Most people choose laundry detergent based on brand loyalty, preferred smell, or simply because the product is on sale. Nonetheless, certain detergents truly outclean the competitors. That’s why we gathered six popular alternatives and tested them in our laundry laboratories. We wanted to know which detergent cleaned the best, smelled the nicest, and was the most affordable.
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Types of Laundry Detergent
Each kind has advantages and downsides. One shape you select will be determined on personal choice, as well as which you find most convenient and effective based on the brand and the sorts of laundry loads you perform. Here are our thoughts on the three most common types of laundry detergent: powder, liquid, and single-use packets.
Powder detergent was the first form of laundry detergent invented, and it is generally less expensive than liquid and single-dose competitors. Detergents in this category tend to work well on outdoor stains like dirt, clay, or grass, making them ideal for cleaning your child’s soccer jerseys, gardening clothing, and other items. Keep in mind that powder should be stored in a totally dry environment to avoid clumping. Also, if you prefer washing in cold water, certain powders may not dissolve fully, resulting in unpleasant residue on your clothing.
The most popular type of detergent among customers is liquid detergent, which works particularly well on oil and grease stains. It may also be used as a spot pre-treater, and you won’t have to worry about it not dissolving. But don’t forget to use the right amount: The lines on the measuring caps are there for a reason, even though they are often difficult to see! Too much will result in over-sudsing, or the soap may not rinse out after the cycle is over, or it may even cause your machine to shut down. If you use too little, your clothing will not be clean. Believe us when we say that using the suggested quantity yields superior outcomes.
Single-dose packages are highly handy, although they are somewhat more expensive on average. You won’t have to worry about using too little or too much detergent because it comes pre-measured with either liquid or powder detergent. One pack is often suggested for average-sized loads, and two packs are recommended for big or highly dirty loads. For extremely tiny loads, one pack may be too much, and you never want to break them. Keep in mind that some packs have difficulty dissolving in some machines, particularly in colder water temps, so make sure you put the packs before the clothing. Some modern machines have dedicated areas in the dispenser drawer for these packets, allowing them to dissolve in less water.
HE Washer Detergents
You’ll need a HE washer detergent if you have a high-efficiency (HE) washer. Because HE washers utilize less water, HE detergents are low-sudsing. If you use ordinary detergent, it will produce too many suds, which your HE washer will not be able to remove. Fortunately, most detergents on the market are compatible with HE washers – but always double-check.
Enzyme-based detergents, often known as biological detergents, are excellent for removing stubborn stains. Even if the stains have set in, several biological detergents may remove them entirely.
How to Choose the Best Laundry Detergents
- Most essential, consider the detergent’s intended use. Consider if you want it for infant clothing, stubborn stains, deodorizing, whitening garments, or something else different.
- Most detergents are safe to use in any type of washer, but if you have a HE washer, search for the HE sign.
- If you reside in a hard water location, you’ll need a hard water-specific detergent. Many detergents lose their efficacy when exposed to hard water. We have a few ideas for hard water houses. Most detergents will work if you don’t have hard water.
- There is no such thing as the ideal washing detergent – at least not yet. However, examine the detergent’s effectiveness at particular tasks such as brightening, eliminating stains, reducing smells, and generally cleaning your garments.
- Many laundry detergents include hazardous chemicals such as perfumes, formaldehyde, ammonium sulphate, and others. Because these chemicals are diluted, many people will not notice any harmful effects. Many patients, however, complain of headaches, breathing issues, and skin problems. If you’re trying to eliminate all artificial components, we have plenty of natural and non-toxic alternatives to share with you.
- If you have a newborn, it is critical to use baby-friendly laundry detergent. Because their skin is delicate, you should avoid products containing enzymes, perfumes, bleach, parabens, and sulphates.
- If you suffer from allergies, you should use hypoallergenic laundry detergent. It should not include any common skin irritants. We have a specific choice for those with sensitive skin, but many other detergents are hypoallergenic as well. In fact, if you suffer from allergies, you could enjoy using a baby-friendly detergent!
The Best Laundry Detergents
- According to EWG, Ecover – Zero is created with few or no known/suspected health or environmental risks.
- This detergent is a good alternative for individuals with sensitive skin because it contains no scent or colours and has been dermatologist-tested.
While eco-friendly or natural detergents were less efficient at eliminating stains, we couldn’t stop thinking about how smooth our clothes felt after washing it with Ecover – Zero laundry detergent. It contains a plant-based fabric softener that is effective on natural fabrics but can impair towel absorbency. We liked it on our bedding, and it was good to know that the cloth we were sleeping on was cleaned in a detergent that fulfilled the highest criteria for safety and environmental effect.
Ecover received an A grade in the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning and has completed a comprehensive list of standards to be Green Certified by Whole Foods Market. Their ingredient disclosure is adequate, and the biodegradable formula (made from plant-based components) is packed in a container composed of recycled plastic and sugarcane plastic.
Ecover is not only environmentally sustainable but it is also designed to be cleaned in cold water, making it energy-efficient. When removing set-in stains, however, we recommend a warm water wash.
- Tide – Coldwater Clean, our best stain fighter, not only outperformed the other three cold-water detergents, but it also cleaned stains more or equally as efficiently as any of the detergents we tested in warm water.
- The energy you save by washing in cold water will help lower your electric cost, making this a fantastic detergent for a mid-range price.
- Tide Coldwater Clean has HE TurboClean technology, which is an unique composition that swiftly compresses suds and tackles stubborn stains.
According to the US Department of Energy, 90% of the energy consumed by clothes washers is for heating the water. Aside from saving money on electricity costs, washing in cold water provides greater colour preservation (prevents fading) and reduces the possibility of colour transfer onto other garments. We were blown away by Tide – Coldwater Clean’s ability to remove stains and brighten garments in cold water.
Tide – Coldwater Clean performed the best in cold water circumstances of the three cold-water formulations we tested. In terms of stain removal, it outperformed six other detergents and tied with Wisk Deep Clean, which required warm water to work. It may also be used in hot or cold water, offering it a versatile alternative for people who prefer cold water for delicates and hot water for messier garments.
We weren’t alone in our results, as 70% of Amazon reviewers and 66% of Walmart shoppers who used Tide – Coldwater rated it five stars. In fact, it received great marks from cloth diaper washing customers for its ability to remove both stains and smells.
The negative complaints were mostly about the fragrance, however there were a few reports of dye lingering on the garments. We didn’t have this problem, and because the dye is water-soluble, it can be removed with hot water.
If you possess a HE washing machine, you’ll love P&G’s HE TurboClean technology, which is available in the Tide – Coldwater Clean recipe. It employs quick-dissolving suds that prevent HE machines from conducting repeated rinse cycles, saving up to 10 gallons of water as well as your important time.
At approximately eight cents per load, Arm & Hammer – Clean Burst is hard to match for a low-cost detergent. Price is a major consideration for many families, so it’s no surprise that this detergent has received positive feedback on Amazon.com (57 percent rate it five stars) and Walmart.com (79 percent give it five stars). Consumers are lured to its long-lasting fresh smell and gentle yet efficient cleaning capacity in addition to its good pricing.
This detergent is made with baking soda and is intended to remove smells and refresh clothing. It works well on protein-based stains like egg and grass, but struggles with some of the more difficult stains. While it is not the greatest option for stain removal, it does not create extraordinary wear and tear on cloth, as is sometimes the case with low-cost detergents.
Arm & Hammer is an excellent alternative for homes that wash numerous loads of laundry each week or just want to save money by providing more detergent for less money.
The natural refreshing and deodorizing properties of baking soda, combined with a lasting aroma, make this detergent an excellent choice for people who enjoy the smell of freshly laundered sheets.
Reviewers strongly suggest All – Free and Clear as a quality detergent for individuals with sensitive skin. The National Eczema Association has granted it the NEA Seal of Acceptance, and it eliminates common and seasonal allergens such as pet dander, dust mite matter, and pollen. Even without a harsh recipe, it performed admirably in our stain removal test. Some customers were put off by the price, but for those with sensitive skin, it was well worth it.
It does include sodium cocoate, which lowers allergies in clothes, but it is a soap that can accumulate if used in excess.
Cocoboo 100 percent Organic Soap Nuts are safe to use in all washing machines and at all temperatures. They don’t produce suds, therefore they’re ideal for HE washers! They’re also 100 percent organic.
Saponin, a natural surfactant found in Nepal, is present in soap nuts. These soap nuts are non-toxic and hypoallergenic, making them excellent for families that suffer from sensitive skin, eczema, or allergies. Furthermore, there is no plastic packaging, making it completely eco-friendly.
What’s more, soap nuts have antibacterial properties. It kills germs in washing and keeps clothing smelling fresh and clean.
With one pack of soap nuts, you can do more than 120 loads of washing. Per load, use two to four soap nuts.
Biokleen is another environmentally friendly option that has an A rating on EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning, suggesting the least worry for potential health or environmental risks.
All Biokleen products are devoid of chlorine bleach, synthetic colours, and artificial perfumes, and the company’s most popular alternative is the Free & Clear. It is made out of simple chemicals like sodium carbonate, surfactant, and hydrogen peroxide, and Biokleen has been praised for its transparent ingredient list.
With the cleansing power of Oxi (oxygen bleach) and a lasting aroma that seals in to keep your clothing feeling fresher for longer, Walmart.com reviewers almost universally awarded Gain – Icy Fresh Oxi Boost five stars. It is designed to be used in cold water, and the clothing we tested came out clean and bright, however it did not remove stains as effectively as Tide Coldwater.
Most buyers are drawn to the Icy Fresh Fizz smell, which is regarded as clean and energising, and the Oxi Boost, which helps to brighten clothing without the need of hot water. It also includes enzymes, making it particularly efficient on bleachable and protein stains.
Do you live in a region with hard water? Then you know how difficult it may be to locate washing detergent that completely dissolves and leaves your clothing soft. According to our study, the best detergent for hard water is Rockin’ Green Natural Laundry Detergent Powder.
To get your clothing extremely clean, the detergent employs a proprietary blend of mild chemicals and water softeners. This plant-based cleanser is ideal for children, parents, and allergy sufferers. It is capable of cleaning everything from linen bedding to delicate underwear.
Because of the strength of its composition, you may use less detergent than usual. Many consumers discovered that this detergent removed 60% more stains!
Seventh Generation was the most effective at eliminating stains and refreshing clothing of the three eco-friendly laundry detergents we tested. Despite the absence of optical brighteners, colours, scent, or phosphates, it received a C grade from EWG owing to the presence of methylisothiazolinone. Since 2009, it has satisfied the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Choice Standards.
This detergent is a fantastic alternative for people who want an eco-friendly detergent that doesn’t require extra pretreating procedures because it combines green certification with a decent stain-fighting performance and a fair price.
People with sensitive skin might benefit from Tide Free and Gentle Pods. They don’t include any colours or fragrances. They’ve been dermatologically tested and are hypoallergenic, so whether you have allergies or skin issues, these pods should be suitable.
They’re also convenient and simple to use. Because the pods are pre-measured, all you have to do is toss them into the drum before adding your clothes!
These pods have three functions: they clean clothing, remove stains and brighten textiles. As a result, when you take your clothes out of the washing machine, they will be cleaner and brighter than before!
Tide recommends one pod for small loads and three for heavy loads, however, you could experiment with one pod for each load.
Laundry Detergent FAQs
Important Factors To Consider When Choosing Detergent
The science of stains provides a thorough understanding of how to cure certain stains. Proteins such as blood and egg, for example, are best removed with a protease enzyme that digests protein stains. The objective of washing detergent is to eliminate as much dirt and stains as possible. Starting with an efficient stain removal detergent saves you time and energy. Only the most tenacious stains will require pre-treatment and soaking.
We stained eight 100 percent cotton Hanes – classic t-shirts with four different sorts of typical stains to see which detergent was the best at eliminating stains and brightening textiles in general.
- Bleachable: Because you’re just getting out of bed, the first cup of coffee of the day is certain to go on your clothing. Coffee (and tea) stains are bleachable, which means they may be removed using an oxidising agent like bleach.
- Food is the most common source of oil and grease stains. We designed a combined stain of oil and vivid dye with a red lip gloss since real life is more complicated than coping with a basic stain.
- Carbohydrate: You may have observed that carbohydrate stains like ketchup appear to be preternaturally drawn to white t-shirts. We smeared ketchup on our t-shirts to test how effectively our detergents removed one of the most common forms of stains.
- Tannin stains, such as red wine and fruit juice, can be difficult to remove. To test how the detergents fared, we added two tablespoons of red wine to each garment.
pH, which stands for “potential of hydrogen,” is a measure of the concentration of hydrogen ions in a liquid solution. The pH scale has a range of 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is considered neutral. The lower the number, the more acidic the solution, and the higher the number, the more alkaline the solution.
Because alkaline detergents are more effective, we intended to use pH strips to evaluate the pH of the various detergents. We also wanted to check which detergent had the lowest pH level after washing, suggesting that it had left the least amount of extra laundry detergent behind.
Choosing a detergent is usually a matter of selecting the most effective at the greatest price. We examined the average costs of our top finalists at online retailing behemoths such as Amazon.com, Target.com, and Walmart.com. The cost per load was calculated by dividing the lowest pricing option by the number of loads in each bottle.
The cost per load varied from.8 to.29 cents, with Arm & Hammer – Clean Burst being the most cost-effective option. At.11 cents a load, Biokleen Laundry Powder was not far behind. The majority of the detergents were priced between.17 and.23 cents per load, giving you numerous alternatives at the same pricing point.
On average, Americans do 300 to 390 loads of laundry each year. Switching from a high-priced detergent to a lower-cost detergent can help you save $50 each year. The savings might be much higher if you live in a larger home with more washing.
Why use laundry detergent
Water will not remove oil and grease from garments by itself because oil and grease resist water molecules. This is why washing detergent is required. Surfactants in laundry detergent assist the water take away dirt and oil, break it up, and wash it away. Surfactants also have another purpose. They suspend dirt and fabric colours, preventing them from being redeposited on the cleansed clothes.
Laundry detergents remove dirt and stains from clothing while also disinfecting, deodorizing, freshening, and brightening the fabric. As a consequence, clothing and textiles look better and last longer.
With a laundry detergent that works in all conditions, you can wash your clothing in cold water without losing cleanliness. Detergents designed to wash in cold water conserve energy, reduce shrinking and fading, and protect dark garments from leaking colour into lighter things. They are often available at the same price range. Cold water detergents may also be used in warm and hot water, allowing you to switch between temperatures without changing your detergents.
Dyes and perfumes can trigger rashes and skin sensitivities in certain people. If you have sensitive skin or need to wash infant laundry, dye- and perfume-free laundry detergents (typically labelled “free and clear”) are the best to use.
Although all chemicals are put to detergents for a specific reason, some firms market themselves as environmentally benign. They avoid substances identified by the Environmental Protection Agency and/or the Environmental Working Group as potentially hazardous to human health and the environment.
A lingering fragrance on your clean clothes is something you either love or despise. For one individual, the best-smelling laundry detergent may be overwhelming and unpleasant. There are several laundry detergent options available, ranging from free and clear to highly perfumed.
You should use a detergent designated for high-efficiency (HE) machines if you have a front-loading washer or a high-efficiency top-loader.
How do laundry detergents work?
Surfactants and builders are components of laundry detergents. On our laundry stain remover review, we went into detail about the different sorts of stains and how to remove them. Here’s a quick chemical lesson on why surfactants (short for “surface active agents”) are the most crucial component of every cleaning solution.
Surfactants are molecules that have a water-loving (hydrophilic) head and a grease-loving (hydrophobic) tail. Because of the attraction forces between the head and the water, the grease is raised off the surface, surrounded by detergent molecules, and rinsed away.
Surfactants lower the surface tension of water, allowing a cleaning solution to enter deeper into the fabric and remove particles and dirt.
Surfactants used in laundry detergents come in a variety of forms:
- Builders improve the surfactant’s effectiveness by lowering the hardness of the water. They also assist to remove acidic, fatty, and greasy soils and inhibit soils from redepositing throughout the wash cycle by maintaining alkalinity.
According to a researcher at the University of Maryland, enzymes are used in combination with surfactants in 50% of the liquid laundry detergents on the market. While not strictly essential, enzymes are very efficient in removing protein from clothing.
Detergents typically include only one kind of enzyme, however, some contain two or three. Proteases are efficient against protein-based stains such as blood or egg, whereas amylases aid in the breakdown of starch-based stains and lipases in the breakdown of fats and grease. Enzymes occur naturally in our environments and function similarly to enzymes in the body.
Optical brighteners are used to make cloth seem whiter by increasing the quantity of blue light reflected overall. Previously, bluing was employed to accomplish the same result. Rather than using a blue dye, optical brighteners deposit reflecting particles onto textiles. Some brighteners can cause allergic responses in those with delicate skin, although for the most part, this is not an issue.
There is some concern that optical brighteners are harmful to the environment, but the Environmental Protection Agency lists several optical brighteners on their Safer Chemical Ingredients List and classifies them as “not associated with a low level of hazard concern for all human health and environmental endpoints.” Because optical brighteners degrade slowly and have luminous characteristics, they can be used as an indication in pollution screening.
Some businesses, such as Seventh Generation, Ecover, and Biokleen, have made it a company policy to avoid using optical brighteners.
Make Your Own Laundry Detergent
You’ve probably seen DIY laundry detergent tutorials all over Pinterest. You have to agree, they appear quite tempting to budget-conscious and ecologically aware consumers. They utilise only a few simple components that are easy to pronounce and can cost as little as $.02 each load. If they live up to their claims, they would be the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative available, but how well do they actually work?
We discovered that DIY laundry detergents do not live up to the hype after taking a closer look at the recipes. It’s one of those situations where if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. The issue is caused by the use of soap.
The majority of homemade detergent recipes ask for a mix of:
Water softeners, such as borax, washing soda, and baking soda, are commonly used to soften hard water, allowing the cleaning agent to draw out and trap dirt. It’s important to note that baking soda does not really soften water, although it can function as a booster.
Boosters: While we strongly suggest OxiClean as an oxygen-based stain remover, boosters such as OxiClean or OxoBrite are designed to supplement, not replace, a cleaning agent in whitening or stain removal.
Soap: Some recipes don’t even include a cleaning ingredient. Most recipes instruct you to grate or melt soaps such as Fels Naptha (for pre-treating stains), castile soaps, or other other soaps into the detergent.
While water softeners and boosters make sense in laundry detergent, the ratio of booster to cleaning agent (soap) in these recipes results in a significant number of chemicals that are supposed to be additions but provide very little real cleaning power.
The main problem with homemade laundry detergents is that soap contains oil-based surfactants that do not rinse cleanly from fabric fibres. Soap can leave noticeable residue on your clothing and the interior of your washing machine since it does not clean easily. Consider the soap scum that accumulates in the shower. Do you really want it in your clothing’s fibres?
You’re better off choosing a commercial laundry detergent that suits your demands, depending on what led you to make your own laundry detergent. For example, if you like to use a more natural solution, a plant-based detergent such as Ecover – Zero may be suitable.
High efficiency (HE) washing machines
High efficiency washing machines are becoming increasingly popular since they consume less water, spin quicker, and clean clothing better than regular washing machines. Water reductions (up to 66%) and therefore energy savings (up to 50%) result to both long-term economic savings and environmental advantages.
Because HE washing machines operate in a completely different manner than regular washing machines, it is critical to select a HE laundry detergent for usage in one. While you may have heard that “using less” of a non-HE detergent is OK, this is problematic for a number of reasons.
- Traditional laundry detergents can interfere with good cleaning by producing a cushion of extra suds between the surfactants and the soil, preventing the detergent from grabbing and removing the soil.
- Using a non-HE detergent in your HE machine mashing potentially void the warranty.
- Without the proper quantities of detergent, the soil cannot be eliminated, leaving you with dirty garments. (Always use the suggested quantity for the size of your load.) In addition, the detergent may specify different amounts for HE and conventional washers.)
HE detergents must behave differently than regular laundry detergents due to low water levels in a HE machine throughout the wash and rinse cycles. They are designed to be low-sudsing and quick-dispersing, allowing you to get the most out of your HE washer. They must also be able to retain dirt in low water volumes so that it does not re-deposit on your clean garments.
What If You’re Dealing With Hardwater?
Minerals found in hard water include calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), iron (Fe), and manganese (Mn). Hard water, according to the US Geological Survey, is not a health risk, but it can cause detergents to perform poorly and decrease the life of fabric and clothing. It affects 85 percent of US households and is an essential factor to consider when selecting a detergent since the minerals chemically interact with the surfactants in detergents, making them less efficient.
If you believe you have hard water, you can take a sample to your local pet supply or pool supply store to be tested. A water strip test is also a simple way to test yourself. It is advisable to test the water directly from your washer, as well as cold and hot water, because hot water heaters can generate higher mineral content. The strip measures hardness from 0 to 1,000 ppm (parts per million), and you may use the degree of hardness standard published by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers and the Water Quality Association to decide if and how much water you need to treat.
If you do have hard water, you may address it by including a water softener in your wash cycle. If your water is somewhat or moderately hard, you can add half a cup to three-fourths of a cup of Borax water softener to your washing. Calgon water softener is suggested for extremely hard water since it targets a broader spectrum of minerals.
Liquid vs. Powder Detergent
Detergent in liquid form
Pros: Because liquids dissolve easier in both warm and cold water, they use less energy. They are effective on food, grease, and oils. They are also useful for pre-treating stains as liquids.
Cons: According to Consumer Reports, misleading indications on caps (meant to signify different load sizes and machine types) might lead to overuse of detergent, resulting in wasted soap and lengthier rinse cycles.
The fact that surfactants are more stable in powder form means that they have a longer shelf life than liquid detergents. This means you can buy in bulk (saving money and reducing waste) without it becoming useless over time. They work particularly well on ground-in dirt, making them perfect for children’s play clothing.
Cons: Powders dissolve more easily in warm water, which consumes more energy than cold water. It might also leave residue if not measured appropriately.
Best Laundry Detergent For Your Home
It might be difficult to choose amongst the many types of detergents. However, now that you understand the key distinctions, as well as the benefits and drawbacks, you will be able to select your ideal match.
Every company operates differently, so check the tiny print and user reviews to ensure you’re getting something worth your money.