Are you looking for the best eco-friendly washing-up liquid or laundry detergent? Ethical Consumer Magazine bursts the bubble on some of the so-called green brands and shows which brands clean up in terms of ethics.
Washing up, washing clothes, loading the dishwasher. These endless daily chores probably aren’t top of your list of fun ways to spend your time. Yet, with the drudgery of cleaning dirty dishes and clothes comes an opportunity to do good, to ditch the polluting big brands, and to support ethical brands that are creating a positive environmental impact.
Emma Oddie from Ethical Consumer Magazine reveals some of the best eco-friendly washing-up liquid and laundry detergent brands out there. From the brands using plastic-free packaging to those making plant-based and cruelty-free cleaners. And even to those with social enterprise models to make cleaning kind.
Quick Links For The Most Ethical Washing Up Liquid and Laundry Detergents
If you are in a hurry, here are the quick links to Ethical Consumer’s most ethical and eco-friendly washing-up liquid and laundry detergent brands:
- Bide / Bide (website)
- Greenscents / Greenscents (website)
- Bio-D / Bio-D (website)
- SESI / SESI (website)
- Miniml / Miniml (website)
- Fill Refill / Fill Refill (website)
If you have time, then read on to find out why these clean up above all the others.
Dishing The Dirt On Detergents?
Detergent adverts are always painting a squeaky-clean picture. A quick purchase, a few simple actions, no hard work, and your dishes and clothes are magically returned to pristine condition. But behind this façade lies a murkier picture.
Most of the big brands, such as Fairy, Persil, Finish, and even Ecover and Method, are littered with issues that mean big environmental issues. Our recent magazine and detailed reports cover this in a lot more detail. However, here are the main things to look out for when buying washing-up liquid, and dishwasher and laundry detergent, especially if you are looking for more eco-friendly brands.
The Plastic Packaging Problem
Although plastic bottles are ‘widely recycled’ in the UK, that statement is ambiguous. A recent Greenpeace report showed that some recyclable UK plastic waste actually ends up being incinerated or sent abroad.
While there are some great initiatives out there using increased recycled content or plant-based plastics, it’s still plastic. This plastic still has a disposal issue, and it still carries a carbon footprint. When it comes to plastic, refusal, reduction, and reuse is clearly the only way.
The good news is that there are loads of great brands offering innovative alternatives. Here are some options to look out for:
- Refills – Look for refillable washing-up liquid and laundry detergent so single-use plastic bottles can be used again and again
- Bulk buying options – Meaning less plastic per ml of product
- Alternatives – Natural solutions and innovative products that come with no packaging at all
Read on for product recommendations that tackle the plastic problem head-on.
Polluting Ingredients In Washing Up Liquid and Laundry Detergent
Laundry detergents and washing-up liquids contain a range of chemicals that are designed to break down dirt and carry it away. They also provide fragrance, a particular look, or just bulk out the active ingredients.
These detergents also contain surfactants. These do the job of keeping the dirt suspended. Surfactants now have to be aerobically biodegradable. This means that they need to break down by 60% in the presence of oxygen within 28 days. It’s a step in the right direction. However, biodegradability depends on the conditions within the waterways and nature doesn’t always play by specific rules.
Added to this, surfactants can be created from a variety of sources. These include waste from the petroleum industry, plant oils (such as coconut), or sugar. All of this can mean problematic supply chains, links to deforestation, and unfair wages.
Instead, look out for products that contain plant-based, readily biodegradable surfactants. Another thing to look out for is companies that have robust policies on ingredient sourcing in their supply chains.
This goes for palm oil too. Many cleaning products contain it and not all palm oil comes from a certified source. However, we know that palm oil production is heavily linked to deforestation as virgin forest is cleared to grow crops. Therefore, look for products that are palm-oil-free.
If you can’t find palm oil-free eco-friendly washing-up liquid or laundry detergent, then look for companies that are transparent about their supply chains and use RSPO-certified ingredients.
A lot of energy goes into producing highly synthesised cleaning products and their heavy plastic packaging. This can mean large emissions and a big carbon footprint. However, now more than ever, we face an urgent need for companies to reduce their environmental impact. Yet many of the bigger brands have a long way to go.
Our washing-up liquid and dishwasher and laundry detergent guides assess companies according to their carbon management and reporting and the generation of pollution and toxins.
For the best eco-friendly washing-up liquid and laundry detergents, look for companies that are taking meaningful steps to reduce their emissions. This includes reporting fully on every element of their supply chain. This also includes working towards carbon emission reduction targets that are in line with international climate agreements.
Many brands now offer concentrated versions of washing-up liquid to cut down on shipping emissions. Since the largest ingredient in washing-up liquid is water, it makes perfect sense to add this at home.
Since 2015, the UK has banned animal testing on final cleaning products. However, frustratingly, that doesn’t include ingredients. The testing of these ingredients can be hidden in supply chains. To help keep you right, look for companies that have animal rights accreditation. These include the Leaping Bunny, PETA, and Vegan Society logos.
The Best Eco-Friendly Washing Up Liquid and Laundry Detergents
If you’re willing to look beyond the big brands and venture outside the supermarket aisles, then there are some amazing products out there. Check out our Best Buy recommendations for eco-friendly washing-up liquid, dishwasher, and laundry detergent. These pretty much tick all the boxes for genuinely green and good cleaning:
Ethical Consumer score 16.5/20
Bide (available at Social Supermarket) is a socially responsible business, with products handmade at kitchen tables across the UK to provide greater employment opportunities. What’s more, the brand is 100% plastic-free and features concentrated products, such as washing-up liquid, as well as washing-up bars, and non-toxic, plant-based ingredients.
Ethical Consumer score 16.5/20
Greenscents eco-friendly range of washing-up liquid and laundry detergents are Vegan Society certified and cruelty and palm oil free. Although some products do come in plastic packaging, the company does offer a return and refill service for a zero-waste process.
Ethical Consumer score 16/20
Bio-D products are widely available in health and whole food shops, and online at Ethical Superstore. They’re even stocked by Oxfam, for increased accessibility. We love that their entire cleaning range is vegan and cruelty-free. And where plastic packaging is used, it is 100% recycled. What’s more, most Bio-D products, including eco-friendly laundry detergent and washing-up liquid, are widely available at refill stations in whole food, health food, and zero waste stores too, for a packaging-free solution.
Ethical Consumer score 16/20
SESI is a social enterprise based in Oxfordshire. Here the profits are reinvested to broaden the product range, offer a decent margin to stockists, and provide cost-effective prices to consumers. All its eco-friendly products, including washing-up liquid, are vegan, cruelty-free, and biodegradable. What’s more, there are plenty of refill stations available across the UK. Meanwhile, the enterprise is actively working to reduce its carbon footprint through the supply chain.
Ethical Consumer score 15/20
As well as being able to order Miniml products online, they also offer a great refillable and reusable cleaning system. To help support this you’ll find eco-friendly refill stations around the UK, for things like washing up liquid. For those shopping online, bulk delivery containers can be returned and reused. What’s more, all Miniml products are vegan, cruelty-free, and completely biodegradable.
Take 10% off all cleaning and laundry products with the code CLEAN10 at the checkout.
Ethical Consumer score 14.5/20
Fill Refill (available online at Veo) provides eco-friendly products – from washing up liquid to bulk vinegar – in printed glass containers. These stylish containers are designed to look good and be reused. As such, they supply bulk bag-in-box and recycled plastic refills and the larger containers can be returned for reuse.
The eco-friendly products, including laundry detergent, contain simple, natural, biodegradable, and cruelty-free ingredients with natural scents. What’s more, for a smaller carbon footprint, all products are manufactured and dispatched from its factory in Northamptonshire.
Other Eco-Friendly Washing Up Liquid and Laundry Detergent Alternatives
If buying washing-up liquid and laundry detergents isn’t for you, then there are some great recipes out there. These require just a few simple ingredients.
How to Make Your Own Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent
For laundry powder you typically need:
- liquid soap flakes
- washing soda or soda crystals
- borax substitute
- essential oils
- oxygen booster (optional)
If you fancy a completely natural laundry wash, then soapnuts (available at Ethical Superstore) can be a great solution. This is because these nifty nuts have a natural detergent within them called saponin and they can be composted after use. They are also completely renewable as they literally grow on trees.
What About Eco-Friendly Homemade Washing Up Liquid?
There are also loads of homemade recipes for washing up liquid out there. These provide cheap, ethical, and effective alternatives to pre-made brands. Soda crystals, castile soap, white vinegar, and glycerin are all common ingredients and are widely available. Glycerin can be derived from palm oil or animal fat, so do look out for vegan and sustainable sources.
For more information on ethical consumerism and to see our detailed guides on everything from shampoo to washing machines, visit the Ethical Consumer website. Do also check out this handy guide to eco-friendly fabric conditioner for more sustainable laundry recommendations.