Zero Waste Laundry Detergent Image by Ethique #zerowastelaundrydetegent #zerowastelaundry #sustainablejungle
Image by Ethique
Zero Waste Laundry Detergent Image by Dropps #zerowastelaundrydetegent #zerowastelaundry #sustainablejungle
Image by Dropps
Zero Waste Laundry Detergent Image by Eco Nuts #zerowastelaundrydetegent #zerowastelaundry #sustainablejungle
Image by Eco Nuts

12 Zero Waste Laundry Detergents For Plastic Free Loads

Laundry day is not so bad. Said no one ever.

Especially since in the USA alone, 2.5 million plastic bottles are used every hour (laundry bottles being one of the most common offenders). To add to the load, only 14% of plastic packaging is recycled.

So it’s safe to say the planet hates laundry day even more than you do!

That’s not to mention the chemicals, non-biodegradable surfactants, and plastic pods used by most conventional laundry detergent brands…

Fortunately, you can put a sustainable spin on the spin cycle with the best zero waste laundry detergent

Wondering how we removed the stains of a toxic laundry detergent industry?

First, we had to take note of a very divisive issue when it comes to zero waste laundry detergent: Polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH, PVA).

PVOH is essentially what makes laundry detergent pods and some detergent sheets possible.

In other words, it makes laundry extremely convenient, but it is technically a type of plastic, albeit a far better dissolvable alternative than most.

That’s why we’ve split this list into laundry detergents both with and without polyvinyl alcohol, so you folks can make up your own minds on whether or not laundry soaps with PVOH can be considered zero waste.

If you need more info about PVOH and PVA (as well as the rest of our considerations) spin to the end of the article.

All these brands have sparkling sustainability, but a few provide the brightest whites: 

Eco Nuts gets the award for possibly the best (and definitely most unique) laundry detergent on this list, and we can’t not mention Ethique and their ultra zero waste laundry bars.

If you’ve weighed the pros and cons and don’t mind using a PVOH, there’s Dropps, the original waste free laundry detergent pods.

If you’re up for the challenge, opt for a DIY zero-waste laundry detergent (which we’ll totally tell you how to make). 

Otherwise, stick with alternative non-toxic and plastic free laundry detergent to zero waste-ify the process—from sustainable laundry basket to hanger.

*This post contains affiliate links



Zero Waste Laundry Detergent Image by EcoRoots #zerowastelaundrydetegent #zerowastelaundry #sustainablejungle
Image by EcoRoots

*Note: Most products offered by EcoRoots are palm oil free.

About EcoRoots’ Eco-Strips Zero Waste Laundry Detergent

EcoRoots Eco-Strips utilizing the power of the plant-based cleaning agents like Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate.

They work by gently dislodging dirt and stains, keeping them suspended until they can be washed away.

These dissolvable strips are not only safe for travel, septic systems, and all types of washing machines; they’re also safe for you and your family (even your zero waste baby)!

That’s because they’re free of harsh chemicals, parabens, phthalates, phosphates, synthetic fragrances, dyes, brighteners, palm oil, and animal byproducts (not to mention being cruelty-free).

Choose between fragrance-free and fresh breeze (scented using essential oils).

They’re also available in singles or a money-saving duo pack—though they’re already a great value since each sheet is designed for two loads. Just tear in half and your whole pack will last a whopping 64 loads.

About EcoRoots

For a long time, EcoRoots has been a go-to for our self-cleaning routines, thanks to things like shaving soap bars and zero waste razors. But now they’ve expanded that cleaning power to other areas of the home!

Their zero waste products come in reusable jars or compostable paper/cardboard and are always cruelty-free, palm oil-free, and largely vegan except for some occasional beeswax.

Also among our favorite brands that give back, this member of 1% for the Planet has donated over $10,000 so far to Ocean Conservancy.  

Available: EcoRoots | Amazon


Zero Waste Laundry Detergent Image by Etee #zerowastelaundrydetegent #zerowastelaundry #sustainablejungle
Image by etee

*Note: etee’s laundry soap is vegan and palm oil free but some of their products (i.e. dish soap) are not.

About etee’s Concentrated Laundry Detergent

What makes for the best eco friendly laundry detergent

Well, something that works (duh), has big bang for buck, and zero plastic.

etee’s concentrated laundry detergent powder satisfies all of those points. 

Unlike pods (which are made with PVA, polyvinyl acetate), the powder is super concentrated and plastic-free. You need just one tablespoon per load. 

You’ll be washing with safe, biodegradable ingredients that can handle the toughest stains without relying on sulfates, parabens, or harsh chemicals. 

Even the paper bag the laundry powder comes in features a biodegradable lining! 

For extra tough stains (read: bloody noses, spilled coffee, grass stains), there’s also a zero-waste laundry bar. 

We’re not the only ones feeling sudsy about etee’s laundry detergent. It’s amassed a following from National Geographic, Rachel Ray, and the Food Network.

About etee

We’re thankful that a kayaking trip gone wrong inspired the brand to make beeswax wraps. Now they’re one of our favorite alternatives to Amazon

In addition to making zero plastic laundry detergent, this Canadian brand brings sustainable sparkle to our homes and bodies with their zero waste dish soap, organic face moisturizer, organic body wash, and much more.

They hand make all products using mostly organic ingredients (in an HQ fueled by renewables) and never use plastic. 

They’ve prevented more than 100 million pieces of single-use plastic from being produced.

They support marginalized communities and homeless shelters and have donated more than 25,000 face masks to those in need.

Available: etee


Zero Waste Laundry Detergent Image by Dropps #zerowastelaundrydetegent #zerowastelaundry #sustainablejungle
Image by Dropps
About Dropps Laundry Detergent Pods

Dropps laundry detergent pods pack a powerful stain fighting punch. 

Between naturally-derived lavender and eucalyptus scents, sensitive skin varieties, and either stain or odor fighting formulas, they make something to fit just about every lifestyle.  

As with their eco friendly dishwasher tablets, the pods are made using polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH) which is dissolvable in any type of machine washer (cold temperatures included).

Dropps uses biodegradable packaging laundry detergent pods and a fully compostable and recyclable cardboard box. It’s made from approximately 50% post-consumer recycled material and 50% Forest Stewardship Council certified cardboard.

About Dropps

Dropps is the original low waste laundry detergent pod, combining sustainability and powerful cleaning.

They partner with an organization dedicated to ocean conservation:

“Dropps is partnering with Oceana to educate consumers on the impact of their actions and choices, and encourage them to care about the massive global plastic pollution crisis.” 

The brand uses exclusively plant-based ingredients, manufactures in the United States, and does not support the use animal testing. They do use palm oil, but source RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil. 

Dropps also use carbon-neutral shipping (meaning they offset it 100%).

Available: Dropps  | EarthHero


Zero Waste Laundry Detergent Image by Ethique #zerowastelaundrydetegent #zerowastelaundry #sustainablejungle
Image by Ethique
About Laundry Bar & Stain Stick

Ethique’s Flash! Solid Laundry Bar & Stain Remover is one of the best zero waste laundry detergents we could find.

Made with 100% biodegradable ingredients and pure essential oils, the bar smells beautiful and lasts way longer than you’d think.

Being a solid bar, it comes with minimal packaging—just an easily recyclable or compostable cardboard sleeve. 

The general consensus of converts is how well this product works, especially at removing stains and even making whites brighter. And who doesn’t love the fact that it’s lasting longer than other laundry detergents?

While it can only be used to hand wash clothes, it’s great for traveling, camping, backpacking, or just washing hands or dishes. It’s not suitable for washing machines, but maybe we should all be using our washing machines a little less often, eh?

About Ethique

Ethique may have started in New Zealand a few years back, but now their plastic-free and natural products are found all over the world. 

We’re big fans of their zero waste shampoo and zero waste deodorant. And we’ve also just uncovered their organic face wash.

Ethique ticks all the boxes when it comes to sustainability—their products are vegan, cruelty-free, non-toxic, and palm oil free. They also use thoughtful packaging (all products are in bar form!) and ethical sourcing. 

Earlier this year, they launched a plastic-free warehouse in the US. Plus they’re a certified B-Corp and unlike most other zero waste brands are certified climate neutral! 

Not only do they carbon offset their emissions, but they also contribute to charity projects each year.

In 2020, they partnered with Offset Earth and made a commitment to plant one tree for every order placed. They also launched a Super Soap Project to donate soap to vulnerable communities.

Before you think it can’t get any better, here’s what they have to say about their future direction:

“So far we’ve saved over 8 million plastic bottles from entering landfill, and we’re just getting started: our next goal is 50 million by 2025.”

Available: Amazon


Zero Waste Laundry Detergent Image by Eco Nuts #zerowastelaundrydetegent #zerowastelaundry #sustainablejungle
Image by Eco Nuts
About Eco Nuts Plastic Free Laundry Detergent Soap Berries

If you’re looking for natural zero plastic laundry detergent, sometimes less is more—and with Eco Nuts, this is definitely the case.

While they do have a liquid version, we’re going nuts over their soap nuts!

Soap nuts (or soap berries) come from a tree that grows in the Himalayas.

When agitated in water, they produce saponin, non-synthetic and biodegradable surfactant (which is what allows laundry soap to clean otherwise water repellent oils from your clothes). 

Each nut can be reused up to 10 times and are certified USDA Organic by Oregon Tilth. 

The soap berries come in a plastic-free cardboard box that’s easily recyclable and Eco Nuts also offers bulk sizing to lessen shipping frequency and minimize environmental impact.

About Eco Nuts

Eco Nuts started in 2009, though admittedly soap nuts are still so underrated a decade later. 

They produce a variety of other organic and eco friendly cleaning products in Earth-friendly packaging. None of which contain any chemical residues, harsh odors, or fake filler ingredients.

Available: EarthHero


Zero Waste Laundry Detergent Image by Meliora #zerowastelaundrydetegent #zerowastelaundry #sustainablejungle
Image by Meliora
About Meliora Powder Laundry Detergent

If you’re looking for variety, Meliora provides a vegan and plastic free laundry detergent for every scent preference and cleaning need – from unscented to lavender, lemon, lemon lavender clove and more (all derived naturally from Certified Organic essential oils).

They also carry a stain removing soap stick to lighten up your whites.

All their laundry products are vegan, cruelty-free, and MADE SAFE Certified. They also come in a plastic-free and reusable canister.

About Meliora

Meliora Means Better—and they’re achieving this by making products that are better for people and the planet.

They make several different home and body care products, and even have a plastic-free collection, making them perfect for your ethical online shopping needs.

Meliora is certified by B Corp and Leaping Bunny.

They’re also women-owned, provide living wages, use low-impact products and packaging, and give back a percentage of profits through partnerships with 1% For the Planet and Women’s Voices for the Earth.

Environmental sustainability and transparency are embedded in every step of their production process—so much so that you can arrange an appointment to have a tour of their Chicago factory!

Available: EarthHero


Zero Waste Laundry Detergent Image by Shower Treat Soap #zerowastelaundrydetegent #zerowastelaundry #sustainablejungle
Image by Shower Treat Soap
About Shower Treat Zero Waste Powdered Laundry Detergent

When it comes to zero waste laundry detergent powder we’re feeling pretty sudsy over Shower Treat Soap

It’s made from scratch, with ingredients that are safe enough for the whole family. This includes just cold process soap, Borax (sodium borate), essential oil, and sodium carbonate.

For those who feel a little iffy about the Borax (or live in Europe where it’s banned), they have a Borax-free formula.

Their zero waste laundry detergent comes in a fully home compostable, biodegradable package. They don’t even include a plastic scoop unless specifically requested.

You can also buy it in a larger bulk size to reduce how often you need to order (and the shipping emissions you’ll be responsible for).

The only downside is that their essentials oils are sourced from other unknown countries which may include China (who test on animals). While Shower Treat themselves would never test on animals, they technically can’t guarantee everything is cruelty free.

Perhaps you can request an essential oil-free version to be safe.

About Shower Treat Soap

Shower Treat Soap is a small family soap business based in Portage, Michigan, and this power family has been handcrafting soaps and body care items since 1997.

While not all their products are zero waste (some come in plastic bags), they do offer plenty of zero waste products (like their plastic free laundry detergent) to satisfy all your zero waste needs.

All ingredients except their essential oils are sourced in the USA and most products are palm oil free and vegan. The only exceptions are some bars that contain RSPO-certified palm and 2 goat milk soap bars made from the milk of their friend’s own well-cared-for goats (and only when there is extra).

Plus, since they sell mainly on Etsy (and local farmer’s markets), you can order from a platform that offsets 100% of their shiping carbon emissions. 

Etsy also partners with 3Degrees to support a variety of environmental projects—all without charging buyers or sellers a single penny! So shopping here benefits small business and the environment!

Available: Etsy


Zero Waste Laundry Detergent Image by Dr Bronners #zerowastelaundrydetegent #zerowastelaundry #sustainablejungle
Image by Dr Bronner’s
About Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap as Laundry Detergent

Dr. Bronner’s doesn’t sell laundry detergent per se, but their 18-in-1 liquid castile soap, is an organic shampoo, soap, natural body wash, dish soap, and laundry detergent (and 13 other things…).

If you’re looking to truly minimize all your home and personal cleaning, Dr. Bronner’s is the best there is.

Just mix ⅓ to ½ cup ofthe soap with ½ cup of vinegar (or divide this recipe in half for HE washing machines) it makes a natural and effective laundry soap.

It’s kind of like a homemade zero waste laundry detergent, but without all the work that goes into responsible ingredient sourcing and mixing.  

Now we know that Dr. Bronner’s does come in a plastic bottle so whether it’s zero waste is debatable.

But the fact that it can be used for a variety of purposes means that it still greatly reduces the amount of packaging that purchasing different products (i.e shampoo, body wash, dish soap, etc.) would require.

Plus, it’s so concentrated that one of these bottles will last you a long time.

Plus, many local zero waste shops, organic grocery stores (like many Whole Foods), and health food stores sell bulk refills of Dr. Bronner’s, meaning you can refill the same bottle again and again.

About Dr. Bronner‘s

If you’ve ever read the Dr. Bronner’s book (ahem, label), you’ll know that there are “cosmic principles” that drive everything the brand does. These include themselves, their customers, their employees, their suppliers, their earth, and their community. 

Dr. Bronner was started by Emanuel Bronner in the 1960s, amidst the beginnings of the organic and fair trade movement. Ever since then, they’ve been using the purest organic and fair trade ingredients.

After all, any product that can be used to wash your clothes AND brush your teeth must be made of some seriously cosmic stuff.

Don’t take our word for it, look at their credentials. Their products are Regenerative Organic Certified, USDA Certified, Fair for Life Certified, Oregon Tilth Certified Organic, NSF Certified, Leaping Bunny Certified, OK Kosher Certified, and Non-GMO Project Verified. And they’re a Certified B-Corp. 

They use equitable supply chains, fair trade sourcing, renewable organic agriculture practices, renewable energy, and 100% post-consumer recycled plastic packaging.

In house, they also offer 100% free health care for all employees, a cap on executive salaries, and profit sharing for full-time employees.

We could go on, but Dr. Bronner’s gives back in too many ways to count.

Available: Amazon | Amazon (UK)


Zero Waste Laundry Detergent Image by Zero Waste Store #zerowastelaundrydetegent #zerowastelaundry #sustainablejungle
Image of Kind Laundry by Zero Waste Store

*Note: We have reached out to this brand to confirm their ethical policies with no response to date.

About Kind Laundry Detergent Sheets

What earned Kind Laundry Better Homes & Gardens title of “Best Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent”?

Gentle enough to hand wash even the most delicate fabrics and safe to toss directly into top-loading, front-loading, and HE washing machines, these are laundry detergent sheets that contain only 5 ingredients.

They are non-toxic and free of allergens, petroleum, parabens, phosphates, phthalates, dyes, artificial colors, and optical brighteners.

However, one of the ingredients (Polyglycol Ether) is a common palm derivative so we’ll check on their palm policy.

Best of all, they come in premeasured sheets that are ultra convenient for both the home and travel. Choose between fragrance-free and ocean breeze scented.

The sheets themselves are dissolvable (made from PVOH – learn more about this here) and the box they come in is totally compostable.

About Kind Laundry

Based in Toronto, Canada, Kind Laundry is Leaping Bunny Cruelty Free Certified and does everything under the mission to “create a more sustainable future”.

Founders Bernard and Angie started the company in their very own laundry room, after they decided to create a more “bearable” way to do laundry. They believe:

“As consumers, we have the power to change the world by being careful in what we buy and consume.”

That’s why they wanted to give people a safe and non-toxic alternative to plastic laundry jugs.

Available: Kind Laundry | Zero Waste Store

10. ZERO CO.

Zero Waste Laundry Detergent Image by Zero Co #zerowastelaundrydetegent #zerowastelaundry #sustainablejungle
Image by Zero Co

*Note: Zero Co uses RSPO MB certified palm oil, meaning some is sustainable palm oil but not all.

About Zero Co. Zero Waste Liquid Laundry Detergent Australia

Attention all Australian readers: Zero Co. is your cleaning hero co!

Sign up to receive single-use plastic free deliveries of your first order and every following zero waste laundry detergent refill.

Zero waste laundry detergent is one of them, which will aim to help customers “take a load off mother earth”.

Plus, it’s sure to smell delicious as it contains Lemon Myrtle and Australian Grey Gum. 

About Zero Co.

We actually interviewed the founder Mike Smith on our Podcast and he’s the real deal. 

All packaging is made from recycled materials (like plastic found in the ocean) and can be sent back to be refilled.

All products (including their liquid laundry detergent) are vegan, cruelty-free, plant-based, free of palm oil, grey water safe and made in Australia. They end up being cheaper than what you’d get at the supermarket and feature some of the most natural ingredients.

Their palm oil bears an RSPO MB certification so it comes from both RSPO-certified and non-certified businesses, but they’re working toward all sustainable palm oil in the future, as well as more palm oil free products. 

Available: Zero Co.


Zero Waste Laundry Detergent Image by TruEarth #zerowastelaundrydetegent #zerowastelaundry #sustainablejungle
Image by Tru Earth

*Note: While these strips do not directly contain palm oil, palm oil is used in the manufacturing of two of the ingredients. This palm oil is RSPO-certified and Tru Earth is currently seeking more sustainable alternatives to these ingredients.

About Tru Earth Zero Waste Laundry Papers

Keep laundry day “clean, green, and simple” with Tru Earth.

Just place one of these pre-measured low waste laundry detergent strip papers in thewash, set your cycle, and walk away.

Aside from no measuring or wasted laundry room space, these strips have no palm oil, gluten, SLS/SLES, parabens, phosphates, added dyes, chlorine bleach, 1,4-dioxane (certified by labs), or animal-based ingredients.

Instead, they contain a dermatologist-certified hypoallergenic formulation using soy vegetable glycerin (for natural softening), plant starch, a coconut oil-based foam booster, and mineral and essential oils.

They even contain a water softener that’s plant-derived, food-grade, and biodegradable so folks with hard water can still reap the benefits.

They do not tolerate testing on animals by either themselves or their ingredient suppliers.

Available in either fresh linen scent and fragrance-free, these OECD 310D-certified biodegradable papers are suitable for all washing machines, including HE.

However, it’s worth noting these sheets do contain polyvinyl alcohol and thus should be considered dissolvable not truly biodegradable, to err on the safe side. Read more about this here.

About Tru Earth

“If it’s so eco-friendly, how the heck does it get my clothes clean?”

If you share this opinion by former skeptic and Tru Earth co-founder, let this brand change your mind. It’s designed to “seek out and dislodges dirt molecules and stains, keeping them in suspension until they are rinsed away.”

All in a tiny, paper strip manufactured in Canada.

Aside from reducing your carbon footprint at home, they reduce your carbon footprint before it even gets to you.

Since these strips weight only 3 grams, they’re 94% lighter than traditional laundry detergent.

The brand has calculated that if everyone switched to Tru Earth Eco-Strips, the yearly savings would amount to saving 700 million plastic jugs from hitting the landfills and taking 27 million cars off the road (that’s the equivalent of planting 9 million trees).

Available: Tru Earth


Zero Waste Laundry Detergent Image by Happi.Earth #zerowastelaundrydetegent #zerowastelaundry #sustainablejungle
Image by Happi.Earth

*Note: We have reached out to this brand to confirm their ethical policies with no response to date.

About Happi.Earth Laundry Liquid

Without the unnecessary water, each pack of zero waste laundry liquid comes ultra-concentrated with only essential (and safer) ingredients and less plastic, considering it comes in kraft paper refill pouches.

Speaking of safe ingredients, all of the ingredients in Happi.Earth are Certified Organic—no nasties or GMOs. With organic eucalyptus and orange essential oils, you’ll be bound to smell great too (naturally!).

Pssssst, this is one of the brands on this list that is palm oil free.

About Happi.Earth

When it comes to zero waste liquid laundry detergent, the best option is probably refill and reuse—and that’s what you’ll get with Happi.Earth.

Not only are their unique packages made with kraft paper that are BPA-free, but they can also be sent back “hassle-free” for reuse. 

Each refill pouch replaces 13 plastic bottles of laundry detergent and each one can be used over and over again, meaning smell-good clothes and less plastic pollution for our oceans!

The actual bottle is made with stainless steel (which will last a long time and can be recycled eventually) and the boxes are packed with potato starch instead of polystyrene peanuts.

Just chuck the potato starch in the garden and let it compost!  

Not only are you saving plastic when you wash with Happi.Earth, but the brand plants one mangrove tree for every purchase. These trees are great at carbon sequestration (removing carbon dioxide from our atmosphere), and provide perfect breeding areas for marine animals.

Happi.Earth laundry liquid is made in Australia and certified by Worldview International Foundation (who they partner with to plant trees), Australian Organic, and Cruelty Free International.

Available: Happi.Earth


If you’re a zero waste hero or well into your eco-friendly journey, you might want to take the next step and make your own laundry detergent.

There are few better ways to really control what goes into the products you use and reduce waste. Here are a few of our favorite recipes:

  • Homemade Powder Detergent from Wasteland Rebel: Combining solid castile soap with baking soda and washing soda is so easy it can be done in just seven minutes. Just grate the bar of castile soap into flakes and combined with other ingredients before adding it to the washer—it’s really that simple! 
  • Natural Laundry Detergent from Tom’s: Tom’s of Maine (a natural product brand) has come up with a similar recipe that also includes epsom salt and powdered citric acid. The process is similar, too. Just combine castile soap shavings with the other ingredients, mix in a blender, and you’re good to go!

    This works great as a zero waste recipe for cold laundry detergent too!

14. zero waste laundry accessories

To complete your zero waste laundry room keep an eye out for zero waste laundry accessories (when you need them) to help you in your quest for clean clothes and a happy planet.

  • Dryer Balls: If you want soft, fluffy, and static-free clothes, chuck in a dryer ball with your next load. Say buh-bye to all of the waste that comes with a new dryer sheet for every load. These ones from Harmony Heritage Farm (along with tons of others on Etsy) are made from 100% organic wool.
  • Guppyfriend: Did you know that every time you wash your synthetic fabrics, small plastic pieces (microfibers) are released and end up in waterways (and therefore in fish and the humans that eat the fish)? Yikes.

    Fortunately, that’s what Guppyfriend wash bags are for; they trap all of the microplastics so that you can dispose of them properly.
  • Lint Brushes How annoying is lint? Fortunately, you can get rid of it in a way that doesn’t damage the environment.

    That’s why we like the handcrafted lint brush from EarthHero—there’s no plastic here. It’s made from sustainably sourced rubber bristles and sustainably harvested beechwood.

Why Choose PLASTIC FREE Laundry Detergent?

Why is it necessary to choose sustainable laundry soaps made with natural, biodegradable materials, rather than detergents?

Detergents, by definition, are synthetic phosphate-rich substances that are NOT biodegradable.

Meaning every time you wash your clothes, a lot of nasty surfactants are being dumped into the world’s sewage systems, where it can then slowly leach into the environment.

This harms septic systems, sometimes pollutes drinking water, causes death and disease to fish and other aquatic life, and leads to eutrophication in natural waterways.

This is the overabundance of phosphorus (hence the phosphates in detergents) and leads to overgrowth of aquatic plants like algae leaving oxygen-depleted “dead zones”.

Because 50% to 75% of phosphorus in lakes and rivers is now detergent-derived, we’re basically expediting the natural eutrophication process from thousands of years, to just decades.

How We Found the Best ZERO WASTE Laundry Detergent

Obviously “Thoughtful Packaging” is a crucial consideration in our zero waste guides.

For us, zero waste laundry detergent generally means plastic free laundry detergent. Naked bars, compostable paper sacks, reusable glass, and recyclable metal containers are obvious first choices.  

However, while we prioritize plastic-free brands, we don’t necessarily discount one for using a small amount of plastic packaging, so long as they offer a take-back / refill program.

Ideally from a local refill station for truly zero waste bulk laundry detergent but refills from a bulk online store works, too.

It’s also worth mentioning that the glass vs plastic packaging debate is not a straight forward one.

Other options are brands do their best to ensure a little plastic from them will replace a whole lot. Dr. Bronner’s is a good example here.

But zero waste laundry detergent packaging isn’t the only thing we look for. Here are some other important considerations:

  • Non-toxic: When it comes to the ingredients, we look for brands using natural and non-toxic ingredients (ideally organic) organic materials. Ticking such criteria means the soap will be biodegradable, completely breaking down into water, CO2, and biomass in under a year. Polyvinyl alcohol, of course, is tricky concept when it comes to end-of-life outcome, so we recommend reading up on it a little lower down.
  • Vegan: Because animals don’t belong in your clothes, let alone in the stuff used to clean them.
  • Cruelty-free: No animal testing! Even if a product doesn’t have any animal byproducts, we need to make sure it doesn’t fall into the gap between vegan and cruelty free.
  • Palm oil free: Palm oil is one of the most environmentally devastating crops; to see why, we strongly recommend you read our other article on the matter. That’s why being palm oil free (as well as free of its derivatives) is critical. And if they aren’t totally palm oil free, they must at least use RSPO certified palm.
  • Ethical sourcing/manufacturing: We look at how brands source their materials, what other organizations they work with, and what they do to make their manufacturing process as green and fair as possible.

Lastly, while not a necessity here, we also consider what brands are doing to give back.

A lot of the smaller ones don’t have the capacity which is more than fair, however, we are always super impressed by any who do have a charitable program or initiative for social or environmental good. 

A Note on Polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH, PVA, PVAL)

Abbreviated as PVA, PVOH, and sometimes PVAL, Polyvinyl alcohol is a fossil-based (i.e. plastic) biopolymer that is water-soluble. 

Aside from laundry pods and sheets, PVA has tons of applications, such as dishwasher pods, contact lenses, and even eye drops. This is because it’s so flexible, chemical-resilient, and low in toxicity (especially compared to other plastics).

But being derived from a petrochemical is not actually the biggest issue with PVA/PVOH.

The problem with PVA

Is PVA eco friendly?

Well, many companies market PVA products as biodegradable when they’re not.

They’re dissolvable, which is an important distinction to make. Even though PVA dissolves into a “non-harmful” monomer, it’s still leaving something behind.

Technically speaking, PVA/PVOH does have the capacity to fully biodegrade in water, but not within an acceptable timeframe unless under very specific conditions (which necessitate the presence of certain enzymes and microorganisms and a prologued period of time).

Studies show these conditions are rarely met by wastewater treatment plants where most PVA ends up.

In fact, over 75% of PVA in the U.S. alone isn’t properly treated and remains in our waterways, to the tune of 8,000 tons per year.

The environmental ramifications of this include a contaminated food chain, worsened crop yields, groundwater pollution, and heavy metal sequestration.

So, can polyvinyl alcohol ever be considered eco friendly?

On one hand, it’s still a far better alternative than other types of plastic that don’t break down at all and contribute to beach pollution and plastic islands cluttering our world’s oceans.

On the other, it’s still releasing a form of plastic pollution: microplastics. In that way, PVA/PVOH isn’t truly zero waste. Though it’s (much) less wasteful, so your stance on the material likely depends on how literally you interpret the term.

As we’ve discussed at length on the subject of what is zero waste, zero waste often doesn’t literally mean zero waste, which is why we have still included some brands using this material on this list.

Just because it’s not the best option doesn’t mean it’s not much better than the plastics most people are using.

In short, PVA is the lesser of many evils. If the convenience factor of pods and sheets is the difference between choosing a fully chemical laden, plastic-packaged pod or one of these, we’d much rather they choose one of the four options on this list.

That said, we certainly advocate for more companies being upfront about the drawbacks of polyvinyl alcohol, as well as its benefits and we hope this clears the wash water a bit so you can tackle the next laundry day with a bit more know-how.

In the near future, we hope to see PVA alternatives making pods and papers truly planet-friendly.

The technology is there, evidenced by etee’s beeswax dish soap pods, but seeing as natural waxes and oils are more expensive and difficult to use, it’s an uncommon alternative. 


If that mountain of dirty clothes in your closet is beckoning, throw on your red cape—because now you’re equipped to save laundry day. 

And just remember, with a few small changes, your laundry routine can make our planet look a little brighter.

Now that you’re equipped with low and no waste laundry detergent alternatives, pair that with a cold water cycle and Earth’s super-efficient dryer (the sun). 

And voila…clean clothes, clean planet. 

Let’s make laundry day something to celebrate (as much as we can anyways). Spread the word of sustainable suds with your friends and family.

Zero Waste Laundry Detergent Image by Eco Nuts #zerowastelaundrydetegent #zerowastelaundry #sustainablejungle

11 thoughts on “12 Zero Waste Laundry Detergents For Plastic Free Loads”

  1. I recently reached out to Dropps and they confirmed PVOH which is used to form the pod is a direct derivative of PVA, i.e. PVOH is a fossil fuel-derived plastic. There are also studies (although this is up for debate) that these materials often don’t biodegrade in most wastewater treatment facilities. You may want to reconsider including this product in your post.

    • Hi Sarah, Thank you so much for raising this issue. We’ve had a few comments making the same point so we have made some adjustments to the article separating those detergents that use PVOH and those that don’t. We’ve also added a short explainer in the intro and a more detailed explanation at the bottom. Hope this helps to make the choices clearer for those out there on the hunt for the most low impact laundry detergent. Thanks again!

  2. PVOH is less friendly than perhaps it seems at first glance. It’s worth looking into more deeply before deciding it is an environmentally friendly alternative to loose powder or tablets or even detergent sheets.

  3. Hi there!

    First things – I LOVE your site, every time I’ve made a zero-waste switch your website has been totally invaluable.

    Second – smol is (from what I’ve gathered) the U.K. version of dropps. I’m not sure about whether they contain palm oil or not (their website isn’t terribly transparent on that). They are, however, plastic free, vegan, and free from animal testing, so thought I should highlight for your U.K. readers!

    • Hello, I live in the UK and have recently asked smol about their palm oil policy. They came back to me straight away with an open, honest answer, so full marks for customer service.

      They have confirmed that they don’t use palm oil as such as an ingredient, but that their glycerin comes from a mix of soy, palm and coconut; albeit the palm oil is from RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil).

      From what I understand, the RSPO have their own controversies and despite best intentions, true sustainability can never be guaranteed. I therefore prefer not to use palm oil at all.

      Pity, as I was looking forward to trying smol. I will keep the brand on my radar to see whether their palm oil practice improves in the future.

  4. I absolutely love the way the products are listed with a small legend on the right indicating all the essential points in red and green. It makes decision making so easy. Apart from that, I like the background provided about each company.

    Best website! Thank you much!


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