoid
Before we dive into our recommended brands, let’s review some of the most common ingredients in laundry detergents that have been linked to health problems:
This is a big one when it comes to laundry detergents. Even the brands that are marketed as “clean” or “green” can contain mystery fragrances that can potentially cause problems. In the U.S., companies are legally allowed to hide almost 4,000 different chemicals under the word “fragrance” or “parfum,” without actually disclosing the ingredients to consumers. Some of these chemicals are safe, while others (like phthalates and VOCs) are known toxins. You can learn more about this issue right here.
Phthalates are chemicals that are often used in laundry detergents to make the scents last longer. They may or may not be listed under the ingredients because they can sneak in under the “fragrance” label. Phthalates can be endocrine disruptors, which means they can interfere with hormone functioning and lead to things like infertility and cancer.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) & Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
SLS and SLES were originally developed to degrease garage floors! As foaming agents and dirt removers, these are some of the most commonly used ingredients in laundry detergents as well as shampoos, dishwashing liquid, and other kinds of soaps. SLS and SLES have been found to irritate and inflame the skin, eyes, and lungs.
While SLES is less irritating than SLS, it can be contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane due to the way it’s made. Ethylene oxide is known to cause multiple types of cancer and infertility, and 1,4-dioxane is a carcinogen. Although ethoxylated ingredients are practically impossible to avoid completely, it’s something to consider reducing your exposure to when possible.
Some evidence links phosphates to illnesses such as cardiovascular disease. Not only that, but when they end up in our wastewater systems, phosphates can interfere with the ecosystems necessary for aquatic life health and survival.
Most of us know about formaldehyde because it’s used to preserve dead bodies, but it’s also commonly found in many laundry detergents. According to the EPA, formaldehyde is a class B1 probable carcinogen, which means it can probably cause cancer. (Although formaldehyde occurs naturally in our bodies and environments, its problems arise when included in products at high amounts.)
Most of us know that bleach is toxic, but many don’t know just how dangerous it can be. It’s often found in laundry detergents, especially ones meant for white loads. Chlorine bleach can cause burns, pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), respiratory failure, and other health conditions.
This has been a known carcinogen since 1988. It can cause skin, eye, and lung inflammation.
Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPEs)
The EPA states that NPEs have been linked to hormonal problems, cancer, and infertility, and can also cause severe harm to aquatic life when it reaches waterways.
Brighteners are used to make fabrics look whiter and brighter. They’re also used to treat (read: hide) stains by coating fabric with a substance that reflects light. These brighteners can irritate skin, eyes, and lungs, and can harm aquatic life as well.
Other potentially problematic ingredients to watch out for are:
- Ammonium Laureth Sulfate (ALES)
- Ammonium Quaternary Sanitizers (Quats)
- Benzyl Acetate
- Artificial Colors, Dyes, and Preservatives
What Else To Consider When Shopping for Natural Laundry Detergent
In addition to safe ingredients, you may want to consider other factors, such as:
- Your personal preferences (do you like liquid, powder, tablets, pods, or sheets the best?)
- Other sustainability initiatives (low-waste packaging, give-back programs, refillable options, etc.)
- Your specific needs (Do you want a subscription model? Do you need something with strong stain-fighting capabilities? Do you have anyone in your family with allergies?)
The Safest Non-Toxic & Natural Laundry Detergent Brands (That Actually Work!)
All of that may be overwhelming, but the good news is that there is no shortage of natural, non-toxic, and great-smelling laundry soaps and detergents on the market. So, what is the safest laundry detergent? All of the following brands are free from ingredients that are potentially toxic and safe to use.
Branch Basics (Best Overall)
Price: $65 for Laundry Starter Kit; $22-55 for refills
Carries: Laundry detergent, oxygen booster, wool dryer balls
Certifications: MADE SAFE, EWG Verified (Environmental Working Group), Leaping Bunny
Branch Basics concentrated formula is one of the most popular multi-purpose non-toxic cleaning products. We’ve been using it around the house for years now!
Branch Basics uses safe, plant-based ingredients to make a concentrate, which you can then use to make an all-purpose spray, bathroom cleaner, streak-free spray, and laundry detergent! Even though the bottle of concentrate is a bit on the pricier side, it lasts a really long time (even if you clean a lot…).
They also offer Oxygen Boost powder and wool dryer balls to complement their safe laundry detergent. Everything is biodegradable, fragrance-free, and never tested on animals.
See our full review of Branch Basics here.
You can use the code THEFILTERY for 15% off Starter Kits.
ATTITUDE (Best Smelling Non-Toxic Laundry Detergent)
Carries: Liquid laundry detergent, fabric softener, stain remover, dryer sheets
Certifications: ECOLOGO, PETA
It can be challenging to find a non-toxic laundry detergent that truly smells good, but ATTITUDE has done it!
You can choose between scents like Wildflowers, Citrus Zest, Summer Berries, Moutain Fresh, Lavender, and Pink Grapefruit (and they have Unscented, too, if you’d prefer).
ATTITUDE’s natural laundry detergents are ECOLOGO certified, hypoallergenic, vegan & cruelty-free, and biodegradable. In addition to their liquid laundry detergent bottles and cardboard refill boxes, they also carry fabric softener, dryer sheets, and a baby-specific collection for your little ones.
Truly Free (Best for Hard Water)
Carries: Refillable liquid laundry detergent (both scented and unscented), fabric softener, oxy boost powder, stain remover, dryer sheet alternatives, laundry machine cleaner
Truly Free is a great brand in part because they offer just about every kind of household cleaning product you’d need—including a Softening Rinse for those with hard water!
Their laundry collection includes a non-toxic refillable detergent, fabric softener, enzyme stain remover and stain sticks, dryer sheet alternatives, oxygen boosters, laundry machine cleaner, and static-wrinkle releaser.
This detergent is made with plant-based ingredients, including essential oils for scent. (If you or your little ones are sensitive to essential oils too, they also have an unscented version.)
Truly Free is lighter on our planet, too. The first time you order from them, you’ll get a free container, but then after that, you’ll get refillable pouches delivered to your door.
For other parts of your home, they also offer bathroom cleaners, all-purpose cleaners, dish soaps and detergents, floor cleaners, and more.
Grab Green (Best Fragrance-Free)
Carries: Laundry detergent pods (scented and fragrance-free), bleach alternative pods, dryer sheets, and dryer balls
The team at Grab Green is committed to formulating innovative and high-performing cleaning products that are also completely safe, eco-friendly, and not tested on animals.
Although they do offer some great scents (like lavender with vanilla), their best-selling original laundry detergent is fragrance-free. Their 3-in-1 laundry detergent pods and powder actually combine detergent with a stain remover and non-toxic brightener for an effective clean. (Apparently, they even out-performed Tide in a third-party test for stain and soil removal!).
Dirty Labs (Best Non-Toxic Laundry Detergent For Stains, Sweat, and Odors)
Carries: Liquid laundry detergent, bio booster powder
Certifications: EWG Verified, National Eczema Association
Got muddy kids’ baseball uniforms? Soiled cloth diapers? Spilled coffee for the third time? If you’re looking for a safe laundry detergent that can really get the toughest jobs done, you might want to try out Dirty Labs.
They offer both Free & Clear (fragrance-free) as well as scented formulations. Their key ingredient is called Phytolase®, which is an enzyme that works to effectively break down stains. This is a great option for whites, too!
Dirty Labs is committed to true transparency, even going so far as to share the source of each of their ingredients as well as the CAS (Chemical Abstracts Service) number for each one as well, so you can look it up if you want.
Blueland (Best Low-Waste/Plastic-Free)
Price: $18 for Laundry Essentials Starter Set; $14+ for detergent refills
Carries: Laundry tablets, oxi booster, wool dryer balls
Certifications: EWG Verified, B Corp, Carbon Neutral
Blueland carries EWG-verified non-toxic and eco-friendly laundry detergent, oxi boosts, and dryer balls (along with other products like dishwasher detergent, all-purpose household cleaners, hand soap, and more).
Their refillable, fragrance-free laundry products are free of all the nasties, like petroleum derivatives, dyes and colorants, artificial fragrances, parabens, phthalates, and more. But don’t worry: it still really works—you can even check out their testing process here!
Plus, this brand is super sustainable, too. They carry a whole host of certifications like Cradle to Cradle, Leaping Bunny, Climate Neutral, B Corp, and more. Plus, all of their packaging is plastic-free and compostable.
It doesn’t hurt that their branding is super cute, too!
Rosey by Thrive Market (Most Affordable/Best Value Detergent)
Carries: Scented and unscented laundry detergent (liquid, powder, and pods)
Certifications: B Corp, Leaping Bunny
Thrive Market offers both scented and unscented detergent that comes in liquid bottles ($9.99 for 100 loads), powder ($8.99 for 70 loads), or pods ($11.99 for 45).
You can rest assured that their branded line of laundry products is safe and non-toxic. It’s free of all the potentially harmful ingredients listed above, is vegan, and is biodegradable. It uses naturally-derived enzymes to clean stains.
Thrive Market is so convenient, too—you can get a bunch of your organic and non-toxic pantry essentials, snacks, home goods, and more delivered right to your door.
(P.S. If you’re looking for the regular “Thrive Market brand” detergent, this is the same thing. They just rebranded to the “Rosey” name.)
Happi Earth (Best Organic Laundry Detergent)
Carries: Liquid laundry detergent concentrate
Certifications: Australia Certified Organic, USDA Organic
This Australia-based brand makes natural laundry detergent that’s made out of fair trade and organic ingredients. With very few synthetic ingredients, this is another good choice for those with sensitive skin. You can purchase a starter pack that comes with a sugarcane pump bottle, and then buy their low-waste refill pouches after that.
With 400 washes in one pouch, it goes a LONG way! Plus, they plant a tree with each purchase, too.
Meliora (Best Powder Detergent)
Carries: Laundry detergent powder, oxygen brightener, stain remover stick
Certifications: MADE SAFE, B Corp, Leaping Bunny
Meliora is a super safe laundry detergent brand that offers low-waste and plastic-free laundry detergent powder (both scented and unscented), oxygen brightener, and stain removal sticks.
It’s made and packaged in Chicago Illinois, and they give at least 2% of sales towards nonprofits like the Women’s Voices for the Earth, a non-profit dedicated to eliminating toxic chemicals from products.
Dropps (Best Non-Toxic Laundry Pods)
Carries: Detergent pods, fabric softener, oxi booster, dryer balls
Dropps has become one of our favorite brands in recent years for easy-to-use laundry detergent pods. They offer scented (like Lavender, Crisp & Clean, and Orange Blossom) and unscented varieties, as well as formulations for sensitive skin and babies.
Third-party tested and named EPA Safer Choice Partner of the Year in 2017, Dropps is committed to ingredient transparency and you can read in-depth about each ingredient on their website.
Plus, Dropps detergent is cruelty-free, made in the USA, supports ocean conservation, and comes in compostable packaging.
Healthynest (Best Detergent for Babies)
Carries: Liquid detergent concentrate, wool dryer balls
Certifications: MADE SAFE, EWG Verified, B Corp
Although most of our recommended natural detergents on this list are safe for babies and kids (since they’re all free from harmful chemicals!), Healthynest is specially formulated with little ones in mind.
It’s 100% plant and mineral-based, neurologically safe, microbiome-friendly, and even made using food-safe quality standards. Even though a bottle of the concentrated formula is a little expensive, it lasts a long time.
EcoRoots (Best for Non-Toxic Laundry Detergent Sheets)
Carries: Zero waste laundry detergent sheets, wool dryer balls
Laundry detergent sheets & strips are becoming more popular as an eco-friendly alternative to plastic-laden packaging that often comes along with conventional laundry detergent. And while it’s definitely a great sustainable option, many of the laundry sheets on the market contain some sneaky questionable ingredients.
EcoRoots, however, has a safe option for detergent sheets that work! Ultra-concentrated and lightweight, they come in Fresh Breeze or Fragrance-Free and are super easy to use. They’re biodegradable, vegan, cruelty-free, and hypoallergenic.
These are really great for traveling with, too!
Molly’s Suds (Best for Delicates)
Carries: Laundry powder, oxygen booster, wool dryer balls
Molly’s Suds has a great line for all of your laundry needs, but more specifically, they have a couple of special formulations for activewear, swimwear, and other delicates.
In addition to being safe and non-toxic, Molly’s Suds laundry detergent is certified vegan and cruelty-free. Their laundry powder is made from just five ingredients. The peppermint smells amazing, leaving your clothes incredibly fresh.
9 Elements (Best at Target)
Carries: Liquid laundry detergent, fabric softener
Many of the “green” laundry detergent brands that are available at big box stores are not as non-toxic or eco-friendly as they might seem. 9 Elements, however, is a pretty good brand! Available in Lemon and Eucalyptus, it only contains 9 ingredients (hence the name) and is scented with essential oils instead of synthetic fragrances.
So the next time you run out of detergent and don’t have time to order anything online, you can feel safe grabbing a bottle of 9 Elements at the store.
GO By Greenshield Organic (Best at Walmart)
Carries: Liquid laundry detergent, pet stain & odor remover
Certifications: USDA Organic, Leaping Bunny
If you need to pick up some detergent at Walmart, we recommend GO by Greenshield Organic. It’s made almost entirely of certified and plant-based ingredients, in either Free & Clear or Lavender.
What About the Best Detergent for Eczema & Sensitive Skin?
Actually, all of the detergents listed above would be good choices for those with sensitive skin or eczema since their ingredients are free from harsh chemicals, allergens, and skin irritants. That being said, since some individuals react differently to various ingredients (even some natural ones!), you may still have to do some trial and error to figure out what’s best for your or your loved ones’ skin.
Best 100% Chemical-Free Option: Magnetic Laundry System
If you’re looking for an unconventional laundry detergent alternative that’s completely free from all chemicals, you might want to check out the Magnetic Laundry System. You can read more about it and check out our full review here.
Best He Detergents: All of the above!
Unless otherwise indicated, all of the above detergents are compatible with He washing machines, so you can feel good using any of them!
Best Free And Clear Detergent
If you’re looking for a “Free & Clear” detergent, then all of the recommended brands above would fit that category since they’re all safe, free of potentially harmful ingredients, and clear of allergens and toxins.
But what about the Free & Clear versions of more conventional brands of detergent such as Tide, Gain, etc? Unfortunately, most of the time, these brands are guilty of greenwashing (marketing something as eco-friendly/natural/non-toxic when it’s really not), and these “Free & Clear” detergents still don’t make the cut when it comes to toxicity. We recommend steering clear of the conventional brands altogether if possible, and choosing one of the truly non-toxic brands above instead.
More Healthy & Non-Toxic Laundry Detergent Brands
There is truly no shortage of safe and effective laundry detergent brands on the market. Here are even more brands we approve of!
- Common Good
- Public Goods
- hello bello
- Better Life
- Whole Foods Organic
“Just” Okay Brands
These brands are “pretty good,” but they do have a couple of questionable ingredients, so they don’t quite make the cut for us.
- Tru Earth
- Earth Breeze
The Sneaky Brands!
These are the brands that come off as “natural” or “eco-friendly” but in fact contain several different problematic ingredients:
- Mrs. Meyer’s
- Charlie’s Soap
- The Laundress
- Grove Collaborative
- Lazy Coconut
*The brands with asterisks have some products that are better than others. Some of their specific products are safe while others are not.
Other Commonly Asked Questions About “Non-Toxic” Laundry Detergent
Which Laundry Detergents Are Toxic?
Here are the laundry detergents that don’t even come close to making the cut when it comes to ingredient safety. (Notice that many of them have products targeted for babies and children!)
- Arm & Hammer (with the exception of regular baking soda and their Super Washing Soda Detergent Booster & Household Cleaner)
- The Laundress
- Up & Up (Target)
- Great Value (Walmart)
Is Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent Safe?
Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyer’s, and Method laundry detergent are perhaps the three most popular brands that are marketed as “eco-friendly” or “natural,” but are in fact guilty of greenwashing.
You’ll notice that Mrs. Meyer’s and Method are on our “Sneaky” list above; they don’t even make the cut for the “Just Okay” list. Seventh Generation, however, is a little bit different because while many of their products contain problematic ingredients, they also carry several products that are perfectly safe. So with this brand, it’s good practice to consider the products on a case-by-case basis.
The good thing about these brands is that they’re often widely available at stores like Target and Walmart, so they may be a good option if you need to pick something up at the store. Here are the Seventh Generation products that are generally safe to use (note that the baby detergents are not on this list!):
- Seventh Generation 3-In-1 Oxy Booster Packs, Free & Clear
- Seventh Generation Chlorine-Free Bleach, Free & Clear
- Seventh Generation Ultra Power Plus Laundry Detergent Packs
- Seventh Generation Zero Plastic Tablets, Fragrance Free
- Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent Packs
- Seventh Generation Natural Laundry Detergent Powder, Free & Clear
Should You DIY Laundry Detergent?
Because of the fact that there are so many non-toxic, and affordable options, you don’t necessarily need to make your own. But if you enjoy DYI-ing, there are some great, safe recipes for laundry detergent, like this one on DIY Natural!
What About Non-Toxic Dryer Sheets?
Just like with laundry detergent, dryer sheets can contain a lot of hidden ingredients that can potentially cause harm. Because they’re so concentrated, they can actually be even worse than the detergent itself. Check out this article for more information about non-toxic alternatives to dryer sheets.
With so many safe options, there is no reason you can’t stock your laundry room with clean and fresh-smelling detergents that won’t pose harm to you or your family and can still get rid of stubborn stains!