Do Concentrated Laundry Detergents Work?

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Concentrated laundry detergents have been around in one form or another in the United States since the 1960s. Sometimes called “ultra” on the label, these products offer the same cleaning properties and ability as the original familiar detergent brands. The main difference between the concentrated products and original formulas is the amount of water or filler added to the active cleaning ingredients and how much of the detergent the consumer should use.

Just take a look at the size of the laundry detergent bottles and boxes on store shelves. The bottles are getting smaller and smaller. There are two reasons. Smaller bottles require less plastic and are less costly to produce. Shipping smaller bottles is less costly in transportation and storage costs. The laundry detergent ingredient that was removed was water. Water is heavy and performs a little function in the detergent formula, so it was removed.

Many of these changes came about 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 the requirements to keep their products on store shelves.

The Ultimate Concentrated Laundry Detergent

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

Concentrated v. HE Detergents

Concentrated formulas and high efficiency (he) detergents are not the same thing. High-efficiency detergents are formulated to produce less foaming action or suds. The suds are difficult to remove from fabrics when a high-efficiency washer with lower water levels is being used.

While you must use an HE detergent in a high-efficiency washer, you can use high-efficiency detergents in a standard top load washer. Remember that not all concentrated detergents are suitable for high-efficiency washers.

How to Use

The key to using concentrated laundry products is to make sure you are using 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.

There is no need to dilute or use the product any differently than non-concentrated detergents.


One of the main benefits of concentrated products is their lightened impact on the environment. These products have much of the water and filler removed from the formula and smaller packaging use less plastic or paper, which means less packaging to recycle and less impact on the environment. Smaller containers mean less fuel is needed to ship these products. Manufacturers who use less water in detergent production help reduced the impact on a very precious natural resource. With much of the United States under drought conditions, water conservation is essential.

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.