UPDATED 6/2018: acne-safe laundry detergent + softener (and why it’s a thing)

we are updating this blog post (march 2018) because we recently found out there are a few detergents that we used to recommend using that have changed their formulations and are no longer acne-safe! read on for the details and a list (with exact photos) of the remaining acne-safe detergents.

weird and nitpicky, yes we know.  we are crazy – acne crazy!  but this can be a really important one to keep in mind, if you want to have consistently clear skin (particularly on the sides of your face, and your body!).

WHAT’S OUT THERE

most laundry detergents (and most anything else that foams up, be it shampoo, body wash, dish detergent, etc) on the market contain either the famous acne-causing foaming agents sodium lauryl (or laureth) sulfate (aka SLS), or the sneaky one: fragrance (click here to read more about this culprit).

WHY DOES IT MATTER for my skin?

these ingredients leave a residue on your sheets, towels and clothing which can rub onto your skin and break you out.  this can be especially true if you are breaking out on your body, or the sides of your face (sleeping on pillowcases).

case in point: sS client by the name of MD – clear skinned for years – started getting mystery breakouts on the sides of her face.  after much investigative questioning during treatment, we discovered that she switched to using a new, fragranced detergent.  we suggested she switch to a safe one – she came back 4 weeks later, and was all cleared up!  we figured that the pillows and sheets were the only thing rubbing the sides of her face regularly, and that the new detergent was the only new, isolated thing we could find.

why does it matter for the planet?

as we go through our day-to-day, it can be easy to forget about how our everyday actions impact the earth. remember that all the liquid soaps, potions and detergents go down the drain and into the ocean. if you multiply how much shampoo, face wash, dish soap, laundry detergent etc. you personally use by how many other humans are doing the exact same thing, you will be shocked. and if you eat fish, the oceans are where fish live, so we are indirectly consuming all the toxins we are washing down the drain. because of this, we choose to stick as “clean” as possible, and have the cleanest laundry detergent options listed at the top of this long list, under “MOST CLEAN”.

WHAT DO I USE NOW?

first off, stick to the fragrance-free formulas, including any scent in it (even “natural” fragrance – unless it’s just 100% essential oil, non-existent with conventional brands and rare with “natural” boutique brands).

keep in mind though, that if you are already using these safe-looking ones but are still breaking out, it’d be best to call the manufacturer and ask what exactly are the ‘surfactants’ in the formula you are using, in case they are using the SLS’s but not disclosing it in the ingredient list on the bottle.

ALSO – just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean that it’s acne-safe.  (ahem, coconut oil!).  these days, that positioning is almost always marketing.

we compiled a long list of all the detergents we have researched. we included photos of the safe ones and a list of their ingredients so that you can make sure you get the right one. everything is listed alphabetically below and you should be able to find them in your local big brand store, natural health food store and online. scroll down to the bottom to read up on fabric softeners, stain removers, and wool balls (which are the acne-safe alternative to fabric softeners).

BE MINDFUL that the ones you choose must exactly match the name, picture and ingredient list we’ve posted below! 

MOST CLEAN LAUNDRY DETERGENT OPTIONS

from an ecological standpoint there are a few brands that seem to be the most clean for the earth (while also looking acne-safe): green virgin soap nuts deseeded, molly’s suds unscented laundry powder, naturoli extreme 18x soap nuts / soap berries liquid laundry detergent and oasis liquid laundry detergent.

green virgin soap nuts deseeded look SAFE

ingredients: sapindus mukorossi – deseeded

from the website: “Soap Nuts Deseeded are one of the most effective natural cleaners on the planet. They are actually a berry that contains a natural surfactant called saponin that helps remove dirt and grime from just about anything.  That’s one of the reasons that soap nuts have become such a popular laundry detergent. Ditch the chemical and carcinogen filled laundry detergent you used to use today. Replace it with Mother Nature’s answer for clean, soft clothes: soap nuts. Also called soap berries, soap nuts contain natural, gentle cleaning agents that do not irritate your skin or scalp. They are a safer, more natural way to clean and soften your clothing. What’s more, they are more economical and get you more loads than detergents for a lot less money. Experience clean, chemical and toxin-free clothing today!”

molly’s suds unscented laundry powder 120 loads looks SAFE

ingredients: Sodium carbonate sourced from the Green River Basin in Wyoming, sodium bicarbonate, magnesium sulfate (heptahydrate), and unrefined sea salt.

from the website: “As consumers, we think about what we eat, but not about what we allow to touch our skin and how the ingredients can and do leach into our bloodstream! For example, detergent ingredients like ionic surfactants, are the most persistent in the environment and change the sex of our fish and Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPE’s), which have been banned in Canada and Europe, imitate the hormone estrogen in our bodies which effect our health and fetal development. These chemicals are found in our drinking water because they are not completely biodegradable. So the decision was made to create Laundry Powder and other household products that are truly safe for humans.”

naturoli extreme 18x soap nuts / soap berries liquid laundry detergent looks SAFE

ingredients: pure saponin aqueous extract from 100% sapindus mukorossi soap nuts, vegetable glycerin, olive leaf extract, potassium sorbate, grape seed extract, sorbic acid

from the website: “Green eco-friendly proprietary formulation. Unscented – no fragrance added. Hypoallergenic. Biodegradable. Enhanced with pure Olive Leaf Extract for additional protective properties (among the oldest known therapies for skin ailments). Odor removing. Preserves integrity of fabric fibers – superb for fine, delicate fabrics and wools. Preserves fabric colors. Dye and fragrance free. SLS, NPE and phosphate free. Formaldehyde free. Petro-chemical free. Chlorine free. PH neutral (6) . Vegan. No animal testing. Absolute minimum carbon footprint. Minimizes shipping costs. Lightweight and easy to handle bottle. No optical brighteners or scents – excellent for military use, hunters, and all scenarios where scents are to be avoided. The ultimate eco-friendly, camper’s soap. Recyclable PETE bottling. Produced and bottled in the USA.”

oasis super concentrated laundry detergent looks SAFE

ingredients: Purified water, Linear alkyl sulfonate, linear alcohol ethoxylate, citrus oil.

from the website: “Oasis Biocompatible Laundry Detergent is designed and tested to be biocompatible with plants and soil, as well as for the disposal of treated wastewater in aquatic ecosystems. It is the best choice for septic tank disposal and the only choice for reusing wash water for irrigating plants-the most ecological alternative. Disposed of in a septic tank or grey water system, microorganisms and plant roots will biodegrade Oasis.”

SAFE LOOKING LAUNDRY DETERGENTS 

all stainlifters free and clear mighty pacs looks SAFE

ingredients: Alkyl Ether Sulfate, Ethoxylated Lauryl Alcohol, Glycerin, Coconut fatty acid salt, Propylene glycol, Dodecyl Benzene Sulfonic Acid, Ethanolamine, Water, Protease, Ethoxylated Aziridine Homopolymer, Sodium Sulfite, Disodium Distyrylbiphenyl Disulfonate Denatonium, Benzoate

 

all stainlifters liquid free and clear (and other all variations) are NOT safe

arm & hammer for sensitive skin free of perfumes & dyes liquid is NOT safe

biokleen free & clear laundry liquid is NOT safe

 babyganics 3x laundry detergent fragrance-free looks SAFE

ingredients:water, lauryl /myristyl glucoside, potassium cocoate, sodium citrate dihydrate, propanediol, lauramine oxide, oleic acid, protease and amylase, citric acid, sodium gluconate, sodium tetraborate, calcium chloride, sodium hydroxide, methylisothiazolinone

 

cheer free & gentle does not include ingredients on site, so best to assume NOT safe

charlie’s soap laundry liquid looks SAFE

ingredients: Water, sodium carbonate (washing soda), C12-15 Pareth-2 (surfactant)

 

 

 

charlie’s soap laundry powder packets look SAFE

ingredients: Sodium carbonate (washing soda), C12-15 Pareth-2 (surfactant), sodium metasilicate (anti-caking agent), cellulose gum (dissolvable packet)

 

 

charlie’s soap laundry powder looks SAFE

ingredients: Sodium carbonate (washing soda), C12-15 Pareth-2 (surfactant), Sodium metasilicate (anti-caking agent)

 

 

clorox doesn’t make a laundry detergent. they have other laundry products, most are unsafe BUT they do makde a stain remover and color booster that looks safe, see in section below.

country save powdered laundry detergent might be safe, there is sodium sulfate in it which may be short for sodium lauryl (or laureth) sulfate (which is super cloggy). you could try this one at your own risk!

common good laundry unscented looks SAFE

ingredients: water, decyl glucoside, sodium cocoamphoacetate, lauramine oxide, lactic acid, sodium benzoate, sodium gluconate, sodium citrate, tetrasodium glutamate diacetate, amylase enzyme, lipase enzyme, (essential oil).

 

costco / kirkland brand does not include ingredients on site or on the bottles themselves, so best to assume NOT safe

dreft products all have fragrance, so their products are NOT safe

ecos 4x hypoallergenic laundry detergent free and clear looks SAFE

ingredients: Water, Sodium Coco-Sulfate, Lauryl Glucoside, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Potassium Cocoate, Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate, Phenoxyethanol, Cocamidopropylamine Oxide, Methylisothiazolinone

 

ecos baby free + clear disney looks SAFE

ingredients: Water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Coco-Sulfate, Cocamidopropylamine Oxide, Phenoxyethanol, Methylisothiazolinone

 

 

ecos hypoallergenic laundry detergent free + clear looks SAFE

ingredients:Water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Coco-Sulfate, Cocamidopropylamine Oxide, Phenoxyethanol, Methylisothiazolinone.

 

 

ecos laundry detergent packs free + clear looks SAFE

ingredients: Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Metasilicate, Sodium Carbonate Peroxide, Tetrasodium Iminodisuccinate, Sodium Coco-Sulfate, Polyvinyl Alcohol, Sodium Polyaspartate, Lauryl Glucoside, Enzymatic Blend, Citric Acid

 

ecover liquid laundry detergent fragrance-free and all other products are NOT safe

gain products all have fragrance, so their products are NOT safe

grab green laundry pods fragrance-free looks SAFE

ingredients: sodium carbonate peroxide, sodium carbonate, sodium citrate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium metasilicate,c9-11 pareth-6,citric acid, calcium silicate, subtilisin enzyme blend, lipase enzyme blend, amylase enzyme blend, sodium sulfate, sodium chloride, polyvinyl alcohol

 

the honest company laundry fragrance-free liquid (and the baby formula version) have some ingredients are not recognized by our system (which means they haven’t been tested and could be risky). the second ingredient is ethoxylated fatty alcohols, which might be cloggy but might be acne-safe. you could try this one at your own risk!

 

honest laundry packs free & clear might be safe, there is sodium sulfate in it which may be short for sodium lauryl (or laureth) sulfate (which is super cloggy). you could try this one at your own risk!

method 4x concentrated laundry detergent liquid free + clear is NOT safe, the free +clear detergent packs are also NOT safe.

method 8x concentrated detergent liquid free + clear looks SAFE

ingredients: ethanol, propanediol, monoisopropylanolamine, ethyl glycerin acetal levulinate, coco/soy methyl ester, glycerin, laurel alcohol ethoxylate, laurel ethoxylate, PEG 300 monooctyl ether, sodium alkane sulfonate, lactic acid, polyester, carboxymethylinulin, decyl glucoside, lauryl glucoside or caprylyl/myristyl, coco methyl ester sulfonate, soy methyl ester ethoxylate, cellulase, protease, amylase, manganese, distyrylbiphenolsulfonate

 

molly’s suds unscented laundry powder 120 loads looks SAFE

ingredients: Sodium carbonate sourced from the Green River Basin in Wyoming, sodium bicarbonate, magnesium sulfate (heptahydrate), and unrefined sea salt.

 

 

mrs. meyer’s products all have fragrance, so their products are NOT safe

 

nellie’s all natural laundry soda looks SAFE

ingredients: Sodium Carbonate, Linear Alcohol Ethoxylate, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Metasilicate.

 

 

nellie’s all natural laundry nuggets looks SAFE

ingredients: Soda Ash, Linear Alcohol Ethoxylate, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Metasilicate, MonoSol™ film.

 

oxiclean liquid laundry detergent free & clear doesn’t list ingredients on site, so best to assume NOT safe

parachute liquid laundry detergent unscented looks SAFE

ingredients: water, decyl glucoside, coconut acid, subtilisin enzyme blend, lactic acid, citric acid, amylase enzyme blend, lipase enzyme blend, potassium hydroxide

 

 

parachute liquid laundry detergent lavender looks SAFE (this is an
exception to the “no fragrance” rule because the only added ingredient is lavender essential oil)

ingredients: water, decyl glucoside, coconut acid, subtilisin enzyme blend, lactic acid, citric acid, amylase enzyme blend, lipase enzyme blend, potassium hydroxide, lavandula angustifolia (lavender) oil

persil products all have fragrance, so their products are NOT safe

purex free and clear laundry detergent (liquid) looks SAFE

ingredients: Water, Alcohol Ethoxy Sulfate, Sodium Carbonate, Linear Alkylbenzene Sulfonate, Sodium Chloride, Alcohol Ethoxylate, Sodium Polyacrylate, Fatty Acids, Disodium Diaminostilbene Disulfonic Acid, Tetrasodium Edta, Methylisothiazolinone

 

seventh generation liquid is NOT safe, the detergent packs are also NOT safe

sun doesn’t list ingredients on site, so best to assume NOT safe

the laundress liquid signature detergent unscented looks SAFE

ingredients: Plant-derived anionic and nonionic surfactants, stain-fighting and cleaning enzymes (protease, amylase, cellulase, lipase), and mineral-derived cleaning enhancers (sodium gluconate, and calcium chloride).

 

 

 tide free and gentle liquid looks SAFE

ingredients: water, sodium alcohol ethoxylate sulfate, linear alkylbenene sulfonate mea salt, borax, propylene glycol, diethylene glycol, citric acid mea salt, alcohol, sodium formate, sodium alcohol sulfate, citric acid sodium salt, dtpa, sodium salt, calcium diformate, sodium hydroxide, flourescent brightener, dimethicone and simethicone, siloxanes and silicones

 

tide free and gentle pods look SAFE

ingredients: Linear Alkylbenzene Sulfonates, Alcoholethoxy Sulfate, Propylene Glycol, Water, Fatty Acid Salts, Glycerin, Dipropylene Glycol, Polyethyleneimine Ethoxylate, Alcohol Ethoxylates, Polyvinyl Alcohol Film, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Monoethanolamine Citrate, Peg-136 Polyvinyl Acetate, Diethylenetriamine Pentaacetate, Sodium Salt, Sodium Bisulfite, Disodium Distyrylbiphenyl Disulfonate, Sodium Formate, Subtilisin, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Calcium Formate, Amylase, Mannanase, Sodium Bisulfate, Benzisothiazolinone

tide purclean, simply clean & fresh, and all other tide variations are NOT safe

uniquely j fragrance free sport laundry detergent looks SAFE

ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Alkyl polyglycoside, Alcohol ethoxylate, Odor Neutralizer, Alkyl imino dipropionic acid, monosodium salt, Sodium Gluconate, Protease, Polycarboxylate sodium salt, Tetrasodium iminodisuccinate, alpha-Amylase, Mannanase, Lipase, Potassium hydroxide, Calcium chloride, Cellulase, Citric acid, MIT, Silicone emulsion, Sodium citrate, Caustic Soda

 

up&up (target brand) free+clear is NOT safe

wish deep clean free & pure doesn’t list ingredients on site, so best to assume NOT safe

woolite products all have fragrance, so their products are NOT safe

xtra products all have fragrance, so their products are NOT safe

zum clean free and clear laundry detergent is NOT safe

as mentioned above, we are updating this blog post because we recently found out there are a few detergents that we used to recommend using that have changed their formulations and are no longer acne-safe! avoid up&up (target brand) free+clear and all with stain lifters in liquid form – both of these have SLS in it now = super cloggy!

WOOL DRYER BALLS 

a natural fabric softener and shortens drying time. you can buy these on amazon and add a few drops of your favorite essential oil before starting the dryer to infuse your clothes with a clean smell the acne-safe way! these are a great alternative to fabric softeners and dryer sheets, partially because they are acne-safe,but also because they cut down on time in dryer = better for the environment. customers have reported they help to remove pet hair, reduce wrinkles, and fluff clothes well.

AND IF YOU MUST.. PROCEED WITH CAUTION!

 

FABRIC SOFTENERS + DRYER SHEETS

fabric softener and dryer sheets are generally unsafe because 1. it is specifically formulated to leave a residue that makes your fabrics feel soft, and 2. it is usually loaded with fragrance. we found one that looks promising but only use if you’re really missing fabric softener and feel you can’t live without it – and test at your own risk! otherwise, steer clear for clear skin and the environment!

downy free & gentle liquid fabric conditioner looks SAFE

ingredients: Diethylester Dimethyl Ammonium Chloride, Water, Cationic Polymer, Formic Acid, Dtpa, Sodium Salt, Hydrochloric Acid, Calcium Chloride, Methylisothiazolinone, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Silicone Emulsion

 

STAIN REMOVERS

clorox free & clear stain remover and color booster looks SAFE

ingredients: Water, Hydrogen Peroxide, Myristamine Oxide, Disodium Distyrylbiphenyl Disulfonate, Sodium C1-=16 Alkylbenzenesulfonate, Sodium Hydroxide

 

 

ecos oxobrite multipurpose stain remover, free & clear looks SAFE

ingredients: Sodium Carbonate Peroxide, Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Metasilicate

 

ecos oxobrite laundry booster packs free and clear

ingredients: Sodium Carbonate Peroxide, Sodium Carbonate, Enzymatic Blend, Polyvinyl Alcohol, Coceth-3, Fatty Alcohol Polyglycol Ether, Citric Acid

 

 

the honest company oxy boost free & clear looks SAFE

ingredients: Sodium Carbonate Peroxide, Sodium Carbonate,Polyvinyl Alcohol