11 Best Laundry Detergents to Buy, According to Cleaning Experts
- Our top picks:
- Hygienic Clean Heavy 10x Duty Power PODS
- ProClean + Stain Fighter Liquid Laundry Detergent
- Plus Bleach Powder Laundry Detergent
- Ultra Clean Liquid Laundry Detergent
- ProClean Discs Laundry Detergent Pacs + Oxi
- Hygienic Clean Heavy Duty 10x Power PODS Free Laundry Detergent
- Everyday Laundry Detergent
- All Darks Liquid Laundry Detergent
- Newborn Liquid Baby Laundry Detergent
- Botanicals Plant-Based Laundry Detergent
- Free & Clear Laundry Detergent Packs
- How we test laundry detergents
- What type of laundry detergent cleans best?
- How we test sunscreens
- How we test sunscreens
We updated this story in November 2022 to ensure the information reflected current prices, features and more. Our top picks, based on testing notes from the Good Housekeeping Institute, remain the same.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned about laundry detergents in all our years of testing them at Good Housekeeping, it’s that no detergent gets out everything, but every detergent gets out something. Knowing how to do laundry the right way can be challenging and always getting clean results isn’t guaranteed. That’s why laundry detergents are some of the most frequently tested products in the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab. It’s the one cleaning essential that virtually everyone uses and there’s always a constant stream of new ones coming our way.
All laundry detergents claim to remove stains, whiten, brighten colors and generally just be “new and improved,” so it’s difficult to know which really work best. That’s why we put them through a rigorous gamut of tests in our Lab. After staining cotton, polyester and blended fabrics with 20 common but hard-to-remove stains, like blood and ink, we wash the swatches in our test detergents in hot, warm and cold water. After drying, each stain on the swatch is given a removal grade when viewed under standard lighting and we calculate an overall score for each detergent. Here are our top laundry detergent picks to tackle every kind of mess and for every kind of load, based on our testing.
Our top picks:
Hygienic Clean Heavy 10x Duty Power PODS
Believe it or not, even the best detergents may not completely remove all the body soils and stains trapped deep within items in your washload. So the clothing and bedding that looks totally clean, may not be. That’s where Good Housekeeping Seal star Tide Hygienic Clean comes in. It’s formulated to better penetrate into and between fibers to dissolve and remove body oils and others nasties you may not even be able to see.
To prove that it works, we had a consult with the manufacturer where a UV light was used to show that Tide Hygienic Clean left clothing cleaner than regular detergent. In our own at-home tests, white t-shirts and bedding washed in this Tide emerged whiter than usual, without the need for bleach. These jumbo Power Pods (with more cleaning ingredients than two regular Pods) did an amazing job zapping stains from our Lab test swatches and are a great choice for families with lots of big loads of laundry to do.
Cost per large load: 48 cents
ProClean + Stain Fighter Liquid Laundry Detergent
If you prefer liquid detergent, Persil ProClean Stain Fighter won’t disappoint. It topped our test of 42 formulas doing the best job erasing stains from all of our swatches in cold water. So, if you’ve switched to cold water washing to save energy, Persil is a great choice, and it carries our Good Housekeeping Seal. It totally zapped coffee and beaten egg yolk from all fabrics in all water temperatures.Cost per medium load: 41 cents
Plus Bleach Powder Laundry Detergent
If you’re a powder detergent diehard, there’s no beating Tide+ Plus Bleach Powder. In our tests, it worked just as well cleaning our cotton test swatches in cold water as it did in warm which also helped it earn our Good Housekeeping Seal. Tide+ Plus Bleach includes a color-safe bleach and an activating ingredient to help get and keep your whites and colors brighter with every cycle. It does not contain chlorine bleach so it’s safe for washable fabrics and colors. This powder is formulated to work and dissolve in both traditional and high efficiency washing machines and in our tests it did.
Cost per medium load: 34 cents
Ultra Clean Liquid Laundry Detergent
If you are looking to buy a hard-working detergent at a great value, Costco’s Kirkland brand is a great choice. In our most recent laundry detergent test, it tied for first place at getting the most stains out of polyester in cold water. It also did much better than most on removing tea (a surprisingly tough stain to get out!) from both cotton and polyester fabric swatches. The extra large jug can be laid on its side on a counter for easy dispensing into the measuring cap. While this Kirkland detergent is available on Amazon without a Costco membership, it is significantly more expensive there.
Cost per medium load: 14 cents
ProClean Discs Laundry Detergent Pacs + Oxi
A winner in the laundry category in our 2021 Good Housekeeping Cleaning Awards, Persil Proclean Discs + Oxi scored a top spot among the detergents that we tested. Not only did it perform well on our Lab-stained swatches, but it was a favorite with our consumer panel as well. One tester exclaimed that it removed dried berry and grass stains without pretreating and another said she was switching to Persil from her regular brand. The colorful discs dissolve easily in all water temperatures and the oxi component is safe to use on colors and whites.
Cost per medium load: 32 cents
Hygienic Clean Heavy Duty 10x Power PODS Free Laundry Detergent
Making a detergent that’s safe for those with sensitive skin is about more than just removing the dyes and fragrances. It has to clean well, too, to remove hidden soils that can also irritate and inflame delicate skin. Tide’s Power Pods Free do both. A winner for cleaning and stain removal in our 2021 Good Housekeeping Cleaning Awards, this Tide detergent beat out all the other detergents we tested in removing stains like ketchup, red wine and grass. The fact that it’s gentle on skin and recognized by the National Psoriasis Foundation and the National Eczema Association provide make a great choice for those with sensitive skin. And like the regular version, these jumbo packs can handle jumbo loads.
Cost per large load: 45 cents
Everyday Laundry Detergent
Just looking at the Safely laundry detergent bottle — part of Kris Jenner’s cleaning line — tells you it’s something different, and once you open the cap and take a sniff, you’ll know it’s something different. While we haven’t yet done our usual battery of stain tests on Safely, so far we are impressed with how it’s cleaned the loads of laundry we have done. But most noticeable is it’s amazing scent. “Spring” is a light floral scent with notes of orange, jasmine and geranium with woodsy undertones. It’s crisp and natural smelling, not heavy or artificial. And we like that it leaves clothing smelling clean, fresh and oh-so-lightly scented — not overly perfumed — even out of the dryer. Online reviewers rave about it, and a new scent “Calm” has recently been introduced to the line. We also like the tall, slim easy-to-store bottle and the outer cap that doubles as a clearly-marked measuring cup. After measuring out your dose, though, the cap will need rinsing to keep the bottle from getting drippy.
Cost per small load: 35 cents
All Darks Liquid Laundry Detergent
Nothing is as disappointing as seeing your favorite pair of black jeans turn a faded gray after just a few washes. The best way to prevent that from happening is to wash them inside out, in cold water and with a color-preserving detergent, like Woolite All Darks. Its special formula pulls color-fading metal and chlorine ions from the wash water, smooths rough fibers and severs the pills that can make fabrics look old before their time.
Woolite’s neutral formula removes light everyday soils from all fabrics and is a GH Cleaning Lab favorite for cleaning and protecting delicate fabrics and dark colors from the abrasive effects of washing. And consumers agree. Woolite All Darks has over 3,200 five-star Amazon reviews!
Cost per medium load: 23 cents
Newborn Liquid Baby Laundry Detergent
Babies have sensitive skin that needs to be protected, but boy, can they make stains! That’s why new parents need a detergent that’s an effective cleaner, but doesn’t leave harsh residues behind, and Dreft is a traditional favorite. It contains enzymes to effectively remove protein stains, like formula (or poop!).
In GH Cleaning Lab tests, it cleaned and removed stains as well as traditional adult detergents. And the cleaner clothes are, the less irritating they are on delicate skin. Plus, Dreft’s hypoallergenic formula means no skin irritating residues will be left behind. If your child’s skin is super sensitive and you prefer a detergent without fragrance, consider the plant-based and fragrance-free version, Dreft Pure Gentleness Liquid Detergent.
Cost per medium load: 31 cents
Botanicals Plant-Based Laundry Detergent
Gain Botanicals topped our test with its plant-based formula, proving you don’t have to compromise cleaning to do good for the environment. It was the only detergent to remove tea completely from each stain swatch we tested, and it did consistently well among all other stains. This Gain formula is a USDA-Certified Biobased Product with 65% of its formula coming from plant-based ingredients. We love the translucent cap that makes measuring so easy, plus, it comes in the unique scents of orange blossom vanilla and white tea lavender that one expert called “heavenly!”
Cost per medium load: 26 cents
Free & Clear Laundry Detergent Packs
Seventh Generation Laundry Packs topped our stain removal tests when we washed cotton fabric swatches in hot water. It was the only detergent to completely remove the oil stain out of cotton, a difficult feat to accomplish! And these powder packs are without scent or dye, so they are worth considering for those who prefer a detergent without added fragrance.
We applaud Seventh Generation for listing the entire ingredient list on the package for transparency. This formula is EPA Safer Choice certified and a 94% USDA-Certified Biobased Product. And if you like using a single-dose detergent, these packs are powder — not liquid — so they won’t burst open as easily and could be safer in homes with kids.
Cost per medium load: 28 cents
How we test laundry detergents
For every new laundry detergent we test, we first review the labeling for the thoroughness of the directions, how much is recommended to use for medium, large and heavily soiled loads and whether it contains the required safety labeling cautions required by law based on the ingredients. For any claims we can’t test in the Lab, we ask the manufacturers to supply us with support documentation that we review. We then apply a battery of 20 carefully measured stains (including grease, coffee, wine and more) to white cotton and polyester woven and knit fabrics and allow the stains to set for 24 hours before we wash them. In just our last test of 42 detergents, we applied and rated over 2,500 stains!
The next day, the swatches are washed in top- and front-loading washing machines in hot, warm or cold water with seven to eight pounds of additional items like towels, t-shirts, sheets and pillowcases to simulate an actual at-home load. We add in the amount of detergent recommended on the label for a load with heavy soil and run the cycle. When it’s done, we remove the swatch and allow it to air dry.
Then, we take the fabric to a special dark grading room where — under standard industry lighting — we grade the removal of each of the 20 stains on a one to five industry scale (where five is complete removal and one is no removal). We also have a spectrophotometer that allows us to measure the amount of each stain left behind on the fabric after washing and calculate a soil removal score. Finally, we note how neat and easy the detergent is to dispense, the amount of suds it produces and if it leaves any noticeable residue behind on our test loads or in our machines.
What type of laundry detergent cleans best?
There are advantages and disadvantages to each type. Which form you choose will depend on personal preference and which you find most convenient to use and most effective based on the brand and the types of laundry loads you do. Here’s our take on the three most popular forms of laundry detergent — powder, liquid and single-use packs.
✔️Powder detergent was the first type of laundry detergent, and it is typically cheaper compared to its liquid and single-dose counterparts. Detergents in this category tend to perform well on outdoor stains like mud, clay or grass, so it’s great for little ones’ soccer uniforms and your gardening clothes. Keep in mind: Powder must be stored in a completely dry area to avoid clumping. Also note that if you like washing in cold water, some powders may not dissolve completely and as a result, unwanted residue may settle on your clothing.
✔️Liquid detergent performs particularly well on oil and grease stains. Conveniently, it can be used as a spot pre-treater, and you’ll never have to worry about it not dissolving. Don’t forget to use the correct amount, though: The lines on the measuring caps are there for a reason! Too much will cause over-sudsing, or the soap may not rinse out when the cycle is over. Too little, your clothes won’t get clean. Trust us: You get better results when you use the recommended amount.
✔️Single-dose packets are very convenient but on average, cost a little more. You don’t have to worry about using too little or too much detergent as it is already pre-measured with either liquid or powder detergent. The latest innovation in this category is laundry detergent sheets, which are pre-measured sheets packed with concentrated detergent. Usually, one pack is recommended for average-size loads and two packs for large or heavily soiled loads. One pack may be too much for very small loads, and you never want to break them. Keep in mind: Some packs have trouble dissolving in some machines, especially at lower water temperatures, so make sure you add the packs before adding the clothes. Some newer machines now have sections in the dispenser drawer just for these packets so they dissolve better in less water.
Safety Note: Make sure you store your single-use laundry packets in their original containers and away from children, pets and anyone else who could be at risk of ingesting them or using them for anything other than laundry. For safety reasons, we don’t recommend placing packets in unmarked decorative jars to leave on display in your laundry area and won’t recommend any liquid single-dose detergents that don’t come in child-resistant packaging with appropriate safe storage and use directions.
How we test sunscreens
Our rule of thumb is to start with the recommendations on the detergent label. Manufacturers formulate detergents differently, so the amount you use for one brand may not be adequate for another. Most detergent directions include dosage recommendations for medium or regular loads and for large or heavily-soiled loads. You also have to factor in the size of your washing machine’s tub. A medium load means dry clothes fill the tub halfway, a large load fills it 3/4 of the way and a full load fills the tub but still allows the items to move freely. Never overstuff or cram a load in. It’s better to do two loads.
Bottom line: Always measure! Never just pour liquids or powders in. Add more for extra large and extra dirty loads or if your water is especially hard.
How we test sunscreens
Carolyn Forté is a consumer products expert with over 40 years of experience. With a background in textiles and years of testing both laundry detergents and laundry appliances, she knows a thing or two about getting stains out. Forté is Executive Director of Good Housekeeping’s Home Appliance & Cleaning Lab, writes the monthly “Inside the GH Cleaning Lab” advice and tips column, has authored numerous home care and cleaning books and is the first person GH staffers come see when they’ve dribbled some lunch on their shirts!