By Jen CuttsAug 11, 2017
Best forFamilies who want to use a natural, unscented detergent but don't want to spend more than necessary
Top BenefitsFragrance- and dye-free, 97% plant-based, impressive cleaning power, good value
ConsiderationsLimited availability in stores and online
Bottom lineSeventh Generation Free and Clear Natural Laundry Detergent for Baby is a well-priced natural detergent that will leave your clothes clean and fresh
Seventh Generation has been in the natural detergent business for over 20 years, so it's had plenty of time to figure out what works. Its Free and Clear Natural Laundry Detergent for Baby is hypoallergenic, with no added fragrances or dyes, and 97% of its ingredients are derived from plants, so it's gentle on your baby's skin and safe to use with cloth diapers. In our tests, Seventh Generation Free and Clear Natural Laundry Detergent did a better-than-average job of removing some really tough stains, and our at-home parent testers overwhelmingly gave its cleaning power a thumbs-up. None of our testers reported any new skin irritations with their babies.
We tested this detergent by staining dozens of 100 percent organic cotton jersey swatches with common stain-makers like formula and frozen blueberries. Half of the stains were left to sit overnight; the other half were freshly stained, immediately rinsed under cold water, and washed in under two hours. In both of those batches, we pre-treated one swatch with a bit of the detergent, and left the other untreated. While none of the detergents we tested completely removed grass, mud, blueberries, spaghetti sauce, sweet potato puree, coffee or formula in all scenarios, Seventh Generation Free and Clear Natural Laundry Detergent was in the top third of detergents for how much it was able to fade or lighten those stains overall. When the stains were pre-treated, this detergent completely cleaned away all visible signs of formula and sweet potato puree.
The majority of our parent testers strongly agreed that Seventh Generation did a good job of cleaning their baby's clothing. Almost all of our testers agreed the instructions on the bottle are straightforward, and that the lines on the inside of the cap correspond to the recommendations around how much detergent to use. (It's always nice to be sure you aren't using more detergent than you need to.) All but one tester felt the lid stayed on securely enough to avoid a messy, leaky bottle.
Most natural detergents list their ingredients right on the bottle, but Seventh Generation Free and Clear Natural Laundry Detergent gets bonus points for taking it one step further and explaining what each ingredient actually is in everyday English. That's where we learned that Seventh Generation's cleaning power is boosted by three different plant-derived enzymes, which clean away odour and bacteria. (Some detergents use synthetic, chemical substances to achieve the same goal.) It doesn't use any artificial chemical brighteners, which only make your clothes look cleaner and aren't proven safe for our environment. It's also not tested on animals and doesn't contain animal ingredients.
All but one of our testers rated the quality and ease of use of Seventh Generation as good or very good, and felt it was the same or better than the detergent they normally use. 80 percent would recommend it to other parents, and they all agreed that it was worthy of the Today's Parent Approved seal. We like that this effective detergent is easy on your baby's skin and the environment, and only costs a few more cents per load than better-known detergents. One thing to note is that this particular formulation is a bit challenging to order online. It may soon become more available online and at major retailers thanks to Seventh Generation's recent acquisition by Unilever. A reasonably priced natural detergent that does a good job of cleaning your baby's clothes isn't hard to recommend, so that's why we've given it our seal of approval.