17 Best Laundry Detergents, According to Cleaning Experts
Have you been using the same detergent forever? It might be time to change things up with these expert-recommended picks for every laundry need and personal preference.
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Detergent makes all the difference
These days, you can find a laundry detergent that is tailored for every need. There are stain fighters, detergents for sensitive skin, and even scented detergents that basically function like spa-worthy aromatherapy treatments. Then there are liquid and powder detergents, as well as HE detergents and more traditional ones. The bottom line: There are a lot of options out there, and choosing the best laundry detergent isn’t as easy as it may seem.
Of course, first and foremost, you’ll want something that truly gets your clothes clean. You’ll also need to take your specific items into consideration, along with any skin concerns and, of course, your values, notes cleaning expert Melissa Maker, owner of the popular blog Clean My Space. For example, if conserving energy is your main focus, then you’re better off choosing a regular detergent that cleans well in cold water. But if choosing an eco-friendly detergent is more important to you, then be prepared to use more warm water, since, in Maker’s tests, warm water yields better results when using eco-friendly detergents. Similarly, if you have sensitive skin, a fragrance-free detergent is the way to go, according to Elizabeth Mullans, MD, a dermatologist at Uptown Dermatology in Houston.
How we chose the best laundry detergents
These aren’t your grandmother’s detergents, says Maker, and that’s a good thing. Companies are now formulating them differently as washing machine technology and consumer needs have changed. But, of course, that can make it tricky to figure out what’s truly the best—and also the best for you. To help you sort through the plethora of products on the market, we spoke with cleaning and skin experts, as well as scoured website reviews of detergents with five-star ratings. Just keep in mind that while you might have one overall favorite, you may need to pick up a few different options for your various laundry needs, from your everyday whites to your delicates. Of course, choosing the right detergent is just one part of the equation, so make sure you read our guide on how to do laundry for everything else you need to know.
Tide Free & Gentle Liquid Laundry Detergent
Best for: Sensitive skin
When it comes to everyday laundry, Maker relies on this hypoallergenic, dermatologist-approved detergent. Made without dyes and perfumes, it’s formulated specially for people with sensitive skin. The National Eczema Association and the National Psoriasis Foundation have even given it their seals of approval. However, it’s anything but gentle on stains and gives your clothes the kind of clean you’ve come to expect from a trusted brand like Tide. Not only that, but this detergent comes in an eco-friendly box that uses 60 percent less plastic than your average laundry detergent bottle.
- Compatible with all machines
- Works in hot or cold water
- Comes in an eco-friendly box that’s easy to use
Molly’s Suds Laundry Powder
Best for: Delicates
Not all clothes are created equal, and some are more delicate than others. Think bras, underwear, lingerie, swimwear, and even athleisure. For these items, Maker recommends keeping one good delicates wash on hand—namely, this powder detergent that’s created with just a handful of plant- and Earth-based ingredients. This gentle detergent rinses clean and doesn’t leave residue. In fact, it will get rid of residue buildup left on your clothes from previous detergents. It’s also septic- and gray-water–safe, soil-tested, and certified cruelty-free. One important note: You’ll need heat to dissolve the powder, according to Maker. That means you’ll want to use this detergent on a warm or hot cycle. Here’s how to hand-wash clothes if you go that route.
- Free of dangerous chemicals
- Vegan ingredients are peanut-free
- Safe for all washers
Persil ProClean Power-Liquid Detergent + Stain Fighter
Best for: Stubborn stains
When Consumer Reports rates a product this well, you’d be wise to pay attention. This is one of the best laundry detergents that also happens to be affordable, according to the consumer watchdog, whose experts tested it on everyday stains such as body oil and dirt as well as tougher stains like grass and blood. It received near-perfect scores when it came to removing body oil, dirt, salad dressing, chocolate, and when used to pre-treat stains; it was also determined to be very effective on grass and blood stains. And at just $0.24 per load, it’s definitely the best value.
- Highly effective
- Smells great
Tide Plus Ultra Stain Release
Best for: Homes with hard water
This premium liquid detergent also earned a top score on Consumer Reports, and just like Persil ProClean, it got high marks for removing body oil, dirt, grass, and blood stains. The only real difference? Tide Plus Ultra Stain Release performed slightly better when tested with hard water. It’s also a bit more expensive; it can run as high as $0.67 per load. But if cost is not a factor, then this is a great option, especially since it can be found in most stores.
- Easy to use
- Easy to find
CleanCult Laundry Detergent
Best for: Eco-conscious consumers
Looking for a detergent that’s non-toxic, plant-based, and free from GMOs, parabens, and phthalates—but actually cleans your clothes? CleanCult is the way to go. In fact, it’s a favorite among Reader’s Digest editors. And it’s not just the detergent that’s eco-friendly—even its packaging is better for the environment. Order the complete liquid laundry bundle and you’ll receive a reusable, shatter-resistant glass detergent bottle; four 32-ounce boxes of laundry detergent (in all of the scents, so you can choose which one you like best for refills); three wool dryer balls; and the brand’s new stain stick.
- Smells amazing
- Tested by our editors
- Eco-friendly detergent and packaging
The Laundress Wool & Cashmere Shampoo
Best for: Wool, cashmere, and other dry-clean-only fabrics
There are plenty of reasons to dread a trip to the dry cleaner. Apart from the hassle of lugging all of your clothes there and back, there’s the expense and the fact that they might lose your favorite sweater. That’s why Maker recommends having one specialty detergent, like this wool and cashmere shampoo, on hand for your pricier garments or delicates. This specially formulated detergent safely cleans and preserves wool, cashmere, merino, mohair, and other blends. In fact, it does such a great job that tons of reviewers swear it does a better job than the dry cleaner!
- Specially formulated for cleaning and preserving your favorite sweaters
- Has a fresh, clean scent
- Not tested on animals
Puracy Natural Stain Remover
Best for: Pre-treating stains
Along with the best laundry detergents, you need something on hand to pre-treat tough stains. Maker recommends this stain remover from Puracy, which is made almost entirely of natural, plant-based ingredients. It contains six plant-derived surfactants and enzymes that dislodge and eradicate stains from just about any type of fabric, from clothes to carpets and even upholstery. And Maker isn’t the only one who thinks that this stain remover is a wonder to behold. One reviewer raves, “This stain remover is the BEST! Better than the harsh brands. It got blood out of a towel immediately without having to soak. I haven’t yet found a stain that it hasn’t worked on.” We’ll take a whole case, please!
- Works on any fabric
- No “bad stuff” like bleach, fragrances, dyes, allergens, petrochemicals, phosphates, phthalates, or sulfates
- Works on old stains
Woolite Darks with EverCare Liquid Laundry Detergent
Best for: Dark clothing
Is there anything worse than when your favorite LBD becomes your old little blackish dress? For bright colors that bleed or when dealing with delicate fabrics, Dr. Mullans recommends washing with cold water, in addition to using the right detergent. This Woolite formulation, which has more than 5,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, can be used in hot or cold water, and it’s specially formulated for dark clothing. It works by collecting loose color particles from water to prevent accidental bleeding, removing metal ions that cause color change, and smoothing rough fibers to keep clothes from fading. Here’s more on how to choose the right washing machine temperature for your clothes.
- Prevents fading
- Won’t cause shrinking or stretching
- Can be used in hot or cold water
Tide Plus Bleach Alternative
Best for: Whites and brights
Bleach that’s safe on colors? Yup! That’s because this detergent uses an oxygen-based bleach alternative that will brighten your whites while protecting your colors. It also has six times the cleaning power of its competitors, making it a super-charged stain fighter. Plus, it can clean in half the time! Just one dose of this detergent in the quick wash cycle will do the trick, according to reviewers. By the way, this is how much laundry detergent you should use, in general.
- Whitens clothes
- Removes more than 100 types of stains
- Cleans in half the time
Dreft Stage 1: Newborn Liquid Laundry Detergent
Best for: Babies
New parents are obsessive about what they use on their babies, and for good reason—that skin is delicate! They also want to keep harsh chemicals far from their little ones. Dreft is a tried-and-true favorite among both moms and pediatricians because it’s hypoallergenic and specially formulated for newborns. Just how beloved is it? It has more than 28,000 glowing five-star reviews on Amazon. Bonus: As your baby grows, you’ll need something stronger but still gentle. That’s where the Stage 2: Active Baby detergent comes in. It removes tough stains like grass and baby food but is still gentle on skin.
- Easy to use
- Unique scent
- Comes in different formulations to use as your baby grows
All Free & Clear
Best for: People with allergies
All Free & Clear is the most-recommended laundry detergent for sensitive skin by dermatologists, allergists, and pediatricians. It’s hypoallergenic and completely free of dyes and perfumes, which makes it safe for everyone, even babies. It also promises to remove 99 percent of everyday and seasonal allergens, dog and cat dander, dust mite matter, ragweed pollen, and grass and tree pollen. Plus, it’s safe to use in all washing machines, including HE washers, at any temperature. For really tough stains, you can even rub a small amount of detergent directly onto the stain before washing.
- Free of dyes and perfumes
- Ideal for people with allergies
- Safe to use in all types of washing machines
Tide Hygienic Clean Heavy Duty 10X Power Pods
Best for: Maximum-strength cleaning
Some stains are just more stubborn than others. If you need to step your stain fighting up a notch and love the idea of keeping things neat in your laundry room, these Tide pods may be your new favorite things. This detergent actually gets between the fibers to clean clothes at the microscopic level—in fact, one of these power pods is stronger than two regular Tide pods. They’re also safe for use in all washing machines and effective in either hot or cold water. Ninety-one percent of Amazon users who tried these pods gave them five stars, raving that they get rid of blood and other icky stains in one quick wash. One happy customer sums it up simply: “They smell great, clean well, and leave the clothes feeling soft.” Sold!
- Cleans hidden dirt
- Convenient pods
- Fresh, floral scent
Arm & Hammer Plus OxiClean with Odor Blasters
Best for: Super stinky items
Need to tackle musty towels or dirty dog blankets? Whether you’re looking to get rid of tough odors or simply want your laundry to smell good, Dr. Mullans recommends this fresh-scented detergent. Bonus: It’s powered by OxiClean, so it eliminates tough stains, as well. Wondering about other ways to keep your laundry smelling fresh? Proceed with caution, warns Dr. Mullans: “Adding a lot of extra elements to your load of laundry can cause skin irritations. A lot of these products can be filled with chemicals and can easily irritate sensitive skin.”
- Smells fresh
- Contains OxiClean to combat stains
- Eliminates odors rather than masking them
Arm & Hammer Sensitive Skin Free & Clear
Best for: Budget-conscious shoppers with sensitive skin
Dr. Mullans is a big fan of this affordable detergent for people with sensitive skin. She points out that not only is it specifically formulated for sensitive skin, as well as dermatologist-tested, but it’s also rated 100 percent SkinSAFE since it doesn’t contain the top recognized allergens. Plus, of course, it gets the job done, according to reviewers, who says that it effectively removes both stains and odors for a lot less than other detergents.
- Removes stains
Lysol Laundry Sanitizer
Best for: Sanitizing
If you’ve been using hot water or sanitize cycles on your washing machine in an effort to sanitize your clothes, stop. According to Maker, hot water ages your clothes. Not only that, but your clothes don’t need to be sanitized on a regular basis. Of course, certain professions or accidents might warrant it, and if that’s the case, Maker suggests using this laundry additive along with your regular detergent. Just add the recommended dose in the fabric softener compartment of your washing machine and it will kill 99.9 percent of bacteria that your detergent leaves behind—including cold and flu viruses and COVID-19. So while this isn’t one of the best laundry detergents, per se, you’ll definitely want it in your cleaning arsenal.
More than 54,000 Amazon reviewers sing its praises, including shopper Stephanie Miles, who writes, “Dear God, please don’t ever stop making this liquid nectar from the heavens! If you have kids, pets, a weakened immune system, or just enjoy having incredibly clean towels, sheets, or clothes, this stuff is the stuff to do it!” Here are more secret ingredients you should be adding to your laundry.
- Kills cold and flu viruses, the COVID-19 virus, and 99.9 percent of bacteria and odors
- Works in hot or cold water
- Gentle on clothes
Dropps Stain & Odor Laundry Detergent Pods
Best for: A non-toxic pod option
While pods are super convenient, you might worry about the potential chemicals in them, especially because they’re so concentrated. Not if you use Dropps! These tiny but mighty pods use natural enzymes to fight stains and odors. They’re also fragrance-free, dye-free, phosphate-free, paraben-free, and phthalate-free, meaning they’re safe to use if you have sensitive skin. And let’s talk for a minute about how obsessed people are with them: Reviewers say that these little pods stand up to even the stinkiest, most soiled laundry, and they also adore the pods’ compostable packaging and carbon-neutral shipping. They’re also HE-compatible, so you can use them in a variety of washing machines. Before you use them, check out this info on how to use laundry pods the right way.
- Safe ingredients
- Environmentally friendly
- Subscription available, so you’ll never run out
GO Organic Laundry Detergent
Best for: Organic devotees
Though plant-based detergents are good for the environment, they’re often not as good at getting rid of dirt and germs, says Dr. Mullans. Plus, she adds, many aren’t formulated properly for washing machines. Her solution? Opting for an organic laundry detergent rather than a plant-based one. This non-toxic detergent by GO is made with organic ingredients and doesn’t contain any dyes. It’s also great at penetrating stains and removing dirt, grease, and grime while protecting colors. Of course, even the best laundry detergents will only get you so far. Next, learn how to separate clothing for the cleanest, brightest clothes.
- USDA-certified organic
- Formulated for regular and HE washing machines
- Melissa Maker, cleaning expert and owner of the blog Clean My Space
- Elizabeth Mullans, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Uptown Dermatology in Houston, Texas
- Consumer Reports: “Laundry Detergent Buying Guide”
- Consumer Reports: “Laundry Detergents, Ratings”