Phosphate- and scent-free powder formula
Can be used on colors and whites
Cleans, deodorizes, and protects clothes
Doesn’t (perceptibly) whiten
No effect on pre-existing stains
We purchased the Nellie’s All-Natural Oxygen Brightener so our expert reviewer could put it to the test on her laundry. Keep reading for our full product review.
It's no easy task to keep your laundry clean and bright, but Nellie's All-Natural Oxygen Brightener is one option that promises to make things a bit easier. Brighteners are designed to keep whites at their whitest; some whiteners also provide a cleaning boost to regular detergents. Nellie's does both and also claims to fight odors and stains. We put it to the test on both colors and whites—keep reading to see how it held up and whether you should make a place for it in your laundry room.
Performance: Boosts detergent and deodorizes
According to the manufacturer, Nellie’s is intended to "whiten whites, boost colors, treat odors, and to fight stains." It can be used in standard or high-efficiency washing machines. We started our testing with whites since they needed Nellie’s whitening and brightening power most. Our white load included men's dress shirts, T-shirts, tank tops, and socks.
First off, Nellie’s is incredibly easy to add to a load of laundry. The powder formula comes with a tablespoon-size scoop, so you don't need to use your own measuring cup. The amount used is based on load size—one tablespoon for small, two tablespoons for medium, and three tablespoons for large. We added it to the washing machine along with our regular detergent.
The only visible difference we could detect directly after washing and drying was on the white dress shirts. Maybe it was the quality or type of fabric, but that seems to be the only clothing that looked noticeably whiter. Everything else looked like it does when washed with detergent alone.
We did several loads of whites over the course of two weeks to see if our results would change. Nellie’s did give our regular detergent a boost, helping with stains and daily dirt, but there still wasn’t a visible brightening of the whites except on the white dress shirts.
We read some additional product listings for Nellie’s and found instructions for pre-soaking stains, so we gave that a go too. We tried one tablespoon of Nellie’s in 2.6 gallons of water for 30 minutes to see if we could eliminate pre-existing stains. This method worked well on new stains, but still not pre-existing ones.
Next, we tried colors. Maybe our whites were already fairly clean, but with the colored clothing the results were more noticeable. We put several loads of colors through the washing machine, including tees and jeans, with the appropriate dosage of Nellie’s. Our loads included clothing for four kids and two adults, so there were several levels of dirtiness as well. Nellie’s improved our detergent’s ability to lift dirt and light surface stains. While the cleaning boost wasn’t game-changing, it was noticeable.
Nellie’s also claims to treat odors and fight stains. To test the formula’s deodorizing capabilities, we separated our smelliest workout clothes into a single load and added a scoop of Nellie's. Laundry detergent alone has not kept up with our household’s workout gear and sports uniforms. In the past, we’ve tried vinegar, baking soda, extra soaking, extra rinsing, and anything else we could of to attack these odors. After our test, Nellie's proved it was the best fit for the job.
Our gym clothes were significantly less smelly after the first washing, but there was still a slight odor so we decided to go for round two. After a second spin through the wash, the odors were all but gone. Yes, it’s mildly annoying that we had to double wash the load, but we’ve been fighting these odors for months, so it was a major win. Nellie’s is now our go-to laundry additive for odor removal.
Formula: Simple and safe
If you look at the ingredients list on a Nellie’s tin, you’ll find sodium carbonate, sodium percarbonate, sodium sulfate, and primary linear alcohol ethoxylate. Altogether, it’s a relatively simple formula that's phosphate-free and has no sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate (both are foaming agents). It's also scent-free and septic safe.
Nellie's comes in a recyclable, retro tin complete with comics on it, making it a fun addition to the laundry room. You can recycle the tin or repurpose it once you’ve gone through all of the powder.
Nellie’s is scent-free and hypoallergenic. If you're adding Nellie’s with a detergent that already has added fragrance, the lack of scent is a good thing. In addition, the lack of scent makes this a gentler formula. Our research found that Nellie’s is often used by people with sensitive skin because it’s tough on odors but gentle on skin. If you prefer more fragrance in your laundry, though, this likely isn’t the best additive for you.
Price: A good deal
Nellie’s is sold in a few different sizes and packages—we ordered a 2-pound tin which sells for roughly $15, but you can also pick up a 1.6-pound plastic pouch for $8. It doesn't take much product per load, so it's a good deal for how much use you’ll get out of it.
Competition: Lots of options that brighten (but don’t deodorize) better
OUT White Brite Laundry Whitener: OUT’s White Brite formula, which goes for $5 per 28-ounce bottle, takes a half cup of detergent per load, so it's not nearly as economical as Nellie's. It isn’t as powerful at odor removal, either. That said, it does brighten clothes to an equal extent—especially when you pre-soak your load first.
Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing: Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing doesn’t work exactly like Nellie’s. It’s not meant to be a laundry booster; instead, it changes the color of your whites with a slight blue tint. Whites with a blue undertone appear whiter than those with a gray or yellow undertone, so if all you’re looking for it whitening, it’s a great deal. If you need a true laundry booster, though, stick with Nellie’s.
Nellie’s is now our go-to laundry additive for odor removal.
Tide Brights + Whites Rescue: Tide’s Brights + Whites Rescue is the most convenient whitener we’ve used. The formula comes in individual pods which dissolve in the wash, so you don’t have to measure out any liquids or powders. While the ease of use is stellar, it isn’t as effective as others we’ve tried, so you have to way convenience against results.
- Product Name All-Natural Oxygen Brightener
- Product Brand Nellie’s
- UPC 810648007671
- Price $14.89
- Weight 2 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 5.5 x 3.5 x 3.5 in.