Although laundry can feel like the most insignificant of everyday tasks, it’s an important part of a zero-waste lifestyle. We already use a huge amount of energy and water in keeping our clothes clean and fresh via washing machines and dryers, so there’s plenty of reasons to minimize the negative environmental impact that conventional laundry products are having on the environment.
Laundry detergent often comes in single-use plastic bottles, which in itself is a problem, but on top of that only 30% of the one billion detergent jugs produced annually are recycled. The rest end up in landfill. What’s more, that plastic packaging makes products heavier and bulkier, adding to emissions during transport. Yet the problem only begins with packaging.
The hyper-convenience of liquid tablets and laundry detergent pods has brought with it another kind of plastics problem. Many of these capsules are held together by a dissolvable plastic that breaks down and enters the environment as microplastics (plastics smaller than 5mm).
This is all before we get into the synthetic properties of detergent itself, which is usually packed with brighteners to keep dyes from running or fading and chemicals that make our water softer to aid cleaning. Today, while phosphates that are harmful to aquatic life have mostly been removed from detergents, surfactants are a mainstay in modern laundry products.
These reduce the surface tension in the water, which makes it easier to lift stains and dirt from our clothes. But when surfactants make their way into water systems, they make it easier for that water to absorb pollutants and pesticides. They are also harmful to fish, breaking down the layers of mucus that coat their scales and protect them from bacteria and parasites.
So, if you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint and boost your sustainable laundry habits, read on to discover exactly which zero-waste laundry products are our favorites at zerowaste.com.
What is a zero-waste laundry product?
Aside from doing full loads, running on eco cycles, and using cold water, what can we do to improve the sustainability of laundry? There are some amazing zero-waste laundry products available which avoid harmful chemicals and take innovative approaches to packaging.
When we talk about zero-waste laundry products, we are thinking of little or zero plastic in the packaging or the product itself. Bulk refills are a plus too, or alternatively, the ability to return packaging for reuse. The use of non-toxic and biodegradable ingredients is also important, and ideally organic materials that can break down swiftly in the environment.
Most products on our list are also vegan or animal cruelty free, because there’s no reason animals should be involved in your laundry routine. Liquid detergents can and should be avoided for their unnecessary bulk, unless hyper concentrated. And lastly an ethical supply chain is an important consideration for any zero-waste product.
The best zero-waste laundry products on the market.
Let’s look at our list of the best plastic-free laundry detergents and other zero-waste solutions that will help you transform your laundry routine into a more sustainable household chore.
Kind Laundry Sheets
Winner of the Better Homes & Gardens Best Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent award, these simple yet effective detergent sheets are the perfect zero-waste laundry option. Non-toxic, biodegradable, cruelty-free, and allergen-free, they are manufactured without the use of t petroleum, parabens, phosphate, phthalates, dyes, artificial colors, or optical brighteners.
Even better, they come packaged in completely recyclable and biodegradable cardboard, so you can ditch the bulky plastic bottles and enjoy clean clothes with minimal environmental impact.
Blueland Laundry Tablets
Blueland’s eco-friendly laundry tablets are 100% plastic free in product and packaging. A batch of 40 fragrance-free tablets comes in a stylish metal ‘forever’ tin and refills are sent out in compostable paper bags. The ingredients are non-toxic, vegan, cruelty free and their supply chain is Cradle-to-Cradle certified. This is a great place to start.
TruEarth Laundry Eco-Strips
TruEarth’s revolutionary laundry detergent strips are unbeatable when it comes to the combination of size, weight, and washing efficacy—shipped in tiny cardboard boxes that contain enough strips for 32 washes. These little strips weigh only 3 grams (that’s 94% lighter than conventional detergent doing the same job) and yet they contain all the natural ingredients needed to clean your clothes. The formula is also hypoallergenic and includes a plant-based fabric softener. You simply toss one in with your load and start the cycle as normal.
Kind Laundry Stain Remover Stick
For stubborn stains, you need a concentrated detergent that’s tough on dirt but kind to your clothes (and the environment). Enter the Kind Laundry Stain Remover Stick, a powerful zero-waste option that’s vegan, gluten-free, and not tested on animals, as well as being free of phosphates, sodium laurel, lauryl or laureth sulfate.
The highly concentrated bar lasts significantly longer than liquid formulas, and its packaged in a recyclable cardboard box—perfect for cleaning everything from spaghetti stains to coffee spills without generating more waste.
These magical little soap nuts (actually berries) from the Himalayas contain a naturally occurring chemical called saponin, a non-synthetic and biodegradable surfactant (remember those?). This makes for an entirely natural cleaning product that cleans and cleanses your laundry. As a bonus, the nuts function as a 2-in-1 fabric softener. A handful of the nuts go in the cotton bag and are then thrown in and reused up to 10 times, whereafter they will easily biodegrade in the environment. They also come in a fully recyclable cardboard package.
Life Without Plastic Laundry Stick
This dilutable, eco-friendly laundry detergent bar from Life Without Plastic is made from all natural ingredients and resembles a conventional bar of soap when it unboxes. The giant efficiency savings from its proclaimed 125 washes feels like a certified no brainer compared to traditional detergents. Simply slice up the bar and dilute it in water, creating your own liquid detergent with none of the negatives from shipping weighty liquids. One tablespoon of detergent is enough for a full load.
Laundry Tablets by Dropps
These plastic-free laundry tablets from Dropps are bound together with a non-toxic polyvinyl alcohol that leaves nothing nasty behind when they dissolve. The original alternative to traditional washing tablets, Dropps are notable by their varieties of scent (e.g. citrus, pine, orange), purpose (odor or stain remover) and skin-type applications (sensitive skin etc.). But they also pack a big punch in the zero waste stakes; they use only plant-based ingredients and offset their entire shipping emissions so you can feel at ease with the full product life cycle. The packaging is sustainable too, using 50% recycled and 50% recyclable cardboard.
The Guppy Friend Washing Bag
While the products above offer great alternatives to traditional detergents, the Guppy Friend washing bag is an ingenious product designed specifically to tackle the problem of microplastics released from synthetic clothing. The Guppy Friend bag filters microplastics from your wash, without losing any itself, and allows you to dispose of them safely, so they won’t end up in our water systems.
Meliora Laundry Powder
Meliora ticks every box for a new zero-waste washing detergent and laundry soap. Made from natural ingredients, vegan, cruelty-free, palm-oil free, and MADE SAFE certified, this sustainable product also cleans your clothes exceptionally well and comes in a variety of scents derived from organic essential oils. And if that wasn’t enough, this woman-owned company also gives over 1% of their profits to For the Planet and Women’s Voices for the Earth.
Happi Earth Zero-Waste Laundry Detergent
Happi Earth’s liquid laundry detergent earns its place on this largely liquid-free list by coming in ultra-concentrated form – the one litre pack will deliver 400 washes. Soapberry extract and coconut vinegar combine in a unique formula to clean deeply and fight stains. The detergent comes in paper refill pouches and would be zero-plastic if not for the nozzle. However, the pouch’s reusability goes some way to offsetting this (it can be mailed back to Happi Earth for this purpose). It ships with a stainless-steel dispenser which will last forever, and their packing is fully recyclable.
Wool Dryer Balls
If you’re about to use some of these zero-waste laundry products to clean your clothes and sheets, then maybe it’s time to also think about getting them dry! Well, with these wool dryer balls you can get ahead of the game and ready your clothes for drying as you wash them. Made from organic wool, simply add four balls to your washer to keep your clothes from getting tangled, cutting drying time by 20% – 40%.
Suitable for 1000+ laundry loads, you can even add a few drops of essential oil as fragrance, and they’re also packaged in 100% recycled cardboard.
Our list of the best zero waste laundry products proves there are a variety of ways to make this simple household chore so much more sustainable. Removing the synthetic chemicals from the product and harnessing natural ingredients can make harmful detergents a thing of the past. While clever innovations around shipping and packaging can reduce our individual environmental footprint even further. With many of these companies attentive to the circular economy, it’s easier than ever for us to be so too.
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