Sustainable Sunday: Detergent

Is that not the sexiest, most compelling title you’ve ever read on Bummed Out Bailey?

We don’t need a few people doing zero-waste perfectly, we need millions doing it imperfectly.

Lauren Singer*

We’re talkin’ both dishwasher and laundry detergents, here.

Good Swap

Swap chemical detergents for natural detergents.

Alright, so, you know how I’m poisoning the world by consuming massive amounts of prescription medications that then excrete through my urine, traces of which are never to be fully filtered out of the earth’s finite supply of water, slowly dosing every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a swig of Prozac? Well, our detergents do the same thing, except Tide and Cascade don’t leave you feeling mysteriously balanced like secret-water-SSRIs.

The things humans create and then put on and in our bodies don’t really ever leave us, meaning the royal “us,” meaning the planet. There’s not even a need to use harsh, unnatural chemicals to clean our clothes and dishes, because natural detergents can be just as effective. As a bonus, they’re gentler on our bodies and our ecosystem. You may not know this for a couple reasons:

  1. Hippie-dippy detergent brand X doesn’t have, like, Johnson & Johnson’s dope marketing budget
  2. You haven’t yet broken out into a sad rash from use of conventional detergent

Some brands that I like include Seventh Generation, ECOS, Puracy, and Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day.

Products I’ve used and liked:


  1. Mrs. Meyer’s Basil Automatic Dish Pacs
    1. Pro tip: The Mrs. Meyer’s basil scent smells like heaven.
  2. Seventh Generation Dishwasher Packs – Free and Clear


  1. Mrs. Meyer’s Laundry Pacs (Various Scents)
  2. Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent Packs – Free and Clear

Better Swap

Swap natural detergent sold in flimsy, landfill-or-ocean-bound plastic bagging for natural detergent sold in firm, recyclable plastic containers.

Products I’ve used and liked:


  1. Seventh Generation Dishwasher Gel – Free and Clear


  1. ECOS 2X Ultra Natural Laundry Detergent, Lavender
  2. Seventh Generation Free & Clear Natural Liquid Laundry Detergent
  3. Tide Pods Free and Gentle Laundry Detergent

ICYMI: You can’t Plath yourself in a washer. Photo by Lauren Mancke on Unsplash

Best Swap

Swap natural detergent sold in firm, recyclable plastic containers for natural detergent sold in metal or glass jars or cardboard boxes.

Products I’ve used and liked:


  1. IF YOU CARE* Automatic Dishwasher Tablets
    1. One of my favorite, easiest swaps ever. I’ve subscribed to them on Amazon for years, and have even secretly subscribed my in-laws to them, too, without consultation, because that’s my creepy, sustainable swapping style. I figure if the tablets keep restocking, maybe the unspoken consensus will just be that some box of random tablets seems to be lasting an unusually long time.
    2. Seriously, I’ve used these tablets on five different dishwashers at this point and they’ve worked on… four. Yes, four, not five. I’m in the non-profit business of honesty, here, and my and Rick’s current postage stamp Upper West Side apartment came with a rinky-dink dishwasher that requires a total, complete rinse of dishes before going in. Truly, I’m not sure what it even does except act as bonus kitchen storage, because it seems it can’t even remove a loose breadcrumb. Rick gets all huffy about it and mostly only hand-washes now (with Mrs. Meyer’s basil-scented dish soap, of course), but I’m still holding on, diligently rinsing my dishes until they appear completely clean before placing them in the dishwasher with fresh hope every time. Anyway, the tablets left a speckled powder residue, and the dishes quite literally came out worse than before they went in. Because my dishwasher’s delicate sensibilities cannot make sense of or process tablets or powder, I reverted back to Seventh Generation Dishwasher Gel – Free and Clear and plan to try Dropps‘ pods next.
    3. *The brand name “IF YOU CARE” gives me the giggles because it’s so quietly aggressive. Like, here’s some cleaning products if you even care about anything, ever, you monster. I like to imagine someone sobbing and saying “IF YOU CARE!” at an innocent bystander. [This asterisked information has been gratuitous.]
dirty dishes

Here’s what my dishes look like fresh out of the washer. Photo by Izz R on Unsplash


  1. Dropps Laundry Detergent Pods
  2. The Simply Co. Laundry Detergent

Nary a touch of plastic in sight! Break down the cardboard and recycle or, in the case of The Simply. Co, reuse the glass jars. (After a good wash, of course) I like to use them to store bulk grains/beans/nuts in the pantry.

Can you make your own detergents? Yes. Might the extremity scandalize/spark suspicion in loved ones/housemates? Also yes. Maybe start with a small swap and then venture to the DIY realm someday, if you like. I know! Make it like a cooked frog in boiling water (etc.)- you sneak new things into your household arsenal and, before they know it, whoever you live with is using soap berries that look like dried up, decrepit figs to assuage stains out of their clothes.

Extra Credit

Use reusable wool dryer balls (scented with essential oil of your choice, if you like) instead of one-time-use, mystery ingredient dryer sheets.

One small consumption change for you, one small improvement for our environment.


*Lauren Singer is an environmentalist who does not generate any waste(!). You can shop her store, Package Free, online or at the brick and mortar store in Brooklyn post-pandemic. Read more about Lauren here, and watch her Ted Talk here– she’s inspiring.

Once a month I share a sustainability tip or an easy swap in consumption routine to better care for the planet. Environmentally conscious change doesn’t always have to be expensive, laborious, or extremely time-consuming.

If you like a photo used, please click through the link in the caption to support the artist.

More on Bummed Out Bailey:
Sustainable Sunday: Floss
Sustainable Sunday: Carrots
Sustainable Sunday: Ziplock Bags

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Last, I leave you with this nice picture of a golden retriever I found.

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