Natural and Eco-Friendly Laundry Soap Reviews: 5 Moms Test and Compare

In light of the growing interest in more natural and environmentally friendly products over the past several years, the number of cleaning products lining the shelves of your local health food store (and even conventional stores) has grown enormously!

For a mom with a limited budget and barely enough time to get through the mountains of laundry, who has time to purposefully buy and compare various brands to know what works and what doesn’t?

This fall, I asked 4 of my dear friends who also happen to love natural living, to help me sort through the products that are out there. We partnered with some of the most popular brands to give their products a solid test drive, rating them, and sharing our thoughts and comments.

With overflowing laundry room cupboards, we went to work. Who knew the time and effort it would take to work through all of these different brands? (Fortunately for us, our husbands and children were ever-so-helpful as they provided us with load after load of dirty laundry to use for the project– we couldn’t have done it without them, that’s for sure!)

Allow me to introduce you to the 5 test moms:

  • Jess :: A mom of 2 littles (soon to be 3), a husband who does a physical job in uniforms (ie. she deals with stink), a cloth diaperer, and HE machine user. She’s a fantastic reviewer because she has strong opinions and preferences.
  • Katy :: Just welcomed her 3rd darling this summer, also uses an HE machine and cloth diapers. She’s wonderfully easy going and practical.
  • Shannon :: Mom of 4 kids aged 3-10, who bring her plenty of stains and dirt of every variety. She brings a background in working for Alive natural health magazine, she loves local products, and is so thoughtful and detailed (and another HE user).
  • Diane :: With 3 kids aged 1-6 (including one in cloth diapers) she’s busy and likes to keep her laundry simple. She’s frugal, likes things that truly smell and look clean, without much fuss.
  • Stephanie (that’s me!) :: I’m also using cloth diapers for my youngest (of 3 kids). Homeschooling and kids who like to cook gives me lots of fun stains to work with. I like pretty smells, but I’m super frugal and definitely pragmatic. Laundry should be easy, right?

A Quick Look at How the Brands Stack Up

Based on our numeric ratings, I have come up with an overall rating for each product used, to give you an at-a-glance look at how they compared.

  1. Nellie’s Oxygen Brightener  8.67
  2. Nellie’s Laundry Soda/Laundry Nuggets  8.5
  3. Charlie’s Soap  8.39
  4. Ecover Fabric Softener 8.13
  5. Seventh Generation 2x Concentrated Liquid  7.75
  6. Rockin’ Green 7.54
  7. Country Save 7.52
  8. Earth’s Berries Soap Nuts 5.35

It’s important to note just how close and insignificant some of these ratings really are. Look at Seventh Generation, Rockin’ Green and Country Save. Those differences are really trivial, and highly unscientific (trust me, I’m no scientist and this is not highly accurate data collection!). Don’t let small number differences like those have much of an effect on how you think of the soaps. Read on for far more detailed information!

Let’s get started, shall we? Here are the brands that we compared:

Charlie’s Soap

Overall Rating 8.39

One of the most popular brands for cloth diapers, we were all eager to try Charlie’s Soap and it didn’t disappoint. We used the laundry powder, which requires only 1 Tbsp for a large load of wash. It doesn’t use scents or brighteners, and is hypoallergenic (great for those with sensitive skin). HE compatible, it works well in any machine, although all machines use the same amount of powder (which is thankfully quite concentrated).

Country Save

Overall Rating 7.52

Another brand of laundry powder with simple ingredients, safe for cloth diapers and sensitive skin. It’s been around for a long time and has a proven track record. One of the main benefits of Country Save is the cost, especially when bought in bulk. I’ve been buying it for my cloth diapers in particular for a number of years for the savings and effectiveness. Bonus for HE users- only half as much is needed, even though it is a low-sudsing formula.

Earth’s Berries Soap Nuts

Overall Rating 5.35

Soap Berries are one of the most novel approaches to laundry in the last few years, at least on this continent. They’ve been used in South East Asia for centuries! They contain naturally-occurring Saponin, the ingredient that makes soap suds up. A truly renewable and sustainable option, since soap berries grow on trees! They can be used either by putting a handful of soap nuts in a small, muslin bag or by creating a laundry liquid by boiling the berries in water. There are many brands available, but ours came from a great mom-owned company called Earth’s Berries.

Stephanie’s note- Though not my favorite for laundry, I actually quite liked using the soap berries liquid that I made for other cleaning purposes. It cleaned my diaper pail out nice and fresh, worked well as a direct pre-treatment for stains, and also as an all-purpose cleaner!

I also feel compelled to note that although our particular group didn’t fall in love with soap nuts as we hoped we would, there are other moms out there who truly love using soap nuts. Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking is one of them, and she’s written about them as well as answered some FAQ.

Nellie’s Laundry Soda/Laundry Nuggets

Overall Rating 8.5

This is a brand that is local to all of us (in the Vancouver, Canada area)! Not only did Nellie’s generously provide us with a ton of product to test, but it also came out as the obvious winner in our review. Considered a washing soda, Nellie’s is completely hypoallergenic, has no scent, and rinses very clean. It uses only 1 Tbsp of powder per load, and we were also able to try their pre-measured laundry “nuggets”, with the same washing soda but in a biodegradable wrapper that instantly dissolves once tossed in the wash! And did I mention that their retro 50′s branding and clever packaging won us all over?

Rockin’ Green (various scents)

Overall Rating 7.54

Designed by a mom, Rockin’ Green soap does really rock (or so most of us thought). What really intrigued me about this brand (besides the funky 80′s rock branding!) is that it comes in 3 different formulations, so that you can select the right one for your water type– Hard Rock, Soft Rock, and Classic Rock. Though we all tried the Classic Rock with fairly good results, I wonder if we would have liked it even better if we had been able to try the specific formula best suited to our local water. The site does provide inexpensive samples so that you can find out which formula is right for you. The scents available are absolutely yummy, as well!

Seventh Generation 2x Concentrated Liquid (White Flower and Bergamot Citrus)

Overall Rating 7.75

This was the only liquid soap that we tested. It has long been one of my favorites. This laundry liquid contains enzyme soil removers and water softeners. For being a liquid, it is relatively concentrated and I sometimes find that I can use even less than the full capful for a mid-sized load. Seventh Generation is one of the biggest brands out there as far as natural cleaning products and for good reason! Their products are reliable and usually very well rated, and I have yet to try one that I wasn’t happy with (and they put out fantastic coupons for both US and CAN!).

Other products we tried:

Charlie’s Pocket Stain Remover

This was a fun addition to the review, as none of us had ever tried it before. I couldn’t find much online information about the Stain Remover in particular (although Charlie’s Soap website has plenty of information about their other products). In general, we thought the stain remover worked well, although we received it very close to the review deadline and not everyone had a chance to sufficiently test it out.

Ecover Fabric Softener

Overall Rating 8.13

I was initially worried about the possible ingredients in a fabric softener, even a “natural” one, but I have been pleased to not find anything concerning come up in the research that I did on the ingredients for this Ecover Fabric Softener. What a pleasant surprise, to find a fabric softener that I can use guilt-free! It is a really wonderful (albeit luxurious) addition to a laundry routine. I do have to admit that as an old washing machine user (no HE for me!) I didn’t add it properly to the rinse cycle as directed, but tossed it in at the beginning (unlike my friend Diane who plays by the rules!), and I was still satisfied with the results.

Nellie’s Oxygen Brightener

Overall Rating 8.67

How funny that an oxygen brightener would steal the show and garner the highest reviews of all! According to Nellie’s, their oxygen brightener is color-safe, septic-safe, and environmentally-safe. It’s purpose is to brighten and whiten your whites and light colors. Though I don’t think that any of us were regularly using a brightener at the time of review, we all had a great experience trying this one out and said that we would consider buying it again!

And there you have it!

Now, I know that there are just so many amazing brands out there and we couldn’t possibly test them all. I know that we missed Biokleen, LifeTree, Ecos, Nature Clean and so many others. Many women also use homemade laundry detergents with great success.

The intention of this review was not to thoroughly cover every possible option available, but to sift through some of the popular options and give some feedback on them. We had a lot of fun trying everything out and getting to promote some fantastic companies, and we hope that we have served you a little bit in the process!

Price Comparisons

For the moms that reviewed, and I know for many of you, price matters. It matters a lot to me as well, and so I’ve put together a price comparison analysis over at my other blog, Saving Naturally. This will give you some idea of how the various soaps rank cost-wise, and then you can use the information in our review to help you narrow down your choices.

Your turn! Which laundry soaps or other laundry products do you use and what do you think of them?

Disclosure: All five of the moms involved in this review received product (how else could we wash a gazillion loads of laundry and tell you all about it?). No one has received any other compensation at all, so we’re just sharing our honest, personal opinions on each of these products.

Other Related Posts You May Enjoy

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links.

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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Comments

  1. holly Lloy says:

    Hey,

    If you guys are looking for another eco-friendly, chemical free way to clean your clothes you should check out the Smart Klean Laundry Ball! http://www.facebook.com/SmartKleanLloy I promise you will love it!!

    Holly L

  2. The Environmental Working Group just came out with the results from testing laundry detergents, as well as other cleaning supplies: http://www.ewg.org/guides/subcategories/47-LaundryDetergentGeneralPurpose. The site has a lot of great information regarding ingredient safety and efficacy for a number of products.

  3. I am surprised Nellie’s Laundry Soda & Rockin’ Green got such high ratings. I guess it really does have to do with the type of water in your home. Everyone seems to have a different opinion. I found Nellie’s didn’t clean cloth diapers at all, rockin’ green left some sort of residue as it always caused rashes on my baby’s bum. : / Charlie’s was the best of those 3, but I found it pricey. I have been using Homemade Awakken Laundry Detergent/Washing Soda exclusively for the last 6 months and it’s been great. No diaper rash anyway. ; )

  4. Thanks for sharing this kind of information that’s very useful for us…

  5. Thanks for the share. Always use Natural Laundry Detergent

  6. Lots of Great info here. I personally always use Vinegar when washing clothes. It’s amazing what is safe and what truley is not safe.

  7. Wow, you ladies are thorough! Thank you so much for taking the time to try Ecover’s Fabric Softener and to review it on your blog. We are glad to see that it performed well for you! Ecover takes pride in making its products both ecological and effective. We do hope you’ll give our other products a try in the future!
    -Deb for Ecover

  8. I use and love Norwex laundry detergent. On regular loads, I only have to use 1 tsp (I have an HE washer). With a family of 10, in which three wear cloth diapers, one bag lasts me a minimum of 3 months. I will use up to 1 tbsp of detergent on my husband’s work clothes or anytime my girls happen to get their clothes extra dirty. I figured out that it saved me over $100 a year when I started using Norwex.

  9. I LOVE Seventh Generation Free and clear laundry detergent, BUT DO NOT!! use it on diapers. I ruined some diaper inserts using it on my diapers thinking it was eco-friendly and safe. After contacting the diaper company they gave me a list of all the ingredients it had in it that wasn’t good for my diapers. It was almost impossible for me to get it all washed out. Just so you know…

  10. Two questions-
    1. How do you wash clothes with just baking soda & vinegar? As in, what amounts, added at what stage?

    2. Have you tried making your own laundry soap? I use grated bars of soap, washing soda & borax, and some natural oxygen whitener.

    • @Christina, I have never tried washing clothes with just baking soda and vinegar (though I do wash my hair that way!). I used to wash my diapers that way, but I found that it didn’t properly deal with the stink or leave them very soft.

      Personally, I haven’t made my own laundry soap, though I do have a bar of soap just waiting in my cupboard for me to try it once I run out of all these samples. :)

  11. Thank you for all the hard work you put into this. What a great resource!

    Just wanted to add, when using Charlies on CD, you only need a half scoop. Just as any other detergent, too much is hard to rinse out, and can cause stink/rash problems. ;)

  12. Great review! I cloth diaper and have used several of the tested detergents. I really think that it has to do with water (well, city, hard, soft). Nellies did not work well for me, Charlies was ok at first but the diaps started to stink after a while. I have had the most success with Rockin’ Green and have been using it for almost a year. I also alternate with home made detergent as a cost savings.

  13. Just wanted to mention that for you Western Canadian moms that London Drugs stocks both Country Save and Nellies on their shelves… :)

  14. Thanks for a comprehensive review!

    I do love soap nuts though. :) I’ve never had a problem with getting diapers or clothes clean, they always smell nice coming out of the washer. And I’ve tried a few other options (not most of these) and didn’t like them as well. I haven’t experimented too much because I do love my soap nuts. It may depend on the type of water you have.

  15. What a great idea! I love reading your blog! Im from the lower mainland and I use nellies, in fact its all I use I bought a big set from costco with the drier balls and lavender sticks, the laundry soap, oxygen brightner and dishwasher powder. I absoloutely love all of it, works awesome for cloth diapers. Nellies also has excellent customer service my dryer balls were starting to fall apart after having them for about 5 months so I spoke with customer service at Nellies and they sent me a replacement set no questions asked I love being able to support a local company!

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