What to Look for in a Zero Waste Laundry Detergent + Our Top Picks

When embarking on a more sustainable lifestyle, one of the easiest changes you can make in your arsenal of home and personal care products is laundry detergent. There are a few things you should consider when you purchase zero-waste laundry detergent though. Here are our top tips and favorite brands.

Zero Waste Laundry Detergent


This brand’s product line is plant-based, dye-free, eco-friendly, and biodegradable. Their popular detergent pods dissolve within seconds and don’t leave any toxic ingredients behind that are harmful to marine life or the community water supply. In addition, all of the brand’s packaging is recyclable, repulpable, and compostable.

Tru Earth

Tru Earth is committed to 100% plastic-free packaging. This brand’s biodegradable and plastic-free detergent sheets are another nice alternative to traditional laundry detergent. They dissolve quickly, are made with eco-friendly ingredients, and carry a small footprint for maximum convenience.


Any safe detergent list would be remiss to not mention this popular eco-friendly brand. Their plant-based, hypo-allergenic liquid detergents have earned the EPA Safer Choice product seal and are made without dyes, optical brighteners, parabens, phthalates or phosphates. Their new product line of liquidless laundry squares, ECOSNext™, is truly zero waste with completely dissolvable detergent sheets and slim recyclable packaging.


Biokleen’s liquid detergents come in unique recyclable and compostable cardboard jugs made from 100% recycled materials, or recyclable plastic jugs. All ingredients are non-toxic, eco-friendly and plant-based.

Eco Nuts

You can’t get much more earth-friendly than soap berries! Eco Nuts are naturally hypoallergenic, fragrance-free and eco-friendly. Sustainably grown and ethically harvested without pesticides, chemicals or fertilizers, they are also biodegradable and compostable with recyclable packaging. Eco Nuts soap berries cleanse with truly organic ingredients, harnessing the power of nature’s surfactant – saponin.


Nellie’s Laundry Soda has become a favorite of moms everywhere. While not entirely zero-waste, this washing powder comes in adorable reusable tins and is hypoallergenic, biodegradable, vegan and eco-friendly. It is very effective and is used by many parents to wash cloth diapers, often in conjunction with the Nellie’s Oxygen Brightener.


Like Nellie’s, Meliora’s laundry powder comes in attractive tins that can be repurposed and will look adorable in your laundry room! Their powder is fragrance-free, dye-free, gentle, and biodegradable. As a certified B Corp that has received an A from EWG and been designated cruelty-free by Leaping Bunny, you can trust this company to make products that adhere to sustainable and eco-friendly values.


Truman’s zero-waste cardboard packaging is 100% recyclable and compostable. Inside the box, you’ll find dissolvable soap bars that are non-toxic, fragrance-free, and HE-friendly. As a relative newcomer to the market, Truman’s laundry bars are a fun new way to go waste-free.

diy zero-waste laundry detergent

DIY Laundry Detergent

For those wanting to venture into making their own laundry detergent formula, it is much easier than you might think, and the recipe is really quite simple. Instead of purchasing commercial options with tons of wasteful packaging, you can make a powder or gel at home that can be stored in a simple large glass mason jar. Oftentimes, DIY versions can be cheaper than store-bought options. Best of all, homemade recipes allow you to control the ingredients that go into your detergent.

So to create a more economic and zero-waste detergent, what do you need?

DIY Liquid Laundry Detergent

Grate your soap bar and add to a saucepan with 4 cups of water, stirring until melted. Fill your 5-gallon bucket with hot water, add in the melted soap, and then your powder ingredients. Add more hot water, stir, and cover overnight to thicken. If desired, essential oils can be added once the liquid has cooled

DIY Powdered Laundry Detergent 

Simply grate the soap, mix together the powder ingredients and blend together in a food processor or blender. Add the essential oils at this time if desired.

zero-waste laundry detergent

What’s Wrong with My Current Laundry Detergent?

You may have never given any thought to changing your laundry detergent before. So why does it matter?

It May Damage Your Health With Toxic Ingredients

The chemical ingredients in traditional laundry detergents can act as skin irritants, leading to concerns like eczema/atopic dermatitis, hives, allergic reactions, and other rashes. In addition, we inhale the chemicals and added fragrances throughout the laundry process. Research has proven that repeated or prolonged exposure to these chemicals can harm our endocrine and reproductive systems (and our pets’ too).

It Can Harm The Environment

These toxic ingredients can also harm marine life after you flush them out into the water supply. Water treatment plants are not equipped to filter out many of these ingredients such as Nonylphenols and nonylphenol ethoxylates (NP/NPEs), 1,4 Dioxane, phthalates, optical brighteners, silver nanoparticles, and phosphates. In addition to harming the marine life, these ingredients find themselves into our local water supply where they continue to wreak havoc on us through the water we drink and bathe in.

It Isn’t Biodegradable

And if that wasn’t bad enough, traditional laundry detergent packaging is often not biodegradable and sits in landfills for many years. Detergent pods are some of the worst offenders, causing harm to marine life as well. While some detergent containers are recyclable, many areas still do not have widespread community recycling programs, and not all households are inclined to even participate. Looking for other ways to remove plastic from your home? Check out these 8 simple plastic swaps!

It’s Harsh On Your Clothes

To top it all off, these strong chemical detergents are not even the best or most effective choice for your clothes. Despite their claims, these products often fail to produce the desired results for brightening or stain removal, and they may even shorten the life of your clothes.

What to Look for in Zero Waste Laundry Detergent

While many brands claim to be eco-friendly with marketing terms like “green” “all natural” or “organic”, how can you be sure that these products are actually any different? For starters, you can check the packaging for the EPA Safer Choice seal to identify products in compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Design for the Environment” program. 

You can also check products and individual ingredients on the EPA’s database.

In general, you’ll want to look for a product that contains no dyes, fillers, fragrances, or other harsh chemicals.

Packaging should be recyclable and/or biodegradable. Some brands even offer packaging that is compostable. Look for a seal from the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council to ensure a company’s commitment to zero-waste practices.

Other Zero Waste Laundry Products

In addition to swapping out your detergent, you can overhaul the entire way you do your laundry with a few other zero-waste products. Below are some of the most popular laundry products.

Dryer Balls

Dryer balls, often made from wool, fluff up your clothes naturally for that soft feel you’re used to – without the chemicals of softener sheets. You can use a set of dryer balls up to 1,000 times! Additionally, they help collect lint and pet hair.

Reusable Dryer Sheets

Many brands create compostable, naturally-derived alternatives to traditional dryer sheets, like these wax-free sheets by Grab Green. Better for the environment – and better for you!

Stain Removal

Natural, biodegradable laundry bars like this one by Ethique make a great alternative to traditional stain removal products. No plastic needed!

Lint Brush

Who knew there was even a sustainable alternative to the sticky lint rollers that you can find at every convenience store? This attractive wooden brush by Full Circle eliminates waste and looks great in any room of your home!

Overhauling your laundry habits can seem intimidating at first, but taking steps towards greater sustainability and healthier options can be very rewarding, cost-effective, and even fun. Laundry is something we all do, and we all must do often – making it a perfect place to start your zero waste journey. And with a little bit of help from these eco-friendly products above, you’ll be well on your way!

zero waste laundry detergent

You may also like...