Facebook Pixel Code
 

Best Laundry Detergents

Updated September 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 36 Models Considered
  • 8 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 291 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best laundry detergents

    Last Updated September 2018

    Are you tired of finishing up the laundry only to find your clothing is spotted with soapy residue? Are you sick of stains not coming out of t-shirts? You need the right kind of laundry detergent to make sure your clothes come out of the wash clean and smelling fresh.

    From powder to pods, from color-stay to bleach-filled formulas, it might seem like the options are infinite when it comes to laundry detergent.

    The BestReviews team understands that walking down the detergent aisle can be a bit overwhelming. This shopping guide was created to help you find the perfect formula, so you can spend less time worrying about spots and stains on your clothes and more time wearing your spotless wardrobe.

    People with sensitive skin can purchase gentle detergent formulas, but even these can contain irritants. Many washers have an extra-rinse option. A second rinse can help remove all traces of detergent to prevent skin reactions.

    What is laundry detergent?

    There is a difference between laundry detergent and other kinds of soap. Detergent designed for your washing machine contains surfactants. Surfactants enable water and oil to mix, which helps to get clothing looking clean again.

    Why not just use soap to wash your clothing? Unlike detergent, soap isn’t designed to rinse out easily and thus it can leave a filmy residue on fabric. Soap might also cause certain stains to set, making it harder to get them out. If used correctly, detergent rinses off easily and fights stains.

    Stain-fighting speed for HE washers

    Tide’s HE detergent is perfect for people in a hurry. The Turbo Clean technology fights tough stains even on the quick cycle. A powerful liquid formula that leaves clothes stain-free and smelling fresh.

    Types of laundry detergent

    There are countless brands, scents, and formulas of laundry detergent from which to choose, but there are only three different types.

    Powder: Powder detergent is inexpensive and particularly good at getting out fresh stains. It dissolves best in warm or hot water, so it isn’t the best choice for cold-water washing. Using too much powder can leave a residue on clothing, so it’s important to measure it accurately.

    Liquid: Liquid detergent is easy to measure and dissolves more quickly than powder. In terms of price, it sits somewhere between powder and pods.

    Pods and tablets: Laundry pods and tablets are very convenient, produce no mess, and are great for those in a hurry. Just throw one in with your laundry and go. It’s a bit tougher to carefully adjust the amount with this kind of detergent since everything is already measured, but you can quickly toss in multiple pods for a heavily soiled garments or an extra-large pile of clothes. Pods and tablets are typically the priciest per load.

    CAUTION

    Don’t use dishwasher detergent or pods in your washing machine! These products aren’t designed to wash clothing, and they often contain bleach, which can permanently stain clothes.

    Laundry detergent factors to consider

    Take the following into consideration when shopping for the perfect laundry detergent.

    High-efficiency: If you have a high-efficiency (HE) washer, that means your appliance uses less water than traditional machines. You’ll need a detergent that performs and rinses well with less water. HE detergents can be used in any washing machine, but these are specifically formulated for HE top-loaders or front loaders to produce fewer suds and require less water to dissolve and rinse away.

    Formula and ingredients: There are many detergent formulas available. The one you select for your laundry needs will depend on your personal preference and your typical load composition.

    • Gentle: Did you recently switch detergents and find yourself feeling itchy? Some people are sensitive to specific ingredients in detergent. If you have sensitive skin, allergies, or eczema, consider using a gentle formula designed to prevent irritation. Many mild detergents are also odor-free, making them suitable for people who are sensitive to strong smells and perfumes.

    • Brightening: It’s tough to keep white clothing looking its best. White garments stain easily and might start to turn yellow or gray over time. Detergents with brighteners keep light-colored clothing looking like it did right off the rack.

    • Color-safe: A color-safe detergent formula prevents bright-colored clothing from fading. Keep your fire-engine-red pants looking fiery and your little black dresses looking sharp.

    • Fabric softening: Some detergent formulas include fabric softener to prevents static buildup and soften clothing. Be careful, though. Fabric softener might reduce the effectiveness of a flame-retardant coating.
       

    Eco-friendly: Before you reach for that bottle marked “eco,” you should know that the term isn’t regulated. The use of such words as “natural,” “eco,” or “green” isn't as meaningful as you might think. Your best bet? Look for labeling that states a product is USDA Organic. Detergents marked with the regulated seal contain at least 95% organic ingredients. Environmentally friendly detergents are safer for the environment but might be less effective than traditional detergents because they lack some ingredients that are useful for removing stains.

    Temperature: Using cold water to wash your clothes is environmentally friendly and saves energy. Be kinder to the planet and your wallet by washing your clothes in cooler water. Cold-water formulas are designed to dissolve at any temperature.

    EXPERT TIP

    People with hard water in their area will need to use more detergent to get their clothing clean.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    Use bleach-free detergent to wash delicate fabrics like wool and silk.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Laundry detergent prices

    The cost of detergent varies from $0.15 to $0.55 per load. It isn’t necessarily true of all products, but with laundry detergent, the higher the cost, the better the quality.

    Pods are the priciest detergent option, liquids are next, and powder is the most economical choice.

    Price also varies depending on the brand.

    Affordable and biodegradable

    The enzymes in Arm & Hammer’s biodegradable detergent dislodge and remove stains from clothing, then rinse away without leaving a residue. The result is great-smelling clothes for a budget-friendly price, all packed into a recyclable bottle.

    Tips

    • Read clothing labels thoroughly. Confused by all those symbols? Find a reference chart online (or create one yourself) and print it out as a guide. Stick it somewhere in your laundry area for easy reference.

    • Sort your clothes. Sort your laundry correctly into lights and darks, heavy and delicate garments, and heavily and lightly soiled clothes.

    • Pre-treat stains. Use a spray or solution to pre-treat stains before putting the clothes in the washer.

    • Don’t pack the washer. Loosely arrange the clothes in your washer. Stuffing it full will reduce the performance of your machine and might prevent proper water drainage.

    • Measure carefully. Prevent waste by measuring the detergent. Most liquid detergents have a lid with the proper amount noted. However, dark-colored caps can make it tough to see the line. Label your cap on the outside to make it easier to measure. Using pods or tabs? Huge loads of laundry might require two or more.

    • Pick the right cycles. Choose the appropriate wash cycle and water temperature for best results.
    Keep detergent away from children. It’s harmful if swallowed or inhaled. Colorful laundry pods are particularly attractive to kids, so keep them safely stored and out of reach.

    FAQ

    Q. Does it matter what temperature I use to wash my clothes?

    A. Washing in warm water is best for removing certain types of stains, but overall, the difference in performance between hot and cold water isn’t that significant. Using cold water requires less energy, and these days there are many cold-water detergents on the market. Note that using cold water can lead to residue buildup in your machine. Run a hot cycle every once in a while and use a washing machine freshener to remove the residue.

    Q. How much detergent should I use?

    A. Don’t pour without measuring. It’s not only a waste of money but using too much detergent can also leave a residue on your clothing. When in doubt, read the detergent label. The amount of detergent you need will depend on the load size, how soiled the clothing is, and whether you have soft or hard water in your home.

    Q. What should I look for if I want an eco-friendly detergent?

    A. Look for low-phosphate options and detergents with minimal packaging. Pods are lighter in weight than powder and liquid options, so they cost less and create fewer carbon emissions to ship.

    Q. I’m using laundry pods, but they don’t dissolve properly. Why is this happening?

    A. Always add pods to your washing machine before putting in your clothes and filling the tub up with water. Popping in a pod on top of your pile of clothes might prevent it from dissolving correctly.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Daniel
      Daniel
      Writer
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Enid
      Enid
      Editor
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer
    • Steph
      Steph
      Writer

    BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
    and give us feedback about your visit today.

    Take Survey