what are laundry detergent sheets & do they work?

Posted by smol on



Many people are curious as to how exactly laundry sheets work, if they are eco-friendly and what they are made of, so we thought we’d take a look between the sheets…

what exactly are they...

Laundry sheets are a relatively new form of detergent that you place in your washing machine drum just as you would a laundry capsule. They look very much like thin strips of paper but they are actually NOT made from paper.
The sheets themselves are a mix of thickening agents and polyvinyl alcohol. PVA is actually the same material that we use to encase our laundry capsules and it’s fully soluble in water (as is the thickening agent).
Tru Earth is a brand many of you might have spotted since it became available here in the UK and there’s a handy ingredients list on their website to check what the sheets are composed of. Corn starch, polyvinyl alcohol and glyceryl cocoate appear to form the main structure of the sheet to which the surfactants are added (Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate along with Cocamidopropyl Betaine….they are what will do the cleaning). 

…and how are laundry sheets made?

During the manufacturing process, all the liquid ingredients are poured into a drying plate with the thickening agents and the PVA. The water within this mixture is then evaporated, and you are left with a solid resin which is flexible and will dissolve in water when added to your wash.
It is unclear how much energy is required to evaporate the water using these dryer plates and none of the laundry sheet companies we contacted have completed a full Life Cycle Analysis on their sheets… so for now this level of carbon creation is unknown.

a quick comparison on shipping miles

So let’s look at where they come from…

laundry sheets brands comparison

a quick comparison on price

And the cost per wash…

laundry sheets brands comparison


so do they work?

Consumer Reports put their test engineers to work on laundry sheets in September 2022. Earth Breeze and Tru Earth were included in the mix and these brands are both readily available in the UK. 
Fabric that had been stained with blood, body sebum, chocolate, coffee, dirt, grass and salad dressing (oil) were tested in turn with the sheets. 
Difficult stains that are hard to remove are often used in these types of consumer testing because it’s an effective way to really detect the differences between products. Even the best detergents struggle to remove every stain completely so it’s a clear way to discern what dirt is getting removed and what isn’t.

laundry sheets vs laundry capsules 

Overall, compared to other forms of detergent… laundry sheets do not perform well. 
They were all graded with scores that ranged from fair to poor, performing worse than even the lowest performing liquid or capsules. Tru Earth eco strips were the lowest-rated product on this stain removal test.
Interestingly our own testing found Tru Earth strips were up to 50% worse at stain removal than our own smol capsules.

some extras to consider…

customer opinions 

laundry sheets brands comparison


vegan and cruelty-free? 

laundry sheets brands comparison


One great benefit of using laundry sheets is that they tend to come in cardboard packaging just like our smol capsules do. 
Many laundry detergents unfortunately do NOT come in cardboard, so swapping to smol or to a laundry sheet detergent will help you rid your home of one more single-use plastic item that’s probably not going to be successfully recycled by your local authority.
Last year in the UK over 110 million plastic packs of laundry detergent were sold via our supermarkets. No wonder we’re sick of plastic. You can read more about smol’s view on plastic here. 

a smol verdict.

We’re often asked if we’ll start to make a laundry sheet alongside or instead of our current liquid laundry capsules. And whilst we haven’t any immediate plans to do so we’re always investigating and innovating. However, the cleaning results would have to match or surpass our current products… and at the moment we just don’t feel they do. 


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