Best Eco Friendly Laundry Detergents To Protect Our Waters

Why you should care

Chemical packed laundry detergents are a thing and can irritate skin and pollute our waters too.

by Cindy J Lin

It’s true, washing your clothes can inspire a rush of endorphins. And not just for those of you who are a bit OCD and love clean and tidy all the time. Even for those of us who naturally gravitate towards the 3-day long heap of clothing on the floor, washing clothes can be a regular high, all because of the best eco friendly laundry detergents who make giving back an integral part of their business. These better laundry and home cleaning brands focus on simple ingredients and create a product that doesn’t harm the planet and avoid unnecessary rashes for those of us with sensitive skin.

What’s In Conventional Detergents?

If you have ever studied the ingredient list of conventional laundry detergents, you’ll find that just like food additives and preservatives, conventional detergents include a lot of fillers that fall outside of the soap category. For example, a conventional detergent ingredient list will be three paragraphs long, include lots of 6-syllable long chemical words, and generally hard to understand. When did soap become so complicated? 

It’s hard to take in all the information on a detergent label. But, a quick glance at the ingredient list of eco-friendly detergent brands show fewer ingredients. Because many of these brands were created in response to the harmful impacts of conventional detergents, they are proud to share their ingredient list and explain how fewer ingredients are better. A deeper dive into the world of laundry detergents show there are better choices that’s better for people’s health and our waterways.

What Were In Soaps Historically?

Natural soaps are made of fat and lye and historically came in the form of bar soaps. Improvements in laundry care over the years introduced synthetic materials and enzymes that clean stains better so you don’t have to rub so much with hands, washboard or stick.  But, these added ingredients are manufactured primarily from petroleum.

Because of this, conventional detergents today include alkalies which are salts and bases to act with acid, surfactants to break up the stains, pH modifiers to balance the water, optical brighteners to improve whiteness without bleach, water conditioners, suds control, preservatives, fragrance, colorants and dyes. Whew, all this to wash your clothes!

Some of the chemicals that are harmful to our health over time include phosphates, ammonium sulfate, dioxanes, and nonoxynols, to name a few. As a group, these chemicals have shown to cause skin and eye irritations and are toxic or carcinogenic to our health.

And with every load, the dirty water is most likely discharged into a stream, lake or ocean. To ensure our health is not affected with what we wash our clothes with (there’s a reason why people become allergic to conventional detergents over time) and we are not piping out water with unnecessary chemicals that will over time become a critical water pollution load, consider one of these best eco friendly laundry detergents!

Better Detergents Ahead

Molly Suds, Gold Giveback Medal

Our first favorite is Molly Suds, which is a detergent formulated with a “no compromise” attitude and made of only plant-derived ingredients safe for your skin and body. It was started by Monica Leonard, a pediatric nurse who lost her daughter, Molly, at birth. She and her family created Molly Suds to reverse the assault on our water system and health.

Monica discovered that endocrine disrupting compounds have shown to mutate animals, harm the reproductive system, and travel across our skin and get into our bodies. While Europe has banned most of these harmful chemicals, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved many of these chemicals (over 80,000 chemicals). 

Best Give Back. Offering detergents and cleaning supplies that are healthier for people and planet. And if you must know, they are singularly focused to reduce ionic surfactants, which have been shown to disrupt our body’s endocrine system.


Rebel Green, Silver Giveback Medal & Rising Star Sustainability Medal

A favorite from Rebel Green is their organic fresh laundry detergent because their first four ingredients are water, organic soap berries, coconut oil and aloe juice. If you like scented detergents, they add essential oils like lavender and peppermint to the soap for a lovely aroma that fills the room. 

Best Give Back. We love Rebel Green because for every bottle of this organic fresh laundry detergent or their fruit and veggie clean, or fresh room spray, they plant a tree, working with Trees.org. But, they also fund water.org to provide more access to clean water, feedingamerica.org to give to local food pantries, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences to promote research, and the Paradigm Project that give clean cook stoves for women and families in rural Kenya to eliminate the cooking under open fire which can lead to toxic emissions and health problems from the smoke causing asthma, lung disease and pneumonia.


Nellie’s Natural Cleaning

Nellie’s detergents include only 4-6 ingredients which are eco-friendly, hypoallergenic, and works hard to clean clothes. We love how they talk about how they only provide powdered detergents so they don’t “ship water”. Liquid detergents are made up mostly of water and convenient for adding to your wash. But Nellie’s detergents have low levels of bubbles so just 1 teaspoon can wash an entire load.  

Best Give Back. Offering an eco-friendly detergent that results in less water waste (in product and from washing your clothes), less weight transported (powdered detergents weigh less), and helping you to eliminate unnecessary, and harmful chemicals used when washing clothes.

For more tips, check out our Home This for That Guide!

Keywords: laundry; giveback laundry; sustainable laundry; charitable laundry; clean laundry; molly suds; rebel green; nellie’s natural cleaning; clean laundry detergent; clean detergent; plant based laundry; Monica Leonard; trees.org; water.org; plant trees; buy one plant a tree; plant a tree program; University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences; feeding america; Paradigm Project; kenya; clean cooking ware; best eco friendly laundry detergents

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