Laundry detergents contain harsh chemicals. If you seek eco-friendly detergent, check out this list of palm oil free laundry detergent and soap along with these tips.
Choose laundry BARS and laundry POWDERS instead of liquid detergents and pods. Bars and powders typically have less chemicals and ingredients. SOAP FLAKES are another option.
Choose unscented detergents which will have less ingredients.
Detergents with advertising such as “plant-derived,” “plant-based,” and “all natural” still typically contain palm oil. This is especially the case if you see these products in Walmart, Target, Sam’s Club, Costco, Dollar Tree, etc.
There is minimal legislation requiring laundry detergent companies to list all of their ingredients.
Many consumers look for eco-friendly laundry detergents because of environmental and sustainability concerns or because of skin reactions and sensitivities to SLS.
Palm Oil Free Laundry Detergent
After searching dozens of laundry detergents, we found several palm oil free laundry detergents and laundry soaps. Use this as a starting point. They are not guaranteed unless they have been certified Palm Oil Free by Orangutan Alliance or International Palm Oil Free Certification Trademark Programme.
In addition, each of these companies also makes other palm oil free products.
Laundry detergents and soaps without palm oil – United States
- Flash Laundry Bar and Stain Stick (bar)
Ethique’s products are certified Palm Oil Free by Orangutan Alliance. Their laundry bar is 3.88 oz (110 g).
Use Ethique’s sustainable palm oil free laundry bar to wash clothing by hand. You can also use it on dishes and hands. It’s easy to bring when traveling as well.
Ethique is committed to being zero-waste and plastic free. Their packaging is 100% compostable and biodegradable. Their Flash Laundry Bar is vegan. Ethique donates 20% of profits to conservation, environmental groups, and animal welfare.
Flash contains ingredients that are 100% biodegradable.
Made for washing machines? No
- Suds of Love Laundry Soap (powder)
- 2 lbs
- 10 lbs bulk refill
Booda Organics makes Suds of Love Laundry Soap from scratch using a cold process they use to make their palm oil free soap.
The laundry soap is an unscented powder. It’s non-toxic, cruelty free, and vegan. In addition, it’s safe for high efficiency machines.
Their two pound laundry powder comes in a reusable, 100% biodegradable, eco-tube made from paper. You can also request a wooden scoop. You can refill the biodegradable tube with their bulk 10 lb bag.
Suds of Love laundry powder contains four ingredients:
- Sodium Bicarbonate (pure baking soda)
- Organic and raw Saponified Olive Oil
- Organic and raw Saponified Virgin Coconut Oil
- Organic and raw Saponified Fair Trade Shea Butter
Booda Organics transparently lists all of their ingredients on their website, including their sources. They confirmed they make their laundry soap without palm oil.
Made for washing machines? Yes, including HE machines
- Liquid Laundry Detergent
- Fragrance Free
- Juniper & Sandalwood
- Sea Spray & Aloe
- Sweet Honeysuckle
Cleancult explained to us they make all of their products palm oil free.
Their Laundry Detergent is available in 32 oz paper cartons to pour into their refillable liquid laundry bottle. It’s non-toxic, GMO-free, and biodegradable. It works in all water temperatures and machine types. It’s made in the United States.
- Wool Dryer Balls
Cleancult also makes Wool Dryer Balls which are made with 100% New Zealand wool. They come in a package of three and last up to 1,000 dry cycles.
Made for washing machines: Yes
- Natural Laundry Detergent
- Free & Clear
- Fresh Linen
Puracy’s concentrated laundry detergent is has 10x the cleaning power so their detergent goes a long way. They use sustainably-harvested coconuts and no palm oil. It’s 100% biodegradable and also safe for gray water & septic systems.
- Stain Stick
- Free & Clear
Use their natural Stain Stick to remove stains from fabrics. This eco-friendly solution can pretreat up to 800 stains per 4 oz bottle. You can use it on clothing, linens, carpets, and other washable fabrics.
Puracy’s laundry products are non-toxic, hypoallergenic, vegan, as well as gluten-free. Puracy’s products are also certified Cruelty-Free.
Pure Soap Flake Company
- Pure Soap Flakes
- 1 lb, 2.5 lbs, 5 lbs, 10 lbs
- Laundry Powder
- 1 lb: 40 loads
- 2.5 lbs: 100 loads
- 5 lbs: 200 loads
- 10 lbs: 400 loads
- 20 lbs: 800 loads
This is one time where earth-based and plant-based means palm oil free. Pure Soap Flakes Company makes their soap flakes from pure coconut and sunflower vegetable oil that they saponify.
Based in Minnesota, Pure Soap Flakes uses Smude’s Brand sunflower seed oil from a neighboring farm. Using local ingredients, this makes it even more eco-friendly.
Pure Soap Flakes
Their Pure Soap Flakes are safe for all fabrics, and you can use them in your washing machine, including high efficiency machines. In addition, you can add baking soda or washing soda to make more specific cleaners.
Pure Laundry Powder
They also sell the Laundry Powder already mixed. They make it with their Pure Soap Flakes combined aluminum-free baking soda and washing soda (sodium carbonate). Borax is optional.
Made for washing machines: Yes, including high efficiency machines
See our list of palm oil free cleaning products.
- Lavender Lemongrass Detergent (powder)
- Thai Lime Eucalyptus Detergent (powder)
- Organic Laundry Stain Stick (bar)
Their powder laundry detergents come in 16 oz packages, the equivalent of 32 – 48 loads. They are sulfate-free and made with pure organic coconut oil soap which is ground into a powder.
Lavender Lemongrass contains pure lavender and lemongrass essential oils. Thai Lime Eucalyptus contains pure eucalyptus and Thai lime essential oils. These palm oil free laundry detergents are concentrated and low-sudsing.
Unearth Malee also makes a Laundry Stain Stick. It’s 2 oz. Use it to spot-treat stains by hand. Stain stick ingredients: Saponified Organic Coconut Oil; Saponified Organic Olive Oil; Borax; and Essential Oils. Unearth Malee explains on their website all of their products are palm oil free.
Made for washing machines?
- Detergents: Yes
- Stain Stick: Yes, apply to clothes by hand; rinse or put in washing machine.
Laundry soap without palm oil – Australia
The Australian Natural Soap Company
- Dish and Laundry Soap (bar)
- Sizes: 200g, 500g, 1kg
- Soap Flakes (flakes)
The Australian Natural Soap Company’s products are certified Palm Oil Free by Orangutan Alliance.
In addition to being palm oil free, their laundry soaps are paraben-free and sulphates-free (sulfates-free). Their products are plastic free, certified cruelty-free, and vegan-friendly. They donate 3% of their profits to the Orangutan Project.
Dish and Laundry Soap
Their laundry bar is concentrated and uses less water; therefore, a little goes a long way. You can use it to wash dishes as well. It contains four ingredients: Saponified Olive Oil, Saponified Sunflower Oil, Lemongrass Oil, Peppermint Oil.
Their palm oil free Soap Flakes are available in 300g and 1kg packages. You can use this all natural washing powder in the washing machine. It’s suitable for front-loading and top-loading machines. It’s grey water friendly and 100% biodegradable.
Made for washing machines?
- Dish and Laundry Soap: No
- Soap Flakes: Yes, can use in top-load or front-load washing machines.
- Laundry Powder Unscented (powder)
- Olive Oil Soap Flakes (flakes)
Urthly Organics is certified Palm Oil Free by Orangutan Alliance. Their products are vegan-friendly. They use recyclable packaging.
Urthly Organics makes unscented Laundry Powder; it comes in 700g packages. It’s grey water safe. Hypo-allergenic and mild. It works in front loaders as well as top loading machines. It’s Borax-free.
They source local, fair trade, and ethically-sourced ingredients. Sustainable ingredients: Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Carbonate, Natural Camel Milk Soap (Saponified Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Hempseed Oil and Cocoa Butter, Fresh Camel Milk, Silk, Manuka Honey and naturally-occurring Glycerine), and Citric Acid.
Pure Olive Oil Soap Flakes
Use these Olive Oil Soap Flakes to make your own washing powder. Package is 500g. The recipe is on the package. You can use it to make your own washing powder for laundry. Makes up to 3kg of washing powder for laundry or dishes.
Made for washing machines? Yes
Note, of the palm oil free laundry detergent and soap products listed above, none are liquids.
Types of laundry detergent and laundry soap
- Bar – less likely to contain palm oil
- Flakes – less likely to contain palm oil
- Washing soda – less likely to contain palm oil
Though they may be more sustainable in other ways, eco-friendly laundry detergent strips often contain palm oil.
Remember, Plant-Based laundry detergent may contain palm oil. This is also true of All Natural laundry detergent.
DIY palm oil free laundry soap recipe
Note, if you have hard water, experts do not advise you make your own laundry soap. Homemade laundry soap can stain your clothing.
Make your own palm oil free laundry soap using pure soap flakes. You can add in baking soda if desired. Follow the instructions that come with the soap flakes for eco-friendly laundry soap. There are other recipes which use coconut oil, lye (NaOH) and water.
Palm oil ingredients in laundry detergent
Of course, companies look for ways to save money and make money. Many of these ingredients are sourced from palm oil, a cheap oil. If you see these ingredients, ask the company if they use palm oil:
- Ammonium Laureth Sulfate (ALES)
- Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS)
- Decyl Glucoside
- Ethoxylated Lauryl Alcohol
- Oleic Acid
- Propylene Glycol (found in liquid detergents and pods)
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
- Vegetable Glycerin
- Vegetable Oil
- Sodium Stearate
These are the common ones; there additional palm oil derivatives in laundry detergents.
What does palm oil do in laundry detergent?
Manufacturers use palm oil to make these ingredients because palm oil is versatile and inexpensive. It does the following in laundry detergents:
- Cleaning agent
- Enzyme stabilizer
- Anti-foaming agent
- Conditioning agent
Some eco-friendly brands use these ingredients. While they may seem eco-friendly because they are plant-derived, they are typically made from palm oil.
- Laureth-6 (Plant-Derived Cleaning Agent)
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (Plant-Derived Cleaning Agent)
- Caprylyl/Decyl Glucoside (Plant-Derived Cleaning Agent)
- Glycerin (Plant-Derived Enzyme Stabilizer)
- Oleic Acid (Plant-Derived Anti-Foaming Agent)
- Sodium Oleate (Plant-Derived Anti-Foaming Agent)
- Propylene Glycol (Synthetic Processing Aid)
Laundry detergents in the past
For generations, people washed their clothes with soaps that were made by saponifying fats and oils into fatty acid salts.
During World War I, when it was difficult to source oils and fats to make soap, a chemical company invented an alkyl sulfate surfactant to replace these ingredients.
This synthetic ingredient was made to replace fatty acid salts.
Chemicals in laundry detergent
Over time, laundry detergents started using this surfactant along with additional synthetic ingredients to save costs. It’s standard practice for many laundry detergents to contain chemicals, including:
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and other synthetic surfactants
- Fillers, thickeners
These are artificially manipulated, man-made chemicals and compounds. Companies use these types of ingredients because they are inexpensive. In some people, they cause skin irritations, rashes, allergic reactions, etc.
Most laundry detergents contain harsh chemicals including sulfates to clean, phenols to disinfect, fragrances, and more. Some brands contain ingredients linked to cancer and lung disease.
The mass retailer brands you see at Target, Walmart, Dollar Stores, Costco, etc. — all the big names in laundry detergent that have been around for years and decades — all of them use inexpensive chemicals which include palm oil.
Many don’t disclose their ingredients. If they do spell out their ingredients, they may use vague descriptions.
Sometimes laundry detergent companies will list Anionic Surfactants and Nonionic Surfactants in the ingredients. Surfactants are cleaning agents. They help oils combine with water to remove dirt, grease, and stains.
Some examples of anionic surfactants common in laundry detergent:
- Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
- Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)
- Ammonium laureth sulfate (ALES)
- Ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS)
- Sodium stearate
These can be derived from palm oil in detergents. Demand for these ingredients continues to increase.
Eco-friendly vs green washing in laundry detergent
Some companies, due to branding, may appear more eco-friendly than others. Your perception of them may be that they that are better for the planet. In some ways they may be more than the industry-leading big brands.
They are likely using less SLS and other harsh chemicals. However, they still are using chemicals, and they are still using palm oil.
In many ways, they are greenwashing. Don’t be influenced by advertising and “green” company names. They may not be better for you or the planet. When you dig deeper, you may find they aren’t using earth-friendly practices like you might expect.
What makes laundry detergent sustainable?
For a laundry detergent to be eco-friendly and green, it shouldn’t contain palm oil. The reason companies use palm oil is because it’s inexpensive. Increasing palm oil demand in laundry detergents and other products increases deforestation.
What’s interesting about many of these companies, is they will disclose their ingredients, but they won’t typically disclose when the ingredient is sourced from palm oil.
As an example, if the product contains Glycerin, it will say plant-derived or plant-based but it won’t mention the source. The label may say Vegetable Glycerin with no explanation. It won’t spell out the source of the plant they made the Glycerin with.
Green laundry detergent
There are other types of green laundry detergents. You won’t find them in stores but you will see them online when you search. When you search for eco-friendly or earth-friendly laundry detergent or eco-friendly laundry soap, you will see many companies pop up.
To be sure, these companies are doing better than other companies. Many use biodegradable ingredients or some sustainable ingredients. However, it’s important to know they still often contain palm oil.
These are companies who are doing “better” than the mass retail brands. Likely their laundry detergents boast some of the following attributes:
- Biodegradable packaging
- Refillable containers
- No SLS
- Biodegradable ingredients
- Plastic free
- Zero waste
- Recyclable packaging
They may also use other environmentally friendly and sustainable practices. Powdered detergents typically contain less ingredients than liquid detergents.
In addition, laundry detergents in boxes are better for the environment than liquid detergents in plastic. There is less impact to transport them as well.
You will typically not find these products in stores. In addition, like the laundry detergents without palm oil above, they are usually companies who aren’t known for detergents.
Their laundry products will be in the form of bars, powders, and flakes, not liquids or pods.
Why choose palm oil free laundry soap
What’s the problem with palm oil? Demand for palm oil increases deforestation.
When you choose palm oil free laundry detergent and other products, you lessen demand.
Deforestation happens as rain forests are cleared for new palm oil plantations.
Deforestation is the act of burning and clearing rain forests. In the case of palm oil, developers clear rain forests for room for palm oil plantations. What this means is everything living in the rain forest, including the thousands of plants and animal species, as well as people, are displaced.
In addition to affecting native plants, wildlife and people, rain forests contribute to the earth.
Rain forests affect our entire planet, no matter where we live. Rain forests create oxygen as well as lower carbon dioxide levels. They also help with climate change and global warming. As more rain forests are destroyed, that negatively affects climate change.
Learn how to use less palm oil. One way is to use less detergent.
Certified palm oil free laundry detergent
When you look for green cleaning solutions, be sure to read the ingredients as well as the source of each ingredient.
There are hundreds of names for palm oil derivatives, most do not include “palm” in the name.
You will see many products show up when you search for eco-friendly, palm oil free laundry detergent. Know that just because it has an eco-friendly name doesn’t mean they make it without palm oil.
To ensure laundry soap is eco-friendly, it should be certified Palm Oil Free. Ask companies to certify their products Palm Oil Free with Orangutan Alliance or with Palm Oil Free Certification Trademark Programme (POFCAP).
Laundry soap without palm oil
Palm oil is an inexpensive ingredient and is used to make many chemicals in laundry detergents. Clothes wash soap with fewer ingredients will be less likely to contain palm oil.
Choosing bars, powders, and soap flakes instead of liquids and pods usually means less controversial ingredients and less palm oil. Be concerned when you can’t find the ingredients on the package or online. Notice when you can’t find the source of the ingredient.
If you seek eco-friendly detergent, it should be palm oil free as well.