Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Laundry Detergent (citrus scent); $10.99 at Whole Foods
Pros: Clothes were, for the most part, clean after washing. Large bottle means fewer trips to the market.
Cons: Some stains required a second washing, but this is often the case with natural detergents. Contains ingredients that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has expressed concerns about.
I’ve been a Trader Joe’s Liquid Laundry Detergent user for years. I like the product, but it doesn’t get every piece of clothing completely clean all the time. Some stains, like nursery school paint and tomato, require pre-treating with the best natural spot cleaner I can find. This is why — when the folks at Whole Foods offered me a free bottle of their newest detergent — I was thrilled to give it a try.
I got a $20 gift card so I could choose which one was best for me. (There are a lot of options.) I picked the Citrus scent because it is formulated for high efficiency machines, and it was a nice, big bottle. There are some significant difference between the two options. My Trader Joe’s detergent uses coconut surfactants; the 365 Everyday uses sodium lauryl sulphate. Also, the ingredients list is a lot longer.
Here’s what’s in Trader Joe’s detergent:
Purified water, plant-based surfactants, earth salts, soy-based fabric softener, cellulose optical brightener, lavender oil.
Here’s what’s in the 365 Everyday Value option:
Purified water, sodium lauryl sulphate (plant-based anionic surfactant), laurel alcohol ethoxylate (plant-based anionic surfactant), sodium oleate (plant-based anti-foaming agent), kathon (preservative), sodium carbonate (PH control), blend of citrus essential oils, sodium chloride (viscosity modifier).
Now here’s where things get tricky. Trader Joe’s does not elaborate which surfactants it uses. At first glance, it seems like it’s quite possible that the two detergents are pretty close in terms of ingredients. That said, the warning labels on the two bottles are very different. (See above. Click to expand to full size.) One — TJ’s — is a “mild eye irritant.” The 365 version says “harmful if swallowed,” and says contact with eyes requires 15 minutes of flushing and a consultation with a doctor. Okay, so after reading the two bottles and looking at the ingredients, I’m thinking that the 365 option is probably a little more caustic.
So…how does it clean? Well, I was impressed with its cleaning prowess. It brightened my whites more than my usual detergent, and colors came out bright, too. I have done about 20 loads in cold and warm water, and the results are impressive aside from one of Big Girl’s shirts that had purple poster paint and some of my own jeans that had a dollop of mayo and some tomato juice. Both the jeans and the shirt required a second wash, but to be fair I did not use any stain spray on either, which I normally do as a habit.
The cost is also a big plus. I pay $8.99 for a one gallon bottle of TJ’s liquid detergent. The 365 Everyday Value bottle of the same size costs $10.99. Here’s the thing, though: The 365 bottle claims to provide 94 HE loads, while the TJ’s option only does 64. That works out to 14 cents per load for the TJ’s detergent and 11 1/2 cents per load on the Whole Foods version.
So will I be switching over to the 365 version? Probably not. I have a 2-year-old and a 7-year-old. I keep my detergent in an unlocked laundry closet on the same floor as our bedrooms. I just can’t take the chance that one of them will decide to “help,” and get into trouble. Especially since one of the ingredients, kathon, is rated a 6 on the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics database. (You can look at it here, and then look at Dow’s description of the preservative here.)