The Best Laundry Detergents & Why

If you’ve walked down most detergent aisles lately, you may have found part of yourself to be overwhelmed. The laundry detergent industry is full of companies (as well as Consumer Reports Inc. and Amazon reviews) which all claim that their detergent is the best, but every family has different needs.

Do you need a laundry detergent with a nice smell that can get your son’s football grass stains out? Maybe you need one with fabric softeners that is for more sensitive skin or the best detergent for babies that won’t cause most allergies for your newborn. If you use high efficiency (HE) washers, one load could require special pods. Or you need to remove blood, dirt, or chocolate stains from part of your favorite shirt before a photo shoot. No matter what your needs may be, we can assure you that there’s a powder or liquid detergent out there that will be best for your load, your fabrics, and for all your family. Our ratings and test system will help you find the detergent with the highest ratings in price, testing results, stain removal, and effectiveness.

And even if you absolutely dread laundry day, it is important that you pick the best name brand or generic laundry detergent to account for your family’s needs. Of the dozens of detergents that underwent testing, here is a list of the top picks for washing a load in hot and cold water wash. Where applicable, we have also included a photo and most of the ingredient list. We conducted research and ran testing on some of the biggest detergents in the world, such as Persil, Tide and Gain, as well as small detergents and others that you may not yet know at all. They are comparable in terms of cost, although the prices do vary somewhat. The results of our extensive load research and testing will give you options, and from those brand options you can find the best laundry detergent — either powders, liquid, or regular detergent — on sale for a good price at your local grocery store or on Amazon.

Which Laundry Detergent is Best?

Most types of laundry detergent have their pros and cons we review and score based on price, chemicals, and use on favorite items and stubborn stains. We have determined the best and worst features of each liquid and powder regular detergent. During our extensive testing, our testers reviewed and placed the best and worst laundry detergent types for every type of load, and the guide on this page will explain some of the advantages and disadvantages of each, based on lab tests, prices, and consumer reports. We looked at competitors with a comparable cost that would in part fit within any budget, and we approximated the cost a family budget while doing this. Each of the laundry detergents underwent a load test, and within that test several factors and formulas were given some reviews, a score, and a photo. In some cases, we compared two laundry detergents based on applicable terms, like stain removal, stain release, plant based, fragrance, or effect on skin, and from the two we reached a conclusion on which was best and worst. Other times, we offer two great choices, and occasionally, pick more than two when there is no worst kind. Wherever possible, we focused testing most on performance rather than market share and score in Consumer Reports Inc., and in some cases the market leader regular detergents performed much worse on fabrics, t shirts, and baby clothes than other mid market or worst low market laundry detergents.

The Best-Smelling Laundry Detergent

When it comes to scent, you want your laundry load to smell nice but for the scent to not be overwhelming. A light, pleasant scent is always appreciated. In a word, it should be strong without being burdensome. Do you love for all your laundry and towels to have strong perfumes and a powerful scent? If so, a bottle of Gain’s Aroma Boost Liquid Laundry Detergent is a great pick against most competition and the detergents we tested. In fact, one of the most popular Procter & Gamble lines is a highly rated, low price value pod in the expert consumer reports category as well as lab tests. The Procter & Gamble product outperforms other detergent brands that can be found on store shelves including Tide detergents and Kirkland Signature, removes dirt, body oil, and stains, and for some is worthy to consider. The packs give a great performance in every load cycle; they remove stains, even heavy duty ones, and the power pods work well in cold water to ultra clean whites and colors. The score high in HE machines and of the detergents we tested proved to be a good detergent for babies.


Pros: When using some small amount of this liquid laundry detergent, most laundry comes out with a clean, fresh scent and free from all the odor of body oil, grass, soil, and the majority of other contaminants. For the price, this one earns strong ratings against others. It shines in some reviews.
Cons: However, it may still leave some stains, either blood, chocolate, or others, since most guides and a number of lab test results show Gain does not include the stain removal formula or stain release enzymes necessary to fight deep dirt and remove heavy stains. The difference is that often dirt and stains will show up on tests under a device that shines UV light.

The Best Laundry Detergent for Removing Odors and Stains

Stain remover detergents are great for a tough stain and dirt pre treater, but to eliminate stubborn grass, blood, dirt, and grease stains, a number of reviewers recommend Arm & Hammer Plus OxiClean Odor Blasters which passed most tests to get your clothes (even baby clothes) clean. It also received dozens of high ratings in terms of its fragrance and its price. Even after several loads, the liquid or powder detergents remove soil while keeping the fabric colors strong.

Pros: In a sense, the bleach, enzymes, and baking soda features in this stain release pre treat formula allow for this moderate price detergent to remove a variety of heavy duty stains. The thing is, the pacs pass stain removal tests against a tough oil stain as well as dirt stains, grass, blood, chocolate, and red wine. They keep your colors strong even after many loads. We recommend using fabric swatches to test any bleach products and to confirm you like the fragrance. Odor removing detergents work well on workout clothes, although we recommend you take tests on one or a few stain swatches first to check for liquid or powder detergent residue that could cause skin irritation.
Cons: The bottom line is that some heavy duty stains (like dirt or blood) won’t come off despite the oxygen bleach stain release formula and will require you to use the stain removal product and higher water temperatures multiple times over several loads. For another excellent stain fighter, we recommend Persil ProClean Stain Fighter. The stain release ingredients in Persil ProClean Stain Fighter are a good bleach alternative and the Persil liquid laundry detergent tests well against body oil and other stains. For a value version of the Persil, try Purex, which offers one set of similar products at some different prices. Purex products eliminate stains without the high cost of another brand at increased prices. Both Persil and Purex are strong entries in the liquid laundry detergent market, keeping your colors strong after many loads.

The Best Natural or Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent

Are you looking for a bleach alternative and a laundry detergent that is natural, environmentally friendly, free from dyes and enzymes, and powerful? We recommend MyGreenFills Laundry Wash. It is designed to handle more trouble areas than the average detergent, without the additives that average liquid detergents or powders contain. It cleans trouble stains like mud, coffee, sweat, and chocolate, and removes odor like a laundromat while being gentle, enzyme free, and safety conscious. There are lots of differences between this natural detergent and one you can find in stores (like Tide), but our recommendation and preference is for this high performer.

Pros It is non-toxic, all plant based, and offers a refillable jug. In place of continuously purchasing new plastic containers of liquid laundry detergent, you can simply recycle your jug and add an amount with the mix-at-home refill packs. Because it contains no bleach, you do not need to perform tests on site with fabric swatches. In a test, it successfully treated blood, grass, coffee, chocolate, and sweat stains without overwhelming dyes or fragrances. It also maintained strong colors on test swatches.
Cons: While it does a great job at stain removal and sweat and body oil mitigation, the fragrance is not all that powerful, maybe due to it being a natural detergent. Our tests indicate that you can add a small amount of Woolite or some formulas essential oils like lavender as a budget option if you want your fabric to have stronger-smelling scents.

The Best Laundry Detergent for Sensitive Skin

If you or your children have sensitive skin, a conventional laundry detergent, even one with fabric softener, can cause painful rashes. To prevent this, something to consider is the choice of bleach alternative brand Seventh Generation Free & Clear regular detergent. Of the detergents we tested on swatches, the test of its formulas on different fabrics show the stain removers outperform powders with pleasant scents and a number of good qualities, including keeping colors strong. It removes even tough stains like body oil, grass, blood, or chocolate. Although it is tough on sweat and stains like dirt and coffee, it is gentle enough for soft fabrics like cotton sheets, cotton bedding, and cotton pillowcases. This fragrance free laundry detergent scored well on stain removal tests and performed well in high efficiency washing devices, making them one of the best detergents that use less water.

Pros: Every share of the cleaning ingredients in Seventh Generation is plant-based stain removers and ones that can still effectively remove stains, body oil, and odors per load. Despite tough stains, the expert formula in Seventh Generation maintains the color intensity of your clothing while getting them all ultra clean. If color consistency is important to you, then this detergent will preserve the color of your belongings better than most other color stay detergents, and without harmful enzymes. Test it on one or two swatches before you pick this brand.
Cons: Seventh Generation has preservatives such as MIT, BIT, and OIT so if you’re looking for a certified biobased product with no preservatives, then you are better off using something with all-natural, all plant-based ingredients like the ones in MyGreenFills Laundry Wash. You can buy them in stores in a pack, and each pack typically contains 3 packages. If you do not want a 3 pack, they are also available for individual sales or pairs of two, and Amazon has them on sale for a good price.

The Best Laundry Detergent for Convenience and Best Value

Already a popular detergent on store shelves according to consumer reports and Good Housekeeping, Tide Original passes the tests at removing stains and leaving your things ultra clean. One of Procter & Gamble’s flagship stain fighters, Tide has the cleaning power formula of regular detergents but is one of the top liquid detergents when you need to remove everything, even stains like body oil, chocolate or wine. When it comes to Tide, they have the stain fighting name consumers have trusted for years. Tide detergents are all well known thanks to their cost and quality when cleaning whites or colors. Even a small dose will get the job done. You have probably seen content in an advertisement about Tide. Whether the advertisement content is on television or a stream, they show a handful of benefits to their products, often tested on dozens of swatches, along with customers ratings, affordable prices, and a number of other positives for consumers to take away.
Pros: Tide tests well and are a good match for people who are on the go or for young adults learning to live independently, Tide Pods — laundry detergent pods — are a convenient choice as opposed to bulk powder detergent. These Tide power pods all work especially well in an HE washer and will remove body oil, stains, and odors from fabric swatches of all kinds.
Cons: Be sure that you choose the best Tide package for your needs, as Tide laundry pods tend to be more expensive. Tide pods and packs can be very dangerous in the case of small children as they can all be a choking hazard. Tide packs also have great popularity as a powder or liquid detergent. The Tide pods detergent might sometimes struggle with stubborn oil and stains, putting more pressure on washing machines.

If you ever wonder if the detergent pods will match your materials, use a swatch to test some detergent. The swatch will tell you if you used the right dose and what the outcome was on the site. The swatch will also help you prepare for danger ahead before you use the products in loads. It is good to use swatches as a kind of testers for brands such as Tide, Gain, Woolite, and Persil, and to determine which products remove more stains and costs the most money.

Also, Tide liquid detergents and packs are NOT all natural and do contain more than a few elements such as:

  • Linear Alkylbenzene Sulfonate
  • Polyethylene Glycols (PEG)
  • Surfactants (Cleaning Agents)
  • Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS)
  • Ammonium Laureth Sulfate (ALES)

Just to name a top few!

For a more natural liquid laundry detergent with a nice scent, try Tide Purclean packs, another version of Procter & Gamble products. This version of Tide packs is a great dye free formula for people with body and skin sensitivity or who react a lot more to allergens. Of the packs of liquid detergents we tested, Tide pacs performed well after loads of laundry tests in both cold water and hot wash water on different fabric swatches including cotton. You can also try Tide pods or a variety of other natural Tide products and packs for a handful of ways to tackle oil and tough stains or for more general top stain and mess removal jobs.

What’s in My Detergent?

A traditional laundry powder detergent such as Tide with stain release uses a formula with a wide variety of elements to provide you with a detergent that removes most odors, fights stains, and offers a pleasant scent. But in addition to cleaning your t shirts and baby items, these types of detergents can result in more serious health side effects. Even if a brand is listed as dye free and fragrance free, the detergent formula might have more harmful products than the detergents we tested already.

Some of the most popular ones found in powder and liquid laundry detergent like Tide, Gain, and Persil include a formula of 1,4-dioxane, chlorine bleach, and optical brighteners. Let’s take a look at each of these ingredients in detail. If you have a baby in your home or sensitive skin, you will want to be especially vigilant.

1,4-dioxane

Labeled as a known carcinogen by the EPA, 1,4-dioxane is one of the most dangerous found in laundry detergents such as Persil, Tide, Gain, and even Kirkland. Low dose 1,4-dioxane is actually a byproduct of manufacturing and has links to shampoos, body washes, and detergents. However, it is not listed on manufacturers labels. The detergents can be harmful to babies.

While most detergent companies like Tide and Persil are working to reduce the levels of 1,4-dioxane in their packs and products, more consumers should do their best to steer clear of this product found in detergents.

Phosphates

Most types of laundry detergent packs use them to soften the wash and keep dirt in the washing machine. This works to clean your clothing and prevents dirt from being left behind in your appliance after the water drains out. These materials can each be found in common laundry detergents manufacturers like Persil and Tide.

However, as the liquid and dirt drain out of your washing container and into the general water supply, the remainder works to get into more natural sources like lakes and rivers. Unfortunately, this has a serious effect on wildlife and often over time results in the death of native marine animal species.

Chlorine

Most already know that chlorine can be more harmful if it comes in contact with skin or mouths, or gets inhaled, but some do not realize that their typical laundry detergent packs include this content. Just imagine how much you or your kids may come in contact with if you run a load washing a batch of whites and add your usual dose or packs of bleach to a load that already has detergent packs with bleach! To all parents, baby skin is especially susceptible to chlorine burns. Testing products and detergents on a swatch first works well.

Optical Brighteners

Optical brighteners are used in laundry detergent to treat stains, but in reality, they aren’t actually removing your stains. Instead, they form a coat on your materials with more substances that reflect light, making the liquids invisible to the human eye. The stains stay on your clothing despite the manufacturers labels making the claim that it works against stains to the very bottom.

If you weren’t disappointed enough, they also are eye and lung irritants and can create harmful allergens for your skin and body, along with being more toxic for aquatic life. They can be found in Tide packs and more on this list, and they harm the water supply without truly being stain removers. Thanks to this page, you can now avoid those Tide and other detergent packs.

The Impact of Laundry Detergent Chemicals

After reviewing the side effects of just a few of the ingredients in a Tide, Gain, Persil, and Kirkland pack, you may begin to consider switching to a plant based natural detergent company that values safety. Most families feel much the same way, and thanks to their effort, plant based natural detergents have begun to rise in popularity. The differences are right there on the label, and now there are more choices than ever for us to solve our grass and mud stain problems — without harming ourselves or nature as a result.

Natural detergents can provide you with those same benefits per load that conventional detergents offer, but in something that is non-toxic, hypoallergenic, and environmentally friendly. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice the health of you or your family just to have free, clear, and clean clothes. Check the label at your grocery store to learn the differences.

Not sure whether you can maintain good housekeeping and switch to a much cleaner and much more natural detergent? Consider most benefits of natural liquid laundry detergent, even against tough problem stains. For every load, the natural formula soap cleans and will provide safe skin, a healthy home, and protection against stains. Most detergents have links to surfactants that can become a problem, but natural detergents are a great performer against most stains while remaining safe.

You’ll Protect Your Clothes

Harsh elements and ingredients can cause most clothes to wear down much faster. This is true for use in both cold water and warm water washes. And if you are not using water softeners in your cold water wash, your clothes could wear down much faster even if the detergent cleans well. To use even a cap of natural laundry detergent may earn a higher score in safety than a cap of regular detergent. Starting to use a cap of natural detergent could change your mind and the course of your family’s life.

You’ll Reduce Your Impact on the Environment

Most detergents contain things that are more toxic to wildlife. Most detergents also force buyers to purchase new bottles, which creates an outrageous amount of plastic waste. HE laundry machines often require HE detergents, which reduces energy use. For example, Kirkland Signature produces a line of laundry power pods for HE machines. Kirkland Signature products can be found at your local Costco and are effective against hard water stains.

You’ll Keep Your Family Safe

Because of the carcinogens and toxic materials found in most types of laundry detergent everyone may find themselves suffering from rashes and allergies, especially babies. A natural detergent liquid or certified biobased product can prevent this by eliminating dyes and perfumes while retaining its cleaning power and removing stains.

In addition to offering non-toxic chemicals and reducing your impact on the environment, natural laundry detergent can also be the best overall way to keep your washer clean, since they do not contain what usually causes build-up. They work well in hard water and cold water, too. Perhaps the best overall news is that these liquid detergents create clean, fresh laundry — removing stains, even those considered heavy duty. The best detergents provide an ultra clean experience compared with other detergent brands, and may earn best value awards while maintaining color intensity even in hard water conditions. It also gives you peace of mind because it works to keep your babies safe and comfortable.

How To Clean My Washer

If you are like most people, you spend a lot of time and energy washing.  Whether you clean items weekly or every few days, you and your family members put plenty of dirty items into your washing appliance. And while it does a great job of cleaning, who’s cleaning it?

You may be saying to yourself, “How can it be dirty? I put soap into it with every load!” While this is true, it still requires cleaning. Experts recommend that you should clean your washing container at least once a month. Your powder or liquid laundry detergent creates suds, and those suds leave behind residue with dyes and perfumes as well.

Why? If your household uses traditional laundry detergents, your appliance likely has some kind of chemical build-up, which can create the perfect conditions for things like bacteria, mold, and viruses to fester.

And even if you use more natural detergents, you may still have small amounts of organic material, such as fecal matter (aka poop), left in your washer. Much like chemical build-up, this type of organic material can create a mess and a breeding ground for bacteria to grow. Fortunately, there are ways to clean these messes each time that will eliminate each problem and help you avoid the worst case scenarios.

You will likely find a host of DIY recipes that include ingredients such as vinegar and bleach. But for most people, inhaling bleach can be toxic and harmful. This is true for anyone but is especially true for kids, so be sure to keep the kids away from this project when you’re trying to measure out just the right amount for that DIY recipe!

For a safe alternative, we recommend that you try MyGreenFills Laundry Machine Cleaner. This will detoxify the chemical build-up and bacteria that are likely present.

If you are making the switch to natural detergent, this is the best overall method to remove the chemical build-up from old conventional detergents. Plus, it will leave your HE machine smelling fresh!

The MyGreenFills Laundry Machine Cleaner comes in a pre-measured bag that you can easily toss into your appliance. After running a cycle with hot water temperatures, you can remove the bag, and voila, you have a clean unit! And as a bonus, you can even recycle the bag to match and use it around your laundry room.

Alternatives to Detergent

While natural laundry detergents offer many advantages over traditional laundry detergents, there is still a much better procedure you can take to clean your clothes that is even more natural, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly. Take this choice to reduce prices while removing stains for all types of fabrics, even the tough stains like grass, blood, dirt, mud, and coffee.

Most people may not believe it, but laundry magnets can clean dirty materials just as well as detergents. Don’t worry, this one is not like your typical refrigerator magnets! In a magnetic laundry system, the magnets are 390 times stronger than one typical magnet and can take out the dirt and stain that is in your clothing – just like detergent. They work in cold water (or hot water) and all washers, and they provide a free, gentle way to clean your clothes while keeping prices low. They even work in areas where you have hard water. We have run one test using the laundry magnets, and for the price they are a superior choice to the common formulas found in a popular detergent brand like Tide.

In short, laundry magnets allow you to:

  • Reduce prices and save money by never having to buy laundry detergent again
  • Stay healthy and prevent allergy flare-ups in your home caused by chemicals found in traditional detergents
  • Protect the environment from harsh chemicals and take away plastic waste

After reviewing our tips and information, we hope that you can choose laundry detergent products or a magnetic laundry system that will offer you effective cleaning, low cost, non-toxic chemicals, and a reduced impact on nature. We have selected a handful of the top picks for detergents that work for us, whether they provide us with a clean smelling shirt, give us confidence that stains will be lifted, help us keep the earth safe and protected, or allow us to save water and reduce the cost of energy, the products listed here take the top spots for us. This article has provided you with the best choice with the best overall cleaning performance on stains, the products that take less water, and which detergents may be easy to use. If you are searching for pods or detergent today, retailers often hold sales, and manufacturers occasionally offer sales prices for their lines. Kirkland, which is a division of popular warehouse retailer Costco, offers merchandise from its Kirkland Signature line. Kirkland has become known for its prices and its effectiveness. So if you see Kirkland on the label, you can trust it. Follow the links to find detergents near you or visit amazon.com to learn more. The best detergents are listed here, so all you need to do is find which one works well for you a take it for a spin in your next laundry load.