Many consumers are as loyal to their laundry detergent as they are to their favorite soft drink. Some just buy what their mother used and others buy what’s on sale. According to a study in Europe published in 2016, consumers were most concerned about the ability of a detergent to remove stains and keep colors bright.
With so many choices on the market, you’re sure to find a laundry detergent that fits your budget and meets your laundry cleaning needs as well as your family's preference of fragrance and environmental responsibility.
Liquid, Powdered, or Single-Dose Pack Laundry Detergent?
General-purpose laundry detergents are available in liquid, powdered, or single-dose form. All forms of laundry detergent will clean clothes well. However, liquid detergents are particularly effective on greasy, oily stains and can be easily used as a pretreater for stain removal. The most common problem with liquid detergent use is using too much per load or overdosing. Detergent bottle caps are often difficult to read and consumers use too much wasting money and leaving residue in clothes.
Powdered detergents are usually less expensive to use per load. They are most effective on mud stains and ground-in dirt. Powdered detergents can be problematic if you have extremely cold water or only use cold water for washing because they may not dissolve completely. Always add powdered detergent to the washer drum before clothes and water are added. If you experience problems with residue, mix the detergent with a quart of hot water and add that directly to the washer drum before doing a load of laundry.
Single-dose packs are the most convenient and simple to use, especially if you must use a community laundry room or laundromat. But they are also the most expensive to use per load of laundry and may take two packs to handle really dirty clothes or extra-large loads. Single-dose packs are pre-measured for an average soil and size load. If you do large loads of laundry or heavily soiled laundry, you may need to use two. They can also be problematic for households with small children and vulnerable adults because they are often mistaken for candy and can cause poisoning. It is essential to learn to use laundry detergent packs correctly and safely. Take a look at your family’s needs and that will help you make a decision about using single-dose products.
Liquids, powders and single packs can be used in all water temperatures and almost all brands are now formulated to use in high-efficiency or standard washers. Look for the HE symbol to be sure. Both liquid and powder types are available in concentrated or ultra forms. Be sure to read the labels to ensure that you are using the correct amount per load of laundry.
Does Laundry Detergent Price Equal Quality?
Price isn't always the best indicator of detergent quality. The key is looking at the list of ingredients. The more active ingredients like surfactants that lift soil away from fabric and suspend it in the water and enzymes that remove stains in the product, the better the detergent. And, those ingredients raise the price of the product.
You'll find three tiers of detergent pricing in most retail outlets:
- Expensive: (Tide, Persil). These are heavy-duty detergents that include the enzymes, surfactants, and other ingredients to remove most stains and heavy soil.
- Mid-level: (Purex, Gain, Arm & Hammer, all). These detergents include some enzymes to contribute to stain removal but contain far less than the heavy-duty detergents. They work well on light soil if used correctly in the optimum water temperatures.
- Discount: (low-end store brands, Foca, Xtra). These products rely heavily on surfactants that suspend soil until the water in your washer can flush them away. They are not good at removing stains or body soil from fabrics.
Consumer Reports Magazine, Good Housekeeping Institute, and other unbiased testing institutions have consistently shown and listed Tide and Persil as the best cleaning detergents on the market. However, many of the mid-level products work very well on light and medium soil and can save you money. Much of laundry success is in using the right water temperatures, pre-treating stains, and not overloading the washer. Only you can determine the best detergent choice for your family's laundry.
Combination Product Laundry Detergents
A combination detergent does two jobs. Examples include a detergent plus fabric softener or color-safe bleach or bleach alternative. Some of these features enhance a detergent’s performance. Others may be unnecessary and add only additional cost to each load.
Specialty Laundry Detergents
Detergents that are designed for hand washing or machine washing delicate items are less harsh than regular detergents. Made for light soil and delicate fabrics, they are a good choice in the right situation.
Ferri, Ada, Osset, Miquel, Konstadinos, Abeliotis, Amberg, Caroline, Cevza, Candan, Owens, Jeremy, et al. Laundry Performance: Effect of Detergent and Additives on Consumer Satisfaction. Tenside Surfactants Detergents, 53,4, 2016, doi:10.3139/113.110451