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Best non-toxic laundry detergent that works

Best non-toxic laundry detergent that works

We all know that satisfying feeling of finishing the laundry, even if it is short-lived. But no one should have to worry about itching, skin irritation or harsh chemical residues left behind. If you have sensitive skin or a baby (with their naturally delicate skin), you know how important it is to find the best non-toxic laundry detergent with the safest ingredients. After all, your laundry detergent washes the clothes, towels and bed sheets that come in direct contact with you nearly every second of every day.


In the last decade or so, we've witnessed growing concern surrounding household cleaning products like laundry detergent due to the high concentrations of harsh chemicals they contain and how they can potentially put people's health in jeopardy. Many laundry detergents contain toxic chemicals (like 1,4-dioxane, a potential carcinogen), preservatives, and artificial fragrances and dyes, which can trigger adverse skin reactions and conditions like contact dermatitis, caused by exposure to foreign substances. This rings especially true for those of us who have a history of eczema or skin allergies.

If you’re cleaning product nerds like us, the history of laundry detergent could be an interesting bedtime story.

Going back in time, cleaning products had little stewardship (other than getting things clean and earning the company money).

1960s: Companies began to consider the impact their products were having on the environment, and new health and safety data around chemicals motivated manufacturers to move toward safer alternatives.

1980s: Companies became more aware that petroleum-based cleaning chemicals were impacting global climate change) which started the trend toward plant-based chemicals. More health and safety data continued pushing manufacturers to use safer alternatives.

1990s - early 2000s: Some companies would be seen “green-washing” – using sustainability and/or eco-positioning but actually still heavily relying on petrochemicals.

Mid-to-late 2000s: Some companies started to take a more progressive approach toward using renewable, plant-based ingredients while keeping aware of safety data. It was not infrequent that products would exceed 80% plant based but rarely achieved above 95% plant based.


If you have sensitive skin or a baby at home, the best thing you can do is avoid additives like optical brighteners that are designed to linger after the wash is done. By design, these additives remain on clothing and bedding, guaranteeing that they come in direct contact with your skin for extended periods of time. Those nasty chemicals lurking on your tight yoga pants kinda ruins the zen.

Whichever laundry detergent you choose, don’t overdo it. Using too much detergent per load is another factor that can lead to an adverse reaction.


Without having to remember a laundry list (pun intended) of ingredients, the easiest way to be certain your laundry detergent is free of toxic chemicals is to look for the EPA Safer Choice Certified seal on the bottle. This certification means the product is safer for people, pets, and the environment. You can also look for the USDA Certified Biobased seal which certifies the level of plant-based ingredients being used. Finally, if you’re one of those people who just likes lists, here’s what to avoid: parabens, phthalates, phosphates, formaldehyde, 1,4-dioxane, synthetic dyes, Methylisothiazolinone, ammonia, chlorine bleach, synthetic fragrance, and optical brighteners.


Even fragrances that wash away can still leave behind chemicals. Many fragrances can cause skin irritation, especially in people who have sensitive skin to begin with. If you’re looking for a laundry detergent that’s safe for sensitive skin, you’ll want to choose a fragrance free laundry detergent (as opposed to just unscented). Read our FAQ to understand the difference between free + clear, fragrance free and unscented products.


Many laundry detergent manufacturers add dyes and optical brighteners to their laundry detergent to give your clothes the artificial appearance of being whiter and brighter. If you have sensitive skin, avoid laundry detergents with these ingredients as they can be skin irritants. When your laundry detergent really cleans your clothes, you won’t need dyes and brighteners in the first place!


Fabric softeners leave molecule deposits on your laundry to create that sense of “softness.” These deposits can build up layers over time so, again, don’t use detergents with softeners or add fabric softener to your load of laundry.


The term “hypoallergenic” implies that a product contains fewer allergens than other ones but because the U.S. government doesn’t have standards that products must meet in order to use the term “hypoallergenic" on a label, the mere presence of the word “hypoallergenic” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s allergy-proof or gentler on your skin. Yikes!

If you’re looking for a product that is truly hypoallergenic, it’s best to understand what clinical testing and certifications the manufacturer has completed to make that claim. Sensitive Home Free & Clear Laundry Detergent and Sensitive Home Fragrance Free Dish Soap both underwent clinical HRIP tests (Human Repeat Insult Patch testing is an exaggerated exposure to a product over a period of time) including self-perceived sensitive skin subjects and those tests demonstrated no allergic reactions. Read more on our blog post “What Does Hypoallergenic Mean?”


For many in the general population, most laundry detergents are “safe enough.” However, at Sensitive Home, we don’t believe “safe enough” is good enough! Our approach is that if products affect the most sensitive among us, they are probably not safe for any of us. It’s like the canary in a coal mine – long before the toxic effects of chemicals affect the majority, the most sensitive among us experience effects that may eventually be experienced by us all. So why risk it?


In order to find the best non-toxic laundry detergent and the best eco-friendly laundry detergent, look for products that carry both the EPA Safer Choice and USDA Biobased seals. If you're prone to skin reactions or have eczema, steer clear of detergents that contain dyes or fragrance at all costs. Finally, be careful to use the specified amount of laundry detergent in each load. Now, pat yourself on the back for finishing the laundry AND protecting yourself and your family from harmful and unnecessary chemicals.

Check out our Sensitive Home Free & Clear Laundry Detergent that's designed for people with chemical, skin and respiratory sensitivities and is safer for little people and big people!

*Header photo courtesy of @atribecalledthompson