Choosing a baby detergent that is gentle and tough enough for what a baby puts out is more challenging than you'd think. We've purchased the 10 top options available today for hands-on testing, assessing how each handles baby food, formula, spit-up, and poo to find which contender has what it takes in a stain-fighting showdown you won't believe. We tested each option for its ability to get clothes clean, remove odors, take care of stains, and still keep baby's things baby soft.
The Babyganics Liquid Baby Detergent is an all-purpose laundry detergent free of fragrances, dyes, sulfates, 1,4 dioxane, optical brighteners, chlorine, phthalates, and phosphates. This detergent is plant-based and, in our tests, works well on most stains, removing all food and formula we tested. It is a concentrated formula that claims to work on up to 60 loads and is compatible with h.e. machines. Babyganics is made in the USA and never tested on animals. It has a small cap that works well and prevents a build-up of sticky detergent around the collar.
Like most of the competition in our tests, the Babyganics detergent struggles with dried poop on our test onesie, even when pre-treating. While it removed more staining evidence than most of the competition, we could still see a slight yellow tinge to the white fabric after washing. Also, the largest available size is 60 oz, which isn't huge compared to some competitors. While they claim a 60-load ability for this bottle, we imagine some parents will want a larger container on par with the bottles you find in a big box store. However, we liked the smaller bottle and feel it is more user-friendly. Overall, we love what this product has to offer and what it chooses to exclude. Our test clothing was scent-free, clean, and soft, and we feel it outperformed this group's competition.
Our Favorite Eco-Healthy Choice
Attitude Little Ones Fragrance Free Laundry Detergent
The Attitude Little Ones Fragrance Free Laundry Detergent is an eco-healthy detergent alternative that we can't say enough good things about. Not only does it get clothes clean, but it is vegan and cruelty-free. We love the limited ingredient list and that it is one of the few in our review to rate an A on EWG. This product is fragrance-free with no odor AT ALL, and it is free of dyes, carcinogen ingredients, and by-products. It is CO2-neutral with no impact on climate change, and you only need a small amount for a normal-size load.
This detergent only comes in a fairly small bottle, so while it should last for a while, it might disappoint users used to the giant economy bottle you can buy in a box store. Also, it is a little more expensive than the competition. While we believe the additional cost is worth it for everything you get and the lack of impact on climate change, it could make it a no-go for those on a strict budget. Overall, there is no real fault to find with this exceptional product, and any family concerned about the environment or limiting chemicals near their baby will love the Attitude Little Ones.
Puracy Natural Laundry Detergent comes in a small bottle with a big impact working for up to 96 loads when used as directed! This easy-to-use pump bottle detergent is free of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), sodium coco sulfate (SCS), petrochemicals, sulfates, caustics, phosphates, animal by-products, dyes, chlorine, allergens, or optical brighteners and is certified cruelty-free. The pump comes loose, and you need to screw it in place, but it is a nice change from the more common fill-the-lid variety. It is a plant-based formula that is safe for septic systems, vegan, gluten-free, and biodegradable. The company claims it is 99.5% natural. In our tests, it worked well on our food and formula stains, with only a light yellow discoloring from the fecal matter.
While the Puracy liquid worked well on the food and formula staining, it struggled somewhat with the poop. It didn't have as much staining as some other contenders, but you can see a yellow remnant under some lights. It is also somewhat more expensive than the competition. However, if you do the math per load with 96 loads in one bottle, it is actually fairly economical per load. Unfortunately, we suspect most parents will use more than they need as the prescribed amount doesn't "feel" like enough, and we struggled with the desire to add more liquid to each load. Overall, we like the lack of concerning chemicals and that it is safe for septic systems and cruelty-free. The fact that it more or less gets clothes clean in our testing is just icing on the cake.
Seventh Generation Free and Clear is a biodegradable detergent from a well-known brand. It is a 96% USDA Certified Bio-based Product, free from dyes, artificial brighteners, and fragrances. In our tests, this option left clothes smelling fresh and feeling soft. Seventh Generation is produced in the USA and comes in a smaller, easy-to-handle bottle with a mess-free lid.
This detergent includes methylisothiazolinone (a synthetic preservative), which is not considered environmentally-friendly and is a potential irritant or allergen. While not a deal-breaker, it is important to mention it for those with highly sensitive skin. Seventh Generation is a little spendier than others in our review, covering about 53 loads for a price on par with those that cover closer to 90. It didn't perform well in our tests with any substance, leaving behind staining evidence of formula, food, and poo. In the end, there is nothing supremely wrong with this detergent. This product is easier to find in stores than many "greener" options, but this lineup has some eco-healthier, more effective, and less expensive choices.
Rockin' Green Platinum Series detergent is a powder-style detergent specific for cloth diapers. This powder comes in a zip-lock, heavy-duty plastic bag with a small measuring scoop. This detergent is vegan, cruelty-free, and hails from the USA. It is biodegradable and free from harmful chemicals like SLS, SLES, phosphates, parabens, phthalates, optical brighteners, and artificial fragrances. One package works for 45-90 loads depending on the washing machine type, and the scoop is easy to use even if you have to get your hands in the detergent to finish the task.
This product includes tea tree oil, which some report causes rashes on sensitive skin. Because the oil is only utilized for scent and dissipates quickly, we think it would be better without it. We also weren't impressed with its ability to work on stains. It struggled with poo, formula, and food stains during our testing. We did not pre-soak the stained garments, and while this might increase its ability to get things clean, we feel the average parent won't have the time or energy to pre-soak and manage laundry to that extent. The residual staining makes Rockin' Green a detergent we feel needs improvement, and we think there are more effective contenders in this lineup for getting things clean. However, we appreciate the lack of harmful chemicals, which put it in a higher position than options with known irritants.
Tide Free and Gentle HE is a well-known, brand-name product free of fragrances, dyes, and phosphates. This option has an easy-to-use cap that drains back into the bottle and includes sodium citrate as a hard water softener. This Tide claims it is the only detergent accepted by the National Eczema Association and the National Psoriasis Foundation, and it comes in a smaller, manageable bottle.
This detergent couldn't match some of the more eco-friendly competitors for effectiveness during tests. It left behind worse or on par staining as many competitors. Honestly, we expected less staining and better cleaning from such a well-liked brand, which made the results in our tests even more disappointing than they may have ordinarily been. While it isn't the least effective in the group, the fact that it contains ingredients that are potential allergens or irritants (or worse) combined with its ineffective cleaning ability, means it didn't earn a higher rank and isn't one of our top favorites.
Potential Bulk Choice with Fewer Nods to Eco-Health
Arm & Hammer Sensitive Skin is a well-known brand that offers free of some concerning additives like fragrance and dyes. We like this easy-to-use bottle and the giant container that means potential for less frequent buying. The cleaning power is there with this option, but it struggled with yellow staining from blowouts that we saw in most of the competition. The detergent is not tested on animals and contains no phosphates. The company claims to plant trees for cleaner air and water.
This product is similar to popular name-brand options in its level of concerning chemicals, ranking fairly low compared to the competition for eco-health. We are also somewhat annoyed that the company website doesn't list this particular detergent in their list of products for ingredient disclosures, and it worries us about transparency. It also is not scent-free, even if it doesn't have added fragrances, and some testers didn't care for the odor. This product does a good job of getting clothes clean and avoiding stains, and it might be a solution for some who want quantity and have fewer concerns about eco-health.
Dreft Stage 1 is a traditional, newborn standby detergent almost synonymous with baby laundry. This detergent is suitable for HE machines and has an easy-to-use measuring lid. The scent is light and non-offensive, and our test clothes smelled nice after washing with little staining left behind.
Unfortunately, Dreft doesn't seem to be keeping up with the times or parents' growing concerns about exposing their babies to chemicals of concern. They've made no efforts to remove potentially worrisome ingredients from their formulation and have no "free-from" things to brag about even if their advertising. The scent lingers for weeks, making us wonder what it is and how it manages to stay so strong over time. Dreft struggles to keep up with the times and the competition, given the number of effective, budget-friendly, eco-healthy options available.
The Dreft Stage 2 is similar to Stage 1 with few noteworthy differences. We purchased it in a two-pack of smaller bottles which were easy to use, and the lid is both the measuring cup and tucks inside the bottle top, so there is no mess. It has zero "added" chlorine, dyes, and phosphates.
Purex Liquid is a baby-centric, scented detergent that comes in a large bottle with an easy-to-use lid. It is one of the least expensive options in this review, making it one that might appeal to parents on the tightest of budgets.
This detergent is "old-school" in its formulation, with none of the "free of" claims you'll find in more eco-healthy options. It contains a variety of potentially concerning ingredients, including but not limited to, the fragrance ingredient, which is proprietary and could include any number of chemicals. The manufacturer does not have to reveal what it is specifically. It also has a more potent fragrance than much of the competition, and while not offensive, it isn't necessary and is more potent than baby clothes require. Overall, we think better, healthier options in this review were more effective in removing stains and getting clothes clean in our tests.
Why You Should Trust Us
BabyGearLab is an industry leader in hands-on reviews of baby gear. We've researched, purchased, and tested various baby-specific products for over eight years, including everything from impressive strollers and car seats to bassinets and sunscreen. We bought and utilized the detergents in this lineup side-by-side for a comparison testing process like no other in the world. To determine which products are the best at cleaning baby clothes, we washed the dirtiest of dirty in the real world.
Wendy Schmitz, Senior Review Editor, has been a part of the majority of test teams at BabyGearLab since 2014. As a mother of two boys, she's seen her share of all that is gross and downright dirty. Wendy used each product in this review, looking for how well each cleans, freshens, and softens to pick award winners and rank the contenders so families can find the right match for their needs.
Analysis and Test Results
We tested each detergent on baby onesies with dried, soaked in stains from food, formula, and other things less desirable to see which options can get things clean and still stay gentle on a baby's skin and clothes.
A baby detergent isn't much use if it can't get things clean. With many parents switching to top-ranked cloth diapers or choosing to buy fewer baby clothes to save some cash, it is critical that your detergent be strong enough to get out the tough stains baby can dish out.
Unfortunately, most of the products in our tests struggled to contend with poop. We let feces dry on white organic cotton onesies overnight and pre-treated each stain with a little bit of the detergent before washing them with warm water and the recommended detergent amount as per the manufacturer's directions. Most of the products got out almost all of the poop, but many left a light yellow/brown stain behind. We thought the popular brand options would do the best, but these were no better than the "free and clear" options or more eco-friendly products. Purex, Dreft: Stage 2, and Dreft all left behind some yellow. Unfortunately, the cloth diaper-specific option, which arguably should be effective on poop, Rockin' Green, showed the worst performance with the most staining left behind for the test group. This result is both surprising and disappointing because this detergent is geared specifically toward cloth diapers.
Overall, the best performer is Babyganics Liquid Baby Detergent with very little, if any, staining left behind after pre-treatment and washing according to the package instructions. This detergent proved effective on all kinds of stains, including poo, green beans, squash, blueberries, and formula. Puracy and Seventh Generation Free and Clear also performed well, with only light staining left behind compared to the worst in the group.
When it comes to eco-health, we look for products with the fewest chemicals and the least number of additives. Traditionally, this lack of "things" translates to better for the environment and a baby's skin. While most baby-centric detergents are free of fragrances and dyes, some offer even more to keep your little one rash-free and the environment cleaner. While looking for "free-from" information on the label or advertising is a good start, we also investigated each option in-depth, reviewing individual ingredients specifically and referencing the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) assessment of the product's ingredients. EWG reviews consumer products for concerning chemicals that can impact human health or the environment negatively. It is a wonderful resource for anyone concerned about what chemicals they use or come in contact with their children.
Some of the best detergents for eco-health include Babyganics, Puracy, and Rockin' Green. While some of the more popular brands sounded like they were going to be healthier, in the end, they struggled compared to the competition with more questionable ingredients like Seventh Generation and Tide Free and Clear. In our opinion, the traditional baby-centric detergents most parents are familiar with were the worst offenders with more questionable ingredients. These baby detergents either have no "free-from" list or seem unconcerned about their ingredients, as we believe they'd make an effort to advertise or prove their eco-health if they felt it was important. Dreft: Stage 2, Dreft: Stage 1, and Purex lack information or bragging about their chosen ingredients, and coincidentally or not, they all have powerful scents.
While eco-health considers which detergents are gentle for the environment and your baby's skin, being clothing-friendly encompasses being gentle on clothes by keeping them soft and in one piece with a fresh smell that isn't strong or offensive. Our short-term testing makes it difficult to say how your clothing will fare with any single detergent over time. We didn't see any concerning results with any of the brands we tested. However, we suspect that the products with fewer chemicals or bio-based chemicals will potentially be easier on the clothing than the competing options. Typically, babies outgrow their clothing long before the garments can degrade or show indications of wear and tear. None of the tested products contain bleach, which is known for being hard on fabrics. Those with limited chemical residue and scent are also probably easier on materials. These include Babyganics and Puracy.
Finding a high-performing detergent for cleaning the messes little ones create shouldn't be confusing or deplete your wallet in trial and failure. We purchased and tested the most popular detergents for babies (and sensitive skin) to provide the details you need about stain-fighting performance so that you can choose the best baby detergent for your child and budget. With this lineup of impressive choices, we believe you'll find the right option for your goals, wallet, and needs.
BabyGearLab was founded by a Pediatrician Mom with a mission to provide a reliable, independent, source of information to new parents. Our experts have tested thousands of baby and kids products to share key performance, health, and safety findings. We spend tens of thousands of dollars crash testing car seats to inform our ratings. And, we combine our review work with gobs of expert parenting advice. To assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing by people who care.