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The best non toxic laundry detergent (It took years to find!)

The best non toxic laundry detergent took two years and lots of trial and error to find, but take note! This version is affordable, smells great (or you can get it unscented), uses less plastic, and is made in the U.S.A. It also cleans our very dirty farm laundry with ease. Miracles all around!

The laundry aisle, is a tricky one. With so much marketing it’s really hard to know what’s safe to use–I thought everything was safe for years.

I bought Dreft for my babies and Tide and Downey for decades. We were attached to the smell, loved curling up in sheets that smelled as good as they looked in the commercials and held their scent in the linen closet for weeks.

As a nurse, I fell for the sanitizing detergents to clean the germs out of my hospital clothes.

It wasn’t until I developed my paralyzing autoimmune disease that I learned that what we put on our skin–including laundry detergent, and fabric softener–play a massive role in the toxic burden our bodies have to filter each day.

Laundry detergent isn’t the death of you by itself. Please don’t misunderstand me. But when you combine it with so many other unhealthy products we come in to contact each day, that adds up.

And it’s one factor you can finally change.

The truth about grocery store laundry detergents

Mainstream laundry detergents aren’t soap. They are a blend of chemicals designed to lift dirt from your clothes. Some of the most common ingredients they contain include:

  • 1, 4-Dioxane: A known carcinogen linked to cancers of the mouth and liver. It’s easily absorbed by the skin. It’s on the EPA’s list of chemicals to evaluate for the Toxic Substances Control Act.
  • Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS): A foaming agent found in toothpaste, shampoo, and soaps. It makes oil and water blend which is something they’d never do normally. SLS is a known skin irritant that can aggravate psoriasis, eczema and rosacea.
  • Sodium Hypochlorite/”optical brighteners”: Are forms of bleach hiding under a different name. It’s an eye and lung irritant and it’s toxic to marine life.
  • Nonylphenol Ethoxylate: This is a bad guy. Banned in the EU, this one is an endocrine disruptor. It mimics the role of the hormone estrogen in the body–binding to cells in place of the natural hormone and throwing off the production and utilization of other sex hormones in the body. It may also influence how other hormones work like those that effect the thyroid and insulin–and could influence the development of conditions like PCOS, infertility and endometriosis. For certain types of cancers that feed on estrogens, this is especially concerning. At the time that this article was written, I can find no evidence that it has been banned in the United States, though the EPA does recognize its toxicity.
  • Synthetic fragrances, “fragrance”, “parfum”: This blend under a simple name contains somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000 different chemicals, many of which are derived from petroleum. They release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) like those found in paint and can trigger allergies, asthma, headaches, migraines and more. I know for my family they trigger headaches and when used on our sheets causes stuffy noses and sneezing.

Which laundry detergents are toxic?

Many mainstream brands have been greenwashed–or labeled to make you think they are safe when in fact they contain a variety of chemicals that carry a significant risk for developmental and reproductive harm, cancer risk and asthma and skin irritation.

I like to verify the safety of my products through the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website and their Skin Deep Database. You’ll be shocked to find brands with poor grades for safety that include brands like:

  • Dreft
  • Melaleuca
  • Tide
  • Downey
  • Gain
  • All
  • Mrs. Meyers
  • Method and pretty much any brand from your grocery store laundry aisle

They are on the list for lots of different reasons–not all of them exactly the same so make sure to explore your favorite brands. Sometimes I find that the search function on their site doesn’t work properly so I have more luck Googling “XYZ (insert your brand name) EWG rating” and finding products that way.

What we noticed when we stopped using “regular” laundry detergent

After a few months off Downey, I had a little still sitting around and I thought I’d use it up in a load of sheets. I put them on the bed and that night my husband laid down and after a couple of minutes became completely stuffed up. Could barely breathe out of his nose at all.

Then he started sneezing. Then I got a headache.

And that was the last time we used any conventional laundry products.

The struggle of non toxic laundry detergents: What I tried that failed

So many. No kidding. I’ve forgotten a lot of brands over the last two years, but here’s a basic run down:

Homemade: I made the liquid version with Fels Naptha soap and borax for a few years. It wasn’t awful but it required I keep a five gallon bucket in my laundry room and after a while the whites were really dingy and gray. I always ended up going back to Tide.

Molly’s Suds: This one just lacks power for our dirt. Most of the time I’d pull shirts from the washer to still see and smell deodorant in the armpits. It just wasn’t for us.

Branch Basics: Full disclosure, I LOVE BB for whites and do a lot of our cleaning here at home with their lovely concentrate but it’s quite pricey. The concentrate, the empty laundry bottle and the oxygen boost is a hefty $65, but it does last quite a while and your whites have never been cleaner–so it’s not a total loss.

Seventh Generation: I used this the longest but really can’t say I love it. Whites aren’t super clean and it does require pre treating to get grease or grass stains out. Overall it’s…fair. It’s also expensive for the largest bottle coming in over $20 each.

Thieves Laundry Detergent (Young Living): You have to take out a mortgage to afford this stuff or sell oils to people to get enough of a discount to make it affordable. At $45 to $50 a bottle, I couldn’t get past the cost to remember if I liked it. Plus it’s so expensive people have developed “hacks” to stretch it and make it last longer. I have a full love for Thieves cleaner but the detergent and their dish soap are both no’s from me.

Missing the scent: Why does everything smell like lavender?

There must be some kind of rule that anything branded as safe or clean must smell like lavender or eucalyptus. I don’t WANT that. I want clothes that smell like Tide without the chemicals. Please.

I don’t mind going unscented as much these days and the non toxic laundry care I finally found and like comes either way–naturally scented to smell like soap–or no scent at all. Nothing smells like lavender and I don’t need any essential oils to pretend my clothes smell good.

The best non toxic laundry detergent I’ve found: Here it is!

It’s Truly Free. Made in Michigan, this company brings it with great smells, affordability, less plastic packaging to throw away and support of those in need with each purchase.

two jugs of truly free laundry wash on a table

What I love about Truly Free

A bright clean smell that isn’t over powering (unscented available too)

The nice clean smell of the laundry wash was like a holy grail I was so excited to find. Your clothes will still smell good but not perfumed even after drying. If you want fabric softener for an added boost of smell and softness, that’s also available when you shop. The signature scent is naturally derived, too. No synthetic fragrances allowed.

NOTE: Their site looks like spam but it’s not

I honestly don’t know who designed their website but people ask me a lot if it’s legit because it’s such a dog’s breakfast of stuff. You’ll see what I mean when you look at it. I can say that they are legit and they have great customer service even if the site looks like a bad 1990’s work from home ad.

a jug of softening rinse

Less Plastic Waste

Most products come with a lifetime use jug or container. And I can say from experience they really hold up. That means you can purchase just the small refill powders or liquids and save a ton on plastic waste.


I have never seen more sales in my whole life than what they do. Just this week I stocked up on sales as they come around. No subscription necessary on some deals–others are a monthly deal. When they run bundle sales on all of their products together, I grab up extras!

USA Made and Helping a Good Cause

Made in Michigan, the purchase of Truly Free products goes to provide food and supplies to orphanages in Haiti, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. And the fabric around each Dryer Angel is sewn by a woman rescued from human trafficking. They have their hands in so many good causes!

Tips for using this non toxic laundry detergent

The first time I used it, I was a bit disappointed. I mixed the powder with hot water in the jug, shook it, and poured it in the cup then dumped it in my washing machine like any liquid. My washer doesn’t have a soap dispenser so when I poured it in, it was soaked up by the dry clothes and I felt like that load just didn’t get clean.

After that, I learned to put the whole cup in the washer and let the detergent get evenly dispersed with the water so it doesn’t land on one towel, get soaked up and never reach anything else.

I also mix mine a tad bit stronger than the bottle suggests and wash in hot water for some stubborn issues.

Try the whole line of Truly Free Laundry Products

Truly Free makes it easy to try everything! Check out their small, medium and large laundry bundles here. I find the Enzyme Stain Remover great at getting blood out of clothes.

The oxygen boost could replace my more expensive Branch Basics for cleaning tile and laundry use.

And the stain stick is good for scrubbing grease or small tasks easily. I also have a Dryer Angel and the Laundry Machine Cleaner for making sure my washer stays tidy without extra chemicals.

Are you ready to try? You won’t have anything to lose except lots of chemicals in your clothes. I know the transition is hard when we are so attached to our habits but I know you can make this change for yourself and your family.

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About the Author

Rachel Ballard, RN, BSN brings more than 20 years of professional nursing expertise to Feast and Farm. With a love for nutrient dense foods that support wellness, she works to distill complex health information and current trends into recipes that fuel the best version of yourself. Read more about Rachel here.