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Over the years, I've tested dozens of laundry detergents, including eco-friendly detergents and even detergent alternatives. When it comes to detergents, I'm most interested in stain removal and cost-effectiveness. To simulate the messes you might encounter in the garden or on the soccer field, we uniformly coated white T-shirts with grass and dirt stains.
All stains are carefully sourced, for example, all the red wine is made in the same vineyard and all the blood comes from the same breed of pig. In addition to mechanically created stains, we produced some stains of our own. We dragged a colleague through dirt and grass to create stained t-shirts and to make things for the shirt even worse, added tomato sauce and fresh red wine into the mix. We placed our stain swatches into standardized loads of laundry, each consisting of eight pounds worth of pillowcases, towels, and bedsheets.
We then repeated this process only, this time, placing the swathes in designated places inside of the washing machine. After we ran the Normal cycle, we took each strip and let them dry overnight then analyzed them with a photospectrometer—a device designed to detect changes in color.
This allowed us to assign an empirical number to how much of each stain the detergent lifted. The way that we clean our laundry has changed slowly, but dramatically over the centuries. Where dunking our clothes in the clean running water of a stream or river, beating them on a rock and letting them dry in the sun was once the height of garment hygiene, every once in a while, a shift in how we wash our clothes pops up.
Over the centuries, people have used a wide variety of substances, such as ash, sand, charcoal and even sulfur you'll get no fresh scent out of that one to grind the dirt out of their clothing. Sometimes these things would be used together in a laundry cleaning concoction.
Other times, when few options were available, the substances may have been used all on their own. Once humanity nailed down the ability to make solid bars of soap, we began using the same stuff we washed our bodies with to also refresh our garments. This worked just fine for generations, right up until the First World War rolled around.
During the conflict, Germany's war efforts used many of the components required to make soap to make equipment for soldiers on the front lines. As such, little soap could be found to do the nation's washing up. In , the nation's chemists figured out the chemical means for cleaning clothing and laundry detergent was born. Once the war was over, a large majority of folks went back to using traditional bars of soap and soap flakes as they had before all the fighting broke out.
It wasn't until the s when the use of washing machines skyrocketed in North America, that detergent became a popular product for cleaning clothing. The race for our best value pick was neck-and-neck between Kirkland and Tide. In the end, Beyond the science, Tide won us over, as it can be bought most anywhere, while Kirkland products can only be found in Costco stores and, occasional online. Our tests revealed that their detergent combines a great balance of affordability and performance, with a cent that is fresher and lighter than what you'll get with Tide The Kirkland detergent removed 6 percent fewer stains than Persil and 4 percent fewer than Tide.
We really liked its container design—it comes with a no-mess dispenser. As far as scent goes, we thought it to be average. Limited availability with best deals available only at Costco. Gain is best known for its fresh scent.
It's also decent at removing stains: of all the detergents we tested, Gain had the most liked scent and staying power, with its bouquet transferring strongly to our laundry. While we found Gain to be superior to bargain-priced detergents, it lagged behind our winners. It was roughly 10 percent less effective than Persil. However, for the average urbanite that doesn't get that dirty, Gain will leave you with a more pleasant-smelling laundry experience.
It tied for third place in the area of stain-fighting and stands out for its affordability. That said, while this detergent might seem like a good deal, its weaker stain removal abilities didn't make us feel like it was a good buy, once we used it—as it doesn't remove stains as well as other detergents in this guide, you may wind up having to wash a garment multiple times with it before it's clean.
Additionally, this detergent left a sharp, citrusy smell on laundry that many may find unappealing. Purex is well-liked for its affordability. Our testing showed that you get what you pay for with this product. It came in second to last in stain removal testing. We found that result surprising, since the same people that make Persil, our top performer, makes Purex.
As for its price-to-performance ratio, we think Purex is on the mark. We'd recommend Purex to anyone on a budget who need a cheaper detergent with cleaning power. While it might be perfume-free, it does have an odor: we noticed that it has a strong medicinal smell—a side effect of having no added scents to mask the natural odors of its ingredients. Luckily, this odor does not transfer onto laundry. That might be a detriment if you're trying to eliminate an odor from your laundry, but for consumers with sensitivities to dyes and perfumes, this detergent remains a popular choice.
We've tested a few perfume-free detergents that barely cleaned better than no detergent at all. On the pricing front, it has an average price of around 25 cents per load. That's not bad considering this detergent is meant for a more niche market of people with sensitive skin. Jonathan Chan currently serves as the Lab Manager at Reviewed. If you clean with it, it's likely that Jon oversees its testing.
Since joining the Reviewed in , Jon has helped launch the company's efforts in reviewing laptops, vacuums, and outdoor gear. He thinks he's a pretty big deal. In the pursuit of data, he's plunged his hands into freezing cold water, consented to be literally dragged through the mud, and watched paint dry. Jon demands you have a nice day. We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results.
After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process. Get smarter about what you're buying. Reviews, deals, and helpful advice delivered to your inbox. Money All Money Credit Cards. Credit: Reviewed. Written by Jonathan Chan. Our Favorite Laundry Detergents of Pros Best stain removal of tested detergents.
Cons Expensive Sweet smell may be a turnoff. Buy now at Amazon. Pros Great cleaning power. Cons Not great for sensitive skin. Best Overall. Best Value. Related content best-right-now The Best Washing Machines of Best for Sensitive Skin. Advertisement It worked great, just as good as the store bought cleaner and made the carpet smell like a spring meadow. I won't be spending money on anymore pricey carpet cleaner, I will use my laundry soap, works just as good and it doesn't sud up anymore than what I was using.
Preservatives for Homemade Laundry Detergent. Cleaning Human Feces Stains and Odors from Cleaning Old Dirty Carpet. Laundry Detergent Stain on Carpet. Storing Dry Laundry Detergent. Adding Fragrances to Homemade Laundry Detergent?
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