9 ACTUAL Zero Waste Laundry Detergents

Made with earth-friendly ingredients that won't leave a stain on the planet, these 10 Zero Waste Laundry Detergent Brands will have your wash cycle going from dirty to clean in no time!

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A few things to keep in mind when choosing a zero waste laundry brand:

We all love the smell of clean clothes, but do you know where most of those "lavender field" scents come from? You guessed it: synthetic ingredients like trisodium nitrilotriacetate, monoethanolamine, and phthalates, just to name a few.

Without mandatory ingredient listing, it's really hard to know which brands to avoid. So here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. If you see the words "optical brightness" on the bottle, skip it. These types of ingredients don't break down in nature and are toxic to marine life. Every time you wash your clothes, these chemicals are going down the drain and into our water systems to potentially cause harm.
  2. Bleach might seem like a bright idea, but it's not! It's highly caustic and can form deadly dioxins when mixed with other environmental elements. Instead, try this DIY bleach alternative.
  3. "Phosphate-Free" labels are meant to entice you into buying, they are meaningless, as phosphates were phased out decades ago.
  4. "Wash in Coldwater" does not mean the brand has natural ingredients. This refers to the energy you will save by washing in cold vs. hot water.
  5. Watch out for greenwashing!

I've got more information and tips on eco friendly laundry soap at the bottom of the post.

A word on PVA and PVOH (polyvinyl alcohol)

PVA and PVOH (polyvinyl alcohol) are super controversial ingredients in the laundry sheet space because well, it's a type of plastic. It's a biodegradable polymer that's used as a binding agent used to hold the laundry sheets together and there is a great deal of concern that it creates microplastic in our water and food! Not good! It's also made using fossil fuels, which contribute to global warming.

They are NOT biodegradable as a lot of companies claim. Yes, they can dissolve but in order for them to actually be biodegradable very definitive conditions need to be in place and that is not happening.

So is polyvinyl alcohol sustainable? It's a hard question to answer! They are better alternatives to the large plastic jugs of laundry that are filling our landfills and polluting our beaches. They are also free of toxins too but, they are not perfect.

This conversation shows just how nuanced and difficult sustainable living can be. There is really no perfect answer, unfortunately, especially here. My best advice is to choose products that align with your values. If a laundry sheet contains PVA, it really can't be considered zero waste.

My top picks for Zero Waste Laundry Detergent

The idea of zero waste laundry detergent is to choose brands that are good for you AND the planet.

1. Elva's All Naturals

A bottle of Elva's zero waste laundry detergent sitting on a bench.Pin
Image: Elva's

I started using Elva's natural dish soap, 1 Cleaner, and laundry detergent about 12 months ago and I am hooked! The laundry detergent is one of the best clean-up crews. You only need to use 2 teaspoons per load, but don't let that small amount fool you. I was pleasantly surprised at both the amazing smell my clothes had and how clean my clothes came out. The organic lavender essential oils made my bedsheets smell like heaven.

If you are looking for bulk laundry detergent then order the 1.5 Liter Home Refill Box, which will give you up to 150 loads, making it very cost-effective. They also have refillable cleaners to help you save even more!

Elva's laundry detergent is 100% biodegradable, septic safe, and made with certified organic and biodynamic plant extracts and herbs.

It's also free from zeolite, sulfates, leaching and brightening chemicals, palm oil, artificial colors, or mineral phosphates. If you have sensitive skin, it's perfect. It's also Vegan Friendly, Gluten-Free, and Cruelty-Free.

If you read this blog often, you know how much I love to clean, and this Canadian brand has become one of my new top picks in the cleaning category!

Elva's is based out of Milton, Ontario, and is run by Kirsten, who named the company after her Nana (who is on the logo by the way — so cute!). I love the fact that Kirsten and her team are so dedicated to helping reduce toxins in the home and the planet. They say, "What we put on our body and then what we flush down our drain systems to the fish does matter. A lot." It sure does.

Every single one of Elva's products was made to help someone they love. Their skincare line, Glow, for example, was created to help their teenage daughter who has sensitive, acne-prone skin. Their 1 CLEANER was born out of the need for a better all-purpose cleaner that really works (but without streaking).

Elva's manufactures all of its products responsibly and believes that toxins in products are a social justice issue because the people most affected are often women and poor people, who are forced to buy cheaper products, typically packed full of synthetic fillers.

They make everything in small batches which allows them to drastically reduce waste while bringing you a better, safer product. They follow Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and manufacture their products in Canadian facilities in BC and Ontario.

what we love

  • Effective natural ingredients
  • Refill options
  • Septic safe + biodegradable
  • Vegan Friendly, Gluten-Free, and Cruelty-Free
  • Glass packaging
  • Good for all machines

2. etee

Concentrated Laundry Detergent package from etee. Pin
Image: etee

etee is one of the most innovative companies making waves in the sustainable movement and their Concentrated Laundry Detergent does not disappoint! It's powered based and the good news is you don't need very much. I typically use about 1 - 2 teaspoons for a regular load and my clothes always come out clean and fresh. For really heavy loads I've used as much as 1 tbsp. I gifted a bag to my mom, she absolutely loved it.

My dad works in construction and this detergent has been great to help keep his dirty clothes bright and clean! LOL! It's compatible with all washing machines and since most conventional detergents are made up of 90% water, this is a really great option, especially considering water shortages are becoming a major global problem. etee's Concentrated Laundry Detergent avoids all of this. It's also packed in a paper bag with a biodegradable lining.

etee is a one-stop shop for all of you zero waste home goods! They carry the best zero waste dish soap and eco-friendly bathroom products!

what we love

  • Powder based
  • Good for all machines
  • Economical
  • Compostable packaging
  • Nontoxic
  • Septic safe
  • Vegan, cruelty-free

3. Waste Free Products Laundry Bar

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Image: Waste Free Products
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Image: Waste Free Products

In my quest to find the best eco products for you, I am always so excited to find new brands and this is one of them! I've never used a laundry detergent like this before. You basically have control over how much or how little you want to make. If you make it all, you will get 264 loads of laundry, which basically works out to $0.08 cents per load! WOW! It dissolves to make 1-gallon liquid laundry soap that's fragrance-free and safe for baby clothes.

Here's how it works: it comes in a bar that easily dissolves in water, you can cut the bar up and make what you need, if you want to make less the brand suggests the following:
Half bar - 64 ounces water
Quarter bar of paste - 32 ounces water
Eighth bar of paste - 16 ounces water
Sixteenth bar of paste - 8 ounces water

I bought this soap because I have some really cute t-shirts with some really bad pit stains and this stuff was basically magic. Super happy with the results. My hubby is a kung-fu master and let's just say his clothes have a certain scent LOL, which this stuff has removed altogether!

It has no phosphates, no dyes, and no optical brighteners. It's also gray water and septic tank safe, and leaping bunny approved! Ingredients include soap nuts liquid solar oven extracted, yucca powder for washing, baking soda for freshening, oxalic acid for stain lifting and whitening, salt for fabric softening, and sodium percarbonate for stain lifting!

This product does not come with a container, I reused an old glass jar I had around the house. You can find 1-gallon glass jugs on Amazon, but if you can try to reuse one, maybe scope out your neighbor's recycling bin for an empty laundry container, you the type, wink-wink!

I simply can't get enough of this product! It saves space and is super economical. Waste Free Products is a Green America-certified business and a carbon-neutral company! (I included 2 photos above so you can see how it looks before and after you add water.)

what we love

  • Make as much as you need
  • Leaping Bunny certified
  • Natural ingredients
  • Great for tough stains
  • Zero packaging
  • Good for all machines

4. Soap Nuts

a bunch of soap nuts from eco nuts a zero waste laundry brand Pin
Image: Soap Nuts

I'm totally nuts about soap nuts. Sorry, I could not resist! Have you tried them? I was so skeptical when I tried these about 10 years ago but wow, was I wrong. Soap nuts are definitely one of the best ways to launder your clothes sustainably.

These Eco Nuts are made from USDA organic berries that grow on a tree and naturally contain soap! Nature is so amazing! To make the nuts, they are deseeded and stylized and then packaged plastic-free!

The shells of the soap nut contain a natural soap called Saponin. When the nutshells absorb water, the saponin is released, which creates a soaping effect. They are so gentle, which makes them a great option for people with any kind of skin issue. The soapberries are sourced ethically from Nepal.

You can use them in hot or cold water and in any type of machine. They are available on well.ca, which carries a wide variety of natural cleaning products for your home.

These little suckers work, and I hope you will give them a try. Simply put 4-5 nuts in the cloth bags provided and then toss them in the washer with your clothes. You'll be amazed at the results. Berries can be re-used up to 10 times, which will save you a ton of cash — and who does not love that!?

what we love

  • Vegan and cruelty-free
  • Zero packaging
  • Made with USDA organic berries
  • Reuse up to 10 times

5. Ethique

A bar of Ethique's laundry soap. Pin
Image: Ethique

Ethique offers a solid laundry and stain remover bar that customers love. It is effective and can be used for various things including hand washing clothes, and cleaning carpets. It works especially well on silk, wool, and delicates, but also for traveling.

This option is scented but it is also made from ingredients that are biodegradable and greywater safe. You don’t have to worry about any phthalates either. The scent comes from ingredients like peppermint oil (menthe piperita) and lavender oil (lavandula angustifolia).

The packaging is compostable and because it is a solid bar, it saves about three 350ML plastic bottles worth of packaging and about 2,850 milliliters of water. For every product, 1 tree is planted in partnership with Ecologi. The brand is also carbon positive and a certified B corporation.

To minimize the carbon footprint associated with distribution and travel, etique has regional warehouses in Australia, the USA, and the UK which service orders respectively. Their office is powered by 100% renewable energy in partnership with Ecotricity and all of the carbon emissions from travel are offset twice.

what we love

  • Biodegradable and greywater safe
  • Zero plastic
  • Good for all machines
  • Tough on stains
  • Great for carpets, will, and silk

6. The Bare Home

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Image: The Bare Home

Stain removers come with a whole bunch of chemicals that can lead to a whole bunch of health issues. Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) is a potential allergen. Quaternium-15 can release low levels of formaldehyde, which is carcinogenic, and sodium hypochlorite can trigger asthma.

So let's leave the bleach out and opt instead for a solid laundry stick that's powered by plants and tough on stains. You can use this stick for a machine or hand washing. It's easy to use: you simply lather with water and work the stick into the stained area, then launder as usual. To wash the whole item, lather with water and then soap the entire item. I use the latter method for delicates like lingerie.

The Bare Home's stain stick has a very light lemon scent, which leaves your clothes smelling so fresh. It's effective at getting rid of stains and has no unnecessary fillers.

With summer coming (not soon enough!) this would make an effective plastic-free laundry detergent for camping or backpacking because it's biodegradable and light. I've used bars like this when camping; you simply shave a tiny bit off, dissolve it in hot water, and wash. Alternatively, you can rub it directly onto the clothes.

The Bare Home is a Canadian brand I love to use in my home. I have used all of their products — dish soap, hand soap, and all-purpose cleaner, all of which come with at-home refill options. All of the products are made with the highest quality, sustainably sourced essential oils and ingredients. All the bottles are glass and can be reused over and over again. And look at the branding — it's so on point!

All of these products are vegan, cruelty-free, and contain zero palm oil. Use code Ecohub10 for 10% off.

what we love

  • Stain buster
  • Vegan
  • Biodegradable
  • Safe for pets

7. The Soap Works

a bag of soap works detergent a zero waste laundry brandPin
Image: The Soap Works

Well, what can I say, this soap works! LOL! I am on a roll today. Soap Works is a Canadian company that makes a huge range of cleaning essentials, one of them being their affordable zero waste laundry detergent. You can get up to 60 loads with one bag and there is no need for anti-static treatments or fabric softeners. Plus, it comes in a paper bag that you can compost.

It's not tested on animals and is made from all-natural ingredients with no added fragrance or other nasties. It works best with warm water, so if you use cold water, you will need to pre-dissolve it. And you only need about a ¼ cup per load. If you have an allergy to Borax, you might want to avoid this zero waste powder laundry detergent.

Borax is a controversial subject and it's banned in some European countries. Here in Canada, it's being reviewed by Health Canada. It's up to you — if you have used it in the past, you know it's really good when it comes to washing and cleaning.

It's available through well.ca and the company makes all of its products here in Toronto, only using ingredients that are mother-nature approved. It's a family fun business that is all about compassion, kindness, and ethics! I can get behind that!

Some of their soaps do contain RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil.

what we love

  • Economical, uses ¼ cup per load
  • Zero plastic packaging
  • Good for sensitive skin
  • Safe for automatic washers
  • Safe for septic water

8. Earth Love

A bottle of  Earth Love laundry tabs. Pin
Image: Earth Love

Give the earth some love with these all-natural, waste-free laundry tablets. Earth Love's formulations have been researched endlessly to give customers products that work and are waste-free — not an easy feat! The tables are small, easy to use, and super effective. They're made with powerhouse ingredients like Citric Acid, Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Borate, Sodium Percarbonate, which are all-natural and stain-fighting.

Located in Oakville Ontario, this small company is a member of the Plastic Pollution Coalition which is a global alliance of over 1,200 businesses and organizations working towards reducing plastic pollution.

All of their sustainable packaging comes from noissue and they work with One Tree Planted, an organization that makes it simple to plant trees around the world. One dollar plants one tree.

Earth Love keeps sustainability in mind at all levels of manufacturing. 25 tablets will cost you 15 dollars, so these are by far the most affordable zero waste laundry detergents on the market today! 1 tab = 1 load. You really can't beat the price. I am not sure where or how the ingredients are sourced, hence the question mark under "sustainable sourcing."

what we love

  • Comes in tablet form
  • Good for all machines
  • Very economical
  • Zero packaging and waste

9. Meliora Eco Laundry Powder

A canister of Meliora Eco Laundry Powder. Pin

Meliora laundry powder works well and smells great if you opt for a scented option. Customers love that it is long-lasting as well. A Made Safe Certified product which means it is non-toxic, it is available in lavender, lemon, lemon/lavender/clove, and unscented.

For packaging, you can choose from a reusable canister and (metal) scoop combo, or a refill bag. It’s also cruelty-free and made without any animal byproducts. No synthetic fragrances, dyes, optical brighteners, SLS, or preservatives either.

Produced and packaged in Chicago, Illinois, your laundry powder will ship in 100% recyclable and plastic-free packaging.

Founded by Kate and her husband Mike, the brand was created to offer safer products using safe ingredients. They are also women-owned and family-operated, a certified B corp, members of 1% for the Planet, and a Leaping Bunny Certified company.

what we love

  • Made Safe Certified
  • Reusable metal canister
  • Compatible with HE and Standard washing machines
  • Leaping Bunny Certified
  • Organic

Is DIY zero waste laundry detergent effective?

This is a tough one for me. I love to make my own cleaning products, like this DIY all-purpose kitchen scrub + cleaner, this DIY bathroom Scrub, or even this DIY all-natural bleach alternative.

But if I am super honest, I have not had much luck with DIYs in the laundry detergent category. I've tried many recipes and my clothes just don't come out as clean as they're supposed to. And they never smell as good either. I know there are probably a ton of good ones out there, and if you have found one that works for you, please share in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you.

Going Zero Waste explained this perfectly in her article on the subject. It basically comes down to the fact that soap is made from natural oils and fats and detergents are made sans fat and oils. It's the oils and fats that can make the DIY less effective.

Zero waste laundry accessories

Going green in the laundry room does not end with zero waste laundry detergent. Making a zero-waste laundry room means choosing accessories that are cleaner for you and the planet.

Dryer balls are a more sustainable choice than dryer sheets, which are packed with nasty chemicals. They are single-use, can't be recycled, and end up polluting landfills. Dryer balls reduce drying time because they help to absorb some of the moisture from your clothes. Choose ones that are made with 100% wool — these will help reduce static as well. They are available at Green and Frugal, and you can use code THEECOHUB15 at checkout.

If you are having issues with static, it's best to remove the clothing before it is completely dry and then line dry it.

A Guppy Bag is a very innovative item that helps to reduce microplastics that break off of your synthetic clothes when you wash them. I have one and use it when I wash my yoga clothes. It's ONE way to reduce microplastics in your home.

a woman holding a guppy bagPin

An eco-friendly hamper, like this one from Made Trade, is made from palm leaves and handwoven in by fair trade artisans in Bangladesh. They come in oval and round and are a simply gorgeous addition to any laundry space. Made Trade is one of the best Amazon Alternatives.

a zero waste laundry hamper from made trade Pin
Image: Made Trade

How to choose zero waste laundry products?

As mentioned at the top of this article, companies that make laundry products are not required by law to put the ingredients on the labels, so my simple suggestion is to connect with brands that do. If brands are not being transparent about it, then just choose another brand — there are so many options!

Look for companies that are using ingredients that are natural and/or organic. They are not always the same thing: natural means no synthetics, whereas organic means having been grown without the use of pesticides.

Other questions to ask:

  • Are the ingredients biodegradable? Can they prove it?
  • Are they septic-safe?
  • Do they test on animals?
  • Are the products free of animal by-products?
  • How are the products packaged, and is the packaging compostable or recyclable?

If you need more information on eco-cleaning, have a look at my green cleaning guide.

Banner for an eco cleaning challenge.Pin

Final tips for a zero waste laundry room

The laundry room is a major waste hog. Try to wash in cold water more often, as 90% of the energy used goes to heating the water. Like the dishwasher, wash a full load. Choose an energy-star model (front-loading) and save about $100 a year on your energy bill, cutting down on emissions too.

Wash cotton and other natural fibres at lower temperatures to extend the life of your clothes and your washing machine. To treat stains, soak your garment as soon as possible. Never put a stained item in the dryer; the heat will actually set the stain and you will probably never get it out.

If you need to dry clean a garment, look for a "wet cleaner" because they typically use steam and pure soap. For smaller loads, consider hand-washing; it's more eco-friendly. Try not to buy wrinkle-free clothes because they are often made with really harmful chemicals.

Well, there you have it! What do you use to launder your clothes? I'd love to hear from you.

If you found this post helpful, please help someone by sharing this article – sharing is caring 🙂 ! And for all your cleaning needs, take a quick peek at the brand directory.

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3 thoughts shared

  1. Unfortunately The Soap Works laundry soap isn’t vegan. It’s main ingredient is sodium tallowate which is a salt of the fatty acid of tallow. And tallow is animal fat. Maybe the company doesn’t test on animals but this product is definitely not vegan!