A Laundry List of the Laundress Alternatives

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Retailers

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Last fall, hoards of the Laundress faithful were forced to turn their backs on the prestige cleaning brand after nearly every single product in its line was recalled over concerns of bacteria and, later, carcinogens. If you were one of the many to reluctantly toss your status-clinching detergent, don’t worry: The Laundress is back and, presumably, cleaner than ever.

After spending the better part of a year reformulating and reassessing its manufacturing practices, the Laundress has slowly begun to roll out its products, starting with a polished core collection. Naturally, not everyone will allow the Laundress to waft its way back into their knickers. So we went on the hunt to find high-quality laundry detergents worthy of rinsing your cashmere sweaters, intimates, and Tibetan robes.


What is a nontoxic detergent?

Contrary to what the industry will tell you, it doesn’t exist. Much like products made popular by the “clean” beauty revolution, there isn’t anything that a company legally needs to give themselves that distinction. “Bear in mind that vague descriptors — like natural, green, sustainable, ecofriendly, plant-derived, and many more — have no enforceable regulatory or legal definitions,” says Samara Geller, director of cleaning science at the Environmental Working Group.

So what’s a prestige-home-goods shopper to do? “The Laundress has done a wonderful job marketing their product as an experience rather than just a chore,” says Zack Pozniak, VP of operations at luxury dry cleaner Jeeves NY. You’ll want your detergent to have a similar air of excess while boasting an edited ingredient list. As boutique laundry service owner Amelia Liddy-Sudbury put it, “You may not have the Gucci handbag, but you can have the Gucci of laundry detergents — the price you pay to feel chic whilst you wash your clothes.” This statement rings even truer now that the Laundress has raised its prices a few dollars higher as part of the relaunch.

What ingredients should I avoid in my detergent?

Housed inside the Laundress’s transparent bottles was a plant-based formula heralded as the “nice” nontoxic detergent since it eschewed many synthetic ingredients known to be hazardous to the body and to the environment. The new Laundress products follow suit — but if you want the same ethos from a different brand, you may want to look for a petroleum-, phosphate-, and paraben-free solution.

For those prone to skin irritations, Geller and Liddy-Subury agree you should opt for fragrance-free products, which will help you avoid phthalates and synthetic musks. “These are often hidden by the umbrella term fragrance,” says Geller. If you want to go the extra mile, get comfortable decoding your labels and consider running your would-be purchases through the EPA’s Safer Choice list.

In the meantime, shop our laundry list of the Laundress alternatives.

The one without any dirty laundry

You may be on this list not because you want status-symbol replacement, but because you have sensitive skin and just need something that won’t leave you with an itchy rash. If so, Dirty Labs may be the detergent for you. The hypoallergenic formulas avoid sulfates and synthetic preservatives and are certified by the National Eczema Association. They’re also an EPA Safer Choice and are USDA Certified Biobased certified, which means the company derives its ingredients from renewable raw materials (like plants, in this case).

The pristine pods

For something a little less pedestrian than Dreft but still safe enough for the whole family, AspenClean’s formulas are approved by Ecocert (the EWG with a French accent). If you don’t want to pay for shipping, Amazon carries the pod version.

The one that’ll get you Gen-Z cred

The next time you find yourself at L Train Vintage, wash your clothes in Dedtergent — no one will know you’re an old. While you can’t go wrong with any of the LA-based brand’s formulas (and fragrances), MILK is a notable newcomer to the line. It’s the most subtly scented of DedCool products and, thus, more of a crowdpleaser for couples, families, or anyone that doesn’t want their clothing to compete with their perfume on a daily basis. (Lookin’ at you, the Laundress x Le Labo collab.) Despite the layered scent profile, DedCool detergents have minimal ingredient lists and the brand is transparent in its sources and what it says “no” to.

The one that’s safe and, respectfully, boring

Meliora has the shortest, simplest ingredient list of the bunch. There’s baking soda and washing soda, vegetable soap, coconut oil, and glycerin. Each ingredient is clearly justified online and laid out plainly in minimal, recyclable packaging. If you needed another reason to support Meliora, it’s woman-owned and a Certified B Corp.

The Necco Wafer of detergents

Tide Pods are simply too gauche. Your palette is reserved and demands a chalkier, puritanical tablet meant to be dropped with a sense of self-importance. Or as Liddy-Sudbury put it, “This product is not only chic and effective, but it is also, most importantly, an ecoconscious leader in this space.” It gets stellar EWG ratings, and Blueland even tested its effectiveness on blood.

The sans-serif version of the Laundress

Everything you loved about the Laundress (no harsh preservatives, perfumes, or dyes) packaged in a new- money minimalism.

The one that works like bleach

“Clean” products can sometimes mean middling performance, but Branch Basics makes a bleachlike product out of just two ingredients. It gets rid of stains, dirt, and grime without the need for ammonia or dyes — plus it’s fragrance free. FYI, Branch Basics isn’t just coming for your dirty-laundry routine: It wants to clear your entire house of toxins and has a full-on course that would teach you how to do it.

The millennial-paradox option

Looking for something vegan to clean your sheep’s-wool sweater? Tangent GC uses plant-derived ingredients to create surprisingly powerful, if not modestly confused, cleaning products. Although it’s not rated by the EWG, it meets Smallable’s Greenable criteria.

The one that wants you to call it a comeback

Chic, ecofriendly, and sans bad biologics, the Signature Detergent 2.0 should perform just like the original formula you knew and loved. The Laundress says it’s all thanks to an audited manufacturing process that has resulted in safer testing practices, raw materials sourcing, and transparency (quite literally in the packaging and formulation). Devotees can expect a lighter-weight texture and higher concentration for this detergent and others like the Wool & Cashmere Shampoo, Delicate Wash, and Fabric Conditioner when restocking their laundry-room shelves. Yes, if your entire routine is comprised of the Laundress products, we presume you have a room for those machines. Wait, why are you here — do you even do your own laundry?

The ecofriendly one with receipts

$29 for 2

ECOS has every accolade a green-washed brand wishes it could have, including distinct recognition from the EPA’s Safer Detergents Stewardship Initiative, California’s Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, and importantly LEED Zero Carbon, LEED Zero Energy, and LEED Zero Waste certifications for each of its facilities — among many others. Water neutral, carbon neutral, and zero waste? That, friends, is what the brand calls the “trifecta of sustainable manufacturing.” Apart from the planet, it also does right by your clothing and body. ECOS’s free and clear formula is hypoallergenic, and the brand, in general, avoids optical brighteners, formaldehyde, dyes, and dioxanes (an unfortunately common byproduct found in detergents that are now limited in New York).

The Amazon-loved one

Since powder detergent has a longer shelf life, it doesn’t need all of the preservatives that a liquid formula calls for. It’s part of why you get such short ingredient lists, like the four-part powder from Molly’s Suds. This one is a crowd favorite since it’s safe for sensitive skin, babies, pregnant people, and generally dirty folks. Just be warned that it’s gentle, so you may need to add an extra scoop (or two) for deep cleans.

Our Experts

The 11 Best Nontoxic Detergent Alternatives