3 Dirt-Busting Powder Laundry Detergents

As a devoted liquid detergent fan, I was dreading the changing of the guard. My liquid detergent was getting low and, with three different powder laundry detergents lined up atop the washer behind it in line for testing, there was no way around it. Afraid to move beyond my normal laundry cleaning ways, I’d been avoiding them—but the time had come to bite the bullet.

So, I cracked open one bag of powder laundry detergent and spooned out the recommended dose into my washer tub. Fairly painless. And, the clothing came out clean—and not even a little bit dotted, streaked, or smeared with leftover white powder. Pleasantly surprising. Perhaps this powder thing isn’t so scary after all.

For the most part, powder and liquid detergents share the same active ingredients—and deliver similar cleaning powers. While liquids can be more convenient (read: no-muss, no-fuss pumping or pouring), powders are generally lower in price (for the same cleaning oomph) and their cardboard or bag-type packaging is generally more eco-friendly than pump bottles made of plastic (where the pump mechanisms are usually not recyclable).

In addition, today’s powder detergents simply don’t leave spots and streaks on clothing like the powders of a decade or more ago. The powders I tested did, however, leave a slight, harmless residue buildup on my front-loading washer’s glass door. This cleaned up with one wipe with a wet cloth. So, it seems that the choice between liquid and powder boils down to personal preference. Interestingly, mine might be changing.

Here, we deliver the dirt on three of our favorite powder laundry detergents—tested on everything from dirty dish towels and delicates to dirt- and food-stained kiddo clothing:

Ecover ZERO Laundry Powder ($14.99/112 oz.)

According to this green cleaning products veteran company, it introduced the first phosphate-free laundry powder over 30 years ago. Today, its ZERO biodegradable laundry powder follows a similar focus with plant- and mineral-based ingredients that are free of toxins. I found it to work well on stains while also treating delicates gently. I also liked that its cardboard box was made with recycled materials—and it featured an easy-pour spout. With “zero” fragrance, dyes, or optical brighteners, this laundry cleaning solution is also easy on your skin and the environment. Check out this product’s web page for a full list of ingredients.


Molly Suds ($13.99/70 loads)

This certified vegan Laundry Powder from relative green cleaning newcomer Molly Suds is highly effective and is crafted with no harsh chemicals or fillers. It is also septic safe and works well in High Efficiency (HE) washing machines. The ingredient list is very simple: Sodium carbonate sourced from the Green River Basin in Wyoming, sodium bicarbonate, magnesium sulfate (heptahydrate), unrefined sea salt, organic peppermint (mentha piperita) oil. This independent company also says that those with sensitive skin can also order their Laundry Powder sans peppermint oil.


Celadon Road Laundry Detergent ($10/32 oz.)

Developed initially for a child with eczema that was aggravated by commercial laundry detergents, Celadon Road’s powder Laundry Detergent is an essential oil-infused cleaning product with a natural ingredient list. While this product is low on the suds factor, it is high on the cleaning efficiency front. With just one to two tablespoon-sized scoops necessary for a regular load, it worked well on my various types of laundry loads and left clothing and towels with a hint of essential oil (I tested the Lime scent). This product also works in HE machines, as well as on delicates and even cloth baby diapers.

Celadon Road lime laundry detergent

Celadon Road Lime Laundry Detergent

Erinn Morgan


After a 10-year career as an award-winning New York City-based editor launching and redesigning urban, style-driven magazines, Erinn Morgan left downtown Manhattan after September 11th, 2001, in search of a less encumbered, freelance lifestyle. A two-year-long trek around the country eventually landed her in Durango, Colo., which she now calls home.

Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, Outside, National Geographic Adventure, Bike, Skiing, Delicious Living, American Cowboy, and on away.com.

Erinn is also the author of the eco-focused book, Picture Yourself Going Green, Step-by-Step Instruction for Living a Budget-Conscious, Earth-Friendly Lifestyle in Eight Weeks or Less.

She was previously the editor-in-chief of 20/20 magazine, a special projects editor at Playboy (overseeing the launch of a new, custom magazine), and the founding editor/editor-in-chief of SoHo Style, a much-lauded, avant-garde magazine that covered the culture and style of downtown New York and its reach around the world.

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