When choosing what to wash your baby’s clothes in, look beyond the “baby” label and find the products with the safest ingredients. Here’s a guide to the best baby laundry detergents.
Laundry detergent and dryer sheets are toxic – the mainstream brands are definitely not safe for babies. They’re petroleum-based, making them two of the biggest sources of toxic chemicals and carcinogens in our homes. It’s sad, but true — Tide and other popular laundry detergents have been found to contain “problematic levels” of cancer-causing chemicals and endocrine disruptors.
Naturally, you wouldn’t want to expose yourself to these harsh chemicals, let alone a baby. Thankfully, there are many baby-safe laundry detergents that are not only greener and gentler than traditional laundry detergent brands like Tide and All, but even more effective. Below I recommend some baby-safe laundry detergents that are effective enough to be used for the whole family. (Hint: I want you to use these for your laundry too!)
Preview: The Top Baby-Safe Laundry Detergents
- Molly’s Suds Unscented Laundry Detergent
- Charlie’s Soap Fragrance-Free Laundry Powder
- Branch Basics Laundry Kit
- Better Life Unscented Laundry Detergent
Keep reading for a detailed review of each of these non-toxic baby laundry detergent brands.
Why Do Babies Need Their Own Laundry Detergent?
Babies are new to the world and their skin and systems are immature and still developing. Their bodies aren’t capable of dealing with harsh and toxic chemicals in a way that results in their ideal health and well-being (well, neither are ours).
Kids are exposed to more contaminants in…personal care products than adults. Immature organ systems are often less capable of fending off chemical assaults. Subtle damage to developing bodies may lead to disease later in life.Environmental Working Group
Conventional laundry detergents like Tide, All, Gain, and even Mrs. Meyer’s and Seventh Generation contain a number of harsh and toxic chemicals. Even Tide Free & Clear was found to have concerning levels of 1,4-dioxane – a carcinogen associated with cancer and organ system toxicity.
Here’s a quick overview of how some popular brands of laundry detergent are rated on EWG. Notice how even some Free & Clear versions get poor ratings?
|Conventional Laundry Detergents||EWG Rating|
|Tide Liquid Detergent||F “Highest Concern”|
|GreenWorks Laundry Detergent Free & Clear||F “Highest Concern”|
|Mrs. Meyer’s Scent Free Laundry Detergent||F “Highest Concern”|
|Trader Joe’s Powder Laundry Detergent (Unscented)||D “High Concern”|
|Up & Up Laundry Detergent, Free & Clear||D “High Concern”|
|All Powder Detergent, Free & Clear||D “High Concern”|
|Cheer Bright & Clean Free & Gentle||D “High Concern”|
|Gain Liquid Detergent||D “High Concern”|
|ECOS Natural Laundry Detergent, Lavender||C “Moderate Concern”|
|Method Laundry Detergent, Free + Clear||C “Moderate Concern”|
And here’s how some popular baby detergents rated:
|Popular Baby Laundry Detergents||EWG Rating|
|Dreft Laundry Detergent||F “Highest Concern”|
|Babyganics Laundry Detergent||F “Highest Concern”|
|All Baby Liquid Detergent||D “High Concern”|
|Purex Detergent for Baby||D “High Concern”|
|Up & Up Baby Liquid Laundry Detergent||D “High Concern”|
|Seventh Generation Baby Natural Laundry Detergent||C “Moderate Concern”|
So, as we can see – a product may be labeled “Free & Clear” or “Baby” and still contain ingredients of concern. Babies need something safer and gentler. (In fact, we all do.)
Is Dreft Safe for Babies?
No, Dreft is not a safe baby detergent. Please do not buy Dreft for your baby!
It may be the most popular baby detergent on the market but all of Dreft’s products received an “F” rating from the EWG for having ingredients that pose “potentially significant hazards to health”.
Some of their offending ingredients include:
- Sodium Borate, which is associated with developmental, endocrine, and reproductive effects; skin irritation; allergies; and respiratory effects
- Ethanolamine, which is known to have respiratory effects; general systemic and organ effects; nervous system effects; skin irritation; and allergies
- Fragrance, which is a dubious and nonspecific term that allows the manufacturer to avoid disclosing why actually goes into their product. This can include a variety of synthetic chemicals, including petrochemicals – all of which are associated with various health hazards.
- Diethylene glycol, which is found in products such as antifreeze, and has been associated with cancer; developmental, endocrine, and reproductive effects; damage to DNA; respiratory effects; digestive system effects; nervous system effects; skin irritation; allergies; organ effects; and more
Here’s a further glimpse into Dreft, courtesy of EWG:
As you can see, some of the ingredients used in Dreft are of serious concern. (Note: If you look closely at the chart of baby detergents above, you’ll notice that Babyganics also received an F rating.)
If there is a better and safer alternative, why expose your baby to these health risks? There are better, safer, and gentler options for your baby!
The Best Baby Laundry Detergents
Not all laundry detergents are made the same – as we have clearly seen! Here are the greenest and gentlest baby-safe laundry detergents that I enthusiastically recommend.
The Best Powder Baby-Safe Laundry Detergents
This is the laundry detergent that I have happily been using for over 5 years. I am thrilled with this product because it is natural, made of high-quality ingredients…and it actually works! Molly’s Suds contains no harsh chemicals, parabens, GMOs, toxins, preservatives, aluminum, synthetic dyes, phthalates, surfactants, or fragrances. It is free of 1,4-dioxane, formaldehyde, optical brighteners, phosphates, dyes, nonylphenol ethoxylates, petrochemicals, bleach, chlorine, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). It’s safe for sensitive skin and for those with eczema.
It is the only laundry detergent that I use (for the entire family), and it cleans our clothes very well and leaves them smelling fresh. It has not faded my darks and gets my colors and whites bright. It comes with its own scoop and I store mine in one of these air-tight containers for convenience, though it’s not necessary to do so.
Molly’s Suds All Natural Laundry Powder Ingredients: Sodium carbonate sourced from the Green River Basin in Wyoming, sodium bicarbonate, magnesium sulfate (heptahydrate), unrefined sea salt, and Organic (Arvensis) peppermint oil. (If you are sensitive to peppermint oil, or worried about using it around small children, be sure to buy the unscented version that comes in the black and white bag.)
For brighter whites, use Molly’s oxygen whitener. Molly’s has an A rating from EWG.
Another great natural laundry detergent for babies (and the whole family) is Charlie’s Soap. Made without phosphates, dyes, bleaches, or perfumes, Charlie’s Soap is a highly effective detergent that is made with just the bare minimum ingredients needed to get your clothes clean and fresh. A lot of people love how their clothes feel after switching to Charlie’s, and say that their clothes last much longer – and smell like “nothing”. I find that kind of funny because for years, companies have been telling us we need to smell like a summer breeze or a tropical rainfall, but those are the very synthetic fragrances that wreak havoc on your body.
Charlie’s Soap is a gentle, baby-safe laundry detergent that is highly recommended by their many loyal customers. It’s also popular for cloth diapering. One thing I love about Charlie’s is that they recommend “detoxing your laundry” by running an empty wash with two doses of Charlie’s Soap and a few rags thrown in to absorb any residue left by other detergents. Then, after a few washes, Charlie’s says your clothes will be clean and feeling soft.
Charlie’s Soap Ingredients: Sodium carbonate, sodium metasilicate (rinse aid formed by heating a mixture of sand and sodium carbonate), and biodegradable surfactants sourced from vegetables and minerals C12-15, Pareth-2. Unfortunately, EWG has an old rating for Charlie’s Soap that was based on the nonspecific use of the term “surfectant”. The company has since updated its labeling but EWG has not updated their rating.
The Best Liquid Baby-Safe Laundry Detergents
Buy on Branch Basics
Branch Basics is a company you want to know about. The company was formed by three women who each healed their individual health issues by making diet and lifestyle changes. After learning the importance of avoiding toxic chemicals, they went on to create this amazing non-toxic household cleaning company.
Branch Basics’ main cleaning product, the Concentrate, is a fragrance-free multi-purpose cleaner that can tackle almost any cleaning job in your home. To use it, dilute with water in one of their bottles (which are marked with fill lines) and shake it well.
The laundry kit contains a 33 oz. bottle of Concentrate, one laundry bottle (to dilute it in), and one Oxygen Boost whitener for stains and soaking your clothing. The Laundry Kit handles up to 192 loads of laundry.
What’s great about Branch Basics is that the plant-based cleaner should also help remove chemical residues from clothes that would be leftover from using mainstream laundry brands. The detergent is equally effective in cold and hot water, so you can also extend the life of your baby’s clothes (and yours!).
Buy on Amazon
If for some reason you aren’t sold on Molly’s, Charlie’s, or Branch Basics, consider Better Life’s Unscented Laundry Detergent. Better Life makes great plant-based, non-toxic cleaning and household products. Though I am trying to DIY more and more of my household products, Better Life is my go-to when I just need the convenience of a store-bought product. I love their products and find that they work really well.
Their laundry detergent is also made of plant-derived ingredients that shouldn’t irritate your skin. It’s a great alternative to mainstream laundry detergents and is gentle for even those who have sensitive skin. It has rave reviews, and overall is a great baby-safe liquid laundry detergent. Still, my personal preference is to use either Molly’s or Charlie’s because they have fewer ingredients.
Better Life Unscented Liquid Laundry Detergent Ingredients: purified water, potassium cocoate, decyl glucoside, lauryl glucoside, oleic acid, sodium citrate, quillaja saponaria bark extract, glycerin, sodium carbonate, citric acid, enzymes.
They also have a scented liquid laundry detergent, made with natural oils.
Why You Should Also Stop Using Dryer Sheets
In addition to choosing a baby-safe laundry detergent, you’ll want to also ditch your dryer sheets and fabric softeners! They are another major source of unnecessary toxic chemicals and have been associated with causing asthma or allergies.
Bounce, for example, has straight D ratings from the EWG on all their dryer sheets – including the Free & Clear version.
A better alternative is to switch to wool dryer balls. (Or, if you’re feeling motivated, I’d encourage you not to use anything in your dryer at all. For the most part, you don’t need to add anything to the dryer cycle.)
Either way – it’s one of the fastest and easiest switches you can make to begin detoxing your home. Simply stop using dryer sheets and fabric softeners, and switch to natural New Zealand wool dryer balls. You can even leave them in the dryer in between uses, so you won’t have to remember to throw them in each time (like you would with dryer sheets). They work as a natural fabric softener that also leaves your clothes static-free. All of this is done without the use of the toxic chemicals found in dryer sheets and fabric softeners.
Why use petrochemicals if there’s a safer, healthier alternative?
Wool dryer balls may also reduce your drying time and keep your clothes lasting longer. They last for thousands of loads, which makes them much more affordable than buying dryer sheets every 80-100 loads. I prefer wool dryer balls that are made with 100% pure New Zealand wool. I recommend buying 6 and using only 3 for small/medium sized loads.
I definitely recommend using wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets for your baby’s clothes, and the entire family’s. However, it is not safe to add essential oils to dryer balls because they are flammable.
If for some reason, you’re unable to use wool dryer balls or aren’t ready to give it a try, consider these free & clear dryer sheets. They’re the best I’ve found, and they are rated a B on EWG. I used these for a few years before switching to dryer balls, and I find that they work fine. But after ditching dryer sheets, I don’t think I’d ever go back to them.
So, which baby-safe laundry detergent did you choose? I am still loving Molly’s Suds!
Founder and CEO | The Gentle Nursery. Yasmine is a wife and mom of 2 boys, and the CEO of Biomeology, a company on a mission to end postpartum depression. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California, a doula in training, and a Functional Nutrition Coach. With a background in research, analytics, and leadership for a Fortune 100 company, Yasmine applies the same attention to detail to every article she writes and researches.