The Mom’s Guide To Non-Toxic Laundry Detergent For Baby

Avoid irritating your baby's sensitive skin by using a proper detergent.

If you’ve made the decision to make your home a safer, non-toxic place, replacing your laundry detergent with a safe and non-toxic alternative is a great place to start.

When you bring a baby home, all of a sudden the amount of laundry you have to do skyrockets. I’m talking mountains.

If you’re not quite ready to go full-on hippy mode and make your own DIY detergent, fear not. There are a lot of great non-toxic and eco-friendly laundry detergents out there that are perfect for not only you, but baby as well.

Today we’ll be answering questions like:
  • Why most traditional laundry detergent is awful for you and our environment.
  • What chemicals should be avoided.
  • What detergents you can actually rely on.

Why your laundry detergent matters.

Unfortunately, the makers of traditional laundry detergents like Tide just don’t care about its affect on your family or our environment.

They’re absolutely full of things like chemical fragrances, petroleum-derived chemicals, bleach, artificial colors and dyes, and more.

There is some nasty stuff in traditional laundry detergents. Unfortunately, because of the law, companies like Tide are allowed to hide most of their ingredients under the blanket of “trade secrets.”

The typical off-the-shelf laundry detergent typically contains:

1,4-Dioxane – One of the most harmful chemicals in laundry detergent, and also found in paints and varnishes.

1,4-Dioxane is used as a solvent. Acute (short-term) inhalation exposure to high levels of 1,4-dioxane has caused vertigo, drowsiness, headache, anorexia and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs in humans. It may also irritate the skin. Damage to the liver and kidneys has been observed in rats chronically (long-term) exposed in their drinking water. In three epidemiologic studies on workers exposed to 1,4-dioxane, the observed number of cancer cases did not differ from the expected cancer deaths. Tumors have been observed in orally exposed animals. EPA has classified 1,4-dioxane as a Group B2, probable human carcinogen.

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Bleach – Contains chlorine, which is an environmental hazard as well as a possible carcinogen and endocrine disruptor.

Fragrance – The problem with fragrance is that it can contain hundreds of chemicals that don’t need to be disclosed. Often toxic and should be avoided.

Optical brighteners – Chemicals added to make clothing appear brighter and whiter, therefore making you feel as though they’re cleaner. Often made from benzene, which is a carcinogen.

Phosphates – Chemicals that break down minerals to make the detergent more effective. Not necessarily a health risk, but does have a negative effect on our environment.

Synthetic detergent – Typically made from petrochemicals. Nasty stuff.

The effect on our environment.

Every time we do a load of laundry, we’re washing a bunch of toxic chemicals down the drain that inevitably end up in the water supply.

This is causing untold damage to our ecosystem, and we have no idea what kind of impact it’s going to have over time.

Many of the above ingredients are down-right awful for environment. Most are toxic to fish and wildlife, and not only that, but all of the chemicals we’re putting into the water suppl.y are eventually making their way back into us.

Do I Really Need “Baby” Laundry Detergent?

A lot of detergents labeled as being “for babies” are, for lack of a better word, a rip-off.

In some cases the manufacturers actually bottle the exact same product as their regular detergent, slap a “baby-safe” label on it and charge you more.

Don’t waste your money on what is labeled as “baby laundry detergent” like Dreft. All you’ll do is pay a premium for detergent that really doesn’t work all that well, and certainly isn’t better for your baby.

What makes a good, non-toxic laundry detergent.

Now that we know what kind of nasty stuff is in traditional laundry detergents, let’s look at what makes for a good, safe, non-toxic and eco-friendly detergent.

All of our choices must have:
  • No artificial colors or dyes.
  • No optical brighteners.
  • No chlorine bleach.
  • No artificial fragrances. (Some might prefer no fragrance, period).
  • No phosphates (makes it biodegradable).
  • No 1,4-Dioxane.
  • No questionable chemicals, period.

Laundry detergent formats:

  • Liquid – The standard format of detergent. Readily available.
  • Powder – Often cheaper, easier if stored in a plastic container.
  • Pods – Convenient, but typically more expensive per load and you don’t use more than necessary.

Every detergent on this list is one you can rely on.

The Best Brands

fit organic laundry detergent

Fit Organic

  • Leaping Bunny certified.
  • USDA certified organic.
  • No synthetic chemicals.
  • Comes in scented (natural orange and lemon oils) and unscented.
  • Safe for sensitive skin.
  • EWG Rating: B
  • Cost: 10c/load (HE) 21c/load (non-HE)
  • Buy it on Amazon
molly's suds laundry detergent

Molly’s Suds

  • Leaping Bunny certified.
  • 100% Vegan certified.
  • Powder detergent.
  • Made in the USA.
  • EWG Rating: A
  • Cost: 16c/load
  • Buy it on Amazon
eco me laundry detergent

Eco Me

  • PETA & Leaping Bunny Certified
  • All natural ingredients.
  • Natural fragrances & unscented option.
  • EWG Rating: A
  • Cost: 21c/load
  • Buy it on Amazon
willow lane blanket scarf

Better Life

  • Free from toxic chemicals.
  • Comes in scented (natural fragrance) and unscented formats.
  • EWG Rating: A
  • Cost: 25c/load
  • Buy it on Amazon
grab green laundry detergent pods

Grab Green (pods)

  • Scented version contains some synthetic fragrance. Available in unscented.
  • Convenient pod format.
  • EWG Rating: B
  • Cost: 28c/load
  • Buy it on Amazon
greenshield laundry detergent

Greenshield

  • Leaping Bunny certified.
  • USDA certified organic.
  • No harsh chemicals.
  • 100% recyclable bottle.
  • Cost: 18/c load
  • Buy it on Amazon
zum clean laundry detergent

ZUM Clean

  • Made from only 100% coconut oil, baking soda, essential oils and vegetable glycerin.
  • All formulations besides Frankincense & Myrrh contain no synthetic fragrances.
  • EWG Rating: C
  • Buy it on Amazon

Some tips on washing baby clothes.

You should always wash any item of baby clothing before your baby wears it, since newborns have sensitive skin and clothing can have irritants before you wash it for the first time.

When washing clothes, keep the following in mind:

  • Put socks and any other small items in a mesh bag.
  • Fasten up any hooks or loops that might get caught on something and damaged.
  • Read the labels: most baby clothing is fire-resistant, and bleach can reduce the fire-retardant qualities, so never use bleach on these items.
  • Wash clothes at 85-105 degrees temperature; going for the lower end will obviously save you some money.
  • Feel free to wash baby clothes with a full load of laundry if you’re not using special baby laundry detergent.

Treating stubborn stains.

It’s inevitable that you’re going to end up with stained clothing or bedding at some point in your baby-raising adventures. Here’s how you can tackle those stains.

  • Clean the clothes before they stain: The best way to deal with stains is to get them before they even happen.
  • Protein stains (breast milk, formula, food, spit-up, feces): Soak the clothes in cold water with an enzyme-containing product.
  • Urine: Take one tablespoon of ammonia and dilute it into one cup of water. Dab a little bit of the mixture into the clothing to make sure it isn’t going to remove the coloring, and if so, treat the stained area with it.
  • Baby oil: Use a stain remover product and wash the garment in the hottest water that you can, using the wash care tag as a guide.
  • Fruits & Veggies: These can be tough, but try this: rinse the garment in a 1:1 mix of rubbing alcohol and cold water, and then launder as normal. If this doesn’t work, you can try using a stain remover before washing. Finally, if the stubborn stain still won’t go away, you can try washing with a 1:1 vinegar to water mix.
19 comments
  1. My wife has been looking for a good laundry detergent for our new baby. You’re right, the amount of laundry she does is like a mountain! We really like your list of good detergents for babies. We’ll be sure to keep them in mind as we find a good one for ours.

  2. My son has very sensitive skin, and I want to avoid using any laundry soap that may give him a rash. Your list of baby-safe detergents is very helpful. It’s great that there are a handful of companies who keep children’s needs in mind and produce safe, quality products.

  3. You put together a pretty good list of baby safe detergents. I tried dreft but it didn’t really get all of the stains out of my babies clothes. I think we may try the seventh generation detergent.

    1. Alesha, I’m sorry to hear that it didn’t work for you. One of the others will probably get the job done, though! :)

  4. My daughter has very sensitive skin keeps getting rashes welts all over her body does anyone recommend one laundry soap over the other?

  5. I use seventh generation free and clear– I didn’t know they had a baby version. Do you know what the difference is? My boy is a VERY messy eater, and I have the hardest time getting out food stains. Thanks for the tips- I’ll give them a try!!

  6. Thank you for this precious list. I have itchy skin (day and night) and I am trying to eliminate potential agents like laundry detergent. Our water is hard. Do you have any recommendations for a softener which would be non irritating and go along with your laundry recommendations? Thank you

  7. Is Charlie Banana the same as Charlie’s Powder? They sell Charlie Banana at Babies R Us so I’m wondering if it’s the same as the Charlie’s Powder you’re talking about above or if it’s a completely different company?

    1. Amy, I don’t believe it’s the same company. I looked into it, and it seems as though the two detergents have different ingredients. It’s confusing, because it looks like they both use the same packaging, too.

  8. Thank you I been using dreft and I realise my baby getting rash all over , so I will try one of those products you list.. Don’t afto buy it on amazon?

  9. Wouldn’t risk Oxy Clean. As good a stain fighter as it is, it can irritate skin if not completely rinsed out properly. And even then, I’d stick to 3% hydrogen peroxide itself & a little baking soda here & there, still thoroughly rinsing.

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