5 On Your Side

Detergents Come Clean in 'Consumer Reports' Tests

Posted February 14, 2007 7:24 p.m. EST

— At some point, we all have to do laundry. That of course requires detergent. Store shelves offer plenty of choices, but which ones do the best job of cleaning your clothes for the best price?

You can buy powder, liquid, now even a gel and a detergent ball. You can also get detergents blended with softeners and fresheners. Manufacturers keep coming up with new gimmicks to try to make their products stand out, but tests by Consumer Reports tests found that the new approaches don't necessarily translate to cleaner clothes.

In a television commercial, OxiClean claims you can clean 25 loads with each detergent ball.

Consumer Reports testers say, however, that the OxiClean ball fell to the bottom of its ratings because of poor cleaning power. Plus, it costs almost five times as much as some other detergents that did a good job.

In addition to the ball, Consumer Reports tested 38 other detergents.

"We tested liquids and powders, detergents with fabric softeners and without, and we tested high-efficiency detergents which are specifically recommended for front-loading washing machines," said Consumer Reports’ Ryan Robbins.

The testing involved saturating cotton squares with stains like chocolate ice cream, tea, lipstick, and red wine. They washed more than 3,000 swatches in more than 100 loads.

“Our tests showed that there's very little performance difference between liquid and powder detergents. It's really just a matter of personal preference," Robbins said.

Consumer Reports did find some standouts based on value and performance, however.

For conventional, top-loading washing machines, testers top-rated Tide with Bleach Alternative at 35 cents per load.

For front-loading machines, Costco's Kirkland Signature Ultra was rated a best buy. It costs just 12 cents per load!

If your machine doesn't have an automatic laundry detergent dispenser, Consumer Reports says that you will get the best cleaning results if you first turn on the water in the washer, then add the detergent. Once it's dissolved, add your laundry.