In our years of testing laundry detergents at Good Housekeeping, we’ve learned that no detergent gets everything out, but every detergent gets something out. Laundry detergents are one of the most often tested items in the Cleaning Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute: It’s the one cleaning item that almost everyone has, and there’s always a steady trickle of new ones arriving. water that is hot, warm, or cold
It’s difficult to determine which laundry detergents perform best because they all claim to eliminate stains, whiten clothes, brighten colors, and overall be “new and improved.” That’s why we put them through so many testing in our laboratories.
How do we put laundry detergents to the test?
We examine the labeling for each new laundry detergent we test to see if the directions are clear, how much is advised for medium, big, and extremely soiled loads, and if it carries the required safety labeling cautions depending on the components. We then stain white cotton and polyester woven and knit fabrics with a battery of 20 meticulously calibrated stains (think grease, coffee, wine, and more) and leave them to sit for 24 hours before washing them. We applied and evaluated over 2,500 stains in our most recent test of 42 detergents!
To replicate an actual at-home load, the swatches are washed the next day in top- and front-loading machines in hot, warm, or cold water with seven to eight pounds of other goods such as towels, t-shirts, sheets, and pillowcases. We run the cycle with the amount of detergent advised on the label for a load with heavy soil. We remove the swatch and let it air dry once it’s finished.
The fabric is then taken to a dedicated dark grading room, where we rate the removal of each of the 20 stains on a one to five industry scale under standard industry lighting (where five is complete removal and one is no removal). We also have a spectrophotomer that allows us to generate a soil removal score by measuring the amount of each stain left on the fabric after washing. Finally, we take note of how easy it is to dispense the detergent, how much suds it creates, and whether or not it leaves any residue on our test loads.
Pods of 3-in-1 Laundry Detergent
It’s difficult to beat detergent packets for convenience, and it’s also difficult to beat Tide Pods in our tests, which is why we give them the Good Housekeeping Seal. They got the best results in both warm and cold water, removing dirt, chocolate, gravy, grass, and more from cotton and polyester fabric swatches. Its 3-in-1 recipe contains a super concentrated detergent, extra stain fighters, and a color protector, so it doesn’t require any additional additions for most loads. For safety, the easy-to-reach container has a child-resistant top closure.
- Excellent stain removal ability
- It’s available in a range of smells and has a Free & Gentle recipe.
- It is quite simple to use.
ProClean + Stain Fighter Liquid Laundry Detergent
Persil ProClean Stain Fighter will not let you down if you like liquid detergent. It came out on top in our test of 42 formulations for removing stains from all of our samples in cold water. Persil is a wonderful alternative if you’ve moved to cold water washing to conserve electricity. In all water temperatures, it completely removed coffee and beaten egg yolk from all fabrics.
- In cold water, it’s fantastic.
- Excellent stain removal ability
- It has a pungent odor.
- pricier than the competition
Plus Bleach Powder Laundry Detergent
If you prefer powder detergent, Tide Plus Bleach Powder is unbeatable, as it works equally effectively in cold and hot water. Every cycle includes a color-safe bleach and an activating agent to help keep your whites and colors brighter. It is safe for all washable materials and colors because it does not include chlorine bleach. Tide+ Plus Bleach powder is designed to function in both high-efficiency and classic washing machines.
- Whiteners and color brighteners are included in the formula.
- It effectively removes stains and dissolves in cold water.
- Powders are prone to spilling and clumping when exposed to dampness.
Ultra Clean Liquid Laundry Detergent
Costco’s Kirkland brand is an excellent choice if you’re searching for a hard-working detergent at a low price. It tied for first place in our most recent laundry detergent test for removing the most stains from polyester in cold water. It also outperformed the competition when it came to eliminating tea (a notoriously difficult stain to remove!) from cotton and polyester fabric swatches. For convenient distribution into the measuring cap, the extra large jug can be placed on its side on a counter. While this Kirkland detergent is available without a membership on Amazon.com, it is much more expensive there.
- In chilly water, it’s great.
- To purchase, you must be a member.
- Other non-membership retailers are more pricey.
Hygienic Clean Heavy Duty Power PODS
Even the greatest detergents, believe it or not, may not completely remove all of the body soils and stains buried deep within your washload’s products. As a result, even though the clothing and bedding appear to be spotless, they may not be. Eww! Tide Hygienic Clean can help with that. It’s designed to penetrate deeper into and between fibers, dissolving and removing body oils and other pollutants you might not even notice.
A discussion with the manufacturer, during which a UV light was used to demonstrate that Tide Hygienic Clean left clothing cleaner than conventional detergent, convinced us that it works. White t-shirts and linen washed in this Tide came out whiter than usual, without the need for bleach, in our own at-home tests. Combine that with the gigantic size of these Power Pods (they’re the same size as ordinary Pods), which did an excellent job zapping stains from our test swatches in our GH Cleaning Lab testing, and they’re a great alternative for families with a lot of large loads of laundry to do.
- Removes filth that isn’t visible.
- Larger Pods are ideal for transporting large goods.
- The cost per load is significantly more than standard Tide packets.
Newborn Liquid Baby Laundry Detergent
Babies’ skin is delicate and needs to be safeguarded, but boy, can they stain! That’s why new moms need a detergent that cleans well without leaving harsh residues, and Dreft is a tried-and-true option. It has enzymes that help eliminate protein stains, such as formula (or poop!).
It cleaned and removed stains as well as typical adult detergents in GH Cleaning Lab testing. This is significant because the cleaner the clothing is, the less irritating it is to sensitive skin. Dreft’s hypoallergenic composition also ensures that no skin-irritating residues are left behind. Consider the plant-based and fragrance-free Dreft Pure Gentleness Liquid Detergent if your child’s skin is extremely sensitive and you prefer a detergent without fragrance.
- It effectively removes stains.
- On sensitive skin, be gentle.
- It comes in a variety of recipes that can be used as the youngsters get older.
- It costs a little more than ordinary detergent.
- This product has a fragrance.
All Darks Liquid Laundry Detergent
Nothing is more frustrating than having your favorite midnight black pants fade to a faded gray after only a few washes. Washing them inside out, in cold water, with a color-preserving detergent like Woolite All Darks is the best method to avoid this. Its unique composition removes color-fading metal and chlorine ions from the wash water, smooths rough fibers, and removes pills that cause clothes to appear old before their time.
Woolite’s neutral formula cleans and protects delicate fabrics and dark colors from the abrasive effects of washing, and it’s a GH Cleaning Lab favorite for cleaning and protecting them from the abrasive effects of washing. Consumers agree as well. Woolite All Darks has received over 3,200 Amazon five-star reviews!
- Aids in the preservation of dark colors
- All delicate and robust textiles can be used.
- Will not be as effective in removing stubborn stains as others.
Bleach Alternative Liquid Laundry Detergent
If you prefer liquid to powder, this liquid version of Tide Plus Bleach, our best overall powder, is also the best in class. Because liquid non-chlorine bleaches don’t mix well with the other chemicals in detergent formulae, this mixture doesn’t actually include any bleach. Instead, this Tide version mimics the capacity of an all-fabric bleach to whiten whites and brighten colors, so the moniker “bleach alternative.” If your laundry has a lot of stains that go unnoticed, or if you want to keep colors and whites blended in the same load looking their best, this detergent is for you.
- Can assist in the removal of stains that have not been pre-treated.
- It’s possible to do away with the requirement for a separate all-fabric bleach.
Botanicals Plant-Based Laundry Detergent
Gain Botanicals won our test with its plant-based formula, demonstrating that you don’t have to sacrifice cleaning to be environmentally conscious. It was the only detergent that totally removed tea from each stain swatch we tested, and it performed admirably on all other stains. This Gain formula is a USDA Certified Biobased Product, with plant-based components accounting for 65 percent of the formula. The translucent lid makes measuring a breeze, and it comes with two distinct scents: orange blossom vanilla and white tea lavender, which one expert described as “heavenly!”
- It’s a formula that’s 65 percent plant-based.
- There are two distinct smells available.
- Made without the use of dyes
- For some people, the scent may be excessively overpowering.
Free & Clear Laundry Detergent Packs
When we washed cotton fabric swatches in hot water, Seventh Generation Laundry Packs came out on top in stain removal testing. It was the only detergent that could totally remove the oil stain from cotton, which was a challenging task! These powder packs are also fragrance- and dye-free, making them ideal for those with sensitive skin.
Seventh Generation deserves praise for including the whole ingredient list on the package to ensure transparency. This recipe is a 94 percent USDA Certified Biobased Product and is EPA Safer Choice certified. If you want to use a single-dose detergent, these packs may be safer in homes with children because they are powder rather than liquid.
- Made without the use of dyes or scents
- Certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a “Safer Choice” product.
- 94 percent USDA certified biobased product
- To brighten whites and colors, a different additive is required.
Liquid Laundry Detergent
Due to criticisms that detergents smell excessively sweet or floral, Hero Clean Laundry Detergent is perfumed with woodsy juniper undertones and, even better, was one of the most consistent performances among the 42 detergents we tested. It did an excellent job of removing coffee and mud from polyester and cotton in both cold and hot water. The lines in the cap were easy to see, and the dispensing was mess-free. Hero Clean also deserves praise for donating a portion of its proceeds to veteran and first responder groups.
- It cleans effectively.
- A portion of the revenues is given to charity.
- Also available in packs.
- Stores do not carry it.
Advanced Laundry Detergent Packs
CVS’s Total Home Laundry Detergent Packs could be a nice choice the next time you’re picking up a prescription and discover you also need laundry detergent. Its cleaning abilities delighted our experts, and it did a good job of removing red wine from each of the swatches we tested, which is great news for wine lovers. Just because it’s not a well-known brand doesn’t mean it can’t deliver!
- It cleans effectively.
- Enzymes are included for effective stain removal.
- Costs a little more than other packs.
What sort of laundry detergent is the most effective?
Each variety has its own set of benefits and drawbacks. Depending on the brand and the types of laundry loads you do, the form you choose will be based on personal preference and which you find most convenient to use and effective. The three most common types of laundry detergent — powder, liquid, and single-use packets — are discussed here.
Powder detergent was the first type of laundry detergent to be developed, and it is often less expensive than liquid and single-dose alternatives. This category of detergents works well on outdoor stains like mud, clay, or grass, so it’s ideal for your child’s soccer uniforms, gardening clothes, and more. To minimize clumping, powder must be stored in a fully dry environment. Also, if you like to wash in cold water, keep in mind that some powders may not dissolve entirely, causing undesired residue to accumulate on your clothes.
The most popular type of detergent is liquid detergent, which works particularly effectively on oil and grease stains. It can also be used as a spot pre-treater, and there’s no need to worry about it not dissolving. However, don’t forget to use the correct amount: The lines on the measuring caps are there for a reason, even if they are often difficult to see. If you use too much, your machine may oversuds, the soap may not rinse out after the cycle is over, or it may even shut down. If you use too little, your clothes will not be clean. Trust us when we say that using the appropriate amount yields superior outcomes.
Single-dose packets are convenient, but they cost a little more on average. You won’t have to worry about using too little or too much detergent because the liquid or powder detergent is already pre-measured. For average-sized loads, one pack is advised, while two packs are recommended for large or extremely soiled loads. For extremely little loads, one pack may be too much, and you never want to break them. Keep in mind that some packs may have difficulties dissolving in particular machines, especially at lower water temperatures, so add the packs before the garments. Some modern machines feature dedicated compartments in the dispenser drawer for these packets, allowing them to dissolve more quickly and with less water. Last but not least, keep your packets out of reach of youngsters, pets, and anybody else who might be tempted to eat them or use them for something other than laundry.
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