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Natural vs. Regular Laundry Detergent

Posted by Andres Jimenez on
natural laundry detergent
We all know what laundry detergent is; most of us, if not all, have laundry detergents stored in our homes. We use them regularly, as they are cleaning agents for our clothing and fabrics. But is the laundry detergent we use safe for us? And if not, is there a better option?
natural laundry pods

How it Works

In reference to laundry detergent, two common varieties are bio and non-bio.
In biological laundry detergent, there are enzymes that break down fat, proteins, and grease to clean the clothing. These enzymes break down both oils and dirt on the clothes and, even in lower temperatures, can remove these substances from fabric. Higher temperatures can destroy these enzymes. Biological laundry detergents also can damage delicate fabrics, like silk and wool, and can cause skin irritation.
Non-biology detergent instead employs chemicals, like surfactants, to clean clothing. They work by breaking up dirt from the fabric and suspending it in the water. Non-bio laundry detergent is known to be better for sensitive skin; often, they include non-biodegradable surfactants and chemicals that are bad for the environment.
Both forms of laundry soap use their ingredients to connect oil and water molecules to remove dirt from fabrics. Both options fall underneath the “regular” laundry detergent umbrella and are made from synthetic surfactants, and are generally petroleum-based.


There is another option, natural laundry detergent, also known as plant-based laundry detergent and organic laundry detergent. These detergents use materials that are natural and derived from plants. Most, if not all, of the ingredients found in natural laundry detergents are biodegradable and great for the environment. Much like regular laundry detergent, eco-friendly laundry detergent can be found in pods, powder, and liquids.


Naturally, because regular laundry detergent and natural laundry detergent are manufactured differently, they have multiple differences.

Sensitive Skin

Washing machines do a good job of washing soap from clothes, but residues can still remain on the fabrics. These residues come in contact with the skin and can cause skin irritation and rashes. 
Individuals with skin conditions may react strongly to these residues, as might others with sensitive skin, like babies. Natural ingredients are free of the harsher chemicals found in regular detergents and are safer for sensitive skin. 


When we sniff our clothes, what has been washed with normal laundry detergent has a strong scent to it, and that’s what tells us they’re clean. In reality, regular laundry detergent is full of fragrant substances, which can irritate allergies and trigger those with perfume sensitivities. 
Plant-based laundry detergent generally has no scent because the smell isn’t an element needed to get clothes clean. However, lightly scented options are available, scented with organic plant botanicals and essential oils. 

The Planet

The water from a load of laundry has to go somewhere; it goes down a pipe and into the water system, where compounds like synthetic cleaning agents and phosphates found in regular laundry detergent can’t be filtered out. These compounds can go into water supplies and the soil, polluting the environment.
natural laundry pods
Natural laundry detergent contains eco-friendly ingredients that are both safe for the environment and bio-degradable.

Washing Machine

The residues from regular laundry detergent can also linger in the drum of your washing machine. This transfers to all of the other loads you wash and can cause buildup. 
Not only does natural laundry detergent dissolve fast in different water temperatures, but it also cleans the drum of the washing machine at the same time.


Natural detergents are tough on stains but gentle on your clothing. Synthetic additives found in regular laundry detergent can fade your clothing, while natural detergents can help them look newer longer. 


Natural and regular laundry detergents also differ in the kind of ingredients they contain. Within the best natural laundry detergents, there are usually
  • Essential oils for fragrance
  • Coconut acid, used as a cleansing agent
  • Lactic acid, found in corn and natural sugars, used as a softening agent
  • Citric acid, a water softener
  • Sodium citrate, plant-derived cleaning aid, and water softener
These are the same ingredients also found in natural cleaning products. Because of these natural ingredients, it is a non-toxic laundry detergent. Regular laundry detergent doesn’t have the same natural, eco-friendly ingredients. Instead, you’ll find ingredients like:
  • Phosphates: Though they occur naturally and are used to soften hard water, phosphates are manufactured at fertilizer manufacturing facilities and have been linked to cardiovascular disease and waterway poisoning.
  • Chlorine bleach: Made from water mixed with sodium hypochlorite, which is created by chemically reacting chlorine gas with sodium hydroxide. Chlorine bleach is used as a whitening agent and is also a lung and skin irritant.
  • Ammonium Sulfate: This compound is created by mixing ammonia with sulfuric acid, and its purpose in laundry detergent is to separate different contaminants. The ingredient is considered an oral, skin, and respiratory toxin.

natural laundry pods

Why Use Natural Laundry Detergent?

Ultimately, natural laundry detergents are safer for your skin, your health, and the environment. Though they tend to cost a bit more than regular laundry detergent, many different natural laundry detergent options come concentrated so that they can be diluted and last longer.

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