Laundry detergent: Which type is best for you?

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Laundry detergent: Which type is best for you?

BEST LAUNDRY

Finding the perfect laundry detergent is important to many people, and it’s common to see those who are as loyal to one specific brand as they are to certain food or clothing brands. There are many different ways detergents can work to serve your cleaning needs, such as having a scent, removing tough stains, being gentle on certain materials and so on. 

By Imogen Groome | 13th July 2019
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To get into the nitty-gritty of it, perhaps the most important factor to consider is the surfactants in laundry detergents. This word stems from the phrase ‘surface-active agents’. The chemical structure of this chemical means it can interact with two different surface types, such as both water and oil. The tail of the chemical isn’t attracted to water, as it’s what is known as hydrophobic. Instead, it gravitates towards grease and dirt. Meanwhile, the head of the molecule is hydrophilic, which means it is attracted to water. This means that when greasy clothes are immersed in water with surfactant-containing detergents, the molecule will attract to both the grease and the water. The washing machine will churn the clothes around, and tiny spheres will be formed by these molecules. They stay suspended in the water and get rinsed away when the water is drained. In other words, surfactants will draw dirt out of clothes without placing them back within the fabrics.

Choosing a laundry detergent

So what goes into choosing a laundry detergent? For some, it may be as simple as finding the cheapest product in the store when they go grocery shopping. Others may prefer to find the most appealing scent, and some families may use the same brand that’s been passed down through generations. However, these are some additional factors to consider:

  • Does the laundry detergent work with all water temperatures? For example, will it work with both hot and cold washes without leading to disintegration or residue? 
  • Can the detergent be used in both high efficiency and standard washes? You can check this by looking for the HE symbol.
  • Will the price match the quality? Buying a cheaper product may not achieve the results you desire, while you may think buying an expensive product will give you better quality cleaning, only to be disappointed. Don’t purchase laundry detergent purely based on the price range.
  • Does the detergent work with tough stains? Whether it’s a coffee spill, wine, mud or body soil, a product which works hard to remove these stains is ideal if you often have such issues to tackle.
  • Does it protect both whites and colors? It’s common to see comedy scenes in movies and TV shows where someone pulls out freshly washed laundry, only to discover that everything has been dyed pink. Avoid this happening in real life by ensuring whites will remain crisp and colors won’t leak into the rest of the load.
  • Can the product handle delicate items? You may have clothing which requires hand washing or a gentle wash, such as woollen sweaters, baby laundry or clothing worn by those with allergies or sensitive skin. In such cases, ensure the detergent can be used in these circumstances.

Laundry detergents come in single dose, liquid or powdered form. The most effective type is liquid, as it proves to be particularly effective on greasy and oily stains. It’s common to use laundry detergents to treat clothing before applying a stain remover. One of the main mistakes to avoid is using too much laundry detergent in a wash, as not only will you be wasting money, this will leave unwanted residue in clothes. Powdered detergents typically prove to be more cost-effective and work well with mud stains and dirt which has been ground into clothing. However, they will prove to be a problem if you use extremely cold water during a wash, as they may not dissolve completely. Those who use a laundry room or laundromat may find single dose packs to be convenient, but these are also more expensive and could require two packs for particularly dirty clothes or large loads. If these aren’t hidden well from small children, vulnerable adults and pets, they can also be mistaken for candy and lead to dangerous poisoning.

If you’re new to doing your own laundry, or you’re looking for something new, here are some ideas of which are the best laundry detergents for your needs. Once you’ve made your choice, you can find one of the best clothes dryers to complement your new setup.

Best for no fragrances or dyes: Tide Ultra Stain Release Free

Exclusively available at Target, Tide Ultra Stain Release Free laundry detergent is effective at removing stains and smells from clothes. It’s fragrance and dye free, so there won’t be any scent attached to your laundry when it’s done. This detergent is proven to help remove 99% of everyday stains, and it’s gentle on sensitive skin. It’s been formulated with HE Turbo technology, so tough stains are targeted and the mixture contains quick collapsing suds. Furthermore, it works with both regular and high efficiency washing machines.

blue gel caps in hand for washing machine, liquid coloured detergent
Laundry detergent comes in many forms (Picture: iStock by Getty)
Best for fabric softener: Ecos Laundry Detergent

This plant-based concentrated laundry detergent is versatile, as it can be used in all water temperatures on all kinds of washable fabrics. It’s also safe for use in both high efficiency and standard washers. The formula is pH neutral and contains a fabric softener which is natural and coconut based. The detergent is 100 percent biodegradable and comes in either various liquid scents or unscented single dose packs. It’s best ordered online, and has all of the ingredients required for removing tough stains and body soil.

Best for protecting whites and colors: Tide Plus Beach Alternative HE Liquid

This detergent helps fabrics to look brighter and whiter after just a single wash. It revives fabric and prevents dirty water from soaking back into them. It also powers through tough stains such as coffee, wine and lipstick. 

Best for budgets: Purex Laundry Detergent

If you want a cheaper option when shopping for laundry detergent, you can go for the Purex brand, which comes in liquid and powder forms. The Clorox 2 formula is an oxygen-based and all fabric bleach which has cleaning enzymes, mannanase, amylase and protease in order to boost its cleaning powers.

Best for the environment: Method 4x concentrated

Designed for fighting tough dirt and stains with every wash, this plant-based formula is marketed as a green detergent. It comes in five different fragrances and hasn’t been tested on animals. The powerful clean is a naturally derived formula which is also hypoallergenic and only requires one capful per wash. Furthermore, the bottle is transparent with an ergonomic design.

Blurred abstract bleach, fabric softener, laundry detergent, all purpose cleaners shelves in modern grocery retail store. Defocused variety of cleaning, grocery, household aisle from floor to ceiling
There are many laundry detergent brands to choose from (Picture: iStock by Getty)
Best for gentle washes: Woolite Laundry Detergent

This line of laundry detergents provides a gentle wash, without including some of the more powerful cleaning ingredients which are intended for removing heavy stains such as mud, grease and grass stains. Ordinary body soil from light-use settings and offices can easily be removed with this detergent, and it’s perfect for hand washing sweaters or washing delicate fabrics. Furthermore, all of the formulas available will work well for protecting dark colors from fading.

Best for high efficiency: Kirkland Ultra Clean liquid

With a refreshing scent and twice the concentration, this formula is Costco’s store brand. It’s compatible with all machines and provides a super dense mixture for a highly efficient wash.

Best for cleaning ingredients: Arm & Hammer Laundry Detergent

You can buy this mid-priced detergent in liquid, powder or single dose packs, and it can be found in the laundry aisles of most mass-market store laundry aisles, as well as online. You can choose from several types of formula, as well as a range of scents. For example, if you want the highest level of cleaning power possible, choose the OxiClean formula. This particular strain contains a stain removing boost of sodium percarbonate to the surfactants, as well as baking soda and enzymes, making it effective for many types of stain found in laundry.

Best for odor removal: Tide Plus Febreze Sport

If you have tough stains to clean from activities such as sports or generally being outside in the grass or getting covered in dirt, this detergent is designed for fighting both marks and smells. The powerful clean replaces odors and stains with a fresh scent and provides four functions: cleaning, freshening, whitening and brightening.

Best for all water temperatures: Persil Laundry Detergent

US customers have two choices when it comes to Persil laundry detergent: Persil ProClean Power-Liquid or Persil ProClean Power-Caps. The good news is this formula can be used in all water temperatures, washers which are both standard and high efficiency, and also septic systems. You can purchase it in several scents, or go for fragrance and dye-free. It’s effective at removing tough stains and body soil due to containing a high level of enzymes, along with other high quality cleaning ingredients.

Close-up Of A Person's Hand Pouring Detergent In Lid
Choose the right laundry detergent for your needs (Picture: iStock by Getty)
Best for a range of products: Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent

Consumers can enjoy various options with the Seventh Generation laundry product line, as you can buy a range of liquid and single dose laundry detergents, dryer sheets and stain removers. Furthermore, they are easy to find, as you can purchase them in drug stores, grocery stores, mass merchandise stores and online. The ingredients in these products are plant-based and contain all of the necessary surfactants, enzymes and water conditioning agents required for both effective cleaning and stain removal. 

Best for scented washes: Gain Laundry Detergent

There are liquid, powder and single dose detergents in the Gain laundry detergent product range, and this mid priced product comes with a highly scented fragrance. It excels when it comes to removing light body soil and stains, but doesn’t contain the enzyme levels required for removing heavy stains – especially oily ones, or those which contain dyes.

Best for a mid-priced product: all Laundry Detergent

If you want to try this product, you can choose from liquid, powder or single dose packs. In terms of mid-priced laundry detergents, the all product range does a good job of tackling the bulk of stains, although it may not always tackle the toughest ones as effectively as you would like. If you want a version which is free of fragrance and dyes, you can opt for the all free clear liquid detergent. While it has the same formula as others in the range, with stain lifters and surfactants, it’s also suitable for babies, young children and people with sensitive skin.

Summary

There are many factors to consider when you purchase a new laundry detergent. For example, you may want to tackle tough stains, or make sure you can wash both colors and whites without having them mix in the wash or fade in vibrancy. Some will prefer their freshly laundered clothing to come with a scent, while others will want formula which doesn’t feature scents or dyes. Thinking about additional points such as skin sensitivity, potential allergic reactions to certain chemicals, types of fabric and the temperature of wash the detergent can handle is also important. Consumers may also want to know that a product is easy to use, eco-friendly or provides value for money, while extra bonuses can include coming in a variety of formats for different types of washes or providing multiple intensities for a more effective wash. Whichever laundry detergent you choose, make sure it’s the best for your personal or family needs.

Written by
Imogen Groome
Imogen is editor-in-chief of Hot5. She is also a lifestyle blogger, author and freelance journalist, with particular interests in music, politics, psychic readings and dating. She is usually found at home with her collection of animals, drinking iced tea. Read more.
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