Guide to Choosing The Best Biodegradable Laundry Detergent
If you are on the hunt for an eco-friendly and biodegradable laundry detergent you will be met with a growing number of choices. While it is great to see progress in this area, it can be overwhelming trying to select the right option that is truly environmentally friendly. With greenwashing becoming more and more of an issue, what should you be looking for in a genuinely biodegradable laundry detergent?
Why Choosing Biodegradable Laundry Detergent is Important?
There are so many reasons why you should prioritise the use of biodegradable laundry detergent in your home. Detergents will always be considered a pollutant, however, when they are biodegradable their impact is significantly reduced. When washed into our wastewater system they become food for bacteria. These bacteria are essential part of our ecosystem and aid in the successful treatment and cleaning of wastewater before it is released back into our environment.
When we use toxic, synthetic detergent, this kills off this bacteria and creates a dangerous imbalance both in wastewater and our waterways. In our waterways, this imbalance along with the phosphates laundry detergent contains, allows algal blooms to flourish. These blooms starve marine life of oxygen, causing suffocation. Synthetic detergent also interrupts the surface tension of the water making it more vulnerable to absorbing pollutants in the air.
Ultimately, you want to ensure that the environmental impact of your wash is minimal and doesn’t lead to lasting damage or issues for marine environments.
Tips for Selecting the Best Biodegradable Laundry Detergent Solution
With surfactants (detergents) being essential to a properly cleaned load of laundry, what is the solution? How do we enjoy clean washing without compromising the environment?
Things To Avoid
Synthetic Fragrances - these most commonly contain phthalates as they help the scent last longer. Phthalates have been linked to reproductive issues, cancer, developmental issues, endocrine system complications and more.
Bleach/bleaching agents - bleach is highly corrosive and can burn living tissue internally and externally. It can also cause migraines, skin rashes, nausea, vomiting and abdominal discomfort.
Brighteners - optical brighteners leave chemical deposits on clothing to make them appear brighter, they do not remove stains at all. The chemical compounds used to make optical brighteners are not biodegradable and rapidly bioaccumulate in marine life and their environments. This leads to long term damage and poisoning of aquatic life.
Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and sodium Laureth sulphate (SLES) - a known irritant to eyes, skin and lungs, SLS and SLES have also been noted to cause cancer in laboratory animals. When washed into waterways this contaminates aquatic life (burning their skin) and any animals that drink from these water sources.
Methylisothiazolinone and Benzisothiazolinone - these preservatives have been linked to a huge rise in allergic contact dermatitis and may also cause blisters, rashes, eye irritation and more. Often found in ‘green’ alternatives, the same side effects we see in humans occur in aquatic life, leading to skin problems, infection and death.
Microplastics - As if the microplastics shed in the wash by synthetic fabrics weren’t bad enough, some laundry detergents add them to the mix! Most often used as ‘fragrance beads’ or chemical compounds designed to brighten clothing, these microplastics wash into waterways and become ingested by marine life. If you enjoy eating fish, chances are you’re also consuming a dose of microplastics with every bite too - yuck!
Chemical surfactants (synthetic detergents) – Long-term exposure to these chemicals are known to cause deformities in fish and frogs.
Phosphates - the largest cause of algal blooms which suffocate marine life by using up the majority of available oxygen in the water. Thankfully most countries globally have moved to ban these from laundry detergents.
What To Look For
Natural Ingredients - there is a whole host of highly effective natural ingredients. Developed from plants, these ingredients may include coconut derivatives, camellia seed oil, aloes, natural alcohols or similar. A genuinely eco-friendly product will be transparent about its ingredients and should list them in full on the packaging. None of the above hazards should be part of its ingredients list!
Sustainable - Included ingredients should be sustainably grown and sourced. For example, if palm oil is an additive, ensure it is from a certified sustainable plantation.
Fragrance-free or essential oils - Avoid eco-friendly altogether or choose natural fragrances to prioritize such as eucalyptus, tea tree, lavender, orange or similar. Check that these are essential oil-derived and not synthetic fragrance oils.
Plastic Free - detergent that claims to be eco friendly yet is packaged in plastic (even when recyclable) is a prime example of greenwashing. Look for packaging and ingredients that are both biodegradable.
No animal testing - this one is a no-brainer, if a product is tested on animals it is highly unlikely they have cared to make it biodegradable. Animal testing is to be avoided at all times.
Septic safe - Septic safe products are designed with the environment in mind. Harsh, non-biodegradable ingredients would kill off the bacteria within septic systems that are essential to its ability to break down waste.
Want To Know More?
In North America, you can review the eco-friendliness of a detergent via several official certifications:
EPA Safer Choice – indicates safer chemical ingredients have been used.
USDA Certified Biobased – this means there is a percentage of biobased material in the detergent.
Leaping Bunny – no animal testing of the final product or any of the ingredients it contains.
EcoCert – certifies the products and ingredients used as being of natural and organic origins.
B-Corp – approved as a socially responsible company
Best Biodegradable Laundry Detergents
So what are the best biodegradable detergents in the market today? Let’s review.
Kind Laundry Detergent Sheets
Created with the earth and ocean in mind, this laundry detergent option skips the use of plastic in any form (even their mailers) and uses only a handful of plant-derived, safer ingredients.
- 100% biodegradable packaging.
- Made using safer ingredients.
- Is hypoallergenic and contains no irritating preservatives.
- Mess-free and pre-measured.
- May need more than one sheet depending on load size.
- Dissolves easily, so must be kept in a dry place away from the sink or dryer.
- Currently, only two options are available, fragrance-free and ocean breeze.
Biokleen Laundry Detergent
Free of fragrances and dyes, Biokleen liquid detergent is reviewed as very effective and only uses natural fragrances and predominantly plant-based ingredients. Sadly, it still comes in a plastic bottle which is a big no for the environment.
- Performs well at removing stains.
- Fragrance-free and hypo-allergenic.
- Contains a plastic scoop.
- Messy to use.
- Contains phenoxyethanol which may cause skin irritation in some users.
Planet Laundry Powder
Biodegradable certified, this laundry powder also comes with earth-friendly packaging. Unfortunately, numerous reviews report having to rewash items as stains or odours were not effectively removed.
- Biodegradable packaging.
- Not tested on animals.
- Some users report powder leaving marks on dark clothing.
- Contains a plastic scoop.
- Messy to use.
Grab Green Laundry Pods
Grab Green is focused on creating eco-friendly products and their ingredients list is a testament to this. Sadly their packaging is plastic and has an added plastic velcro closure. Reviews on cleaning power are mixed with some saying the pods did not properly dissolve.
- Naturally derived ingredients.
- Available in a range of fragrances or fragrance-free.
- Plastic packaging with velcro closure.
- Users report a strong synthetic fragrance.
- May need to use multiple pods for best results.
Laundry Sheets The Better Biodegradable Laundry Detergent
If you could get your laundry day over and done with no negative environmental impact, zero waste and no messy spills to contend with, would you do it? If the answer is a resounding yes, then it is easy to see why laundry sheets are the clear winner for your laundry.
As the winner of the Better Homes and Gardens best eco-friendly laundry detergent award we are proud to offer a product that is both effective and kind to the environment. Our sheets work in both hot and cold water, dissolve completely ensuring no marks on your clothing, effectively lift dirt and grime, are non-toxic and so much more!
If you’re ready to make the switch to a laundry detergent that is safe for your family and the planet without compromising on cleanliness, shop Kind Laundry today.