Zero waste laundry detergent is growing in popularity, but it is still not easy to find the right brand to encourage you to swap. What you want is the combination of zero waste, eco-friendly and a laundry detergent that actually works well in a wash. Here’s our run down of the best zero waste laundry detergent we could find.
What is a zero waste laundry detergent?
What counts as a zero waste laundry detergent? Zero waste encompasses the whole product life cycle; from design, toxicity, and packaging to use and re-use via composting or recycling and finally to waste management (The United States Conference of Mayors).
We think that the perfect zero waste laundry detergent needs to be safe and eco-friendly, so that we are reassured about using it for our family, and so that it can be sent into our waterways and oceans without doing any damage. We also look for zero waste packaging that is biodegradable or can be composted. At the very least, we look for packaging that is made from recycled materials and can be recycled or downcycled. We also love to find brands that are a responsible manufacturer and have policies in place for fair trade, ESG, net zero, etc. Even better if they meet the stringent tests for being a B corp. And plus points for no animal cruelty too.
What kind of zero waste laundry detergent is best?
Laundry detergent comes in a variety of forms nowadays from sheets, powder, pods, capsules and liquid. But, what kind of zero waste laundry detergent is best out of these alternatives?
Liquid laundry detergent – the advantage of liquid laundry detergent is that it is easily dissolved in the water, there are no concerns about residue in the washing machine drum or drawers. The disadvantage with liquid laundry detergents is that they are more expensive to ship as they are heavier. Liquid laundry detergent works in a cold wash.
Laundry powder – can also be expensive to ship but it is lighter than liquid and laundry powder can be packaged in plastic free packaging, which is an advantage. A cardboard box or paper bag is perfect. The disadvantages of laundry powder are the mess caused during pouring and the worry about whether the powder will fully dissolve, especially when laundering at lower temperatures (Zoom Express Laundry).
Laundry sheets or strips – laundry sheets are cheaper to ship and don’t need to be measured like laundry powder, so they have a double advantage. Laundry sheets are added in the drum and yes, they do dissolve, even if it may feel odd. Laundry sheets work in a hot or cold wash. However, laundry sheets or strips can be more expensive than other laundry products.
Laundry pods or laundry packs, also known as laundry capsules – the immediate concern with laundry capsules is what the ‘plastic looking’ capsule is made out of. You want to be sure that your laundry capsules are biodegradable and plastic free. Check whether the brand advises that you can wash with laundry capsules at cold temperatures before buying – some don’t completely dissolve in cooler climates. The advantages of laundry capsules are that they are easy to use the right dose and they’re relatively cheap to ship and buy.
Eco friendly laundry detergents
It has been highlighted recently that the detergents we use in everyday life have a lot of toxic chemicals in them. This is bad for us, our families and the environment. When picking our favorite zero waste laundry detergents, we opted for eco friendly laundry detergents that had natural ingredients and avoided brands with any harmful chemicals in them. We might not have got this down perfectly, so let us know if you have noticed any nasties in our list.
Kind Laundry suggests avoiding anything with phosphates, palm oil, formaldehyde, dioxanes and ammonium in it.
Zero waste laundry detergent packaging
It can be really annoying to read about a brand that claims to be eco friendly, zero waste or plastic free and then finding that the laundry detergent sheets are packaged in plastic or the bottle cannot be recycled or refilled.
We recognise that brands are working to improve all the time and that some things, like capsules, need a lot of research and development in order to find alternative biodegradable materials that are safe to use and actually work. The good news is that some brands have succeeded.
Zero waste laundry detergent products
Kind Laundry Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent Sheets
We love that there are only five simple ingredients that are explained in the ingredients list. The sheets are biodegradable and contain zero plastic. The zero waste packaging is 100% recyclable.
$19.95 for 60 sheets & free shipping over $50 ($0.33 per wash at one per wash)
Kind Laundry Eco-Friendly Detergent Sheets can be washed at low temperatures.
Kind Laundry is based in Canada and ships worldwide. Its whole ethos is eco-friendly but there are not a lot of details on the manufacturing process. The products are cruelty free and no animal products or palm oil are used.
4.5 stars from 3,209 ratings
Seventh Generation Concentrated Laundry Detergent Free & Clear
Seventh Generation Concentrated Laundry Detergent Free & Clear is USDA Certified Biobased Product 96%. It has 13 ingredients listed clearly, which we love and a safety data sheet (yes! Thank you Seventh Generation! We love brands that are transparent). Leaping Bunny and US EPA Safer Choice certified.
The packaging of this product is particularly interesting as it is a bottle shaped cardboard cover and a plastic bag inner. The cardboard is biodegradable, the plastic needs to be recycled. The bottle cap is unknown.
$28.22 for 66 washes ($0.43)
Seventh Generation’s whole mission is about sustainability and they are a B Corp. They manufacture in the US.
4.5 stars from 84 ratings
Ecover Zero Laundry Detergent Liquid
Ecover Zero Laundry Detergent is a non bio laundry liquid with zero fragrances, colors or enzymes. The ingredient list is simple and only ten plant based, biodegradable ingredients. Unfortunately one of these is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) which we know is toxic to aquatic life although this study concludes it is safe.
The bottles are 100% recycled plastic and the caps are 99% recycled plastic. Both are widely recyclable and can be refilled at refill stations in the UK.
£5.85 for 42 washes (£0.14)
Ecover makes their products in a zero waste certified factory in Belgium. They don’t use palm oil or surfactants and their products are Leaping Bunny approved.
4.5 stars off 1,554 ratings
Meliora Laundry Powder
Meliora Laundry Powder has literally 5 ingredients and they are all normal household items; Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda), Sodium Carbonate (washing soda), Sodium Cocoate (saponified coconut oil), Glycerin, Organic Cocos Nucifera Oil (coconut oil), & Water. Plus essential oils if it is fragranced. Meliora Laundry Powder is 100% biodegradable and septic safe.
The laundry powder comes in a canister made of cardboard and steel, like other household products. It is easy to recycle or reuse.
$18.99 for 64 loads or 128 loads in a high efficiency washer ($0.30) and they do a refill for $14.99 and free shipping over $49
Meliora Cleaning Products started when the founder Kate noticed that cleaning product manufacturers were not keen to disclose their ingredients (something we still notice today!) Meliora products are cruelty free, plastic free, dye free, synthetic fragrance free and packaged in sustainable materials.
4.5 stars from 239 ratings (Amazon.com)
Zero waste laundry detergent roundup
We are still working on our zero waste laundry detergent roundup so if you have any products to recommend, we’re interested to hear them. Our conclusions are that sheets and capsules may be easier to use, but they are more expensive. Liquids and laundry powders need measuring, but they can be really cheap to purchase if, and it is a big if, you can collect them or purchase them locally, because delivery costs more due to the weight.