If you thought you washed a lot of clothes before becoming a parent, hold onto your laundry basket. The average family accumulates 8 to 10 loads of laundry each week. And because newborns tend to have extra-sensitive skin, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you start washing baby’s clothes before he even arrives. Here’s a guide to picking the best baby detergent that’ll keep clothes clean and baby comfortable.
Do I Need Special Laundry Detergent for Baby Clothes?
The decision is entirely up to you. While it’s true that some families toss everyone’s dirty clothes in the same load, using the same laundry detergent for all isn’t ideal. Standard laundry detergent contains chemicals and fragrances that can irritate baby’s delicate skin. And if you’re eczema-prone or have sensitive skin, chances are baby may react negatively to harsh detergents. Instead of buying baby detergent, though, some parents buy special family laundry detergent—one that’s hypoallergenic, chemical- and fragrance-free. This makes for less laundry-separating and takes into account that baby snuggles on your clothes as well.
How to Choose the Best Baby Laundry Detergent
Check the ingredients list for what the baby laundry detergent contains—and what it doesn’t. Here, some specifics to keep an eye out for:
• Fragrance-free. This isn’t the same as unscented. Fragrance-free means the baby laundry detergent is free of all fragrance. Unscented means the fragrance has been masked. (That said, if you prefer a light scent and baby’s skin doesn’t get irritated, go for it.)
• Plant-based or chemical-free. While a natural baby detergent may still cause your little one some discomfort, it’s far less likely to happen than with a chemical-laden one. Bonus: plant-based products are best for the environment.
• No brighteners. These are chemicals that make colors appear brighter. They don’t actually get clothes any cleaner, but they linger in fabrics and could cause a reaction.
• Hypoallergenic. This means the manufacturer claims the detergent causes fewer allergic reactions than those that aren’t labeled as such. But the FDA doesn’t regulate the use of the term “hypoallergenic,” so there’s no guarantee it’s the best laundry detergent for babies with sensitive skin.
Best Baby Detergents
Ready to take in the scent of fresh, stain-free onesies? Here are your top 12 choices for when it comes to selecting the best baby laundry detergent.
Best Baby Detergent for Fighting Stains
This non-toxic, biodegradable, hypoallergenic product contains 96 percent plant-based ingredients and zero chemical brighteners, just powerful natural enzymes that clean and gleam baby’s duds. While some super-gentle laundry detergents lack the power to squash stains, Seventh Generation baby laundry detergent works great on milk spills, spit-up stains and even poop smears. It’s not fragrance-free, but the light scent is derived from plant-based essential oils and botanical extracts. Bonus: The Environmental Protection Agency awarded this baby detergent a Safer Choice designation.
Buy it: Seventh Generation Baby Natural Laundry Detergent, two 40 oz botles, $25, Amazon.com
Best Organic Baby Detergent
Yup, it’s possible to have a USDA-certified organic baby detergent! This hypoallergenic one from Green Shield is free of dyes, fragrance, phosphates and petrochemicals—and its ingredients are derived from sustainable resources. Of course “organic” would mean nothing if baby’s clothes weren’t clean. Luckily, this stuff works well, though pretreating is generally needed for big stains.
Buy it: Green Shield Organic Baby Free and Clear Laundry Detergent, 100 oz, $22, GreenShieldOrganic.com
Best Baby Detergent for Eczema
All Free Clear detergent isn’t officially a baby laundry detergent, but it might as well be. This formulation is hypoallergenic, dye-free and fragrance-free, and gentle enough for delicate skin—especially if baby has eczema. In fact, this is the only laundry detergent recommended by the National Eczema Association. All Free easily lifts dirt and grime, without the harshness. (You’ll still need to pretreat super-stubborn stains, though.)
Buy it: All Free Clear Liquid Laundry Detergent, 116 oz. oz, $20, Amazon.com
Best Classic Baby Detergent
You’ve heard of Dreft. We all have. It’s long been touted as the No. 1 choice among pediatricians for babies with sensitive skin, and it’s been successfully (and gently) cleaning feeties and onesies for 80 years. (It’s also great for hand-washing delicates.) While it’s hypoallergenic and dye-free, it does have that yummy, mild baby laundry scent, so if you’re looking for a fragrance-free option, keep looking. Bonus: Dreft’s packaging is made from 25 percent or more recycled plastic.
Buy it: Dreft Stage 1: Newborn HEC Liquid Detergent, 100 oz, $16, Target.com
Best Sulfate-Free Baby Detergent
The best detergent for babies with sensitive skin may just be Babyganics. It’s a gentle, plant-based clothes cleaner that’s free of chlorine, brighteners, phthalates, phosphates, artificial fragrances and dyes. It’s also free of sulfates, a very common additive in detergents that’s a proven skin and scalp irritant. While this isn’t a powerhouse at removing caked-on stains (pre-treat!), Babyganics is triple concentrated, so you can use less detergent for each load and still get wee clothes extra-clean.
Buy it: Babyganics Fragrance Free Laundry Detergent, 60 oz, $14, Amazon.com
Best Value Baby Detergent
Wallet-friendly, Earth-friendly and baby-friendly? Sold. Plant-based and biodegradable ECOS Laundry Detergent (a partnership between Disney and Earth Friendly Products) is a 100 percent natural baby detergent, free of fragrance, brighteners, phosphates, chlorine, dyes and chemicals. ECOS baby laundry detergent also carries the Safer Choice designation by the EPA. And, yes, it cleans great (though you’ll need to soak stains) and leaves clothes feeling soft and cozy—no additional fabric softener required.
Buy It: Baby ECOS Free & Clear Disney, 50 oz, $7, BedBathandBeyond.com
Best Scented Baby Detergent
Not everyone wants a fragrance-free baby laundry detergent. For those who love the clean scent of citrus, Mrs. Meyer’s is for you. The fresh, bright smell comes courtesy of lemon, orange and geranium essential oils. But this detergent offers way more than just a pretty fragrance: It’s formulated with 97 percent of naturally derived ingredients; it’s biodegradable; and it’s free of all phthalates, chlorine, formaldehyde, parabens and brighteners. It’s even responsibly made: The bottle is made from 25 percent recycled materials.
Buy it: Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Laundry Detergent, Baby Blossom, 64 oz, $16, Amazon.com
Best Name-Brand Baby Detergent
Tide has been a laundry room go-to for eons. And while there’s no specific Tide detergent for baby clothes, this one can fit the bill. Tide PurClean is plant-based and free of dyes, brighteners, chlorine and phosphates. At the same time, it’s managed to hold onto the cleaning power of the original (just without the petroleum-based cleaning agents), which is great news for baby blow-outs. Bonus: This baby laundry detergent is made with 100 percent renewable wind-powered electricity at a site that generates zero landfill waste. You can get it fragrance-free or with a lovely light honey and lavender scent.
Buy it: Tide Purclean Liquid, 50 oz, $10, Amazon.com
Best Baby Detergent for Cloth Diapers
This unassuming, seemingly old-fashioned natural baby laundry detergent is a powerhouse at cleaning cloth diapers. Charlie’s was originally formulated as an industrial cleaner, so it really gets the poop out, and it removes any residue your previous detergent left behind on clothes—and the machine. Amazingly, it’s tough yet gentle, hitting all of the baby-friendly notes: It’s hypoallergenic, biodegradable, non-toxic and chemical- and parabens-free. Don’t be fooled by the scent—it is, in fact, fragrance-free, and baby’s clothes, sheets and towels will emerge from the washer completely odorless. And because it’s so concentrated, it’s a great value too.
Buy it: Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder, 43.2 oz, $18, Amazon.com
Best Baby Detergent Pods
Hypoallergenic and plant-based, these concentrated pods are free of dyes, fragrance, chlorine, phosphates and brighteners. And when you’ve got a stack of laundry in front of you and baby on your hip, you can’t beat the convenience of a one-handed, pre-measured drop-in Dropp. They’re even certified by the EPA as a Safer Choice for its special chemical formulation. But always keep safety top of mind: Between 2012 and 2013, over 700 children age 5 and under were hospitalized or harmed because they ingested a laundry pod. If you’re a laundry pod family, keep them in an air-tight, hard-to-open container and high on a shelf, out of baby’s reach.
Buy it: Dropps Sensitive Skin Unscented Laundry Detergent Pods, 240 pods, $50, Dropps.com
Best Baby Detergent for the Whole Family
Of course we love that Method has no dyes or perfumes, and that it’s derived from plants, making it one of the best laundry detergents for babies with sensitive skin. But what gets us super-excited is that the family-friendly detergent is perfect for all laundry—and comes in a handy pump form. This Method product is super-concentrated, so you get a lot of laundry out of a little detergent (two pumps for a small load, four for medium, six for a big ol’ load of wash). Plus, it’s an easy spot-cleaner.
Buy it: Method 8x Concentrated Laundry Detergent – Free & Clear, 20 oz, $13, Target.com
Updated March 2019