Wanting to find out what washing detergents are actually good and safe to use, we decided to Google away and turn our hits into an ultimate guide for how to make the act of washing a more conscious one.

As you probably know, the environmental impact of a garment doesn’t end after production—we as consumers also share a big part of the responsibility. One thing we can do to make our consumption more sustainable is considering the way we wash our clothes, and how often we do it. Many times, it’s simply enough to air the garments, steam them or spray them down with linen water, but when it’s time to throw them in the washer (due to stains or bad odor), there are a few things to keep in mind.

Firstly: Always make sure to fill up the machine completely, use an eco program if available, and choose the lowest temperature possible to save water and energy—this also prevents the garments from loosing their shape and color. Apparently, bacteria isn’t completely reduced even at 60°C, so don’t turn the heat up for that reason; modern washing machines clean clothes just as effectively in lower temperatures. When reducing the heat, it’s better to go for a liquid detergent instead of powder as it dissolves better and is kinder to the clothes. Nowadays you can also find natural detergents that are specially made for sportswear, and reduces odor already at 30°C. And remember: don’t OD. Using too much detergent doesn’t make the clothes any cleaner—it’s simply a waste of resources.

Speaking of detergents: we know it’s important to choose natural, eco-friendly and organic detergents to prevent toxic and harmful substances and particles from being released into nature or the air we breath; and we don’t want that stuff to get into our bodies via the clothes we wear either. The list of undesirables seems to go on and on, but some things that are often pointed out as “bad” include: optical brighteners, chlorine, synthetic perfumes and colors, parabens, phosphates, petrochemicals and sulfates.

Question: how can we make informed choices if we can’t understand, or even pronounce, the words on the back of the bottles?

Today, a lot of products are marketed as eco-friendly, natural and organic, but when you look at the ingredient list, it’s still completely incomprehensible. Question: how can we make informed choices if we can’t understand, or even pronounce, the words on the back of the bottles? In Sweden, for example, all detergents found in regular food stores are said to be “good for the environment”, but we’re pretty sure they run far behind the market leaders. So, let’s try to pin it down. We believe these are some of the qualities that make for a good washing detergent (and please let us know your view on this too!): Biodegradable and made from organic and natural ingredients; eco certified; concentrated and long-lasting (less water); free from toxic chemicals, artificial perfumes and colors; locally produced; contained in environmentally friendly, biodegradable and recyclable packaging.

Few products seem to tick of all these boxes, unfortunately.

Another question: Do we really need to include softeners in our washing routine? Conventional softeners are often full of toxic, hormone disturbing chemicals, perfumes and plastic particles (phthalates), and can even damage the fabrics. Also, they’re totally unnecessary. However, if you feel you need it, here’s an all-natural suggestion: apparently distilled white vinegar can be used as a sort of fabric softener, and it also helps cleaning the washing machine from detergent residues. Instead of perfumes, you can try adding a few drops of essential oils if that’s something you like (be careful with the dosage though), which are also known to have antibacterial properties.

Oh, and also: We have previously written about the problem of micro plastics being released into the oceans as a result of us consumers washing synthetic textiles. A temporary solution to this is inventions like the Guppy Friend Washing Bag that collects the plastic fibers before they have a chance to escape with the rinse water. You might think it would be better to avoid these types of fabrics all together, but it’s never as simple as that. Recycling plastic materials or polyester fabrics into new garments has many environmental benefits, but the way they’re constructed needs to change already in the production phase to manage the problem of micro plastics altogether. Another problem to be solved…

One final note: If you can, hang your clothes and textiles to air-dry instead of throwing them in the dryer. That saves a lot of energy and is much gentler on the fabrics that will last longer. And that’s what it’s all about, right?


1. Only wash full (not stuffed) machines.
2. Wash on low temperatures.
3. Use eco-programming if available.
4. Use fluid detergents that are natural and eco-friendly.
5. Don’t overdose the washing detergent.
6. Skip the softener.
7. Avoid micro plastics being released by using a washing bag.
8. Air dry as much as you can.

Shop the Washing Detergents

1. Natural Laundry Wash Detergent, “Pure Unscented”, Mulieres, 1,5 L

A natural and organic detergent for all types of textiles that is vegan and eco certified. Works for both machine and hand wash. The base is an olive oil soap, which makes it perfect for sensitive skins, allergies and children, and it’s also free from perfumes. The packaging is biodegradable and made from recycled cardboard.

Ingredients: Water, 15-30% olive oil soap, vinegar, glycerin. *14% of the total contents come from organic certified farming. Made in Estland.

2. TGC041 Delicate Detergent, Tangent GC, 300 ML

A delicate detergent that treats the cell structure of natural fabrics gently, and is specially adapted to be used on such materials as wool, silk, mohair, down and cashmere. It does not irritate and is ideal for hand-washing.

Ingredients: 30% Aqua, 5-15% Coconut alcohol sulphate (anionic surfactant), Sugar surfactant (nonionic surfactant), <5% Alcohol, Sodium Chloride, Soya Bean Lecithin, Citrate and Essential Oils from Orange (Limonene and Linalool).

3. Liquid Detergent Fine Wash, “Neutral” Gröna Gredelina, 1 L

Chemical free detergent made from washing nuts, which is a natural and eco friendly alternative. The washing nuts are organically grown and clean textiles in a gentle way. Perfect for those with allergies, sensitive skin and children. Can be used for machine and hand wash in any temperature.

Ingredients: Sapindus Mukorossi (Washing nuts)*, Soda ash, Silicates (minerals), Sodium Chloride, (mineral salt) Xantan gum, Sodium Benzoate. *Organically farmed

4. Organic Wash, “Rent Naturligt”, Washologi, 750 ML

A natural, organic and biodegradable detergent that is effective and environmentally friendly. If wanting a whitening effect for your white wash, just add some sodium bicarbonate. It’s softly scented with an essential oil of lavender.

Ingredients: Water <30%, Anonic surfactant 5-15%, Non-ionic surfactant <5%, Glycerin <5%, Perfume <1%

5. Liquid Unscented Detergent, Greenscents, 500 ml

A perfume-free detergent made from 79% organic ingredients, perfect for those with sensitive skin and allergies. The effective formula is gentle on clothes, body and environment. The bottle is made from biodegradable bio plastic.

Ingredients: Water, Aloe vera leaf juice*, Cocoamidopropyl betaine, Coco-glucoside, Lactic acid, Xanthan gum, Soapwort leaf extract. *Organic.

6. Washing Detergent for Cotton/Denim, L:a Bruket, 450 ml

Mild and gentle detergent for washing cotton and denim garments in machine or by hand. It’s made with certified, natural and organic ingredients and contains cottonseed oil, which rebuilds the fibers natural properties and makes them last longer. It has a fresh scent of patchouli and lavender.

Ingredients: +30% Water, 5-15% Anionic Surfactant, 5-15% Nonionic Surfactant, -5% Ethanol, Essential Oils from Patchouli and Lavender with D-limonene and Linalool (natural in essential oils).


Stephanie: Hello, and thank you for this article! I've found the information helpful. I do have a question, though--I'm in the middle of researching whether hand-washing more often is a helpful sustainability measure (as part of a balanced diet of helping clothes last longer so that you don't have to replace them as often) and would like some information on whether hand-washing some of your clothes is more sustainable, and how to do it well? Additionally, I would love some practical advice on building a line-drying rig on a bugdet or with limited space, since having a line-drying option that works for peolple's lifestyle and budget is often a barrier to starting. Thanks, keep up the good work!
April 8, 2021

Johanna Andersson: Hi Julia! I really appreciate your input! I guess the point is to not only wash a few garments at a time, but wait until you have a reasonable load (not stuffing though, as you say) in order to save water and energy :) x Johanna
January 18, 2018

Julia: Learned from a friend working in the washing detergent industry that you should only fill up your machine to about half way. It's not only the washing detergent that is cleaning the garments, it's also the process of tumbling the garments around in the drum that helps clean the garments. If the machine is completely stuffed it won't clean the garments properly.
January 18, 2018

Johanna Andersson: Hi! I haven't but I'm very curious. One of the detergents here is made from washing nuts. Some seem to think they're great while others are not so convinced. Have to find out! /Johanna
January 17, 2018

Have you tried washing nuts like Soap Nutz?: Have you tried washing nuts like soap nutz?
January 16, 2018

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