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, red wine, dirt, tea, 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 Xtra Plus OxiClean. This detergent will cost you under $7 for 60 oz, but the colorimeter hardly saw any change to the tough stains like chocolate and red wine, and barely saw a change in even the easiest stain tested which was body oil. Consumer Reports recommends spending a bit more and finding a product that actually does something. Still, Xtra Plus OxiClean did do a touch better than the worst detergent on the list.
Sun Triple Clean costs less than any detergent on the list and you know what they say: you get what you pay for. You can find this detergent for $2.96 for 188 oz. That’s only $0.02 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.
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 Power Liquid 2in1. This detergent was gentle enough to remove light stains like body oil and dirt without ruining the fabric, but tough enough to earn a “very good” mark in the toughest of the stains tested. 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 grass stains and its general cost-to-affectiveness ratio, and Sam’s Club brand’s Member’s Mark Ultimate Clean which won Best Overall Value, despite having lower marks against grass stains and red wine than Persil and Tide. A few marks in Tide’s favor: it is one of the 40 most trusted brands in America.
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