It's been years now since I started using alternative laundry detergents. I first switched to using alternative detergents when I learned about the environmental impact of the phosphates contained in many common brand name detergents. If you need a refresher: these phosphates from your detergent leave with your wash’s wastewater, and can flow into natural freshwater systems at unnatural levels. High levels of phosphates in oceans, rivers, and lakes leads to uncontrolled algae growth. As this algae dies off and begins to rot, the decomposition process sucks up all available oxygen found in the water (called eutrophication), which then goes on to cause the death of fish and other plants. This is a good enough reason for me to switch detergents, not only out of concern for the immediate environment, but also out of concern for the negative impact that such pollutants have on our own food safety. Plus, the list of chemical ingredients on the back of a laundry detergent bottle is long. What are all of those? Are all those chemicals truly necessary to wash my clothes well?
I started my quest into natural detergents by first trying out the Seventh Generation laundry detergent line about 7 or 8 years ago and was satisfied with the wash, but remained unsatisfied with the list of ingredients. Do my clothes really need ingredients such as laureth-6, sodium lauryl sulfate, or methylisothiazolinone to get clean? I had many doubts. What was the environmental impact of these chemicals after they'd left my washer, and furthermore what was the impact of even manufacturing all these chemicals? I didn't know, but I also wasn't optimistic. Seventh Generation’s detergent got the job done, but it still wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.
I then somehow concocted, I think by mistake, the recipe I used until very recently. I'd add a good sprinkle of baking soda for cleansing bubbles, a good sprinkle of cheap table salt for busting up more dirt and grime plus for its anti-staining properties (you know, for those pair of shorts that fit PERFECTLY but also ooze dye over everything every time you wash them), and finally about 5 good squirts of Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap all straight into the washing machine, to be precise. My parents use a recipe with borax that they love, which also cleans well. With several easy, simple, cheap, and totally effective homemade detergent recipes out there, why bother with the odd chemicals that may or may not cause harm to us and our environment? In a world where exposure to chemical pollution and toxins is guaranteed, increasing that exposure by choice is both unnecessary and a little foolish.
But, let’s be real. Not everyone wants to make their own suds. Enter The Simply Co laundry detergent. With its short list of three ingredients (baking soda, washing soda, and castile soap) comprising the unscented line, this product stays true to its name.
Gets the Job Done
Simply put, Simply Co detergent does a great job cleaning! As an avid cook, I've gotten pretty good at keeping my clothes spot-free whilst I chop, measure, mix, beat, sauté, then finally chow down on my creation – but I still manage to get a good number of splashes and spills onto my favorite shirts and pants. Simply Co detergent does a great job removing all my various inevitable food stains, from tomato juice to coffee to oil. Nothing takes the place of immediate spot cleaning, but The Simply Co takes care of the rest. My community garden plot also contributes the occasional dirt smear, or worse – like a smudge of rotting compost goop – to my clothes, but it's no match for The Simply Co.
Easy to Use
I love this detergent because it could not be easier to use. 1-2 tablespoons straight into your washer, no fuss. What's the point in bothering with money-zapping corporate creations such as "fabric softener" that you have to babysit halfway through the wash cycle? Not my style.
Truly Simple Ingredients
I'm a big fan of how similar The Simply Co detergent ingredients are to my above DIY recipe. Both include baking soda, castile soap, and little more to soak your sweet duds.
The Power of Powder
The Simply Co detergent comes in a powder, instead of as a liquid. Anyone else tired of surprise slippery tracks left from liquid detergent? I’m into it.
When comparing the price between The Simply Co detergent and my above homemade detergent recipe, the price per load for both methods turns out to be about the same! At roughly $0.65 per load, both solutions are quite cost effective. However, I made this calculation with my usual 2 tablespoons of Simply Co per wash yet the packaging states that 1 tablespoon can be used for smaller loads, so The Simply Co may prove to be even cheaper than my homemade recipe if used accordingly.
Zero Waste Packaging!
The Simply Co detergent is completely zero waste! Here in Brooklyn, I can head to my local Simply Co retail supplier, Depanneur, with my one and only Simply Co glass jar and bulk-style fill it up again and again with cleaning goodness. Even when ordered online, all the packaging is reusable, recyclable, or both – and the logo is even screen printed onto the glass jars so that no paper or plastic labels end up in the trash. Simply genius.
I'm still buying the lavender scented Simply Co detergent because it smells so heavenly while adding it to my wash – but the scent doesn't linger at all in your clothes after the wash cycle is done. However, I've yet to find an all-natural scent that can be added to laundry that actually lingers on the clothes after they’ve dried. I'm starting to think that scented laundry is a newer invention, requiring ingredients (read: chemicals) not found in the average household or store. Personally I'll accept non-scented laundry over strange likely loosely regulated chemically scented clothes.
Take It With A Grain of Salt
I was using Simply Co detergent exactly as suggested on the package – until the before mentioned favorite pair of shorts bled their blue dye all over one of my white t-shirts that was in the same load. Since, I've gone back to my old ways of also adding a good sprinkle regular cheap table salt to my wash with The Simply Co detergent. Salt can't completely prevent the spread of heavy dye bleeds onto your other clothes, but it does a great job keeping smaller little dye stains away.
The Simply Co is truly a simpler way to wash your clothes without the unnecessary questionability of strange chemical ingredients. As is stated on The Simply Co’s website, "There are over 85,000 industrial chemicals out there and a majority of them are not even tested for safety.” I don’t need another reason to drastically alter my laundering process, and The Simply Co makes the next step into healthier cleaning so straightforward and easy.
And I do want to mention: there is one more step we can all take to reduce the environmental impact of washing our clothes – line drying! While it's nice to have a clothes dryer around for the big stuff, like blankets and towels, for smaller less bulky items it just doesn't make sense especially considering how much precious electricity your dryer sucks up.
I picked up this clothes drying rack from the dollar store for about $20. I’ve saved much more than that by not using the dryer. Plus you know that every time you use it, your dryer is actively destroying your favorite clothes, right? As evidenced by your dryer’s lint tray.
Finally, here’s my disclaimer that Lauren Singer, founder of The Simply Co and Trash is for Tossers blog, and I are friends from college. While this absolutely did influence my desire to buy some Simply Co detergent to try out in the first place, all aspects to the above review would remain true even if she were a complete stranger. I’ve been using The Simply Co for almost 4.5 months at this point, and expect to continue refilling my same container at Depanneur well into the future.
Here's to happy and healthy cleaning!
More about the author:
Caylee Clay, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in autoimmune conditions. As a graduate of New York University and Hunter College, Caylee has studied under leaders in the health and nutrition world, including completing an independent study and graduate course with Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics. Caylee has five years experience in community nutrition, working with a wide variety of patients including infants and young children, HIV+ adults, school aged children, expecting and new mothers, and several minority communities. To contact for consulting and counseling, please use the "Contact" link at the top of the page.
eat yer veggies
We’re two Registered Dietitian Nutritionists of kindred spirit, living and working in New York City. We believe that healthy eating and sustainability go hand-in-hand — every bite you take has the power to improve both the world and your health!