With an entire aisle dedicated to laundry detergents, choosing the best brand for your needs can be overwhelming. Should you opt for liquid or powder? Fragrance-free or scented? Standard or high efficiency? How do you select the ideal detergent to achieve clean, bright laundry? We compared top brands based on effectiveness, sustainability, cost and special features to identify products that stand out above the rest.
Key Detergent Differences
First, it helps to understand the differences between detergent types and formulations:
Liquids vs. Powders vs. Pods
Liquid detergents dissolve easily but can leak and spill
Powder detergents pack concentrated cleaning but may cake if exposed to moisture
Pods/packets provide pre-measured, convenient dosing to avoid mess
Scents vs. Fragrance-Free
Scented formulas help mask odors but can irritate sensitive skin
Fragrance-free options are gentler for allergy sufferers
With Fabric Softeners vs. Regular
Formulas with added fabric softeners reduce static and soften in one step
Regular detergents clean deeply but may require separate softener
Standard vs. High Efficiency
Standard detergents work for all machines
High-efficiency formulas are created specifically for HE machines
Mainstream vs. Eco-friendly
Mainstream detergents include phosphates and synthetic compounds
Eco-friendly options emphasize plant-based ingredients and biodegradability
Top Laundry Detergent Brands Reviews
Keeping these key distinctions in mind, here are our picks for best detergent brands across major categories:
Best High Efficiency Detergent: Tide HE Turbo Clean
Excellent at stain removal and brightening, Tide HE Turbo Clean delivers outstanding performance thanks to bio-based surfactants and optimized formulas safe for HE machines. The Tide scent is iconic.
Best Sensitive Skin Formula: All Free and Clear Liquid
With zero dyes and perfumes, All Free and Clear is ideal for allergy and skin sensitivities. The baking soda-based formula provides gentle but effective cleaning.
Best Eco-Friendly Liquid: Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent
Made from plant-based ingredients, Seventh Generation is a pioneer in the eco-friendly space. The vegan, non-toxic formula is sulfate-free and works across all machines.
Best Powder: Arm & Hammer Powder Laundry Detergent
The baking soda base in Arm & Hammer absorbs odors and whitens fabric while dissolving quickly. Great at removing gunky grime and oil stains from clothes.
Best Pods: Tide PODS Plus Febreze
No spills or measuring needed with convenient Tide PODS. They power out stubborn stains and the Febreze effects keep clothes smelling fresh. Dissolve fast for easy use.
Best Whitening: OxiClean White Revive Laundry Whitener
This OxiClean formula boosts stain-fighting enzymes that break down pigments on white clothes. Safely brightens whites and prevents graying and yellowing.
Best Baby Formula: Dreft Stage 1: Newborn Liquid
Specifically designed for babies, Dreft is a gentle cleaner that keeps clothes soft and protects skin. The hypoallergenic formula works in all machines.
Best Sport Detergent: Tide Plus Febreze Sport
This advanced Tide formula targets sweat, grass stains, and odors on activewear with special enzymes and antibacterial agents. Keeps gym and sports clothes fresh.
Best Budget: Purex Liquid Laundry Detergent
Purex gets the job done for less. A trusted name, it provides deep cleaning and brightening on par with pricier brands. Ideal for large households on a budget.
Best Natural: Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Laundry Detergent
Made from essential oils and naturally derived ingredients, Mrs. Meyer’s is tough on stains but gentle on the planet. Leaves zero chemical residue. Great sensitive skin formula.
Finding the ideal detergent depends on your priorities – but top brands exist for every need.
Factors in Selecting Laundry Detergent
Several factors go into choosing the best laundry detergent for your household:
Type of Machine
Confirm compatibility – some formulas are tailored for standard, HE or front loaders. Using the right detergent prevents oversudsing and clogging.
Hard water requires more cleaning power. Seek out detergents containing water softeners to counteract mineral buildup.
Heat activates stain-fighting enzymes in many detergents. For cold water washing, select a formula designed to work at low temperatures.
Types of Fabrics
Delicates, wool, athletic wear each need special care. Seek targeted detergents by fabric type with appropriate cleaning agents.
For heavily soiled items like kids’ clothes or greasy work uniforms, choose a detergent with maximum stain-fighting ingredients.
People with allergies or conditions like eczema require hypoallergenic, fragrance/dye-free options that won’t irritate skin.
To avoid toxins and reduce environmental impact, choose plant-based detergents with eco-friendly formulas.
Selecting the optimal detergent boils down to your unique situation and priorities.
Laundry Detergent Features to Compare
Beyond brand names, examine these key detergent attributes in making the best selection:
Types of Stain Fighting Ingredients
Look for powerful surfactants and enzymes like protease to target oily and particulate stains. Optical brighteners also help whites stay bright.
Do you want light freshness or stronger scented laundry? Note added perfumes or essential oils that may trigger sensitivities for some.
Packaging and Ease of Use
Assess convenience – are bottles easy to handle? Do pods eliminate measuring? Can boxes be recycled?
Added Softening and Static Reduction
Integrated softeners and anti-static compounds streamline laundry steps in one product.
Some detergents cater to workout wear, baby clothes, or folks with skin conditions like eczema. Find targeted solutions.
Value and Cost Per Load
Balance cleaning power with affordability. Calculate cost per load based on container volume and regular usage.
Ethical brands openly disclose all ingredients rather than hiding behind the term “fragrance.”
Sustainability and Biodegradability
Choose plant-derived, phosphate-free formulas that avoid toxins and break down safely.
Look beyond the marketing to examine functional benefits that suit your needs.
Laundry Detergent FAQs
Let’s review answers to some frequently asked detergent questions:
How much detergent should you use per load?
Follow container guidelines based on load size and soil level. Typically 2-3 TBSP liquid or 1-2 scoops powder detergent for standard loads.
Should you use less detergent with soft water?
Yes, heavy detergent use can create excess suds with soft water. Reduce the amount by 25-50% and increase as needed.
What temperature works best?
Hot water (90°F+) boosts cleaning power. But lower temps around 60°F work well too with enzymes in many modern detergents.
How do you strip old detergent buildup?
Run very hot or boiling water cycles with vinegar or bleach to dissolve sticky residues that may accumulate over time.
Why is my laundry stiff and dull?
Excessive detergent that doesn’t fully rinse away coats fibers and causes stiffness and faded colors. Reduce the amount used.
Can you mix detergent types and brands?
Best to avoid mixing different formulations. Stick to one trusted brand tailored to your machine’s needs.
How long does liquid detergent last?
Expect 6-12 months before the cleaning power weakens. Store tightly sealed in a cool, dark place.
Why use laundry boosters like borax?
These extra powders help cut grease, lift stains, brighten whites and neutralize odors for maximized results.
Is homemade detergent really effective?
DIY formulas clean very well at a fraction of the cost! Just be sure to use heavy duty ingredients like washing soda.