The Cheapest Eco-friendly Laundry Detergent

Right around when Joy wrote her post about diaper-friendly detergent I was in the process of phasing out my conventional laundry soap. I hadn’t switched over to an eco-friendly brand because I kept getting hung up on the price. Imagine my shock when I discovered that eco-friendly detergent can be cheaper than conventional detergent! I no longer have any reason to use a mainstream brand.

Laundry Detergent–from cheapest to most expensive

T.J.’s powder  / $5.49 / 40 loads / $.137 per load

Biokleen laundry powder / $13.99 / 100 loads / $.139 per load  BEST DEAL

T.J.’s liquid HE  / $8.99 / 64 loads / $.14 per load

All (not eco-friendly)  / $14.00 / 96 loads / $.145 per load

Biokleen liquid laundry detergent / $9.49 / 64 loads /$.148 per load

T.J.’s powder  / $10.00 / 64 loads / $.156 per load

Biokleen laundry powder / $8.29 / 50 loads / $.165 per load

Planet laundry powder / $10.00 / 32 loads /  $.31 per load

Ecover laundry powder / $9.00 / 20 loads / $.45 per load

Seventh Generation laundry powder / $8.00 / 16 loads / $.50 per load

 

Some Notes on the Eco-friendly Detergents

  • Even though T.J.’s 40-load box is cheaper than Biokleen’s 100-load box, Biokleen gets the “Best Deal” award because it uses less packaging.
  • Trader Joe’s larger box of detergent (64 loads) is a worse deal than their small box (40 loads).
  • Biokleen is often on sale. I got my ten-pound box for $11.99 (.119 per load). Trader Joe’s prices stay constant.
  • If you read the text on the Biokleen box, it says you’ll get 100 loads by using three-quarters of the scoop provided. With a high efficiency machine, the box recommends using just half a scoop. That means I’ll actually get 160 loads out of my Biokleen box. The actual price per load on my $11.99 sale box will be just $.074. That’s half the price of many other eco-friendly brands and the cheap conventional brand.
  • The Ecover and 7th Generation are bad deals. Not only do they cost a lot, they also come in plastic bottles that would have to be replaced frequently. (1 box of Biokleen = 10 plastic bottles of 7th Generation!)

Some Notes on the Conventional Detergent

I wanted to see how eco-friendly brands compared to the cheapest conventional brand and was pleased to find that Biokleen powder is actually cheaper than All. Now, I’m sure you can find cheaper detergent at a big warehouse store, but I was looking only in the stores within walking distance of my house. One huge plastic container of All costs $14 ($.145/load). That’s almost twice as expensive as the Biokleen.

My frugal friend (we’ll call him Thrifty Bob) told me that he’d just found a container of All on sale for $9 ($.093/load). Not bad, Thrifty Bob! However, if you read the fine print on the container, it says you’ll get 96 loads if you fill the cup half-way full. If you have a top-loader, you may be filling the cup to the top, so you’d actually get just 48 loads out of the container. Thrifty Bob has a front-loader and admitted that he often filled the cup more than halfway full. Not only does this waste detergent, it may ruin a front-loading machine. The guy who delivered our front-loader warned me to never, ever, ever use more than a third-cup of detergent.

I will admit that before I found Biokleen laundry powder, I was using All detergent, too. Now I’m kicking myself, because not only was I paying more, I was polluting the Earth with toxins and adding a huge hunk of plastic to the recycling bin. Even worse, I had to throw away three non-recyclable plastic parts of the container: the plastic cup, spout, and cap.

Another big advantage to green detergent is that it doesn’t contain chemicals that can cling to skin or petroleum-based oils that coat diapers and cause unpleasant smells. Thanks to Biokleen, I’ll be saving money, keeping toxins away from our bodies, and helping the planet.

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Comments

  1. You forgot a well known eco detergent that cloth diapering families use religiously.

    Charlies Soap which if you purchase the 2.64lb powder that comes in a paper sack (no plastic waste) and washes 80 loads comes out to be $0.1875 per load. You only use 1 tablespoon of detergent per wash load and its biodegradable!

    We switched to Charlies as soon as we started researching cloth diapers. They ship for free, but are available in a lot of eco-retail stores. Lots of other cloth diapering sites/mom’s recommend Allens Naturally too. But since we love Charlies and bought a boat load of it already we’ve yet to try them out.

  2. Although I don’t wash diapers with it, I use Seventh Generation powder and order it in bulk through Amazon.com’s Subscribe and Save program. A case of 4 112-oz boxes costs $35 and lasts me nearly a year, and of course the boxes break down for easy recycling. I fill the cup to the “medium” line for large loads and my clothes come out just fine. The boxes say 42 loads per box so that comes out to about 21 cents a load. And shipping is free. (Yes, there is the issue of the extra box that the case of 4 comes in, but that’s recyclable too.)

  3. Christi says:

    Hmmm. I better switch to Biokleen or TJ’s brand!

  4. Jillian, my report is by no means exhaustive! I was limiting my search to the detergents found in the stores within walking distance of my house. The packaging of the Charlie’s soap sounds great, and I’ve definitely heard good things about its performance on diapers and other laundry . . . but if it’s $.1875 per load, it’s more than twice the cost of Biokleen. (As I mention in the “notes” section, I end up paying just $.07/load with the Biokleen.)

    Larissa, 21 cents a load for the 7th Generation is still a bit spendy, but MUCH better than the 7th Generation I found at my local store for 50 cents a load! I have used 7th Generation detergent before and it does seem to work well. Thanks for the Amazon tip!

  5. I have been using Ecos which I found at Costco for 13.69 (I actually found the receipt) and it says 105 loads ($0.13/load). I easily double this number of loads because I have an HE machine. I LOVE this detergent because it does a great job cleaning, smells wonderful and has soy-based softeners. It does come in a plastic bottle though.

  6. I should make you aware that the Shaklee Powdered Laundry Detergent (remember Shaklee’s been around 51 years) costs 17.6 cents per load. $39.95 for 14 pounds and it does 224 medium loads. It’s the greatestest for stains too! http://www.greenmom.info

  7. Just wanted to add good old fashioned baking soda to the list. Many people mix it with detergents for enhanced effectiveness, but it can stand alone as a laundry detergent. My towels didn’t smell this fresh when I bought them.

    I have to admit this is a rather recent discovery of mine – I called my mother with great excitement about it. She of course already knew because that’s all they used when she was young. I guess I’m a modern girl who never knew life without chemically based-detergents,- until having a baby 10 months ago.

    I think you can get baking soda for about $5.00 for a ten lb. box. According to the math above that’s about $.05 a load. Start with a smaller box if you’re skeptical. Also you can add a little lavender mist or your favorite essential oil for fragrance.

  8. Wow, Erika! I had heard about using baking soda along with detergents but didn’t know it would work all by itself. That would be the best deal yet. How much do you need for a load? And do you have a top-loader or front-loader?

  9. Rebecca, on a full load I fill up an old cap from the liquid detergent with the baking soda. Total guesswork on my part, but again no more mildewy smell in the towels as a result. HTH:)

    By the way I do love this site!

  10. Wow, who knew b.s. could do so much! Maybe I should just go ahead and write out baking soda to eliminate confusion ;). Would that work well for pocket diapers as well? And where do you find big boxes of baking soda?

  11. Eileen says:

    Costco.

    I have a hard time believing that the baking soda will work on grease stains, etc. But for just the standard load of towels, etc. it seems like a great thing. Thanks for the tip. It has been a slow evolution for me to realize that the natural stuff CAN work as well as the stuff we grew up with. Baking soda and Vinegar are my new best friends. I feel so smug when I walk past the paper products and cleaning products aisles at the grocery store.

  12. Hi,

    But do you find that any of these detergents clean very well? I find that many of the environmentally friendly ones do not clean that well. Especially the dishwasher detergents.

    If anyone can recommend one that cleans well, please let me know.

  13. Deb, the Biokleen laundry detergent works very well. I am working on a post for dishwashing liquid (I’m still trying a few out), and I’ve had less success with that. I don’t know about dishwasher detergent because I don’t have a dishwasher, but maybe someone else has a good recommendation!

  14. gmarie808 says:

    Wow! I just came across this site while googling for a good biokleen deal. What an highly informational site this is! I have been using the Biokleen line since overhearing an older woman at the “Down to Earth “store recommending it to her friend. It was the produce wash, which I love, then I tried the odor eater/all around multi-purpose concentrated cleaner, which I love, then the laundry soap, which works, and then the dishwasher soap, which I am not too thrilled with. So I am looking for a great dishwashing liquid and/or powder. I am glad people already know about the baking soda and the vinegar. X-)

  15. I’ve tried the 7th Generation dishwashing soap and dishwasher detergent. Both work pretty well – I especially like the soap. I’ve tried those because I don’t have many shopping options where I live and 7th Generation has become more available. I’ve just tried Palmolive’s Eco-line. Do not recommend.

  16. I like the Ecover dishwashing products (dish soap and dishwashing powder) I find it does the job and you do not get funny after tastes on you dishes like I noticed with such brands as for example: 7thG or BioKleen

    Thank you for the detergent review, BTW. Very imformative. : )

  17. For a while I was using a combination of baking soda and washing soda in the washing machine, but found it did not do the trick for getting out stains (though it was nice for just refreshing). When we switched to cloth diapers, I started using Planet detergent. Most of the manufacturers do not recommend using baking soda as (I believe) it can damage the diapers. (Also, be sure not to combine liquid detergent with solids like baking soda in your he machines. You can use liquid or solid, but not both.) When I was doing my research, most of the eco-friendly detergents were not recommended for cloth diapers. Charlies and Planet were, but Planet was the one available at my local stores so that’s what we use.

    On another note, have any of you tried making your own laundry detergent? I was really excited to try, but (again, doing more research) learned it could be damaging to an he machine and didn’t want to risk it myself. According to The Simple Dollar, it can be very cost effective and also environmentally-friendly.

    http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2007/03/15/how-to-make-your-own-laundry-detergent-and-save-big-money/

  18. I’ve been using my own homemade laundry soap for around 2 years now. I make a liquid and a powder form. The powder has a powdered bleach in it, currently the Amway brand, and I only use it on my whites or when people have been sick around here. My biggest problem is finding an affordable way to buy washing soda – the baking soda just didn’t work as well. I can’t get Fels Naptha soap, but find most any bar of soap works – I use cheapest brand or Ivory most of the time. I’ve found rotating the soaps I use as a base works best for us. I’ve also used Dr. Bommer with good results. I but one big bottle of Dr. Bommers for $12 or so and it will last around 2 years. We also use it in the bath – it just doesn’t bubble much.
    Then I use apple cider vinegar usually to rinse or regular vinegar with Eucalyptus essential oil or tea tree or lavendar.

    I have been going through a lot more with the heat of summer – clothes seem smellier to begin with and lots of outside dirt. But the sand is much harder on my washer and dryer than any type of soap.

  19. MountainLamb, I have seen washing soda on my grocery store shelves. They keep it next to the other laundry detergents. Do you think your store would be able to special order it for you? If they carry Arm & Hammer baking soda, they should be able to track down the washing soda, too.

    I am afraid of making my own laundry detergent because I have a high efficiency machine. The guy who delivered the machine made me afraid that I’d ruin the machine if I used the wrong kind of detergent–or the wrong amount!

  20. Elizabeth says:

    I have been making my own laundry detergent too! I use the Fels-Naptha soap. They sell it at Fred Meyers or Albertsons here. And the washing soda is found at Fred Meyers. For $8.00 I can get the soap, Borax and Washing Soda, which is the same cost as one box of TJs Laundry Detergent. But with the WS and Borax, I only need one cup out of each, and a new bar of soap ($1.50) for another 10 Gallons. Or 180 loads. And it works really well! Go on the Fels-Napth website and they describe it. Or the Duggars in the family recipe section. They have 4, yes 4 HE washers and you just use 2 TB for each load out of 10 GALLONS. And it dosn’t void your warrenty. I have a Maytag front loader and it works GREAT! And I mix in tea tree oil for the diapers for nasty smell remover.

  21. for dishwasher soap I’ve found the TJ’s brand works best.

  22. Great site!

    For dishwashing, I’ve had great success with Shaklee and Ecover. They both make a great dishwasher powder (Ecover is a tablet). I love how they leave dishes squeaky clean without the “film” left by traditional cleaners. I also add about 3-4 tablespoons of baking soda to the machine before I run it. I use the Ecover rinse aid but I’ve heard you can also use plain vinegar. My dishes always come out great. I was a previous Cascade user but the “chemical” smell left on items made me question what we were ingesting on the “clean” dishes.

    For laundry, I have had great success with Shaklee and Ecover as well. I use the Shaklee liquid and the Ecover powder (Shaklee’s powder is not available in Canada). I use the Ecover powder with the Ecover powder bleach (or Shaklee Nature Bright) for whites and kids colour clothes. My white towels have never been whiter and my kids’ clothes have no stains. I love the Shaklee liquid laundry and the liquid fabric softener (they smell wonderful). I also use plain vinegar in the rinse cycle for items like towels and bedding.

    I’ve heard good things about BioKleen so I may have to find it in my area (Toronto) and give it a try.

  23. Useful information there

  24. Carlos Hernandez says:

    I found the cheapest eco-friendly laundry detergent to be a detergent replacement. Almost a year ago I bought a Bio Wash Ball. I have seen many different versions of this, but this one is the original that has been selling in Europe for years.

    I could no longer resist the temptation of saving money and being green. I bought my first Biowashball for $35 and found it worked fine. The clothes were clean. I bought a second one not too long later and now use the 2 together. I find that in pairs it seems to work perfectly.

    The only thing I missed was that “fresh” and “clean” smell (of chemical). So sometime I add a dryer sheet when drying the clothes.

    Verdict: Great product!

    P.s. I do note that not everyone has favorable reviews of these products. I attribute this to the fact that many are cheap knock-offs that do not work and give the whole business a bad name. Do your research.

  25. I’d also suggest trying soap nuts. Before I go further, I should disclose that I own a soap nut company (www.mukonuts.com), but the entire reason I started the company was that I could not believe such an affordable, environmentally friendly alternative to laundry detergent was available, but not in widespread use. Soap nuts are so easy to use, clean clothes better than regular laundry detergent and literally costs cents for each load. I came across them when we were having our first child and have not used another laundry detergent since- that includes washing dirty diapers, playing in the mud clothes, and my delicate fabrics that I never seem to wear anymore:)

  26. Berry+ is another great laundry soap that works amazing and is still safe even for an infant’s skin. Berry+ is a 95% berry-based, 100% plant-based laundry soap. It comes in a convenient microdose (about half a teaspoon), so you’ll never have to lug that jug or overdose on detergent again. One tiny microdose cleans any small, medium, large or oversize load of laundry up to 30lbs. It was designed to be the gentlest soap around, without anything to irritate even the most sensitive types. Berry+ was also designed to work any way you wash: HE, front-loader, top-loader or even in the sink. Visit our website (berryplus.com) to learn about or purchase Berry+ or like us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Berryplus/127540377267235.

  27. I love Charlie’s Soap! Really does a great job cleaning our clothes. Such a fresh smell. Love it – love it – love it! Not over priced and worth every scent. (Also love their All-Purpose Cleaner) Charlie’s Soap ROCKS!

  28. I recently discovered SNAP Dishwashing Liquid. Simply love it! I put my dishes in the soapy water for a few minutes and when I pull them out they’re ALREADY squeaking without wiping! It’s enzyme based and the oil get off and disolved quickly. It doesn’t leave the dishes with any unpleasant smell.

    I have sensitive skin and can’t wear gloves when washing dishes. After using this, my hands NEVER feel dry any more, even after a long wash with very hot water!

    It’s $9.95 per bottle of 32 fl. oz. Only available online. Dilute it with like 10X the amount of water and a few Tablespoons will clean a full sink of dishes! That one bottle lasts a loooong time!

  29. I messed up with the post and my name was linked to the product. Sorry! Here’s the link to the detergent: http://www.marketamerica.com/orientalbreeze/index.cfm?action=shopping.wpGoShopProducts&skuID=6203

  30. Where, oh where are you shopping and finding Biokleen at $13.99 or less? I can only find it at $17.50 or more…

  31. Pearl, I normally buy it when it goes on sale from $9 to $11 at Fred Meyer. I can’t believe it’s $17.50 where you are! I wonder if this is because Biokleen is local to us (the company is based in Vancouver, Washington, which is right over the river from us in Portland). Even buying bulk from Amazon appears to be pretty expensive. I will write a post about this soon and see if people have any suggestions for getting a good deal on it!

  32. I wonder…have you tested the Norwex laundry detergent?

  33. Michele says:

    No, I haven’t even heard of Norwex! Is it any good?

  34. Pyper B. says:

    Great tips! I need to check out some of these brands I’ve never heard of. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about making my own laundry detergent. I just don’t know where to start!

  35. I’m sorry to see that so many people missed Country Save. Eco-friendly, $0.12 HE or $0.25 top load (I just looked it up). No fillers, no optical enhancers, fragrance-free, cardboard box, truth in advertising – what’s not to like? It takes us forever to go through 80 loads, so a box lasts us ages. I stumbled upon it a long time ago. I took it off the shelf because I was looking for a new brand and I’d never heard of it. I was surprised to discover that it was a ‘green’ detergent because they made no hoopla about it and the price was great. I didn’t quite believe it at first, but some searching turned it up on environmental sites. Give it a try!

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