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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
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.Read more 
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How we decided

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

30 Models Considered
14 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
60 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

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

Buying guide for Best high-efficiency laundry detergents

High-efficiency washing machines and high-efficiency (HE) laundry detergent are the ultimate in harmonious synergy: they work together to clean clothes using less water and electricity, an environmental double whammy.

They’re not just a great combination, though. HE washers require that you use HE detergents, because using a standard laundry detergent creates too many suds that can leave streaks on clothing and shorten the life of your washing machine.

There are plenty of high-efficiency laundry detergents on the market, so choosing the best brand for your needs may take some time and thought. Use our buying guide to learn more about what makes HE laundry detergent a great option, even if you don’t have an HE washing machine, and know how to determine the perfect HE detergent for laundry day.

You need only about 1/4 of the amount of detergent in an HE machine as a standard washing machine, which can be a substantial cost savings.

Key considerations

Why use HE laundry detergent

Less suds: High-efficiency laundry detergent can be used with both high-efficiency washing machines and standard washing machines. The key reason for this is that HE detergents are low-sudsing. Sticky soap residue makes standard machines tougher to clean and isn’t great for the environment downstream either. And high-efficiency machines aren’t designed to handle soap residue very well.

The same can’t be said for regular (non-HE) laundry detergent. It can be used with standard washing machines, but it should never be used in HE machines because of that residue issue.

Less water: High-efficiency washing machines use less than half the amount of water used by a standard machine of similar capacity. This directly impacts your home’s water bill in a positive way. Dumping less gray water into the environment is also a huge benefit to the planet. Because they use so little water, HE machines rely on detergent formulas that get clothes clean without excess agitation and rinsing. They really are the way to go, and high-efficiency laundry detergent gets the best performance and longest life from high-efficiency washing machines. And because HE detergent works well in standard machines, too, you can use them confidently even if you haven’t upgraded to an HE washing machine.


Liquid vs. pods

The majority of HE laundry detergents are produced as either liquid, which distributes quickly and evenly in an HE washer, or pods. These small liquid-filled sachets are convenient and dissolve on contact with water. There’s a reason pods are so popular: there are no drips, spills, or messy buildup on the floor of the laundry room. They’ve also been formulated for HE washers since the start, so it’s easy to grab a bag without worrying that they’ll damage your machine.

While front-loading HE washers recommend liquid detergent, you can use powdered detergent as long as it clearly carries the blue HE symbol. If it doesn’t, avoid using a powder.


HE laundry detergent brands often set themselves apart by having a distinctive scent. Compare the smell of Tide HE to Gain HE, for example, and the difference is noticeable. A variety of scents are available, even within the same brand.

Cleaning power

This is where the rubber hits the road for HE detergents: their overall ability to get clothes clean. Surprisingly, not all low-suds formulations work well in HE washing machines. Clothes that aren’t cleaned or rinsed well may have an “off” odor or simply feel like they were run through water alone with no soap to release dirt and oils.

Stain removal: In addition to overall cleaning, an HE laundry detergent needs to be able to clean specific stains like mud, grass, blood, oil, or food. These stains can be tough to fully remove, and no single detergent on the market can remove all of them. Consider which types of stains occur most frequently in your household and look for an HE laundry detergent that addresses those in particular.


Like regular detergent formulations, all major HE detergent brands offer unscented options for people with allergies or other sensitivities to strong scents, as well as gentle formulas for those who have skin that reacts to standard-strength detergents.

Did You Know?
Using a non-HE detergent in an HE washer may void the warranty in some brands.


Laundry soap station: Simply Convenient Solutions Laundry Soap Station
A removable, easy-to-clean stand for large HE laundry detergent dispenser bottles, this station positions the bottle at a slight downward tilt and catches drips underneath the spout. This solves the dilemma of having plenty of detergent but nowhere to place it.

Drip catcher: Tidy Cup Laundry Detergent Gadget
Not enough room for a soap station? Attach this drip catcher to the detergent spout to keep the laundry room clean. It can be quickly detached and rinsed in the sink.

Storage rack: Baoyouni 2-Layer Over Washing Machine Storage RackKeep laundry detergent and other items organized by storing them above your machine. This placement also keeps HE detergent away from pets and children.


Did You Know?
High-efficiency washers have been an increasing fixture in American homes since the mid-1990s, when Energy Star ratings began to be applied.

High-efficiency detergent prices

The price of high-efficiency laundry detergent varies depending on the quantity and any specialty formulations, such as detergents for sports clothing.

Inexpensive: For $3 to $7, you can find liquid detergent to wash 35 to 50 high-efficiency loads. Those who want to try out detergent pods can find small bags that wash 10 to 25 loads in this price range.

Mid-range: Laundry pods and larger containers of liquid detergents, and a few powder detergents, that will wash 50 to 100 loads are available for $8 to $11.

Expensive: Premium detergents and bulk-size containers are at the top of the scale at $12 to $18, with some premium detergents costing over $25.

Did You Know?
HE detergent formulations change frequently. Detergent manufacturers are constantly testing their products, and major brands change formulas about once a year.


  • Use only the recommended amount of high-efficiency detergent. HE detergents don’t generate as many suds as standard detergents because they don’t need to. Putting too much detergent into an HE washing machine will eventually cause problems and shorten the machine’s lifespan.
  • Use HE detergent in a non-HE washing machine. If you have an older agitator washer that is not high-efficiency and can’t find non-HE detergent in the store, don’t fret. All HE detergents work with older machines. They won’t be very sudsy, and some may not clean clothes as well, so you might need to try a few different brands.
  • Follow washing instructions on clothing labels for best results. For example, stretchy workout clothes last longer when washed in cold water using an HE detergent specially formulated for sports clothing. All-cotton and many cotton-blend T-shirts can be washed in warm or eco-warm water temperatures without a problem.
  • Rewash wet streaked or spotted clothes without the detergent. Streaks and spots happen most often when the machine is overloaded, preventing clothing from washing and rinsing properly. Drying clothes that are streaked or spotted can set the stains. Instead, put them right back in the washer and wash in plain water to get them fully clean.
  • Keep detergents, especially pods, out of the reach of children and pets. Detergents are poisonous when ingested. Always seal the container well after using. If possible, place the container high up where little ones can’t reach it after each and every use.
Hard water, load size, and fabric type can all affect the way an HE laundry detergent works.


Q. Do all high-efficiency laundry detergents clean the same way? My son’s soccer jersey always has dirt and grass stains on it.

A. Every detergent brand cleans differently, and major brands often sell variations of their HE formula that are geared toward specific cleaning situations. Look for a detergent that specifically says it will clean dirt and grass stains. However, you may need to try a few different brands to determine which one cleans that jersey most effectively.

Q. I have to wash my workout clothes in cold water. Will HE laundry detergent clean them fully?

A. High-efficiency detergents work well in any water temperature, but excess soil or oils from body sweat can challenge some detergents and result in streaks or a funky smell. Pick a detergent that is made specifically for stretchy athletic clothes and cold-water washes. These are often labeled as “sports” detergents and include language confirming that they work well in cold water.

Q. I put a high-efficiency detergent pod into my front-loading washer. The pod didn’t dissolve fully and was just a gooey glob near the door seal. What can I do to prevent this?

A. Try adding the pod to the washer before adding clothes, so that it spends more time in contact with the water. If that doesn’t work, you may need to dissolve the pod in warm water and then add the dissolved solution to the washer.

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