A washing machine

The Top 5 Laundry Detergents You Should Be Using

Discover the top laundry detergents of the year, from powerful stain removers to eco-friendly refillable options, as tested and ranked by experts.

When considering essential cleaning supplies that seem to be never-ending purchases, laundry detergent likely tops the list for many people. The market offers a plethora of options, including various liquid detergents, detergent packs, and even detergent sheets, both in physical stores and online. With such an array of choices, it can be overwhelming to determine which formula is best suited for your home. Through extensive laundry detergent testing over the years, we've learned that no single detergent can tackle all the stains encountered in our day-to-day lives. Nevertheless, doing laundry correctly plays a crucial role in achieving the whitest whites and freshest towels.

Here are our top picks for laundry detergents:

  1. Hygienic Clean Power Pods - Tide's Hygienic Clean Power Pods stand out as the best overall laundry detergent. Available for purchase at Walmart for $27.
  2. ProClean + Stain Fighter Liquid Laundry Detergent - Persil's ProClean + Stain Fighter Liquid Laundry Detergent ranks as the best overall liquid laundry detergent. You can find it at Walmart for $14.
  3. Plus with Bleach Powder Laundry Detergent - Tide's Plus with Bleach Powder Laundry Detergent claims the top spot for overall powder laundry detergent. It is available on Amazon for $23.
  4. Ultra Clean HE Liquid Laundry Detergent - For those seeking the best value, Kirkland Signature's Ultra Clean HE Liquid Laundry Detergent is an excellent choice, priced at $22 at Costco.
  5. Liquid Laundry Refill - For those who prefer refillable options, Cleancult's Liquid Laundry Refill is the best choice, available at Cleancult.com for $10.

Selecting the right laundry detergent can greatly impact the cleanliness and freshness of your laundry, so it's worth considering the options carefully.

A constant influx of new laundry detergents continually comes our way, prompting us to test dozens of them each year. All these detergents make bold claims of stain removal, whitening, color-brightening, and overall "new and improved" performance, making it challenging to discern which ones truly excel. To address this uncertainty, we subject them to a rigorous battery of tests in our Lab.

We start by staining cotton, polyester, and blended fabrics with 20 common yet tough-to-remove stains, such as blood and permanent ink. Next, we wash these swatches using our test detergents, employing both warm and cold water settings. Once dried, we meticulously assess each stain on the swatches under standard lighting and using a spectrophotometer, which allows for precise color analysis. Based on the results, we assign removal grades to each stain and calculate an overall score for each detergent.

The following are our top picks for laundry detergents that tackle various kinds of messes and suit every type of load, based on our comprehensive testing.

Tide Hygienic Clean Power Pods

  • Best overall laundry detergent
  • $27 at Walmart PROS:
  • Cleans away hidden dirt
  • Bigger PODS for large loads
  • Whitens without bleach CONS:
  • PODS may be large for very small loads

Tide Hygienic Clean is specially designed to penetrate deep into fibers, effectively dissolving and eliminating body oils and unseen stains. This formula brightens clothes without the need for bleach, making it safe for vibrant colors. In tests, it outperformed regular detergent, leaving clothes visibly cleaner under UV light. The jumbo Power Pods, packed with more cleaning agents than two regular Pods, excel at removing stains and are ideal for families with substantial laundry loads. For smaller loads, consider using Tide's regular-sized pods.

Type: Packs | Number of loads per tub: 63 | Cost per load: 43 cents

Persil ProClean + Stain Fighter Liquid Laundry Detergent

  • Best overall liquid laundry detergent
  • $14 at Walmart PROS:
  • Excellent cold water performance
  • Outstanding stain removal CONS:
  • Strong scent

Persil's liquid laundry detergent earned the Good Housekeeping Seal for its remarkable stain-fighting abilities, especially in cold water. It effectively eliminated coffee and beaten egg yolk stains from all fabrics, regardless of water temperature. Users also praised its effectiveness as a stain pre-treater. However, it leaves a strong scent on freshly washed laundry, which may not be suitable for those seeking a lighter fragrance.

Type: Liquid | Number of loads per bottle: 50 | Cost per load: 28 cents

Tide Plus with Bleach Powder Laundry Detergent

  • Best overall powder laundry detergent
  • $23 at Amazon PROS:
  • Contains whiteners and color brighteners
  • Effective stain removal, dissolves in cold water CONS:
  • Powder clumps near moisture

Tide's powder laundry detergent, a Good Housekeeping Seal holder, proves its efficacy, matching or even surpassing many liquid detergents. It cleans cotton test swatches equally well in both cold and warm water. The formula includes a color-safe bleach and an activating ingredient to maintain the brightness of whites and colors. It's safe for washable fabrics and colors as it lacks chlorine bleach. This powder is compatible with traditional and high-efficiency washing machines. However, it requires careful storage in a dry area to avoid clumping due to moisture exposure.

Type: Powder | Number of loads per box: 89 | Cost per load: 26 cents

Kirkland Signature Ultra Clean HE Liquid Laundry Detergent

  • Best value laundry detergent PROS:
  • Inexpensive
  • Effective in cold water CONS:
  • Requires membership for lower price

For a budget-friendly and efficient detergent, Costco's Kirkland brand is an excellent choice. In our latest test, it tied for first place in removing stains from polyester in cold water. It outperformed most detergents in eliminating tough tea stains from both cotton and polyester fabrics. The extra-large jug allows for easy dispensing, and it offers exceptional value with 146 loads per bottle. Note that while available on Amazon without a Costco membership, the price there is significantly higher.

Type: Liquid | Number of loads per bottle: 146 | Cost per load: 15 cents

Cleancult Liquid Laundry Refill

  • Best refillable laundry detergent
  • $10 at Cleancult.com PROS:
  • Recyclable refill cartons
  • Cost-effective with a subscription
  • Almost entirely removes stains CONS:
  • Refillable bottle cap can get messy

Cleancult's refillable laundry detergent excels in performance, while the glass bottle reduces plastic waste. The paper-based refill cartons are recyclable, aligning with eco-friendly practices. It ranked among the top performers in our test of 28 detergents and eight stain removers, almost completely eliminating all but one stain. It offers pleasant scents and clear dosage instructions on the label. While the refillable bottle's cap measurement lines can be challenging to read, rinsing after each load prevents messes. Cleancult's refillable bottles feature shatterproof glass and a colorful silicone sleeve, ensuring both aesthetics and comfort. With a cost of about 33 cents per load, it is competitive with other liquid detergents in the market. Subscribing to automatic refills saves approximately two cents per load.

Type: Liquid | Number of loads per bottle: 32 | Cost per load: 33 cents