Do Concentrated Laundry Detergents Work?

The key difference from regular detergent is water

Bath towels, washing powder, fabric softener and wooden clothespins
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Concentrated laundry detergents are effective at cleaning laundry by using less detergent when compared to regular detergent. Sometimes called “ultra” on the label, these products offer the same cleaning properties and ability as the original familiar detergent brands, but less water or filler is added to the active cleaning ingredients.


One of the main benefits of concentrated products, like laundry detergents and fabric softeners, is their reduced environmental impact. These products have much water and filler removed from the formula, requiring smaller packaging that uses less plastic or paper. Less packaging means less recycling. Smaller containers also translate to less fuel needed to ship these products.

Manufacturers who use less water in detergent production help reduce the impact on precious natural resources. Water conservation is essential in the United States, especially during drought.

Smaller detergent containers are easier to carry and store at home. They are perfect for those who must use a laundromat or community laundry room. 

How to Use

The key to using concentrated laundry products is to ensure you use the correct amount of detergent for each load of clothes. When in doubt, use a standard measuring cup or spoons because many measuring lines in detergent bottle caps are difficult to read.

Be sure to read the product label recommendations. Even experienced laundry-doers don't guess the right amount of detergent to use correctly. Over-pouring results in waste and can even leave a residue on clothes or harm new high-efficiency washers.

Follow the directions of the washing machine and put concentrated laundry detergent in the same place as regular detergent, either in the drawer, dispenser, or directly in the drum.

You do not need to dilute or use the product any differently than non-concentrated detergents. However, if you want to dilute concentrated laundry detergent, then add 1 part water to 1 part detergent. Or, put half of the detergent into a same-size old bottle and fill the other half with water. Remember, once you have diluted it, you should add more than a capful to your laundry; now, twice as much.

Concentrated vs. HE Detergents

Concentrated formulas and high-efficiency (HE) detergents are not the same. High-efficiency detergents produce less foaming action or suds. Suds are difficult to remove from fabrics when using a high-efficiency washer with lower water levels.

You must use an HE detergent in a high-efficiency washer. Not all concentrated detergents are suitable for high-efficiency washers. Read the packaging to determine if your concentrated detergent is labeled "HE," and use it according to the instructions.

What Led to the Shift to Concentrated Products?

Detergent packaging changes occurred because mass-market retailers like Walmart and Target demanded smaller containers that fit better on shelves and required less storage space in warehouses. Detergent manufacturers met demands to keep their products on store shelves.

The introduction of single-use liquid laundry detergent packs or pods began in the United States in 2012. These packets contain little to no water and only add active ingredients to the wash cycle.

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  1. National Current Conditions. National Integrated Drought Information System and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.