8 words that tell you if laundry detergent is eco-friendly

November 16, 2014

If you’re trying to be more environmentally aware, check the detergent labels in your laundry room: theseeight words will tell you if your laundry detergent is eco-friendly or not.
Commonly used chemicals

Most conventional laundry detergents contain hundreds of chemical ingredients that are considered harmful to you and the environment. Not all are legally required to be listed on the label, and worse, the majority of these ingredients have never been tested for safety. These petrochemicals, or chemicals made from petroleum, can have adverse effects on your and your family. They include fragrance, phthalates, artificial colors and nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPEs).

8 key words to look for on eco-friendly detergent labels

Why are companies using chemicals to get your clothes clean? Quite simply, it’s cheaper. Consumers interested in limiting exposure to unknown and potentially toxic chemicals should look for products with key words on packaging, including:

  1. Non-toxic.
  2. Hypoallergenic.
  3. No VOCs, dyes or synthetic fragrances.
  4. Without optical brighteners.
  5. Biodegradable.
  6. Chlorine-free.
  7. Powered with enzymes, minerals and/or mineral-based ingredients
  8. Official seals of certification

Beware of a product listing itself as “natural” without any information to back up that claim. A laundry detergent's eco-friendly description may refer to the product’s ingredients or the process in which the ingredients were created. It can also refer to harmful ingredients purposely left out during manufacturing or even the recycled content of the packaging. Both Canada and the United States have various product certifications that indicate when a product has abides by eco-friendly, government-approved standards, including:

Canadian EcoLogo

The Canadian EcoLogo (also known as Environmental Choice) identifies products and services that have been independently certified to meet strict environmental standards, from manufacturing to disposal.

Leaping Bunny Program

The Leaping Bunny seal of approval is from the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics' (CCIC), a third-party auditor made up of eight national animal protection groups from Canada and the United States. This seal indicates that a product is certified cruelty-free, never tested on animals, and contains no animal-based ingredients.

USDA BioPreferred®

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) created the USDA BioPreferred® program to demonstrate how much of a product comes from renewable biological sources. The USDA Certified Biobased product label lists the percentage of biobased content in each product. They anticipate that by making consumers aware of a product’s biobased content, they can influence their purchasing decisions.

How to make your own eco-friendly detergent

For the most eco-friendly detergent, make your own laundry soap. You can make it in batches that will last you a month, and there is little packaging involved.


  • 1 bar (or 4.5 ounces) of shaved bar soap, like Dr. Bronner’s,Ivory,Zote, orFels-Naptha
  • 1 cup ofborax
  • 1 cup ofwashing soda


Chop the bar soap in a food processor or shave into small flakes by hand. Stir all ingredients in a plastic bowl until well blended. Store in a sealed container. Use one tablespoon per load or more for heavily soiled loads. For a nice scent, experiment by adding a few drops of essential oils with each wash.

8 words that tell you if laundry detergent is eco-friendly
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