How laundry sheets and detergent pods work and perform compared to traditional laundry detergents
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Have you ever wondered how you might be able to make your laundry process more environmentally friendly? All the washing of clothes requires water, energy, and detergent. We have high energy washing machines, ultra-concentrated laundry detergent, but did you know that there are eco-friendly laundry sheets and laundry pods?
Intrigued, I set out to research what exactly laundry sheets and detergent pods are and how they work. I even conducted an experiment in my high tech lab (ok, my kitchen) to see which of the six detergents was most effective at removing chocolate syrup from a white t-shirt. You might be surprised at which performed the best! My reason for considering an alternative to our family’s detergent was spurred by a couple of reasons:
- The pandemic changed people’s shopping habits. People shifted to online ordering (of groceries and basic essentials) or order pick-up. When I ordered detergent once, it came sealed in a plastic bag, surrounded by plastic bubble wrap, and enclosed in a cardboard box. I couldn’t believe the amount of extra waste that went into getting a bottle of detergent to my doorstep.
- As our kids get older and gain more responsibility of helping around the house, I wanted them to be successful at doing chores like laundry. Reaching for a heavy laundry detergent jug from a high cabinet would be very difficult for a kid. Then, having to measure the right amount into a cup and then not drip all over the place would be another obstacle! I even have a hard time seeing the fill line on the cups. And what do you do about capping the jug when you’re finished? The excess detergent just squirts up through the threads and runs down the side of the jug. Messy!
- When I audit our home and how we can make more sustainable changes, I look at our single use items. Not many people would reuse a detergent bottle, (I can’t think of other uses for it), so into the recycle bin it goes. Recycling is good and great, but it still requires energy to be turned into something new. There’s debate of course whether paper or plastic uses more resources to recycle.
In my quest to find an eco-friendly laundry detergent that works, I tested six different detergents. You’ve got your normal liquid type, a homemade powdered version, a detergent pod version, and two sheet or strip versions. Let’s meet the contenders:
A. Dreft, 100 fl oz. – We are long past that toddler stage, but continued using Dreft because it’s what we were used to. I think a lot of people like the particular scent of laundry detergent and just stick with it. $15.99/64 loads = .25 per load
B. Homemade – I experimented with making my own powdered detergent out of washing soda, borax, soap, and baking soda. These ingredients are readily available at most grocery stores. I was able to make a small batch for $6.12/48 loads = .13 per load. You will have leftover ingredients to use around the house.
C. Seventh Generation EasyDose Laundry, 23.1 fl oz. – This ultra-concentrated detergent uses 50% less water than their 100 fl oz. bottle, and 60% less plastic than a bottle of the same size . The bottle is made from 100% recycled plastic and is 75% lighter than the 100 fl oz. bottle. $12.99/66 loads = .20 per load
D. Sheets Laundry Club – None of the laundry and cleaning products created by Sheets contain harsh chemicals or plastic. To use the laundry detergent sheet, simply place directly into washing machine and launder as normal. Price varies based on quantity and subscription services are available, offering a significant discount. Costs range from .24 – .28 per load.
E. Tru Earth Laundry Eco-Strips – The strips are loaded either directly into the washer drum before adding clothes, or in the detergent dispenser – depending on the type of washer you have. The strips come in a cardboard sleeve which can be recycled. The strips are manufactured and shipped for free from Canada. Prices range from .28 – .64 per load, depending on quantity purchased and if a subscription service is selected.
F. Dropps – These biodegradable detergent pods laundry pods are shipped in a recyclable and compostable box with no extra packaging. The pod membrane is made from a water soluble casing called Polyvinyl alcohol, which dissolves upon contact with water and is consumed by microorganisms. To use, toss a pod into the washer drum, add laundry, and wash as needed. Dropps are manufactured in the Midwest. Prices range from .22 – .42 per load, depending on quantity purchased and if a subscription service is selected. Dropps offers a 30-day risk-free trial and free shipping. Dropps is offering 25% off sitewide purchases through 4/11/21.
I cut up six strips of fabric from an old cotton tee. I put a few squirts of Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup on each piece of fabric, and let it sit for 25 minutes. After that, I rinsed the stain out with cold water and scrubbed it a bit with my finger. With the fabric still wet, I applied each detergent to the stain and let it sit for 10 minutes. For the Dropps pod, I cut one of the corners and squirted some detergent onto the stain. I gently worked the detergents into the stain. After the 10 minutes, I hand washed each of the fabric pieces.
A. Dreft – The stain came out completely.
B. Homemade – A slight hint of the chocolate was still visible. The powder detergent also didn’t dissolve completely, even as I was hand washing it. I’ve experienced this when using it on a load of laundry before.
C. Seventh Generation – The stain came out completely.
D. Sheets Laundry Club – A slight hint of the chocolate was still visible
E. Tru Earth – The stain came out completely, but the laundry strip did not fully dissolve. It left a slimy residue on the fabric, and even vigorous scrubbing with my fingers did not remove it.
F. Dropps – The stain came out completely.
The winners of my not-so-scientific-experiment are Dreft, Seventh Generation, and Dropps. They get my votes because they effectively removed the chocolate stain, were easy to use and left no detergent residue. But, this post is meant to look at eco-friendly options. Let’s compare Seventh Generation and Dropps and their environmental impact and usability.
Seventh Generation vs. Dropps
- No more lugging heavy jugs – These take up very little room, so if you’re traveling and only need to plan for a few loads of laundry, or going camping or living the RV life, these make excellent choices. Do you have a college student that is short on space? These detergents have such a small footprint in a traditional dorm room. Apartment dweller? No more having to haul a heavy bottle of detergent up and down the stairs!
- Less drippy mess – Seventh Generation EasyDose has an auto dosing technology. Just flip the bottle, give it a squeeze, and one dose will dispense, stopping automatically for you. There is no mess when using Dropps pods.
- More earth friendly packaging – Seventh Generation EasyDose is made from 100% recycled content. You can recycle the bottle when finished. Dropps ships in a cardboard box made of 50% post-consumer recycled material, with remaining material from sources conforming to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Program and certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council. The item’s box doubles as a shipping container.
- Ingredients – Seventh Generation states that it is formulated with 0% dyes and 0% synthetic fragrances. It is USDA certified as a biobased product, 99% made from renewable, plant-based ingredients. They also do not do any new animal testing in the development of their products.
Dropps uses plant-based products that are dye-free, npe-free, chlorine-free, phosphate-free, and animal cruelty-free. I would encourage you to look specifically at each ingredient listing to ensure it is what’s best for your body and needs.
- Social responsibility – Both Dropps and Seventh Generation have committed to doing more than just delivering eco-friendly laundry detergent. Dropps’ distribution plan includes providing carbon neutral shipping on all orders. This is done by supporting projects that are actively working to reduce, absorb, or prevent carbon and other emissions from entering the atmosphere. Dropps’ manufacturing and shipping facilities are centrally located in Chicago, Illinois, allowing them to deliver nationwide with efficiency.
Seventh Generation is a certified B Corporation, meaning it is better for workers, communities, and the environment. The company is committed to working with its manufacturers to focus on reducing their overall Green House Gas Emissions. The company’s headquarters, located in Vermont, is a zero-waste facility.
It is also important to note that Sheets Laundry Club has committed to planting 10,000 trees and eliminating 100,000 lbs of plastic in 2021.
Has this article made you intrigued to try something different? Maybe it has you thinking differently about the products you buy. I encourage you to at least think about easy swaps you can take that might make your life easier, while also positively impacting the environment.
If you are looking to purchase any of the detergents reviewed in this article, click on the links below:
- Seventh Generation Easy Dose
- Sheets Laundry Club
- Tru Earth
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If you aren’t looking to switch your laundry detergent, or are satisfied with the environmental impact of what you currently use, there are additional actions you can take to make your laundry process more eco-friendly. Here are some tips:
- Line dry – This reduces energy needed to power a dryer, and cuts down on wear on your clothing. One tip: Run your dryer load on a damp or very short setting to get wrinkles out, then hang it to dry.
- Don’t wash as often – Use your personal judgement, but some clothing items can be worn more than once before laundering. If you suffer from outdoor allergies, or have messy kids, you may have to wash things more frequently.
- Use cold water – Cold water requires less energy than a hot wash, and can be gentler on your clothing.
- Follow wash settings – Most washing machines and detergents have specific settings or recommended dosages. Follow these instructions for best efficiency.
- Ditch fabric softener sheets – Besides being loaded with fragrance and other chemicals, used fabric softener sheets cannot be recycled or composted. Some alternatives to softener sheets include using wool balls, liquid softeners, or just eliminating them completely.
Doing laundry might not be the most exciting household chore you do. But, switching your current routine and knowing you are creating less waste and saving money might be enough to bring excitement to your weekly chores. Getting clean while going green!