5 Best Laundry Detergents to Avoid Toxic Ingredients – Health Essential

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5 Best Laundry Detergents to Avoid Toxic Ingredients

By Rachel Sherman

June 13, 2024

Most laundry detergents have toxic ingredients. We’re talking 1,4 dioxane, parabens, phosphates, sulfates, synthetic dyes, optical brighteners, & more. Your laundry detergent gets absorbed into your body through your skin (your largest organ) so it’s important to avoid these ingredients.

Avoid these ingredients

❌ Parabens

These are used as preservatives, but they've been linked to hormonal disruption in numerous studies.

❌ Phosphates

These are often used in laundry detergents to soften water and improve cleaning, but they can be harmful to aquatic life when they enter rivers and lakes.

❌ Optical Brighteners

These can make clothes appear whiter and brighter, but they don't actually clean your clothes. They can also be allergenic and are not readily biodegradable.

❌ 1, 4-Dioxane

These aren't added intentionally, but it can form during production to make ingredients more water-soluble. It's a health risk that's hard to remove from wastewater.

❌ Bleach

These can make clothes look whiter and remove stains, but it can also weaken fabric fibers and cause skin irritation. It is effective at disinfecting but can release harmful fumes and isn't environmentally friendly.

❌ Dyes

These can make clothes look more vibrant and colorful, but can cause skin irritation and are not easily biodegradable. 

We tested & researched dozens of laundry detergents to find the 5 Best Clean, Non-Toxic Laundry Detergents.

We tested All, Seventh Generation, Tide, Persil, Gain, Earthbreeze, Arm & Hammer, Charlie’s Soap, Nellies and much more. We evaluated detergents using 2 criteria: (1) clean ingredients (we want to avoid dangerous chemicals) and (2) cleaning power (we don’t want to compromise on effectiveness), .

TLDR: Freddie Laundry Detergent came in #1 because it’s cleans just as well as the big names but is plastic free and has no 1,4 dioxane, parabens, phosphates, sulfates, synthetic dyes, optical brighteners, or other nasty stuff! I use Freddie in my home and love it.

Do Laundry Detergent Sheets really work?

From our testing we found that some brands actually clean and remove stains better than both liquid and pod detergent. 

However this depends on the ingredients used in the Laundry Sheet.  

The ingredients used from brand to brand seemed to be completely different, which meant the cleaning power was vastly different as well. 

Do they work with all washing machines?

Yes, laundry detergent sheets work with all types of washing machines including top loading, front loading, or a high efficiency (HE) machine - they all work.

Must-Have Ingredient For Best Cleaning Results

✅ Bio enzymes

Bio enzymes are a new powerhouse cleaning ingredient that's safe and non-toxic.

Bio enzymes address the root cause of stains by actually breaking down the tiny particles that makeup a stain.

They're also very effective at maintaining the vibrant colors of your clothes, making them look newer for longer.

Bio enzymes were only found in a few small number of laundry sheet brands that we tested. These were the ones that performed the best.

✅ Protease (type of bio enzyme)

Laundry sheets that contain this ingredient are superior at removing stains. Protease is a naturally occurring type of bio enzyme that helps break down proteins found in tough stains like grass, oil, coffee and sweat so they can easily be washed away. 

Other Powerful Natural Ingredients to look for

✅ Glycerin

Glycerin is a natural compound commonly found in skincare products due to its moisturizing properties. In laundry sheets, glycerin acts as a fabric softener, helping to keep your clothes feeling soft and smooth. It also helps to protect your fabrics by reducing friction and static cling, which can cause damage to fibers over time.

✅ Tea Seed Oil

Tea Seed oil is a natural surfactant derived from the seeds of the tea plant. In laundry sheets, tea seed oil helps to create a rich lather lifts dirt and grime from your clothes. It also has excellent cleaning properties, making it a great alternative to harsh chemical surfactants.

Top 5 Laundry Detergents to Avoid Toxic Ingredients

Our team of editors analyzed 18 laundry detergent sheets from 14 different brands, tackling many different stains and operating our washing machines for 2 days.

The evaluation criteria for each detergent sheet included its ability in removing 20 usual stains, restoring the original whiteness of a standard pre-stained fabric swatch, and its speed and thoroughness of dissolution in water. We also carefully inspected the labels on these detergent sheets to ensure they had proper safety warnings and clear instructions. 

FREDDIE: Best Overall Laundry Detergent Sheet 

Made from safe, natural, and plant-based ingredients, Freddie Laundry Detergent blew us away and was our favorite laundry detergent by far, earning 5 stars. It is effective at cleaning and eliminating odors – we washed sweaty gym clothes and kids clothes with stains. All the clothes came out fresh and clean. In other words, it works!

Freddie uses natural, plant based ingredients and doesn’t contain dangerous chemicals like 1,4 dioxane, optical brighteners, sulfates, phosphates, parabens, chlorine, or synthetic dyes (that’s why it’s hypoallergenic and certified by Dermatologists).

Freddie Laundry Detergent Sheets are laundry detergent without the nasty chemicals and the plastic. We love that it uses Plastic Free Packaging (meaning it’s way better for the environment).

Finally, we love all the great reviews that Freddie has earned, including one from us!

Freddie comes in Fragrance Free, Spring Blossom, and Frosty Mountain Scent. We love the Fragrance Free option but our favorite is Spring Blossom!

This is what we recommend and use at home and thus earned the #1 spot.

These black dots are protective shells that contain protease, which is a plant-derived bio enzyme and a powerhouse in removing stains.

It seems that these protective shells enable Freddie to pack more of the powerful Protease cleaning ingredient into each sheet. 

Protease can also help break down tough stains and dirt on fabrics at lower temperatures, which reduces the need for hot water and can results in energy saving - making it even better for the environment.

Additionally, bio enzymes are considered a safer and healthier option as they are biodegradable and pose minimal harm to the environment compared to harsh chemicals found in traditional detergents. 

Freddie's Laundry Detergent Sheets were also very quick to dissolve in both hot and cold water and left no residue. 

What did they smell like?

They come in three varieties - Fragrance Free (unscented), Spring Blossom and Frosty Mountain.

Our team's favorite scent was Spring Blossom which had a soft aroma of blooming petals. Unlike other brands, Freddie's sheets didn't have an overbearing or chemical smell which was a nice surprise.

Our team also loved the packaging - the instructions are very clear so there's little guesswork when deciding the dosage for each load.

What were the cons?

The only drawback is that the Sheets are currently exclusively sold online through their official website and not available in store or Amazon. However the benefit of ordering from their website is that they offer a 30 day money-back guarantee which not all other brands have.

👨 UPDATE: Freddie is currently running a Father's Day Sale with up to 50% Off + Free Shipping. No coupon code needed. Sale ends June 13, 2024.

MOLLY'S SUDS: Excellent Runner-Up

Molly Suds earned our #2 spot. Like #Freddie, Molly Suds is made from safe, natural ingredients. While Freddie is a sheet, Molly Suds is a laundry powder. You scoop the laundry powder into your washer before you’ve put your laundry in. Our testing demonstrated that Molly Suds has good cleaning power and and clean ingredients. Molly Suds comes in scented and unscented versions.

We’re a little mixed on the powder format – it’s easy to spill as you scoop from the bag into your washing machine. Not as good as the Freddie’s Sheet but a lot better than the liquid detergent format.

Molly Suds packaging is in plastic. But we like that it’s not liquid detergent (which is heavier and uses more plastic).

The combination of cleaning power, clean ingredients, and little plastic earned Molly Suds our #2 spot.

SEVENTH GENERATION: Outstanding Performer

Seventh Generation came in 3rd place. Free & Clear is a fragrance free formula. It did well in Cleaning Power, and did effectively remove most stains. Primarily uses plant based ingredients and is hypoallergenic. However, Seventh Generation’s ingredients include ingredients that we don’t like. Free & Clear includes includes preservatives (methylisothiazolinone and benzisothiazolinone) that are known to cause extreme allergic reactions in some people.

The plastic laundry detergent bottles are made mostly from recycled plastic which we like. But this bottle ends up in the landfill after it’s done.

We loved the cleanliness. But the ingredients dropped Seventh Generation to our #3 spot.

ALL: Reliable Choice

All Free & Clear came in 4th place. All is what you think of when you think of Laundry Detergent. But it’s not what you think of when you think of Non-Toxic Laundry Detergent – for good reason. Free & Clear has the cleaning power you associate with All. But Free & Clear contains C12-15 PARETH-9, parabens, phosphates, and other synthetic ingredients like brighteners.

All is heavy and uses lots of plastic. So it’s not winning any points on environmental impact. The plastic ends up in the landfill and the weight means lots of CO2 Emissions in transportation. With liquid detergents, it’s often hard to dose the right amount which leads to waste and using more detergent than you need. This double whammy leads to wasting money and being bad for the environment.

We did love the scent and cleaning power, and based on the thousands of reviews that the product has on Amazon, so did many others.

DIRTY LABS: Reliable Choice

Great product! And I love their aluminum containers (aluminum is infinitely recyclable which makes it an environmentally friendly option) but it is too expensive to make it make sense.

Why our team chose Freddie as the number 1 pick

After evaluating 14 different detergent sheets brands, our team selected Freddie Laundry Detergent Sheets as our number one pick. Several reasons drove our decision, making Freddie stand out from the competition.

Cleaning Performance: First and foremost, Freddie Laundry Detergent Sheets demonstrated exceptional cleaning performance across a wide range of stains. Our comprehensive testing process involved challenging stains such as coffee, red wine, grass, and grease, and Freddie consistently outperformed its counterparts in removing these stubborn marks. Its powerful formula effectively penetrated fabrics, leaving them remarkably clean and fresh.

Whitening Power: In addition to its outstanding stain-removal capabilities, Freddie Laundry Detergent Sheets exhibited exceptional whitening power. Pre-stained fabric swatches were subjected to Freddie's cleaning process, and the results were impressive. Freddie successfully restored the original whiteness of the fabrics, eliminating discoloration and revitalizing the appearance of even heavily soiled items.

Dissolution Efficiency: One of the key factors that set Freddie apart was its dissolution efficiency. These detergent sheets dissolved quickly and thoroughly in both cold and hot water, ensuring optimal dispersion and distribution of the cleaning agents during the wash cycle. This allowed for maximum cleaning performance, ensuring every garment received the right amount of cleaning power.

User-Friendliness: Freddie Laundry Detergent Sheets provided clear and user-friendly instructions on their labels, along with necessary safety precautions. This attention to detail demonstrated their commitment to consumer satisfaction and safety. Moreover, Freddie's commitment to environmental responsibility was evident, with their sheets being free from unnecessary fillers and harsh chemicals, making them eco-friendly and gentle on fabrics.

Multiple Scents: Another notable aspect that contributed to Freddie Laundry Detergent Sheets being our number one pick is the variety of scent options available. Freddie understands that different individuals have unique preferences when it comes to fragrance. That's why they offer three distinct scents: Spring Blossom, Frosty Mountain and Fragrance Free, catering to individuals with sensitivities or those who prefer to avoid added fragrances. This versatility in scent options showcases Freddie's commitment to providing a personalized and enjoyable laundry experience for every user.

Price Tag: In addition to its outstanding cleaning performance and innovative features, Freddie also offers an appealing pricing advantage. For those who opt for a subscription, Freddie provides a very cost effective price per load compared to the other detergent sheet brands. 

Consumer Feedback: Lastly, the positive customer feedback and reviews we received about Freddie Laundry Detergent Sheets further solidified our decision. Customers praised the convenience and effectiveness that Freddie provided, making it a top choice for many households.

In conclusion, Freddie Laundry Detergent Sheets emerged as our number one pick due to its exceptional cleaning performance, impressive stain removal and whitening capabilities, efficient dissolution, clear instructions, and positive customer feedback. Freddie's commitment to delivering outstanding results while being eco-friendly made it the clear frontrunner among detergent sheets on the market.

Below are some frequently asked questions by our readers:

Do Laundry Detergent Sheets really work?

Yes they do.

From our testing we found that some brands like Freddie actually clean and remove stains better than both liquid and pod detergent.  

Do they work with all washing machines?

Yes, laundry detergent sheets work with all types of washing machines including top loading, front loading, or a high efficiency (HE) machine - they all work.

Are laundry sheets safe for my washing machine?

Yes, they dissolve completely in water, leaving no residue on your clothes or in your machine. They're also formulated to be gentle on fabrics and work in all types of machines, including high-efficiency models. 

What water temperature should I use?

Laundry sheets are designed to dissolve and function effectively in any water temperature, hot or cold.

Can I use multiple laundry sheets for a large load?

Yes, if you have a larger or particularly dirty load of laundry, you can use more than one sheet. Check the product instructions for recommendations on how many sheets to use per load size.

Do laundry sheets have a shelf-life?

This varies from brand to brand but usually for about 2 years.

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