The Best Laundry Detergents for Septic Systems of 2022

To keep your septic system healthy, use products that ensure the proper breakdown of waste. The best laundry detergents for septic systems protect this substantial investment in your home while yielding effective cleaning results.

By Carol Benton | Published Mar 30, 2022 11:05 AM

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The Best Laundry Detergents for Septic Systems Option

Photo: amazon.com

In some homes, the water from the washing machine drains into a septic system that treats the wastewater. A septic-safe laundry detergent doesn’t interfere with how this system functions. In other words, it contains no ingredients that can impede the system’s ability to break down waste.

Of course you want to get your clothes as clean as possible, but for your health and the environment, you may want hypoallergenic, natural, plant-based options. The best detergent for septic systems meets these needs while also properly treating the home’s wastewater.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Arm & Hammer Sensitive Skin Free & Clear Liquid
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Mrs. Meyer’s Liquid Laundry Detergent
  3. BEST LIQUID CONCENTRATE: Tide Purclean Plant-Based EPA Safer Choice 
  4. BEST POWDER: Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder
  5. BEST PODS: Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent Packs
  6. BEST BIODEGRADABLE:Method Liquid Laundry Detergent
  7. BEST ECO-FRIENDLY: Biokleen Free & Clear Natural Laundry Detergent
  8. BEST HYPOALLERGENIC: ECOS Hypoallergenic Laundry Detergent
  9. BEST NATURAL ORGANIC: Dr. Bronner’s – Pure-Castile Liquid Soap
  10. BEST FOR STAINS: Dropps Stain & Odor Laundry Detergent Pods
The Best Laundry Detergents for Septic Systems Option

Photo: amazon.com

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Laundry Detergent for Septic Systems

When a home’s wastewater doesn’t drain into a municipal sewer system, it’s treated in a septic system, which requires monitoring and regular maintenance, even if in good working order. For example, every 2 to 3 years, a septic tank should be pumped.

To maintain optimal functioning, users should avoid putting harmful substances into their septic systems, including chemicals that interfere with the beneficial bacteria that break down waste and substances that can build up excessive sludge. Consider the following factors when choosing the best detergents for septic systems.

Powder vs. Liquid

For septic tanks, the debate over powdered versus liquid laundry detergent is ongoing. However, the difference between powder and liquid is not as important as the ingredients in the detergent.

Powdered detergents may contain fillers such as clay or powdered plastics, which can build up in the septic tank and cause clogging. Biodegradable laundry detergent powders don’t cause that buildup.

Liquid detergents also should be biodegradable. It’s especially important to avoid chlorine bleach and other harsh chemicals, which can kill the helpful bacteria in the septic tank that break down waste.

Septic Safe

A “septic-safe” laundry detergent contains no ingredients that interfere with the function of the on-site system to treat waste.

To maintain an optimal balance in bacteria and enzymes that break down waste, choose septic-safe detergents. Avoid detergents that contain these ingredients:

  • Artificial whiteners and brighteners
  • Chemical dyes and fragrances
  • Chemical preservatives
  • Chemical surfactants, sulfates, and enzymes
  • Chlorine bleach
  • 1,4-Dioxane
  • Parabens
  • Phosphates
  • Phthalates
  • Synthetic foaming agents and thickeners

Safe alternatives include low-sudsing biodegradable detergents that contain plant-based cleaning agents. Scents from essential oils don’t pose a hazard to the septic system. Green or eco-friendly detergents are among the best soaps for septic systems.

Surfactants

A “surfactant,” a term that comes from the phrase “surface-active agent,” consists of amphiphilic molecules that are absorbed in the air-water interface. This absorption results in a decrease in surface tensions, facilitating the detergent’s ability to spread and soak into fabrics in the laundry.

The decrease in surface tensions yields the desired cleaning effect, as dirt is wicked away. Because of surfactants, laundry detergents appear to lift soil and stains from clothing and household linens.

Chemical- and petroleum-based surfactants may harm a septic system by building up sludge. Plant-based surfactants are both septic-safe and effective cleaning agents. The best plant-based surfactants derive from palm oil, coconut oil, and soap nuts (soap berries).

Eco-Friendly and Biodegradable

Manufacturers of eco-friendly laundry detergents focus on not harming the environment during the production, packaging, and use of their products. As a result, natural plant-based cleaning agents are recyclable and come in biodegradable packaging. Moreover, they try to consume less energy during their production processes.

Certain harmful chemicals are notably absent from eco-friendly, biodegradable laundry detergents, such as phosphates; phthalates; 1,4-Dioxane; chemical fragrances; synthetic brightener; and more. Instead, effective biodegradable cleaning ingredients often are derived from plants. Plant-based cleaning agents in biodegradable detergents offer hypoallergenic properties that benefit those with sensitive skin.

Concentrated Formulas

A concentrated liquid laundry detergent contains less water in its formula than non-concentrated liquid detergents. Consequently, it takes a smaller amount of the concentrated liquid to produce optimal cleaning results.

Concentrated formulas may be economical because a little goes a long way. Users should get more laundry loads from a bottle of concentrated-liquid detergent than from the same-size bottle of non-concentrated liquid.

Because it’s difficult to estimate the correct amount of concentrated detergent, users may use too much. Excess detergent creates a residue on clothes as well as a buildup that may be harmful to high-efficiency washers. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions when measuring liquid detergent.

Our Top Picks

We researched the best laundry detergents for septic systems and developed a list of recommendations. We selected concentrated liquids, powders, and pods, including eco-friendly, biodegradable, and hypoallergenic options. Keep reading to learn about our top picks.

Best Overall

The Best Laundry Detergents for Septic Systems Option: Arm & Hammer Sensitive Skin Free & Clear Liquid
Photo: amazon.com

The Arm & Hammer company started in 1846 when its founders began preparing and selling bicarbonate of soda, known today as baking soda. Over the years, this well-respected company diversified its product line to include laundry detergents.

Sensitive Skin Free & Clear laundry detergent is free of dyes, preservatives, and fragrance; however, it contains stain-fighting ingredients. As an added bonus, this detergent works with less water than the previous formula.

Arm & Hammer laundry detergent is especially beneficial for people with sensitive skin. With no dye, fragrance, or preservatives, it’s hypoallergenic. To authenticate it, the company participated in clinical tests conducted by health-care professionals and dermatologists.

Product Specs

  • Formulation type: Concentrated liquid
  • Free of these ingredients: Dyes, perfumes, fragrance, preservatives, enzymes, sulfates
  • Scent: None

Pros

  • Reputable, well-known manufacturer
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Uses less water
  • Removes stains

Cons

  • Some may not prefer its fragrance-free formula

Get Arm & Hammer laundry detergent on Amazon, at Rite Aid, or at Kroger.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Laundry Detergents for Septic Systems Option: Mrs. Meyer’s Liquid Laundry Detergent
Photo: amazon.com

Using a formula that depends on plant-based ingredients for cleaning power, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day laundry detergent is both safe and effective. After 28 days, it’s biodegradable, so it won’t harm septic systems.

For this concentrated-liquid detergent, the manufacturer derives the surfactants and stain-fighting enzymes from plant sources, not chemicals. Mrs. Meyer’s cleaning products come in light, herbal, and floral scents.

Moreover, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day laundry detergent has aromatherapeutic benefits. With essential oils in its formula, this detergent is available in five scents, including basil, lemon verbena, lavender, geranium, and honeysuckle.

Product Specs

  • Formulation type: Concentrated
  • Free of these Ingredients: Parabens, phthalates, artificial colors, optical brighteners
  • Scents: Lemon verbena and 4 additional essential oil–based scents

Pros

  • Biodegradable
  • Plant-based surfactants
  • Light scents
  • Company contributes to environmental preservation

Cons

  • Scents may be too strong for some

Get Mrs. Meyer’s laundry detergent on Amazon, at Target, or at Mrs. Meyer’s.

Best Liquid Concentrate

The Best Laundry Detergents for Septic Systems Option: Tide Purclean Plant-Based EPA Safer Choice 
Photo: amazon.com

Since 1946, when it introduced Tide laundry detergent, Procter & Gamble has been a reliable and well-respected brand in households throughout the United States. The Tide Purclean product introduces a formula made from plant-based cleaning agents. It’s labeled as a USDA Certified Bio-Based Product.

The manufacturer of Tide Purclean takes several steps to ensure environmentally friendly practices. The product is packed in a recyclable box with a no-drip tap and dosing cup that uses 50 percent less plastic than typical bottles of detergent. Additionally, the formula is made using electricity that is 100 percent derived from wind power.

Tide Purclean contains plant-based ingredients that won’t harm septic systems. The cleaning agents, solvents, suds reducers, and water softeners are derived from plants.

Product Specs 

  • Formulation type: Concentrated liquid
  • Free of these ingredients: Dyes, phosphates, chlorine bleach, brighteners
  • Scent: Honey lavender

Pros

  • Plant-based solvents and enzymes
  • Plant-based water softener
  • Packaging uses 50 percent less plastic
  • Detergent uses 30 percent less water

Cons

  • Scent may be too strong for some
  • Some users may not like the “eco-box” with dispenser tap

Get Tide laundry detergent on Amazon, at Target, or at Walmart.

Best Powder

The Best Laundry Detergents for Septic Systems Option: Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder
Photo: amazon.com

Some users prefer a powdered detergent because it’s more convenient and less messy than liquid. Charlie’s Soap offers the convenience of a powder along with biodegradable, nontoxic, and septic-safe properties.

Charlie’s Soap uses surfactants from plant sources to deliver eco-friendly cleaning power. It’s nontoxic and safe for baby clothes as well as large, dirty laundry loads. The formula includes washing soda along with other natural ingredients to clean the tough stains from grease, grass, red wine, and more.

As an EPA Safer Choice Certified product, Charlie’s Soap is safe for people, the environment, and septic systems. Additionally, it works well for high-tech and delicate fabrics. Users with sensitive skin will appreciate its hypoallergenic and fragrance-free qualities.

Product Specs 

  • Formulation type: Powder
  • Free of these ingredients: Sulfates, fragrance
  • Scent: None

Pros

  • Plant-based ingredients
  • EPA Safer Choice Certified
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Fragrance-free

Cons

  • Some may not prefer its fragrance-free formula

Get Charlie’s Soap laundry powder on Amazon, Charlie’s Soap, or at Walmart.

Best Pods

The Best Laundry Detergents for Septic Systems Option: Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent Packs
Photo: amazon.com

Laundry detergent pods have an advantage over liquids and powders: no measuring. Simply add a pack (pod) to the washing machine when loading laundry. The outer coating dissolves in water to release the detergent inside.

Seventh Generation laundry packs dissolve quickly in both hot and cold water in high-efficiency and standard washing machines. The Seventh Generation formula activates triple enzymes to remove stains such as spaghetti sauce, coffee, and other messy substances.

Seventh Generation laundry detergent packs are certified as a U.S. EPA Safer Choice product, which signifies that they are safe for both human health and the environment, including septic systems. The detergent in the packs contains no dyes, fragrances, or artificial brighteners, making it safe for sensitive skin.

Product Specs

  • Formulation type: Pod (pack)
  • Free of these ingredients: Dyes, fragrances, artificial brighteners
  • Scent: None

Pros

  • Convenient
  • Dissolves quickly
  • Safe for sensitive skin
  • Stain-removing formula

Cons

  • Outer coating of pod may not dissolve completely
  • Fragrance-free

Get Seventh Generation laundry detergent packs on Amazon, at Target, or at Walmart.

Best Biodegradable

The Best Laundry Detergents for Septic Systems Option: Method Liquid Laundry Detergent
Photo: amazon.com

Founded in 2001, the Method company is known for producing high-quality products that not only clean laundry but also homes, bodies, and dishes. This concentrated liquid laundry detergent is biodegradable and safe for septic systems. Additionally, it’s hypoallergenic, making it safe for those with sensitive skin.

This scented detergent employs plant-based ingredients to lift dirt and stains from fabrics. Colors stay bright, and whites stay white. Method detergent works well in high-efficiency as well as standard machines.

The company is committed to cruelty-free product development, so their formulas are never tested on animals. Method’s founders created the company with a vision to engage in environmental preservation as well as in positive social practices.

Product Specs

  • Formulation type: Concentrated liquid
  • Free of these ingredients: Phosphates, hydrocarbons, phthalates, parabens
  • Scents: Lavender, cyprus, and 5 additional scents

Pros

  • Biodegradable
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Cruelty-free
  • 6 nature-inspired scents

Cons

  • Scents may be too strong for some

Get Method laundry detergent on Amazon, at Kroger, or at Walgreens.

Best Echo-Friendly

The Best Laundry Detergents for Septic Systems Option: Biokleen Free & Clear Natural Laundry Detergent
Photo: amazon.com

With no fragrances, dyes, or pollutants, this natural biodegradable detergent is healthy for a septic system as well as for sensitive skin. Moreover, Biokleen detergent is healthy for the environment.

Starting in the 1980s, company founder Jim Rimer created nontoxic cleaning products safe for both humans and the environment. Today, Biokleen Free & Clear natural laundry detergent uses mineral-based cleaning agents and chlorine-free oxygen bleach to deliver effective cleaning results without harming the planet.

This detergent works in both high-efficiency and standard washing machines. The mineral-based cleaning agents lift out dirt and stains and rinse clean, leaving no residue. Chlorine-free oxygen bleach ensures colors stay bright and whites remain white.

Product Specs 

  • Formulation type: Powder
  • Free of these ingredients: Phosphates, chlorine, ammonia, petroleum solvents, butyl, glycol ether, artificial brighteners, artificial fragrance, pollutants, hazardous materials
  • Scent: None

Pros

  • Biodegradable
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Chlorine-free oxygen bleach
  • Never tested on animals

Cons

 

  • Fragrance-free

Get Biokleen laundry detergent on Amazon or at Biokleen.

Best Hypoallergenic

The Best Laundry Detergents for Septic Systems Option: ECOS Hypoallergenic Laundry Detergent
Photo: amazon.com

Skin irritation caused by laundry detergents is not uncommon. For those with sensitive skin, ECOS hypoallergenic laundry detergent may provide relief from the itching and redness caused by the chemicals in other laundry detergents. It contains plant-derived cleaners, with coconut oil as the featured ingredient along with essential oils for fragrance.

ECOS is free of allergy-causing chemicals such as 1,4-Dioxane; dyes; phthalates; and more. Additionally, it’s pH balanced to be gentle on sensitive skin.

This detergent is kind to animals and the environment as well as to humans. Made from 100 percent vegan ingredients, it’s certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a Safer Choice product. Moreover, ECOS is made in a carbon-neutral and water-neutral factory using 100 percent renewable energy.

Product Specs 

  • Formulation type: Liquid
  • Free of these ingredients: Dyes, formaldehyde, phthalates, parabens, phosphates, optical brighteners, harsh chemicals
  • Scents: Magnolia and lily

Pros

  • 100 percent vegan
  • Dermatologist-tested hypoallergenic
  • Plant-derived cleaning agents
  • EPA Safer Choice certified

Cons

  • Scents not attractive to some

Get ECOS laundry detergent on Amazon or at ECOS.

Best Natural Organic

The Best Laundry Detergents for Septic Systems Option: Dr. Bronner’s - Pure-Castile Liquid Soap
Photo: amazon.com

In 1948, Dr. Bronner was a third-generation master soap maker when he launched the company that sells Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap.

Today, it’s still made from 90 percent organic natural oils. Additionally, more than 70 percent of the soap’s ingredients are certified Fair Trade, which means that the company adheres to guidelines for ethical working conditions and fair prices.

The all-natural vegan ingredients in this soap are fully biodegradable, so they’re safe for septic systems. Dr. Bronner’s pure-castile soap is three times more concentrated than most liquid detergents, so a little goes a long way. When diluted, it can be used to wash dishes and household surfaces as well as laundry.

Product Specs

  • Formulation type: Concentrated liquid
  • Free of these ingredients: Synthetic preservatives, synthetic detergents, foaming agents, thickeners
  • Scent: None

Pros

  • Biodegradable
  • Certified under U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program
  • All-natural, vegan, organic
  • Versatile

Cons

  • Although labeled “unscented,” slight scent from natural ingredients

Get Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap on Amazon, at Dr. Bronner’s, or at Target.

Best For Stains

The Best Laundry Detergents for Septic Systems Option: Dropps Stain & Odor Laundry Detergent Pods
Photo: amazon.com

The formula for Dropps laundry detergent pods focuses on sustainable, plant-based, and nontoxic ingredients to battle laundry stains and odors. The company pledges to help users keep their clothes smelling fresh and to remove unsightly, stubborn stains from fabrics. The pods are available in four scents as well as in an unscented option.

Dropps detergent pods work well in all types of washing machines, including high-efficiency models and standard machines, top loaders, and front loaders. They’re free from synthetic fragrances and dyes, as well as phthalates, phosphates, enzymes, and parabens. Consequently, the pods are safe for septic systems.

In addition to ensuring high-quality standards for their laundry detergent pods, Dropps uses low-waste packaging. The pods ship in recyclable, compostable cardboard boxes.

Product Specs 

  • Formulation type: Pods
  • Free of these ingredients: Synthetic fragrances, dyes, enzymes, optical brighteners, parabens, phosphates, phthalates
  • Scents: Lavender eucalyptus, 3 other scents, or unscented

Pros

  • Plant-based ingredients
  • Formulated for stains and odors
  • Packaged in a recyclable cardboard box
  • No synthetic dyes or fragrances

Cons

  • Pods don’t always dissolve completely
  • Store in glass or plastic in humid environments

Get Dropps laundry detergent pods on Amazon, at Dropps, or at Walmart.

Our Verdict

Our top recommendations include Arm & Hammer Sensitive Skin Free & Clear laundry detergent as well as Mrs. Meyer’s Liquid Laundry Detergent. For value, reputation, and safety for septic systems, these two products stand out.

How We Chose the Best Laundry Detergents for Septic Systems

To develop a list of recommended septic-safe laundry detergents, we considered how septic systems function and their proper maintenance and treatment. Next, we read nine articles containing background information and product reviews. From there, we perused the product descriptions for 18 different laundry detergents to arrive at our list of recommended products.

We focused on laundry detergents with biodegradable and plant-based ingredients that remain safe in septic systems. Many of these choices also exhibit hypoallergenic and eco-friendly properties. Understanding that shoppers prefer a variety of products, we included both scented and unscented choices as well as liquids, powders, and pods. Finally, we considered brand reputation, focusing on manufacturers that enjoy a strong reputation for high-quality products.

FAQs

Those whose home wastewater empties into a septic tank must consider the health and function of the system when selecting laundry detergent. The right kind of product may assist in the long-term maintenance and smooth operation of the system. Keep reading to see a few questions and answers about the best laundry soap for septic systems.

Q. Are detergent pods bad for septic systems? 

As long as the ingredients are fully biodegradable, detergent pods may be used safely without harming septic systems.

Q. Can I use bleach with a septic tank?

To break down waste, useful bacteria must thrive in a septic system, and overuse of chlorine bleach may kill off the bacteria. Avoid products that contain chlorine bleach.

Q. What do I do if I haven’t been using septic-safe laundry detergents?

Keep a septic system healthy by having it cleaned (pumped out) every 2 to 3 years or when sludge fills the tank to one-third of its depth. Begin using a laundry detergent designated safe for septic systems.

Q. What ingredients should I avoid when looking for septic-safe cleaning products?

Avoid chlorine bleach, ammonia, and phosphates. Also avoid overusing chemical-based cleaners; instead, look for biodegradable plant-based products.

Q. How do I keep a septic system healthy?

Perform regular inspections and maintenance, such as pumping the tank when needed (or every 2 to 3 years). Keep the septic tank lid closed, secured, and readily accessible.