The 2 Worst Laundry Detergents You Can Buy, According to Consumer Reports

When it comes to fighting stains, these particular detergents just didn't cut it.

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Liquid or pods, organic or chemical based, unscented or scented: the number of choices you have while walking down the laundry detergent aisle is immense. But which ones are going to do the job, and which will leave you with dirty clothes at the end of the day? Consumer Reports tested dozens of detergents on numerous and increasingly hard to remove stains to find out.

Swatches of fabric were stained with grass, blood, salad dressing, dirt, coffee, chocolate, and body oil, and were then run through the washer with each of the various detergents. A colorimeter was used to measure the density of the stain before and after to get an accurate result of how much of each stain was lifted out of the fabric. The testers allowed the fabric to air dry, as certain stains set in when they are run through a drier. Be sure to pick the best detergent possible while using the best laundry trick you’ve never heard of.

While there were plenty of solid and average choices, two detergents stood out as the worst detergents you could buy. Consumer Reports said that both of these detergents worked “barely better than water” when it came to removing the tough stains. While both of these detergents were inexpensive, testers said they still weren’t worth what you will spend on them.

In second-to-last place was Era 3x Oxibooster. This detergent will cost you $0.38 per ounce, but Consumer Reports called it “one of the worst” at tackling stains like dirt and chocolate. It also underperformed when it came to grass and blood stains. However, it did produce a change in the easiest stain tested, which was body oil. (Though they admitted that the other detergents on the list still tackled body oil stains better.) Still, the Oxibooster did do a touch better than the worst detergent on the list.

Sun Triple Clean costs less than most of the detergents on the list, and you know what they say: You get what you pay for. You can find this detergent for $4.84 for 188 oz. That’s only $0.025 per ounce. It may seem like a bargain deal, but you’d basically be better off just leaving the three bucks in your jeans pocket while you wash them. This one did OK on the least stained items but did essentially nothing to actual stains like chocolate and coffee.

Wondering what to buy instead? Consumer Reports called out a few favorites on their list. Persil ProClean Power Liquid for Sensitive Skin packed quite the punch when it came to stain removal and was the best ranked out of all detergents that claimed to be gentle for those with sensitive skin. At $20 for 100 oz, it isn’t the cheapest on the list, but Persil wasn’t any more expensive than the other sensitive skin detergents.

Persil also made the top spot for “Best for Most Tough Stains” with their Persil ProClean Stain Fighter. It was one of only two detergents that was easily able to remove body oil, dirt, and chocolate. It was also tough enough to earn a “very good” mark in the toughest of the stains tested, like grass and blood. At only $11 for 100 oz, this one is also very affordable.

Other top contenders include Tide Plus Ultra Stain Release, given extra marks for how well it performed against dirt, body oil, and chocolate; and Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand Ultra Clean Liquid, which won Best Overall Value, despite having lower marks against grass stains and blood than Persil and Tide. Your choice of laundry detergent makes a difference, but so do these secret ingredients you should add to your laundry.

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Isabel Roy
Isabel Roy has been a writer and editor for RD.com since February of 2019. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Writing and Rhetoric. She is thrilled to be living and working in the Big Apple although she misses the easy access to freshly made Wisconsin cheese curds and Kopps Custard. When not at the Reader’s Digest office, you can find her downing too many chai lattes and rereading her favorite Harry Potter books.