Choose a concentrated detergent—you’ll use less of it. But from there, it gets trickier. Many companies tout their detergents as “natural,” but that word isn’t defined by any regulatory bodies, notes Martin Wolf, director of product sustainability and authenticity for Seventh Generation. “‘Natural’ can mean anything the manufacturer wants it to,” he says.
There’s no requirement for any manufacturer to list the ingredients used in cleaning agents, so you’ll have to do some homework. Many companies list their ingredients online—and those that process products in an environmentally sound way are proud to announce it. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also provides ingredient information for most big-name laundry products, including all health warnings related to the product.