Living and studying in Japan has changed how I interact with my home and our shared planet. In Japanese, there is a phrase called mottainai that translates to “what a waste,” and in recent years, it has become a call to action to recycle, reuse, and reduce.
One way I reduce my plastic footprint is by replacing liquid laundry detergent with plastic-free, non-toxic laundry detergent sheets. In fact, since switching, I have found that laundry detergent sheets are actually more convenient, mess-free, and just as effective as liquid detergent, and I'm not the only one who's noticed. The laundry sheets market has grown exponentially in the last few years. But with so many options, picking the right environmentally friendly brand can feel overwhelming. I've been there, done the research, and now I'm here to help.
I've compiled my top six eco-friendly laundry detergents, including laundry pods and other non-sheet options so that you can weigh the pros and cons and find the right eco-friendly laundry detergent for you. No matter what brand you choose, you're taking a step toward sustainability, and that's what counts.
My Top 3 Picks
The 6 Best Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent Brands
If you're here, it's because you understand the importance of using an eco-friendly laundry detergent. That said, most of us can't afford to compromise on cost or cleaning power either.
To find a brand that masters both, I bought various non-toxic laundry detergent brands, including HeySunday, Seventh Generation liquid detergent, Molly's Suds laundry powder, Dropps pods, etc., and put them to the test. Here's what I found!
In my opinion, HeySunday is the overall best eco-friendly detergent. As a company whose mission is to make laundry day more enjoyable, they've created the perfect blend of sustainability, affordability, and quality that was clearly designed for the average person.
HeySunday laundry sheets are third-party tested, made with clean, conscious ingredients, have plastic-free and minimalist packaging, and offer a powerful clean at an affordable $0.23/load with a subscription. By delivering their sheets in the product's own cardboard packaging, they are able to cut down their carbon footprint in both production and distribution, making them one of the more sustainable laundry products on the market.
In terms of cleaning, I have never had a problem with dissolubility with HeySunday. Even when hand-washing sweaters in the bathtub with cold water, their sheets dissolve seamlessly into suds. Due to the hard water from our well, certain detergents are harder to use, so I usually add a splash of white vinegar to the wash. I always pay special attention to how soft my clothes come out after a wash, and that is another area where HeySunday excels.
Although I do think it would be nice to have more scent variety, I also believe a familiar laundry fragrance is part of what makes a house feel like home, so I don't mind that they only have Ocean Breeze and Fragrance-Free options, especially because Ocean Breeze smells so nice.
- Free shipping and returns on all orders
- Powerful surfactant formula free of dyes, phosphates, and phthalates
- Plant-based, cruelty-free ingredients
- Easy-to-use, pre-measured sheets
- Designed for sensitive skin
- Full money-back guarantee
- Compostable, plastic-free packaging
- Flexible subscription options
- Limited scent options compared to some other brands
- Can only order from their website
For someone looking for an easy, effective, and fully bio-degradable laundry detergent at half of the price of some leading competitors, HeySunday is my recommendation. HeySunday's packaging is the most sustainably designed brand packaging I have seen so far; the sheets clean beautifully without any harsh chemicals and dissolve even in cold well water. What more could you want?
Founded in 2019, Sheets Laundry Club is one of the more established laundry sheet brands on the market. Their large following and strong reputation are already proof that they've faithfully embodied their mission to create positive change through plastic-free laundry products.
One thing my mom and I really liked about Sheets is the drawer-like box that they come in. Though not as environmentally sustainable as HeySunday's reduced packaging envelope, the shape is really convenient for storage and easy to use.
Also pre-measured, their sheets are super easy to use and totally mess-free. My one complaint is that they come in full, non-perforated sheets, so lazy people like me may end up not dividing them and using more detergent than we need.
That aside, their sheets are cruelty-free, plant-based, and work well on everyday clothes. However, their scents are really subtle, so if fresh-smelling laundry is important to you, Sheets Laundry Club may not be for you.
- Convenient, biodegradable packaging
- Offer member rewards perks
- Plant-based formula
- Subscription discount
- Leaping Bunny certified
- Competitive pricing
- Even scented options do not have a noticeable scent
- Sheets are not perforated and less convenient to tear
- I have heard complaints that their sheets were less effective in cold water
Sheets Laundry Club has been around since 2019 and is a great option if you're looking for an eco-friendly and effective laundry detergent for everyday loads. However, if you're looking for a "clean laundry" scent, you won't really get that with this detergent.
While many eco-friendly laundry detergents were founded with the mission to eliminate plastic within the industry, Molly's Suds started with a different mission. Molly's Suds' Original laundry powder was formulated to create a truly natural laundry detergent, free of harsh chemicals or complicated synthetic compounds. As far as natural laundry detergents go, Molly's Suds may be near the top.
That said, if you’re like me and need to wash heavily stained clothes or napkins, Molly's Suds is just not going to work as well as other detergents without a little help. Molly's Suds is an exciting brand because of how stripped down their formula is, and that's why I put this product so high on the list, but I also recognize that not everyone has time to pre-treat their laundry.
While Molly's Suds stands out for its minimalist recipe, its packaging is made of plastic. On the website, they do acknowledge the need to find a renewable or degradable alternative, but that doesn't change the fact that, for now, their eco-friendly detergent comes in a not-so-eco-friendly plastic pouch.
- Made with only five earth-derived ingredients
- Safe for sensitive skin
- Affordably priced
- Works with all washing machines
- Certified septic safe
- Must be pre-dissolved in cold water
- Not as effective on tough stains
- Plastic packaging
- Less travel-friendly than sheets
Molly's Suds original powdered laundry detergent goes further than most laundry detergents to provide a stripped-down, natural formula. However, the powder comes in plastic pouches and is less effective on tough stains.
4. Earth Breeze
Founded in 2019 and headquartered in Oregon, Earth Breeze is another laundry detergent sheets brand with a strong reputation. To reduce the plastic waste left over by conventional laundry detergents, Earth Breeze manufactures vegan, cruelty-free, and plant-based laundry sheets held in plastic-free pouches.
Not only is Earth Breeze's entire supply chain carbon-neutral, but to further their mission to reduce, regenerate, and redistribute, Earth Breeze partners with 800+ organizations to donate ten loads of laundry to someone in need for every pack of sheets purchased.
Although Earth Breeze makes a strong outreach effort, their paper sleeve was delivered wrapped in plastic when I ordered from Amazon, which I elaborate on in my Earth Breeze review. Additionally, their sheets just didn't perform as well on tough stains as brands like HeySunday.
- Compostable packaging
- Vegan and animal-friendly formula without harsh chemicals
- Dissolves completely, even in cold water
- Hypoallergenic and gentle on the skin
- Carbon-neutral shipping
- Flexible subscription options and free shipping
- The paper package is delivered wrapped in plastic (purchased from Amazon)
- Not as tough on harsh stains, and you may need to use more to get the clean you want
- Strips are not pre-cut
- For someone looking for scent, they may feel disappointed
Earth Breeze stands out for their outreach and carbon-neutral supply chain, and it makes me feel safe knowing that their strips are hypoallergenic. However, their cleaning power is not as strong as some other brands.
Dropps' laundry pods are a plant-based alternative to traditional laundry detergent pods. To demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, they are carbon-neutral, vegan, cruelty-free, and third-party tested. To further reduce waste, they donate excess inventory to outreach organizations.
While I love their recyclable packaging, variety of scents, green formula, and effective stain removal, even Dropps pods are harder to dissolve than sheets, and I have had a few instances of residual film on my clothes. Moreover, their prices have continued to rise, and they’re now one of the more expensive eco-friendly detergents on the market.
- Carbon-neutral shipping
- Effective stain removal
- Vegan and cruelty-free
- Donates excess inventory
- Recyclable packaging
- More scent variety than most natural detergent brands
- Certified B-Corporation
- More expensive than other brands
- Risk of residual film after a cycle
- Not as travel-friendly as sheets
- Pods may burst and leave a mess
Dropps’ ultra-concentrated pods are an effective and sustainable alternative to traditional detergents like liquid or pods, but they do pose a risk of bursting or leaving residual film on your laundry. While they offer a powerful clean, they come at a higher price than other natural brands that are just as effective on tough stains.
Seventh Generation is the original green laundry detergent that my family used for as long as I can remember before laundry sheets were invented. Although their packaging is usually not biodegradable, they show their commitment to eco-conscious production by using post-consumer recycled plastic and being Leaping Bunny certified, USDA-certified biobased, and an EPA-certified safer choice.
While they also offer a powerful stain-fighting solution that is made from predominantly plant or mineral-based ingredients, like all liquid detergents, their formula does waste a lot of water. Still, Seventh Generation's detergent is hypoallergenic, non-irritating, non-toxic, and biodegradable.
While not the most sustainable option anymore (even recycled plastic can only be reused a number of times), Seventh Generation is by far the most eco-friendly liquid laundry detergent on the market.
- Vegan and cruelty-free
- Powerful stain remover
- EPA certified
- Packaging is post-consumer recycled plastic
- Bulky to store
- Not travel-friendly
- Uses a lot of water
- Plastic waste
Top Benefits of Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergents
The laundry detergent industry has seen so much innovation in recent years, and for good reason. Consumers are more aware than ever that harsh chemicals and single-use plastics harm us, our septic systems, wildlife, and the planet. These benefits demonstrate how switching to a more eco-friendly laundry detergent can help us and our planet.
After toxic chemicals from conventional detergents run through a wash cycle and enter our septic systems, they eventually enter our waterways and the ocean. These pollutants caused by laundry detergent cause serious damage to our health and the health of our fish and other sea life.
Biodegradable and certified green detergents can minimize those risks and end the cycle of contamination by avoiding toxic ingredients like phosphates, dyes, bleach, phthalates, and brighteners.
Better for Our Skin
Toxic laundry detergent comes with the risk of skin irritation that shows up as a red and itchy rash on your skin. As someone with sensitive skin, this has happened to me in the past when I bought generic detergents while abroad, hence my love for travel-friendly detergent sheets. Washing your clothes with eco-friendly detergents protects your skin from absorbing harsh chemicals like chlorine bleach or developing allergic reactions.
Reduces Plastic Waste
First, try to think about the number of plastic detergent jugs that you have thrown out in your lifetime. Now, imagine multiplying that by the number of people in the world. You probably can't even picture a number that big. I know I can't. And most of those jugs are single-use and rarely get recycled!
When you try to do the math, it's actually not surprising that research has estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. However, there are so many ways to cut down on our plastic consumption, including buying laundry detergents that come in biodegradable, plastic-free packaging.
Lower Carbon Footprint
Truly eco-friendly laundry detergent brands will make an effort to cut down on their carbon footprint in a number of ways, from production to transportation. For example, just by using less water and eliminating plastic packaging, laundry detergent sheet brands cut down tons of CO2 emissions. Additionally, companies that are carbon-neutral will offset their carbon emissions by investing in emission reductions outside their organization.
How I Tested Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergents
While it's typical to conduct experiments to compare laundry detergent brands (which I have done in the past), this time, I decided to use each detergent consistently on my family's laundry for weeks at a time.
This way, I was able to understand how each brand performs as an everyday detergent in a variety of stain scenarios and how they might change over time. For example, I looked at detergent performance for common stains in my family, including wine, oil, pasta sauce, and more.
In addition to cleaning power, I made sure to note how each green detergent option left my clothes feeling and smelling (and if they left any residue in my machine).
What I Look for in Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergents
While detergents have to live up to certain standards to be considered eco-friendly, I also acknowledge that everyone has their own criteria for what makes a product "the best." Below, I'll outline what I value in an eco-friendly detergent.
While environmental impact may feel like an obvious criterion, there are many brands that greenwash by claiming to be eco-friendly but don't actually do the work to make their products more sustainable. To differentiate, pay attention to not just the detergent's formula but also packaging, shipping, and water waste. For example, while Seventh Generation uses eco-friendly ingredients, it is the lowest on my list for packaging and water waste.
Look for eco-label certifications, like EPA or Safer Choice. Biodegradable, non-toxic ingredients, zero-waste and recyclable packaging, and sustainable production processes are all other ways that a brand can be more eco-friendly. Lastly, eco-friendliness doesn't just mean sustainable production; it also means being kind to the environment. For that reason, it's also important to look for brands that are cruelty-free and use plant-based ingredients while avoiding known contaminants like 1-4,dioxane.
A Deep Clean
On the other hand, a laundry detergent needs to be able to effectively clean your clothes. While some brands like Molly's Suds offer an exceptionally natural and uncomplicated formula, they're not as sustainable or convenient for those who need a heavy-duty detergent. If a detergent can't stand up to the cleaning power of traditional detergents, they may end up switching back and, in turn, hurting the cause.
A Gentle Formula
As I mentioned earlier, a gentle formula is both important for the health of our and our loved ones' skin, as well as for the planet and marine life. Detergents with potentially harmful chemicals can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions. Similarly, detergents with petroleum-based ingredients and other harmful pollutants can clog septic systems and poison our waterways, as well as the ocean.
A surprising perk of eco-friendly laundry detergents is that they are almost universally more pleasant to use than bulky, heavy, and sticky liquid detergents. That said, some are more convenient than others. For example, pods and sheets both make measuring seamless, whereas powders and liquids can be a messy guessing game. Storage space and travelability are also my key considerations when choosing a detergent.
Sustainability means more than just environmental sustainability. Whether or not you can continue to buy a product over and over again is another important aspect of sustainability. While I would love for everyone to switch to an eco-friendly laundry detergent, I also understand that not everyone can or wants to buy an expensive product. Luckily, there are many eco-friendly detergents like HeySunday that are just as if not more affordable than their conventional counterparts.
I firmly believe that making environmentally conscious shifts like switching to an eco-friendly laundry detergent can make a powerful difference in taking care of yourself, your loved ones, and our shared planet while also offering a more pleasant laundry experience.
Although it can be easy to forget or ignore things we can’t see, like climate change, there is now so much evidence that supports the importance of making eco-friendly choices. By choosing eco-conscious products, we also pressure other companies to re-evaluate their production methods and ingredients.
That said, switching to an eco-friendly laundry detergent doesn't have to mean compromising on convenience, cost, or cleaning. In fact, many eco-friendly detergents, especially sheets, are actually easier to use, more lightweight, and just as tough on stains as traditional liquid detergents.
For those with allergies or sensitive skin, a travel-friendly detergent also means that you can go on long vacations or business trips without having to risk a reaction from using a product you're unfamiliar with. The best part is you will never have to deal with sticky liquid pouring over the sides of your detergent jug as you close the cap ever again.
While each of the brands I listed has its own strengths and weaknesses, hopefully, this article has shown you the benefits of eco-friendly detergents and led you toward an option that feels right for you. HeySunday’s laundry detergent sheets are mine and my family's overall favorite laundry detergent, but as long as you have found something that works for you and is also sustainable, that's amazing!
Welcome to the laundry revolution. You're going to love it.