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Store shelves are packed with laundry detergent bottles, powders, and pods of every color. So, which one should you buy? Maybe you're loyal to the formula your mother used, the one with the scent you love, or you just buy whatever is on sale. But is there one in particular you should be looking at?
Not necessarily, says Angela Bell, cleaning expert and Grove Guide at Grove Collaborative. “Laundry detergent powders, liquids, pods and sheets all effectively clean your clothes,” she explains. “It really just comes down to preference.” Liquids and powders are the more traditional forms, so many people are more familiar with them. But pods, powder packs, and even sheets (a relatively new-comer to the market) are also great options—especially for people traveling to a laundromat, since they’re super portable.
No matter your preference, check out the list below to find the top-performing laundry detergents on the market, all guaranteed to give you the clean you need.
Here, the best laundry detergents on the market.
Best Overall: Seventh Generation Free & Clear Natural Liquid Laundry Detergent
The Seventh Generation detergent is available in various forms, including liquid and single-dose pods. The line also includes companion products like dryer sheets and stain removers, so you can stock your entire laundry room with all of the essentials. A nice bonus that tips the scales for many: The products are all widely available in drug, grocery, and mass merchandise stores, as well as online.
Because safety is a primary concern with laundry detergent, all of the ingredients in Seventh Generation products, including this detergent, are plant-based and don’t contain any optical brighteners. Still, the formula contains all of the necessary enzymes, surfactants, and water conditioning agents needed to effectively clean clothes and remove stains. In fact, our testers have been using Seventh Generation laundry detergent for nearly two years, thanks to the product’s superior cleaning performance and safe ingredients.
It’s plenty versatile, too. The detergent can be used in front loading, top loading, or high-efficiency washing machines. It can even be used to safely clean hunting gear and military uniforms.
"By following Seventh Generation’s recommended pretreatment instructions, we found that most common stains came right out. The only stain we had trouble removing was the result of a diaper blowout from our 3-month-old, but that would be a challenge for any detergent!"—Katie Begley, Product Tester
Tide Original High Efficiency Laundry Detergent
Within the Tide family, there are many versions of the original formula with a variety of scents (or Free & Gentle that contains no scent or dye), along with additions like fabric softeners and boosters. Tide is available in liquid, powder, and single-dose (Tide Pods) versions. Because the basic formula in each Tide variation doesn't change, each one is a highly effective detergent for removing body soil and everyday stains. Plus, the different custom formulas offer components, such as fabric freshener, stain remover, or brightener.
While consistently ranked as one of the most effective laundry detergents in removing stains, Tide is also one of the most expensive. But there is one Tide product that will actually save you money and still give effective cleaning: Tide Coldwater Clean. Using cold water for washing can significantly reduce home energy bills.
Persil ProClean Original
The Persil brand is available in two formulas: Persil ProClean Power-Liquid and single-dose Persil ProClean discs.. The liquid formula is safe to use in all water temperatures and in standard or high-efficiency washers. Plus, it is safe for use with septic systems. It is available in several scents, including fragrance-free and dye-free.
Persil offers a high level of enzymes and other cleaning ingredients to remove tough stains and body soil. It is ranked as one of the best-performing laundry detergents.
All Liquid Laundry Detergent Stainlifter
The All line of laundry products includes liquid, powder, and single-dose packs and is a good mid-priced laundry detergent. While the formula does not contain as many cleaning enzymes as Persil or Tide, it does a very good job on all but the toughest grease stains. You will need an enzyme-based stain remover to supplement your stain-removal routine.
The line includes All free clear liquid detergent. The formula offers the same detergent formula as regular All with stain lifters or surfactants but is free of perfumes and clear of dyes. It's recommended for babies, young children, and anyone with skin sensitivity.
Gain Aroma Boost Liquid Laundry Detergent
If you love a highly scented laundry, then Gain is a top performer. The Gain product line includes liquid, powder, and single-dose detergents; scent enhancers; fabric softeners; and dryer sheets.
Gain is another mid-priced laundry detergent that works well to remove light body soil and stains. Laundry comes out highly scented; however, some traces of heavy stains might remain. Gain does not contain the level of enzymes needed to remove some stains, especially those that are oily or contain dyes. So if you love the scent of Gain, keep an enzyme-based stain remover on hand for the cleanest laundry.
Arm & Hammer Plus OxiClean Odor Blasters Laundry Detergent
Arm & Hammer is a mid-priced laundry detergent available in liquid, powder, and single-dose packs. It's found in most mass-market store laundry aisles and online.
There are several scents and formula variations. For the most cleaning power, choose the formula that contains OxiClean. The stain-removing boost of the sodium percarbonate (oxygen bleach) to the surfactants, enzymes, and baking soda in the formula makes it an effective laundry detergent for all but the toughest stains.
Tide Simply Clean & Sensitive HE Liquid Laundry Detergent
Tide Simply Clean & Fresh does not contain the enzymes and quantity of stain fighters that you will find in regular Tide, and consequently, it does not perform nearly as well. This lower-priced Tide version is aimed at the value-minded shopper who usually bypasses premium brands in favor of generic or less pricey laundry detergents.
If you are an original Tide lover, use Simply Clean as an alternative for lightly soiled clothes to save some money. But for clothes that are stained or sweaty with lots of body soil, use a premium, heavy-duty detergent like Tide or Persil. It's worth the money to have cleaner clothes and to save time by preventing the need to rewash clothes.
Purex Liquid Laundry Detergent Plus
Purex is a lower-priced laundry detergent that is available in liquid and powder formulas. If you are shopping for Purex, choose the formula with the addition of Clorox 2, an all-fabric, oxygen-based bleach. It will boost the cleaning performance by adding cleaning enzymes.
Original Purex, which costs less than other formulas, does not contain the necessary stain-removing enzymes and ingredients to tackle tough soil. But it works fine on lightly soiled items.
Woolite All Darks Liquid Laundry Detergent
Woolite is a line of gentle laundry detergents without the powerful cleaning ingredients used to remove heavy stains, such as set-in mud, grass stains, or grease. It can handle normal body soil on clothes and is ideal for delicate fabrics and for hand-washing sweaters.
When comparing the ingredients list for the various formulas of Woolite, there are very few differences. All work well for machine or hand washing delicate fabrics and for protecting dark colors from fading.
ECOS Liquid Laundry Detergent with Built-In Fabric Softener
Ecos Laundry Detergent is a plant-based concentrated detergent that can be used in all water temperatures for all washable fabrics. It is safe to use in high-efficiency and standard washers. The detergent contains a natural, coconut-based fabric softener and is pH neutral.
Ecos Laundry Detergent is 100 percent biodegradable and free of 1,4-Dioxane, petrochemicals, and formaldehyde. Most of the varieties contain carry the Safer Choice designation by the EPA.
Available in different liquid scents and unscented single-dose packs, Ecos contains the necessary ingredients to remove tough body soil and stains. The bottles and caps are clear, and the cap is easy to read to prevent overdosing. While Ecos is not available at every mass-market retailer, it is easily ordered online.
For an effective, safe, and eco-friendly laundry detergent, we recommend Seventh Generation Free & Clear Concentrated Laundry Detergent. The formula is free of scents, dyes, artificial brighteners, and other harmful ingredients that might irritate sensitive skin. Another great option is Tide Laundry Detergent (view at Target), which is consistently ranked as one of the most effective laundry detergents for removing stains.
What to Look for in a Laundry Detergent
While some people like their laundry to come out smelling like spring flowers, sea breeze, or a host of other scents, other people are sensitive to the chemicals in perfume or the scents they put off. If you are sensitive to perfumes, many major detergent brands have unscented options to get your clothes clean.
Sometimes your laundry needs a deep clean to get rid of odors, stains, or dirt. Other times your clothes just need a light wash to keep them fresh and clean. Be sure your laundry detergent matches the job by selecting a choice with enzymes or baking soda if you need extra stain- and odor-fighting power.
Not every detergent is effective for every type of wash cycle. Some detergents are less effective in cold cycles, while others are best for certain types of clothing, such as delicates or athletic wear. If you have a high-efficiency machine, you'll also want to make sure to buy a detergent that's listed as compatible with HE washers.