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Come Clean with Laundry Detergent Sheets

Woman doing laundry
Library of Congress

They That Wash on Monday

They that wash on Monday

Have all week to dry;

They that wash on Tuesday

Are not so much awry;

They that wash on Wednesday

Are not so much to blame;

They that wash on Thursday

Wash for shame;

They that wash on Friday

Wash for need;

And they that wash on Saturday

Oh, slovens are indeed!

Monday is laundry day for me. I may be continuing a tradition as it was also laundry day for my mom when we were growing up. She washed clothes on Mondays, rolled up the damp clothes and ironed them on Tuesdays.

There was a washing machine with a wringer in the basement of our house. I watched a video on YouTube, “Using 60 year old washing machine in 2017 - maytag wringer” It brought back memories, especially the “wringing” part. It seems to me that the guy in the video was very brave plugging in that old machine and stuffing the clothes through the wringer. I also noticed how much laundry detergent he poured into the machine!

Woman doing laundry
Library of Congress

How much detergent do you use in your washing machine? Is it liquid, powder, pods or sheets? If it comes in a plastic bottle, do you recycle? What happens to that “recycled” bottle? Are the chemicals in your detergent safe for you and the environment?

About 1 billion laundry jugs are discarded in the United States annually. Once empty, only an estimated 30 percent of them are recycled. 70 percent of them end up in landfills and waterways. The bottle you thought you recycled may have been “downcycled” instead.

“The belief that recycling automatically diverts material from landfill ignores the fact that, even in the most ideal recycling cases, material degrades in quality, diminishes in quantity (yield loss), or both during each use and recovery (i.e., collection and reprocessing) cycle,” Zink and Geyer wrote in a 2018 paper. And if a manufacturer really wants to return a used bottle to its original purpose, they might need to add virgin plastics to the mix to achieve the same quality. That’s right: You have to add new plastics to recycle old ones. This is especially true for single-use plastics. “Recycling can never prevent end-of-life disposal; it can merely delay it. This leads us to an obvious but surprisingly underappreciated conclusion: The only way to reduce the amount of material we landfill or incinerate is to reduce the amount we produce in the first place

We are becoming more aware of the monetary cost of using plastic. Consider the size and weight of the average laundry detergent bottle. The cost of manufacturing and transporting millions of these bottles is astronomical. They also take an enormous amount of space on grocery shelves and on shelves in your laundry room.

Then there is the fact that most detergents don’t completely biodegrade and they contaminate our water with toxic chemicals. The toxins damage all types of aquatic life and destroy a lot of plant life in and around the water.

As further incentive to re-examine the laundry detergent you are presently using, there is a list of harmful chemicals that are included in many products at the end of this article. Please check your detergent ingredients for these chemicals.

The following is from the article, “Laundry Detergent History: Changes Through the Years” by Jennifer L. Betts, updated September 20, 2021

Laundry Detergent Milestones

The significant milestones in the development of laundry detergent history took place post-1945 when the modern washing machine began to replace scrub boards in American homes in the post-war boom economy of the late 40s and early 1950s.

  • 1950s - Liquid and powder laundry detergents become popular purchases along with bleaches for whiter whites and fabric softeners to gentle the water and soften clothes.

  • 1960s - Stain removers and pre-treatments are added to the shelves. Enzymatic laundry detergents are introduced. Homes also used laundry tablets.

  • 1970s - Fabric conditioners included in laundry detergent for an all-in-one product.

  • 1980s - Varying temperature laundry detergents and concentrated laundry detergents grow in popularity.

  • 1990s - Biodegradable cleaners, conditioners, and color-safe bleach are big sale items on the laundry detergent aisle

  • 2000s - Biodegradable and green-friendly products and water conservation are big-ticket issues for modern concepts of laundry detergent.

  • 2010s+ - Laundry pods and sheets available in dissolvable units that provide a quick, single-serving of laundry detergent to prevent waste and overuse of detergent. Introduction of detergents specifically for synthetic fibers.

Clean Clothes & Clean Water

The history of laundry detergent continues to impact the modern environment and clean water standards. And, like everything else in the world, it's constantly changing to meet the new needs of consumers. Next time you pick up a bottle or box of detergent for your home, think how far the history of laundry detergent has come in less than 100 years.


If the history of laundry and laundry detergents interests you, there are some great articles and pictures on both subjects.

“The Surprising History of Laundry”

“History of Laundry - After 1800


A Solution? Try Using Laundry Detergent Sheets!

This may push you out of your comfort zone a bit as you may be very attached to your choice of detergent. Maybe your mom used it or you have always had success with it. Or, price being of concern, you choose what is on sale. Well, times are changing. We are asked to “help save the planet” by using less plastic and by not adding damaging chemicals to landfills and oceans. I think it is worth the effort to explore the options. It may not be as costly as you think considering the overall benefits. (as little as .20 per load!) I am suggesting detergent sheets since they seem best for the environment while doing the job very well.

What are Laundry Detergent Sheets?

Laundry detergent sheets are thin sheets that contain all the cleaning ingredients needed for your dirty laundry. They completely dissolve in both cold and warm water. They are compact and are usually packaged in recyclable cardboard. They work well in any washing machine. And yes, they clean the clothes! Did I mention they cost as little as .20 per load.

Laundry sheets have many benefits besides cleaning your clothes. There are no plastic bottles or harsh chemicals. They can come fragrance-free or with safe fragrance. They are easy to take with you. They are extremely easy to use. The best companies don’t use any plastic in their packaging. The good ones also have no “residue” to gum up your machine or attach to your clothing.

In evaluating any detergent, hold it to high standards when it comes to safe ingredients. Be aware of the possibility of “greenwashing” by the manufacturer. Greenwashing is a form of marketing spin in which green PR and green marketing are deceptively used to persuade the public that an organization’s products, aims and policies are environmentally friendly.

Laundry sheets are not all the same. You need to know something about the ingredients, manufacture and distribution of the brands available. If you google the subject you will find many articles and reviews, mostly from the individual companies selling them, advertising and reviewing their products. There are also YouTube videos reviewing some of the sheets.

Laundry sheets are not found in most stores. You can order them online through the manufacturer or on Amazon. Many companies have subscription plans which are more economical.

By this time, you are interested and are asking “Which sheets should I try?”

Criteria for deciding which sheets to try:

  1. Contain only eco-friendly ingredients

  2. Quality: Works well in hot or cold water; works well with whites and colors

  3. Efficiency: Works well in all machines

  4. Safe on sensitive skin; hypo-allergenic

  5. Zero waste packaging; no plastic

  6. Price: Subscription available? Free shipping? Money back guarantee? In determining the cost of each brand, you need to review how big your average load is and how “dirty” your clothes are. Small loads generally take a half sheet, full loads one sheet, dirty or huge loads could take two sheets. Note the directions from each company.

  7. Cruelty free (no animals harmed in production)

  8. Choices available: fragrance or scent free; various formulas for heavy duty etc.

  9. Carbon neutral through the supply chain; where they are manufactured?

  10. Social impact: Does the company give back to those in need?

  11. Can you cancel your subscription at any time?

Which sheets should you try?

The following is a list of those most recommended in the reviews I have read. I have used Tru Earth for the past year and have tried several of the other brands listed. There are quite a few choices available and you may find a very good one that is not mentioned in this article. As this product is becoming more popular, look for future reviews of laundry detergent sheets on the internet.

It meets the criteria very well.

It is sometimes available at an excellent “sale” price on Amazon or in social media ads.

This company advertises being 100% carbon neutral through their entire supply chain. Also, it is the only company that is a part of “1% for the Planet”, an organization whose members commit 1% of revenue to non-profits. Every purchase donates ten washes to nonprofits and charitable organizations.

Just a few concerns including where it was made (China)

It meets the criteria very well.

Manufactured in Canada.

In addition to the regular scent free and fragrance

choices, it has a “Platinum” choice for heavy duty laundry and a “Baby” detergent. There are several package sizes available. The regular price is higher than most but the subscription and frequent “deals” make it more reasonable.

This company donates 32 sheets to front-line workers, food banks and those in need for every first time subscription.

It meets the criteria well.

Most are manufactured in US, some in China.

Not exceptional on colors in some reviews.

No specific actions to give back some profits to the planet.

It meets the criteria well.

Free shipping only offered on subscriptions.

Not as good a rating of whites in some reviews.

No program to donate any portion of their sales.


It meets the criteria very well.

Manufactured in Canada.

It meets the criteria very well.

Manufactured in US and Canada

Good deals on the “Best Value” pack

It meets the criteria.

One of the more expensive brands

It meets most of the criteria well.

No free shipping or subscription discounts.

It meets the criteria very well.

Made in China?


My “wish list” for the companies producing laundry detergent sheets:

Make them available in more stores

Lower prices so that all consumers can afford them

Make samples available

Manufacture the sheets in the US

Donate to non-profits and those in need

Become “carbon neutral” through the entire supply chain

As consumers, we can demand these things. For now, I encourage you to celebrate this year’s National Laundry Day, April 15, 2022, by trying laundry detergent sheets.

If you have read this far and still want to keep your favorite detergent, check out the ingredients and be sure they don’t include any of the toxins listed.

1,4-Dioxane Identified as a human carcinogen, 1,4-dioxane is a common ingredient in detergents and shampoos. It is used as a solvent and degreaser. Experimental studies on rats and other lab animals have shown that exposure to dioxane can cause benign and malignant tumours in different parts of the body – from the mouth to the liver. In humans, contact with residues contained in detergents results in exposure. 1,4- dioxane is easily absorbed through the skin and by inhalation. It also leaches readily into the soil and groundwater, contaminating the municipal drinking water supply, and increasing the risk of exposure by ingestion.

Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLS) SLS is a foaming agent used to make detergents, soaps and shampoos froth. SLS can be derived from petroleum and coconut or palm oil. Essentially, it makes detergents effective by allowing water and oil – two immiscible substances – emulsify and be easily lifted off dirty clothes. SLS is widely used because it is inexpensive and effective. SLS is known to irritate human skin and is often implicated in conditions such as eczema, rosacea and psoriasis. It is best avoided by those with sensitive, allergy-prone skin.

Bleach Often hiding under the label term Sodium Hypochlorite or the catch-all term ‘optical brighteners’, bleach in detergents is meant to make clothes, especially white ones, appear whiter by converting UV light to visible light. When it comes in contact with the skin, bleach can cause allergic reactions. It is an eye and lung irritant and is toxic to marine organisms.

Formaldehyde Formaldehyde is a low-cost preservative and antibacterial agent commonly used in detergents and dishwashing liquids. It is a known irritating agent to the respiratory system, eyes and lungs. Regular contact with formaldehyde can cause allergic reactions such as eczema and contact dermatitis. Daily contact with formaldehyde is toxic to humans and has been linked with cancer. Check your detergent label for mention of this ingredient or look up the manufacturer’s website for more information.

Phosphates Phosphates make detergents more effective by reducing the action of calcium and magnesium and making water less hard. The most commonly used phosphate in detergents is sodium tripolyphosphate. Despite their effectiveness, phosphates have been banned in several American states and European countries because of their adverse impact on water bodies. Phosphates lead to the buildup of algal blooms in lakes and rivers, which deprives marine organisms of oxygen supply, thus killing them. An eco-friendly laundry detergent is one that is phosphate-free and does not degrade natural eco-systems.

Nonylphenol Ethoxylate A notorious chemical that is a known endocrine disruptor in humans and animals, nonylphenol ethoxylated is banned in several European countries, but not in India. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) identifies it as a chemical of global concern in its region-based Assessment of Persistent Toxic Substances. It disrupts endocrine function by mimicking estrogen, so that, with repeated exposure, our bodies won’t be able to tell the difference between estrogen and nonylphenol ethoxylate. The chemical is not biodegradable and remains in the soil, groundwater and surface water bodies for several years where it is highly toxic to marine organisms.

Benzene The most commonly used benzene-based surfactants in laundry detergents are alkylbenzene sulphonates (ABS) and linear alkylbenzene sulphonates (LAS). Surfactants lower the surface tension between the liquid and the stains on clothing, suspend the dirt particles in the water and make them easier to dissolve and wash off. Indoor air has high levels of benzene, emitted by household products such as detergents, paint and furniture polish. It irritates the skin, nose and eyes, and is toxic to aquatic life.

Synthetic fragrances The fragrances in laundry detergents are a mixture of about 4,000 chemicals, many of which are petroleum derivatives. We smell them because they vaporise into the air where they release harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) such as terpenes which pollute indoor air. Harsh artificial fragrances are known to irritate the respiratory system and cause problems such as asthma. Opt for a detergent that is fragrance-free or contains a mild aroma.

Additional chemicals listed in the article, “13 Chemicals in Laundry Detergent and How to Avoid Them”

Ammonium Sulfate. This laundry additive is so toxic, it’s manufacturers recommend not using it indoors! In additionto impermeable gloves, and eye and lung protection, the requirements for use of ammonium sulfate include never allowing the chemical or its empty containers to reach drains or waterways, and it is a category 3 oral, skin, and respiratory toxin.

Optical Brighteners/ UV Brighteners. Optical brighteners are included in laundry detergents as stain treaters; however, they do not remove stains at all. They coat clothing with a substance that reflects visible light, so you can’t see stains; they are stain-hiders. In addition, it is an eye, skin, and lung irritant; extremely toxic to aquatic life; may spontaneously combust and cannot be in the presence of static electricity—such as that from your clothes dryer; and correct use includes safely discarding any clothing that comes in contact with it!

Dyes. Not only do dyes add no cleaning power at all, they are another frequent culprit when unexplained allergies or rashes appear. Many are proven carcinogens and almost all are endocrine disruptors.

Benzyl Acetate. This additive is harmful if inhaled or spilled on skin and targets the kidneys and nervous system.


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