ISSUE 16  |  Going Green

12 Natural Garment Washes and Detergents

April 22, 2014 1:00 PM

BY Alexa Hotz

It only takes a few dry cleanings to notice the chemical film on your favorite garments and the degradation of the fibers.

I, for one, have lost a few good sweaters to a year of over zealous dry cleaning, during which I turned a blind eye to perchloroethylene, one of many solvents used in the process. Perchloroethylene is labeled carcinogenic to humans by the EPA, and its disposal must be handled as hazardous waste. In fact, the solvent will be illegal in California by 2023, but we’re not quite there yet. Until then, we’re finding a cleaner way to wash and preserve clothing with these 12 green fabric care solutions.

N.B.: For more on maintaining a wardrobe over a lifetime, have a look at our Expert Advice with Antonio Centeno, author of the Real Men, Real Style blog.

Above: A collaboration between French fashion brand A.P.C. and Australian skincare company Aesop, Fine Fabric Care is made with lemon and cedar wood for washing delicate garments. The 17-ounce bottle is undeniably pricey–it’s $39 at Aesop and €29 at A.P.C.–but only a half tablespoon is needed per wash. Photograph by John Verde for Fantastic Man magazine.

Above: Founded by two graduates of Cornell University’s Fiber Science, Textile, and Apparel Management and Design program, The Laundress is a company that takes garment care very seriously. Their lavender-scented Stain Bar is eco friendly, 100 percent biodegradable, and free of artificial colors and dyes. It’s $6.95 at Crate & Barrel, which also carry the rest of The Laundress’s clothing care line.

Above: Formulated without the use of phosphates, volatile organic solvents, and any toxic acids or nonylphenols, Simply Clean’s Pure Soap Flakes are for laundering and hand washing delicate fabrics; $12.99 CAD from

Above: If you haven’t heard the story of Emanuel Bronner, the documentary, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox is worth a watch. Bronner came from a German soap making family and emigrated to the US in 1929 before founding his own soap company, Dr. Bronner’s. The line blends pure organic ingredients with a slightly religious slant (carried out as text written on the outside of the bottle). Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds are an all-purpose liquid cleaner intended for use on laundry, dishes, floors, and more; $8.99 for the 16 ounce size.

Above: Recently founded Swedish company Tangent Garment Care is devoted entirely to natural laundry care products. Its Textile Shampoo, shown here, is made with coconut and orange extracts. Contact Tangent Garment Care for buying information. Additionally, they carry a Fine Wash with Orange Oil (€12), Soy Bean Stain Remover (€12), Denim Wash (€12), and Peach Oil Fabric Softener (€12). For more see our post: Natural Laundry Potions from Sweden.

Above: Berkeley, California, company Vaska offers a smart bleach alternative: its Color-Safe Oxygen Brightener is chlorine- and odor-free, and 100 percent natural; $5.99 for a 42 ounce size from

Above: From Swedish company L:A Bruket, No. 96 Detergent for Cotton and Denim has a patchouli and lavender scent, and No. 97 Detergent for Wool and Cashmere has a sandalwood fragrance. Both are biodegradable detergents made from either cottonseed oil or lanolin; $249 SEK each from L:A Bruket.

Above: Our go-to line of a household cleaners here at Remodelista is from Australian company Murchison-Hume. Their gentle alternative to dry cleaning is the Garment Groom Stain Remover & Clothes Refresher. Eco-friendly and with a white grapefruit scent, the spray is $7 from The Line.

Above: The Common Good Laundry Detergent is an ultra concentrated formula good for up to 96 high efficiency wash loads; it’s plant-based and 100 percent biodegradable. The detergent is $31.99 for a 32 ounce glass bottle from Common Good, and the bottle is refillable at one of many retail locations found on the company’s site. 

Above: Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Baby Blossom Laundry Detergent is made from plant-derived Anionic Surfactants, stain-fighting enzymes, and fragrant essential oils; $15.99 for the 64-load size from Mrs. Meyer’s.

Above: Based in Auckland, New Zealand, Wendyl Nissen has created a cleaning product line using only essential, natural ingredients. Above L: The Patchouli Laundry Powder is made from castile soap, patchouli, ylang ylang, and frankincense essential oils; $12.50 NZD. Above R: The Mild Baby Laundry Powder is made from Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild castile soap, baking soda, and washing soda; $16.50 NZD. For more on the products, see our post: Wendyl Nissen’s “No Nasty Chemicals” Philosophy.

Above: J.R. Watkins Fragrance-Free Powder Laundry Detergent is all natural and free of dyes, ammonia, chlorine, phosphates, bleach, sulfates, and sodium hydroxide; $12.99 for the 80 ounce size.

Ready to make your own cleaning solutions? See Sarah’s posts: Move Over, Mrs. Meyer and DIY: 10 Ways To Use Vinegar in the Home. And on Gardenista, get the recipe for Erin’s DIY window cleaner: The Secret to Making Windows Shine Bright Like A Diamond. Sweet smelling dish soap? Look through our Eco Dish Soap Roundup.