Image of a hand holding a laundry detergent sheet up in front of full load of clothes in washing machine

How do laundry detergent sheets (& hand soap sheets) work?

Last Updated: June 16, 2021

Extra plastic from all our cleaning, detergent, and soap bottles bites Mama Earth in the butt. Learn about zero-waste laundry soap sheets and how they actually work from Lead Grove Guide Angela Bell.

In a post-pandemic world, two dueling anxieties have come into focus for most of us. You want to make sure your clothing, house, and hands are clean in order to stay healthy. But you are also painfully aware of the increase in plastic waste that has gone along with staying safe during Covid-19 — from masks and hand sanitizer bottles to disinfecting wipes and their containers, so many single-use products were necessary to keep the population healthy. But — ugh, is that ever a lot of extra waste and plastic pollution!

So, how can we stay clean and reduce our environmental footprint at the same time? Well, one great way is to use laundry detergent soap sheets instead of liquid detergent that comes in giant plastic bottles. But how do these plastic-free, mess-free alternatives to traditional soap and detergent work? Let’s dive in and learn together!

What is a laundry detergent sheet?

Image of Grove Co. Laundry Detergent Sheet box next to lavender flowers

The best innovations are rooted in simplicity, and the laundry detergent sheet is exactly that: It’s traditional laundry soap without the baggage of packaging and plastic. Just the necessary cleaning ingredients, held together in a sheet of dissolvable and biodegradable resin.

Angela Bell, Lead Grove Guide, says "A laundry detergent sheet is a solid format detergent that allows for minimal waste, usually packaged in recyclable paperboard."

Literally just throw the sheet into your usual wash cycle — as easy as throwing in one last sock. Your reward for taking it easy? You just reduced your chemical and environmental footprint big time, baby!

Do laundry detergent sheets work?

Short answer: Yep!

Long answer: Absolutely! Laundry detergent sheets are designed to clean effectively with only key cleaning ingredients for the ultimate cleaning power without unnecessary and harmful additives.

According to Angela Bell, "Laundry detergent sheets are as efficacious as their powder or liquid counterparts.

Fewer ingredients and additives can actually mean cleaner clothes, since laundry detergent sheets won’t leave soap residue or skin irritants on your clothes.

Laundry sheets are already perfectly pre-measured, so your clothes will come clean without fussing over messy detergent measuring cups too.

Do laundry detergent sheets remove stains?

Blue bubbles illustration

Cue the happy dance music! You don't need to sacrifice your clean laundry in order to be kinder to the environment. Laundry detergent sheets will leave your laundry crisp, fresh, and stain-free without washing harmful chemicals down the drain.

Angela Bell reports "Laundry detergent sheets contain stain fighting ingredients, just as other formats do."

If you have a tough stain that needs to be spot-cleaned with a stain remover, just rub a detergent sheet on the stain, then toss the sheet in with the load of laundry. Bam! You are a laundry genius.

How do you use laundry detergent sheets?

As we mentioned above it’s pretty easy to use laundry detergent sheets. If you’ve ever used laundry detergent pods or tabs then you know the basics of how to use laundry sheets too.

Here's a tip from Angela: "Laundry detergent sheets work best added directly to the drum of the washer, rather than to any detergent dispensers. Place it in the drum before adding clothes."

Here are a few more basic steps to using a laundry detergent sheet:

Step 1

Put your laundry in the washing machine.

Step 2

Throw the laundry detergent sheet in the washing machine. Just one is all you need. Read the packaging for heavily soiled items to see if more than one sheet is needed.

Step 3

Turn the washing machine on. Easy, peasy! No mess, no extra packaging, no chemical cocktail.

Are laundry detergent sheets better than laundry detergent pods?

Sheets vs. pods: Which works better?

Both laundry detergent sheets and pods are quick, convenient, mess-free, and pre-measured. They both leave you with fresh, clean laundry. But are they really created equal? Not at all.

Laundry detergent pods might clean just as well, but at what cost? Pods are made using the same harsh ingredients as standard detergent, so they’re just as hard on your clothes and your skin. Plus, pods look oh-so-delightful, fun, and tasty to small children and pets, which puts them at risk of poisoning.

Plus, Grove Guides like Angela Bell report “I like to wash with cold water to save energy. In my HE machine, I find that laundry detergent sheets dissolve more fully than some pods I have tried.”

Sheets vs. pods: Which is more eco-friendly and sustainable?

Laundry soap sheets are more sustainable than pods — hands down. Beyond the harsh chemical ingredients used to make laundry detergent pods, the pods are still packaged in plastic containers. They’re bulky and heavy to ship, increasing transportation emissions.

When you weigh the light, no-waste, plastic- and chemical-free option of laundry detergent sheets against the bulky, plasticky, and chemical-filled laundry detergent pods, the answer is clear. Sheets are the Earth Day — and everyday — winner.

Why are laundry detergent sheets eco-friendly?

Laundry detergent sheets are eco-friendly in more ways than one. They have:

  • no plastic at all
  • no packaging that requires energy to recycle or dispose of — in fact, "laundry detergent sheets tend to be packaged in paperboard, which is more easily recycled than the mixed plastic pouches that pods commonly come in," says Bell
  • no harmful additives that get washed down the drain and into our water systems
  • no heavy, bulky containers to ship that contribute to CO2 emissions — "Laundry detergent sheets come in minimal, easy to recycle packaging, and the sheet format means that they are lighter and smaller, therefore reducing the carbon footprint in shipping. They work well in all water temperatures, which means you can use them in a cold-wash cycle, which is a great way to green your laundry routine," states Bell.
  • no harm to marine environments
  • lead to up to 700 million fewer plastic detergent containers per year in U.S. landfills alone if everyone used sheets
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So what are hand soap sheets then?

If you're tired of empty soap dispensers and the toll hand sanitizer and harsh soaps take on your skin, you're speaking our language. That's where hand soap sheets come into play.

Bell explains, "Soap sheets come in a recyclable, paperboard box with no additional packaging waste. The package itself is super small, and therefore ships with a minimal carbon footprint."

“I love that these fit right in a pocket or purse. I have sensitive skin and hate using harsh, industrial hand soaps when traveling. I love that I can bring my own hand soap in a convenient package, and skip the harsh chemicals.”

“This is a great option for outdoor adventuring, when a proper bathroom is nowhere near. All you need is a bit of water to keep your hands clean, wherever you wander!”

Napkin illustration

What is a hand soap sheet?

Soap sheets are a thing of beauty, consisting of natural hand soap painted on to water-soluble paper, which is then dried and cut into small rectangular pieces. Since these pocket-sized sheets of water-activated soap are paper-thin, a packet can hold dozens of soap sheets.

Just remove one with dry hands, add water, and lather up! Never be caught dirty-handed while traveling, camping, hiking, or after using a public washroom again.

Are soap sheets effective?

Skeptical that a little piece of paper soap can combat viruses and bacteria? Time to become a believer. Soap sheets are activated by water to dissolve, and then it's virus-killing suds galore that clean just as well as any other hand soap.

Soap itself, by its very nature, kills viruses and bacteria. Dry those hands with a reusable paper towel for an Earth Goddess worthy clean.

David Chernoff, MD, a Grove Collaborative fellow and chief medical officer of Setpoint Medical says ““Plain soap, if used properly, disrupts the lipid membrane of the virus. The key to avoiding infection is washing your hands with plain old soap. People use alcohol wipes and bleach wipes, and those are more appropriate if you want to clean surfaces like the steering wheel of your car.”

Why are soap sheets eco-friendly?

Let us count the ways! First, they completely dissolve as you wash, so there’s no energy spent on processing leftover waste products after you use them. The packaging is plastic-free and biodegradable, and the natural, additive-free soap is much gentler on the Earth — and your skin.

They’re also small and lightweight, which saves on the environmental impact from shipping. It's hard not to feel some genuinely positive hope for our collective future with innovators designing great, eco-friendly products like these.

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