What Are the Different Types of Environmentally-Friendly Detergents?

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  • Written By: R. Bargar
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2019
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As interest in green living grows, an increasing array of environmentally-friendly detergents are becoming available. Many different types of green products are available for the laundry, for hand and machine washing dishes, and for general-purpose cleaning. These products may contain primarily plant-based ingredients, have packaging made from recycled materials or have eliminated some of the potentially harmful chemicals in conventional detergents. Eco-friendly cleaning products that are entirely unlike conventional detergents are also being developed.

Companies offer a spectrum of environmentally-friendly detergents and household cleaning products. Eliminating harmful ingredients represents one aspect of the eco-friendly spectrum of products. For example, laundry detergent manufacturers have reduced or replaced phosphates as a water-softening chemical due to their effect on algal growth and oxygen depletion in waterways. Many conventional detergent manufacturers make laundry products free of fragrances and dyes, or have replaced chlorine bleach. As consumer interest and demand for green products has grown, companies have begun to do more than just eliminating problematic ingredients.

Environmentally aware consumers and corporations have begun seeking greener alternatives to petroleum-based conventional detergents. In some environmentally-friendly detergent, plant-based ingredients have replaced petroleum-based in some cleaning products. These replacements are more expensive than petroleum but present fewer environmental issues. Both eco-friendly liquid and powered laundry detergents as well as dish detergents and all-purpose green cleaners use oils from coconut, palm, corn and other plants instead of petroleum.


Unlike the food industry, cleaning products are not required by law to list their ingredients. Most of the environmentally-friendly detergents use labeling indicating their eco-friendly status. The package may proclaim the detergent has eliminated specific ingredients, uses plant-based components or is biodegradable. Several manufacturers voluntarily list all ingredients, allowing consumers to see exactly what is in the detergent.

There is more to eco-friendly detergents than the ingredients they use. Many green detergents come in packaging made of recycled materials. The packaging may further state that it can also be recycled. Moreover, some companies that make environmentally-friendly detergent seek ways to green their manufacturing processes, while others donate a portion of their profits to organizations that protect the environment. These additional efforts indicate a broad approach to producing environmentally-friendly cleaning products.

In addition to the many types of environmentally-friendly detergents, products that differ completely from conventional detergents are being developed. Anti-bacterial products containing nanoparticles of silver are being researched and developed. Soap nuts, the dried fruits of a tree native to India and Nepal, are a source of natural surfactants called saponins. The hard fruits can be placed in a cotton bag in the washing machine and reused several times. They can also be boiled to create a liquid used in place of all-purpose cleaners.

Reusable washing machine balls contain ceramics or magnets. They are promoted as a method of completely eliminating the use of detergents. Their effectiveness has been questioned, and consumer groups recommend consumers thoroughly research green detergents and detergent alternatives so they can pick the type that best suits their needs.


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