Natural and Eco-Friendly Laundry Soap Reviews: 5 Moms Test and Compare 29

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

various laundry soaps for review

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 Brightenerย  8.67
  2. Nellie’s Laundry Soda/Laundry Nuggetsย  8.5
  3. Charlie’s Soapย  8.39
  4. Ecover Fabric Softener 8.13
  5. Seventh Generation 2x Concentrated Liquidย  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:

charlies soap powderCharlie’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).

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country saveCountry 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.

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earths berries bagEarth’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.

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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.

nellies laundry sodaNellie’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?

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rockin green soap 250Rockin’ 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!

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seventh gen laundry soapSeventh 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!).

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Other products we tried:

charlies pocket sprayCharlie’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.

charlies pocket stain remover review

fabric softener ecoverEcover 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.

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laundry oxygenbleachNellie’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!

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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.

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  1. Hands down (and honestly not just because I am a distributor) Shaklee’s Get Clean Laundry is my favorite. I use all of their products. I have NEVER had a stain I couldn’t get out with the “soak the impossible”, it truly does get rid of impossible stains, even iodine!

    I love its clean and fresh smell, and the nature bright, makes my clothes clean and bright. I live with well water, and before I switched, all my clothes were dull and dingy and my white towels were yellowed.

  2. I used Ecos for the past year and it worked well enough for a while. Every so often though, our freshly cleaned clothes would come out of the laundry smelling foul. I didn’t a little research, and it is a common problem with some natural laundry detergents with the oils building up in the clothing (and diapers) and trapping some of the yuck. I made my own detergent, but I’ve been on the lookout for a ready-made one to purchase and really appreciate this review!

    Many thanks from a HS and cloth diapering mom of four (ages 1-9.5)

  3. Interesting! We use 7th Generation on our clothes but, alas, I have never found a natural detergent that works well on diapers. Every time I try a new one, it’s the same story:

    1. Get a sample; try it. LOVE it; it works great!
    2. Spend $$$ and buy a full-size bag.
    3. A month later, I’m up to my ears in stinky and stained diapers.

    It makes me crazy. The one that works the longest before developing stink/stains was Rockin’ Green (Classic). I have thought about getting a sample of the Hard Rock but I’m not sure I can convince DH to let me experience with detergents again. We’ve wasted so much money going down that road. Right now, I use something that is decidedly UN-natural but it works. I wish that weren’t the case and natural detergents worked for us. ๐Ÿ™

  4. That should be “experiment”, not experience. Not a good idea to type this early in the morning. lol

  5. I use Shaklee’s laundry detergent and I *love* it! My clothes come out feeling so clean with less residue! It is also quite affordable! I use the large 14 pound box which comes out to about 18 cents per load!

  6. I’ve gone through several natural laundry detergents and never found one that worked very well until the Ecover laundry detergent. Ecover has been around in Europe for a long time and now they are fairly easy to find in the US as well (I tend to order mine in bigger batches from LuckyVitamin online).
    BioKleen makes a nice product as well but isn’t quite as good as Ecover. Seventh Generation didn’t do much for me, not good enough for sweaty work out clothes and dirty military uniforms. Fortunately I have enough dog towels and stuff that will use the ‘discarded’ detergents.

  7. I like that you did this test, think it’s a great idea. To be honest, I would really like to see you test the brands that I see at my local Whole Foods/ Sprouts. I haven’t seen any that you tested except for the Ecover softner, which I love too, btw. I have used Bio-Kleen, Ecover, Seventh Generation, Ms. Myers, Ecos, and Method. My faves out of that list in order are Ecos, Ecover, Method, Ms. Myers and Seventh Generation. SG just doesn’t seem to work well for me :-(. I live in TX and we have hard water, maybe that’s it……Love Ecos, smells great and does a great job. Unfortunately with the economy it’s so much cheaper for me to buy Tide at Coscto right now……I HATE that and wish that these eco-friendly detergents would start selling at Costco and come down in their prices! On a side note-I did find Ecos at Costco once and bought several bottles, so maybe they’ll do it again…..

    1. @Jennifer P, There were sooooo many other brands that we wanted to test. One limitation was that companies don’t always have the means to send out the necessary test samples (especially since many of these companies are quite small and have limited marketing budgets).

      The other limitation was the sheer time that it took to contact the companies, organize and distribute all the samples, test so many different brands (each mom did a minimum of 3 loads with each product, but usually more than that), and then compile all of the notes. Phew!

      In my perfect world, I would have covered more like 15-20 brands! ๐Ÿ™‚

      And on the topic of Ecos, both myself and Jess from the review, have used it quite extensively (we both buy it from Costco) and found it to work really well. I don’t use it for diapers, but for everything else it does a great job and she finds it effective for her hubby’s work clothes. So there’s a quick review of it!

  8. I just wanted to point out that since all powdered oxygen bleaches are made with Sodium Carbonate and Sodium Percarbonate, it might be cheaper to buy a generic brand. The Nellie’s brand actually has two extra ingredients (Primary Linear Alcohol Ethoxylate, Sodium Sulfate) so perhaps it works better? But I’m able to buy a large tub of store brand oxygen bleach for less than 10$.

    Also, I don’t get the fan fare around soap nuts. They’re neato (really… a plant so rich in saponins that it can clean clothes? that’s cool), but there is nothing wrong with soap. It is, in its most basic form, the result of a chemical reaction between fat and lye. Simple and natural.

    1. @annie, yup–we use and love Sun brand oxygen cleaner. it’s natural, too, just five bucks for a huge tub, and available at most discount stores.

      we’ve used a bunch of powders–including homemade–and have been satisfied, but we always come back to charlies for diapers with oxygen cleaner to keep them bright. (amazon has great deals on charlies ever now and then.)

      our powdered soap:

  9. We use cloth diapers and used Charlie’s forever, along with liquid Calgon because we live in a area with VERY hard water. My kiddos started to breakout from Charlie’s, which can happen with kids with super sensitive skin. We recently have switched to Rockin Green the Hard Rock formulation and it is GREAT! Not only do my kids not have any sensitivity issues with it, it breaks down to be cheaper since we don’t have to use the calgon with the detergent. We are a family of 5 and 1 bag lasts us about 3 months. I have been super happy with it!

    1. @Shannon,
      THANK YOU for this comment! I too have VERY hard water and have been wondering how Rockin’ Green’s Hard Rock would work. We CD and have always used Charlies. The first year was great, but in the last 6months we’ve had many stink/rash problems, and nothing I do seams to help! I just bought a bottle of Calgon, as recommended by a fellow CDing friend who lives locally and was having the same problem. I’m hoping it helps, but I may end up trying RG’s formula now.
      Do you still use Charlies on your cloths? because if I’m not mistaken, RG was a bit more pricey, and I’m still pleased with Charlies for my other cloths.

  10. I have used Charlies Soap now for 3 yrs. In between this time I started making my own soap which I like to do but wne t back to Charlies for convenience and I missed the fresh smell of it. my littles also have skin problems so it works best for their panties and diapers.

  11. I’d like to see how a homemade detergent stands up to these brands. I’ve been thinking of switching to Charlie’s or Rocking Green full time, because I think my homemade stuff is leaving a soapy build up in my machine and coating my diapers.

    It’d also be interesting to see a price per load comparison of the different detergents because I definitely take priced into consideration when choosing. I haven’t seen most of these detergents in any of the stores I go to regularly, so I also wouldn’t want to go out of my way to buy something that is going to cost more.

  12. I need this review: I’ve been trying to find something natural to replace the bleach we have. Thankfully, Nellie has a retailer in California ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. I love Nellies! I actually found a tin of it at TJ Maxx for over half off! Ill definately keep using it, the tin lasts a long time and the detergent works very well for us!

  14. Wow! This was quite an undertaking!You’ve definitely provided a useful resource here.
    I have yet to settle on a favorite laundry soap. Some of these are ones I’ve never heard of. Looking forward to trying a few of them.

  15. I purchase the Ecos laundry detergent from Costco and stocked up when they had a coupon for it. I love it and have been using it for a few years now! I have never had a problem with a musty smell (unless I waited too long to switch a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer…)

    One thing I always do is use regular distilled vinegar as my fabric softener. It works great! I wrote a blog post about it here:

    When I have an especially stinky load of laundry, I dump in some Borax. That stuff works great at getting out smells! (Especially combined with the vinegar as a fabric softener.)

    As far as bleach goes, have you tried hydrogen peroxide? I have used that as bleach with great results! I love that it is all natural, disinfects the laundry and helps whiten the clothes.

  16. We have an HE washer, and I purposely buy the detergents that use less for HE machines. For our clothes, I use fragrance free Ecos (not available at Costco, so I have to buy at Whole Foods, but still cheap for the amount I use). For our diapers (microfiber inserts), I use Country Save. I bought a case of 4 from Amazon two years ago and still have almost a full box left. The diapers do get stinky after a while, but I just strip them occasionally (with Dawn and bleach) and they’re fine again. I’ve read that effectiveness of detergents differ depending on how hard your water is, so what works for one person may not work for another.

  17. This is a great idea to review these! For me though many of these options are not available where I live, so I would have to order online, and therefore up the cost considerably. I have wanted to try Nellie’s and Rock N Green on my diapers, but haven’t yet as what I am using works okay.

    I have used a few different things over the years but my favourite, and Canadian, easily accessible for me even in a small town, brand is Nature Clean. I can also get great deals on it as my local store has great sales a few times a year (not advertised but they have in-store sales) and I can buy it on sale from the food co-op. I use the powder for diapers and the liquid eco-refill 129 loads for my other laundry. For whitening and occasional towel/kitchen laundry/diaper stink I use Soap works “safe bleach” or Nature Clean’s oxy bleach stain remover.

      1. @Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home, Yes I can understand why they couldn’t participate as they are a smaller company. However for anyone who is interested I really do love all their products and use many of them all the time in my home. Their powder is recommended by Bummis for cloth diapers. To keep the cost down I mainly just use their laundry stuff as I mentioned above and their All purpose cleaner. Buying that in the big jug when on sale and using their 129 load eco refill (and then cutting down the amount from their recommendation) works for me. Oh I also use their dishwasher powder with great results. I also have hard water.

  18. Was just thinking about you the other day and remembering our little visit a few years back….LOVe what you’re doing here! keep up the good work!

    xoxo lylah

  19. another post that makes me so happy i discovered your blog! my husband is a green energy planner so we’re always looking for more ways to be environmentally responsible. we use natural cleaners like vinegar as well as ecofriendly dish detergent (palmolive), and it’s beyond helpful to have feedback on laundry detergent particularly seventh generation products. we don’t have diapers to wash (only 1 child, an almost 4 year old), but we do have pets (2 dogs and 1 cat). clean, sanitized and fresh smelling are essential!

    i cannot even begin to tell you what a difference your blog has made in my life in the short time i’ve been reading it. thank you so much for what you do.

  20. 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!

  21. Thanks for a comprehensive review!

    I do love soap nuts though. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.

  22. Just wanted to mention that for you Western Canadian moms that London Drugs stocks both Country Save and Nellies on their shelves… ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. 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.

  24. 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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  25. 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.

    1. @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. ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. 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…

  27. 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.

  28. 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

  29. 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.

  30. 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. ; )

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