Waterless laundry strips: I tried them!

Even as plastic straws and single use grocery bags become obsolete, I find the plastic in my recycling bin piling up faster than ever. I struggle all the way home with my supplies carefully balanced in overstuffed cloth bags, then unpack my load of produce in plastic clamshells, juice in plastic jugs, and those giant bottles of liquid laundry soap, feeling like I’ve missed the environmental mark.

So when I first heard about waterless laundry strips, I got really excited! Finally, a solution that reduces my plastic recycling and makes my weekly shopping somewhat more convenient. These strips are meant to replace liquid detergents, offering powerful cleaning capabilities in a single razor-thin strip. They look a bit like they’ve been shaved from a bar of soap. 

After a few weeks of using them, would I recommend making the switch? Read this list of pros and cons to decide for yourself … and find out whether or not I’m still tossing them into my shopping cart!

Pro: Laundry strips are environmentally friendly.

This is the advantage that really hooked me, given our increased understanding of the environmental impact of using too much plastic. These strips reduced my carbon footprint in a number of ways. 

Because they’re waterless, they’re a lot easier to ship and store, requiring much less energy to get to my store. They’re also packaged in cardboard instead of plastic, which significantly reduces the amount and complexity of the recycling involved.

The strips contain no parabens or phosphates and work in cold water and high efficiency machines. They’re also biodegradable and hypoallergenic.

Con: They cost more.

When I priced them out at my local store, waterless laundry strips cost about fifty cents each, compared to only eleven cents per use of a budget eco-friendly liquid competitor. Even a leading brand’s natural variety cost less, at about twenty-eight cents per load.

As consumers demand more environmentally friendly options and additional competitors enter the market, we’ll likely see prices drop on these kinds of products. But for now, the difference in price can seem really steep, especially for families who do a lot of laundry.

Pro: They’re super convenient.

I did love the convenience of carrying home only a small cardboard sleeve rather than a huge, heavy bottle of detergent. My recycling bin doesn’t get filled as quickly, and I don’t need much space to store plenty of extra laundry soap in my small utility room.

I can see this being a big advantage for people with limited mobility, including seniors. Laundry strips are easy to carry home and don’t require any heavy lifting when putting in a load of laundry. 

They’re also convenient for traveling as they can be packed into a suitcase with no added weight or risk of leaking.

Con: They didn’t work quite as well as expected.

Even though the packaging promised that they’d dissolve completely in both hot and cold water, I didn’t find that to be true. Occasionally, there was sticky residue on some clothing or a piece of a strip stuck to the front door of my machine at the end of the cycle. I know I wasn’t alone in this frustration. Lots of reviewers complained that the strips didn’t fully dissolve even after tearing them up into tiny pieces.

I also found that some of the strips were stuck together in a clump inside my package, making them difficult to separate. Hopefully, there will be future improvements in the formula so that the strips aren’t quite so sticky and to allow for better melting in the wash.

Pro: Lots of varieties are available.

Laundry strips come in an assortment of scents as well as unscented varieties. Most are paraben- and phosphate-free and deemed to be hypoallergenic. I found the scents to be fresh and pleasant but not overpowering.

Con: None of the varieties performed as well as liquid detergent.

Lots of reviewers love laundry strips, but others found that their clothes didn’t smell as clean as with traditional detergent. My family was happy enough with the results, but I did find that I had to use more strips than recommended to get our laundry sufficiently cleaned, especially if there were food, makeup or mud stains involved.

The packaging recommends a single strip for a normal load (adjusting to use more or less for larger or smaller loads). A lot of reviewers shared my concern that most loads required at least two strips to feel reasonably clean. This wouldn’t be a big deal, except that it effectively doubled the price of a product that was already a lot more expensive than its competitors.

My sensitive kids had no issues at all with laundry strips, but some reviewers experienced rashes or other symptoms that are usually avoided by using a hypoallergenic product like this.

The final verdict?

There are many benefits, including convenience and environmental friendliness, but I personally can’t justify the expense. Budget is a big concern to me, but your priorities may differ.

However, they had the effect of making me more aware of the environmental impact of my daily laundry cycles. I’ll be more inclined to look for eco-friendly detergent options and will continue to experiment with waterless strips whenever I see them on sale.

I’m also considering other ways to lessen my carbon footprint and make laundry an easier task to do. Commercial laundry equipment is an efficient way to speed through multiple oversized loads using less water and less energy. When it comes time to replace our current washing machine, I’ll definitely be considering purchasing a commercial variety rather than a residential one. 

If I’m already loaded down with groceries, I wouldn’t hesitate to save space and weight by choosing a small laundry strip package instead of a large jug of liquid detergent. I feel good about making greener choices and am always looking for ways to make household chores easier. However, for most of my laundry needs, I’ll probably still resort to an inexpensive eco-friendly liquid detergent while I save up for a commercial washer. 

You might also be interested in reading our recent blogs about waterless washing machines and commercial options for home use.

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