Choosing a baby detergent that is both gentle and tough enough for what a baby puts out is more challenging than you'd think. We've purchased the 8 top options and put them through their paces testing each against baby food, formula, spit-up, and poo to find which products have 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.
Best Detergent for Baby Clothes
The Babyganics Liquid Baby Detergent is an all-purpose laundry detergent that is free of fragrances, dyes, sulfates, 1,4 dioxane, optical brighteners, chlorine, phthalates, and phosphates. This detergent is plant-based and works well on most stains in our tests removing all food and formula remnants 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.
Like most of the competition, the Babyganics struggled with dried poop on the test onesie, even when pre-treated. While it removed more evidence of staining than any of the competition, we could still see a light yellow discoloration left behind. Also, the largest available size is 60 oz, which isn't that big. While they claim a 60 load ability for this bottle, we imagine some parents will want a larger bottle on par with the regular detergent you find in a big box store. Overall, we like what this detergent has to offer and what it doesn't. The test clothing was scent-free, clean, and soft in our tests, and it is the best in this lineup, hands down.
Mama Bear Gentle Baby is a liquid detergent from Amazon's brand product lineup. It comes in a pack of two 40 ounce manageable size bottles we thought were thoughtfully designed. The package is adorable, and the lid is easy to use. This detergent is USDA certified 95% bio-based and scented with essential oils and botanical extracts. It is free of phthalates, 1,4 dioxane, dyes, and artificial scents and is cruelty-free. The formulation is suitable for h.e. and regular washing machines.
While the scent of this detergent is light and doesn't linger, we don't think baby detergent needs to be scented, and while they claim it is "naturally derived," without details, it can be difficult to determine if the ingredients will be irritating. Also, while we like the efforts to be eco-friendly and cruelty-free, the detergent isn't as effective as the competition leaving behind light staining of poo and green beans. Even after pre-treating, we could still see light staining left behind. Overall, the bio-based formulation and lack of most irritants make some staining acceptable for those on a tight budget.
Puracy Natural comes in a small bottle with a big impact working for up to 9 loads. 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. It is a plant-based formula that is safe for septic systems and is 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 yellowing left behind for the fecal matter.
While the Puracy liquid worked well on the food and formula staining, it struggled somewhat wit the poop. It didn't have as much staining as some of the competition, but there is light yellow remnant you can see in certain light. It is also somewhat more expensive than other options, but not if you do the math per load with 96 loads in one bottle. Unfortunately, we suspect parents will use more than they need as the prescribed amount simply doesn't "feel" like enough. Overall, we like the lack of concerning chemicals and the fact that it is septic system safe and cruelty-free. The fact that it more or less gets clothes clean in our testing is just yummy icing on the cake.
Seventh Generation Free and Clear is a biodegradable option you might be able to find in your local store. It is a 96% USDA Certified Bio-based Product free of dyes, artificial brighteners, and fragrances. In our tests, this detergent left clothes smelling fresh and feeling soft. Seventh Generation is produced in the USA.
This detergent includes methylisothiazolinone (a synthetic preservative), which is not good for the environment and is a potential irritant or allergen. While not a deal-breaker, it is important to mention for those with highly sensitive skin, some competitors do not contain it. Seventh Generation is also a little spendier than the competition we tested, covering about 53 loads for a price on par with those that cover closer to 90. Also, t didn't do well during testing of any substance leaving behind staining for formula, food, and poo. In the end, there is nothing overtly wrong about this detergent. It could be a good choice if you need something now and happen to be at the store, but there are some eco-healthier, more effective, and less expensive options in this review.
Rockin' Green Platinum Series detergent is specially formulated for use with cloth diapers. This powder detergent comes in a zip-lock plastic bag with a small measuring scoop. This detergent is vegan and cruelty-free and made in 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 type of washing machine you have.
This product uses tea tree oil, which some users report causes rashes on sensitive skin. As it is only included for scent and dissipates quickly, we think it would be better without this addition. We also weren't impressed with its ability to work on stains. In our test, it struggled with poo, formula, and food stains. We did not pre-soak the stained garments, and while this might increase its ability to work effectively, we don't think the average parent has the time or energy to pre-soak and manage laundry to that extent. The staining left behind makes Rockin' Green an option we feel could be better, and we believe there are more effective options in this lineup for getting things clean. However, the lack of harmful chemicals puts it higher in the ranking than products that contain known irritants.
Tide Free and Gentle HE is a well-known brand name detergent free of fragrances, dyes, and phosphates. This detergent has an easy to use lid and includes sodium citrate as a hard water softener. This Tide boasts being the only detergent accepted by the National Eczema Association and the National Psoriasis Foundation.
Unfortunately, in our tests, this detergent couldn't match some of the more eco-friendly competition in effectiveness, leaving behind staining worse than or similar to competitors. In all honesty, we expected more from such a popular and well-known brand, which mad the results seen more disappointing than they might have otherwise been. While it isn't the worst in the group for effectiveness, the fact that it contains ingredients that are potentially allergens or irritants (or worse) combined with its ineffective cleaning ability means it didn't rank higher in our lineup and isn't one of our favorites.
Woolite Baby is a liquid detergent from the makers of Woolite brand detergent known for being gentle on clothing. This detergent is free of bleach, phosphates, enzymes, dyes, and artificial brighteners. In our tests, the detergent worked fairly well on the formula and food stains.
This formulation "Contains fragrance allergens," as stated by the company, indicating that whatever chemicals included in the proprietary blend for fragrance are potential allergens or irritants. Given that the ingredients aren't listed, it is hard to say for sure, which is why we dislike fragrances. Woolite also didn't fare that well in our tests for stain removal, working poorly on the poo stains. Given the fragrance and other potentially worrisome ingredients, along with the lack of poo cleaning ability, we think there are better choices available in this group.
vaska Baby is a limited ingredient detergent marketed as hypoallergenic with no enzymes, chemical residue, and phosphates included. After a deep internet dive, we were able to find out the following: it does not contain nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), chlorine, phosphates, alcohol, optical brighteners, animal products, EPA priority pollutants, or dyes.
While only four ingredients are on the label, a critical eye will see that some are listed as plural, indicating there is more at play here than first meets the eye. Specifically, "plant-based surfactants" is vague and implies more than one are included. Also, it has an undefined degreasing agent, which gives us pause since we can't say what it is and whether or not it can act as an irritant or worse. This vague language feels deceptive and lacks transparency, things we aren't big fans of. As a result, it is hard to say whether or not there are any potential health concerns in this detergent. Vaska also struggled to get clothes clean with several stains left behind, and some of the poop stains were darker than the competition. Overall, be it ingredient questions or lack of cleaning capabilities, we think there are better options out there.
Dreft: Stage 1 is a traditional standby detergent that is almost synonymous with baby laundry. This detergent is suitable for HE machines and comes with 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. Given the number of effective, budget-friendly, eco-healthy options on the market, Dreft struggles to keep up with the competition.
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 in this review. 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 and 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 stronger than it needs to be. Overall, we think there are better, healthier options in this review that are 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. For more than seven years, we've researched, purchased, and tested a variety of baby specific products, including everything from strollers and car seats to bassinets and sunscreen. We bought and utilized the detergents in this lineup side-by-side for a comparison like no other in the world. To determine which products are the best at getting baby clothes clean, 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 that families can find the right match for their needs.
Analysis and Test Results
We tested each detergent on baby onesies with dried on, soaked in stains from food, formula, and other things less desirable to see which options can get things clean, and stay gentle on baby's skin and clothes.
A baby detergent isn't much use if it can't get things clean. With many parents switching to 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 struggled with poop. We let the poop dry on white organic cotton onesies overnight and pre-treated each stain with a little bit of the detergent prior to washing the garment with warm water and the recommended detergent amount as per the direction on each container. Most of the options got out almost all of the poop, but the majority left a light yellow/brown stain behind. The popular brand options we thought would do the best were no better than the "free and clear" options or more eco-friendly products. Purex, Woolite, Dreft, and Mama Bear all left behind some yellow. Unfortunately, the cloth diaper specific option, Rockin' Green, showed the worst performance with poop with the most staining left behind in the group. Given it is geared specifically for cloth diapers, this result surprised us.
The best performer overall 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 for 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, Mama Bear, 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 overall like Seventh Generation and Tide Free and Clear. The traditional baby-centric detergents most parents are familiar with were the worst offenders with more questionable ingredients, in our opinion than the competition. 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. Woolite Baby, Dreft: Stage 1, and Purex lack information or bragging about their chosen ingredients. Alternatively, Vaska Baby has a very short ingredient list, but its ingredients are vague and lack transparency on what the formulation is. We have concerns over the lack of information, and its lower ranking in our lineup reflects this.
While eco-health considers which detergents are gentle for the environment and your baby's skin, being clothing-friendly includes being gentle on clothes, by keeping them soft and in one piece with a fresh smell that isn't offensive. In our limited testing, it is hard to say how the clothing will stand up over time with any given detergent. During testing, we didn't see anything concerning with any of the brands. However, we suspect that those formulations with fewer chemicals or those that are bio-based will likely be easier on the clothing than other options. Typically, little ones grow out of their clothing long before the garments have an opportunity to degrade or show indications of wear. None of the products contain bleach, which is known for being hard on fabrics. Those with limited chemical residue and scent are also probably easy on materials. These include Babyganics, Puracy, and Mama Bear.
Finding a good detergent for everything your baby dishes out doesn't need to be difficult or cost you a lot of money in trial and error. We've tested the most popular options on the market to give you the details you need to find the best detergent for your needs. With this lineup of impressive options, we feel confident you'll find the right choice for your budget and baby.
— Wendy Schmitz