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Best and Worst Laundry Detergents From Consumer Reports’ Tests

Tide and Persil prevail, while some other detergents can barely clean clothes

Walk down the cleaning aisle of any grocery or big-box store and the sheer number of laundry detergent choices can feel overwhelming.

The detergent names and descriptions only add to the confusion: Ultra Stain Release, Turbo Clean, Simply Clean and Fresh, Simply Clean and Sensitive—and that’s just a handful of detergents from Tide.

In terms of types, however, the laundry detergent market has narrowed: “Most detergents sold today are liquid, and their popularity—plus the increase in sales of pods—means that few powders remain on store shelves,” says Kelly Moomey, a senior market analyst at CR.

Some CR readers tell us that they buy what’s on sale, but others have strong preferences, especially when it comes to the detergent’s scent. “Great smelling,” one CR reader commented. “The scent is extremely strong,” says another—and they were both talking about the same detergent, in this case, Persil’s Pro Clean 2-in-1.

Lab-Tested for Your Washer
Most major detergent brands are reformulated at least once a year, says Moomey, as manufacturers keep looking for ways to improve stain removal. That keeps our test engineers busy.

First, they launder fabric swatches that are saturated with blood, body oil, chocolate, coffee, dirt, grass, and salad dressing. We use stains that are exceedingly hard to remove so that we can detect real differences among detergents. Even the best detergents can’t remove every stain completely.

Using cool water, we wash swatches in two identical washers with each detergent, then allow the swatches to air-dry. (A dryer is out of the question because the heat can alter the stains.)

Testers use a colorimeter, a device that measures color intensity, to see how much of the stain remains on each dry swatch, compared with stained swatches that have been laundered using only water.

The best detergents we’ve tested earn an Excellent rating in removing body oil and dirt—common stains—but they can also tackle tougher ones, such as grass and blood. Hard water, which has a high mineral content, can reduce the effectiveness of some detergents. We test for that, too, as you’ll see in our ratings.

The worst detergents? They’re barely better than water when it comes to removing most stains.

Below, a closer look at five of the best liquid detergents we tested, listed alphabetically—along with the two worst.

In our laundry detergent ratings, we calculate the price per load based on what we paid because detergents vary in the number of ounces in each container. The prices below, however, reflect overall prices; in some cases, the prices listed are for multipacks.

Consumer Reports’ tests reveal the best and worst laundry detergents, from brands including Tide, Persil, Kirkland, and more.