Some of the first mass-produced laundry detergents were bars of soap that were used with a washboard and washtub. Powders and liquids became the detergents of choice for modern washing machines, which became increasingly popular in the 1950s.
Today, we have seemingly endless options for cleaning our clothes: Powders, liquids, pods, sheets, DIY formulas, and yes, bar soaps (including one that’s been around since 1894). But how do you choose the one that’s right for your laundry needs? The experts at Consumer Reports (CR) recently ran some tests to find out. Based on their results, here’s what they recommend.
How the detergents were tested
Different detergents have different strengths, so to find out what they are, the CR experts washed fabric swatches soaked with substances including blood, body oil, chocolate, coffee, dirt, grass, and salad dressing. When the swatches came out of the machine, the lighter the stain, the better the detergent scored.
How to choose the right detergent for the job
For grease stains and body soil
In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, “body soil” refers to the combination of body oils, dead skin flakes, and sweat that is transferred onto our clothes when we wear them. To remove that gunk, as well as grease stains, the CR testers say liquid detergent is your best bet.
For outdoor stains
Powder is most effective at removing dirt, clay, and mud stains.
For washing in cold water
Unsurprisingly, liquid detergent dissolves more easily in cold water than the other forms. But, if you’re a diehard powder fan, there’s a way around this: Mix the powder with a little warm water before adding it to a cold wash.
Overall, the laundry sheets were the least effective of all the products tested when it came to stain removal. They are, however, the kindest to the environment. So if you have loads that aren’t heavily soiled, sheets should get the job done.
For working double-duty
In addition to being a regular detergent, liquids can also serve as pre-treaters.
According to CR testers, detergent pods are not only effective at removing stains, but they’re the most convenient. Just be prepared to pay more for that convenience.
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