Keeping Your Clothes Clean Doesn't Need to Be Expensive

According to Paris fashion magazine L’Eclaireur, the typical consumer uses approximately four times the laundry detergent needed to get a load clean. Considering the difference in detergent prices, that may prove important to householders who choose to look into the matter after learning that Americans spend more than $5 billion on laundry detergent every year.

A 2018 Clark Howard study shows that Persil ProClean Power-Liquid 2 in 1 is the most effective detergent, cleaning at 25 cents per ten-pound load, while Xtra Plus OxiClean brings up the rear at just 6 cents — a significant result in the face of one basic element the consumer may not realize:

Detergent doesn’t — does not — clean the clothes. That’s the job of the water, whose surface tension is broken up through the detergent so that the water can lift stains. In deference to the detergent’s secondary function, here’s a look at the differences in product performance and how a few of them got to where they are.

Difference Between Premium and Value Brand Laundry Detergent

The differences between expensive and less costly detergent, according to a 2018 Consumer Reports study, lay in the detergent’s effectiveness in lifting a certain stain. For example, Percil, popular in Europe for years, is noted to be excellent on blood. Chocolate, red wine, dirt, grass, tea and body oil are said to be the toughest to remove — so if there’s not a lot of dirt or grass in your laundry bin, it’s best if you look for a detergent that takes aim at your particular problem.

Procter & Gamble’s Tide, meanwhile, has been a household name in America since its introduction in 1946. Its scientists discovered then that soap and water interact differently. Part of the soap is attracted to the water, and the other wants to move around it (that’s what’s responsible for the bubbles you see).

Tide’s “secret” addition — baking soda — apparently speeds this process as the water’s surface tension steps aside, allowing the water to move effortlessly through fabric and eliminate stains. Marketing has done the rest.

Premium names such as All, Wisk, Cheer and Gain normally top Consumer Reports surveys, while Costco’s value brand Kirkland Signature has recently made a go of things. Value brand products such as Martha Stewart Clean 2x, XTra Scentsations, Trader Joe’s Liquid Detergent HE and Sun Triple Clean are among the bottom in the same 2018 Consumer Reports research.

Popular Value Brand Laundry Detergents

There are many value brands of detergent which may be chosen by people. Some of the most popular are:

  • Walmart’s Great Value brand costs an average $6.28 per 100 ounces and earns Good Housekeeping seal of approval.
  • Sixty-four biodegradable ounces of James Austin’s 101 Mountain Fresh will cost you $3.69, or 6 cents a 10-pound load, and is noted to be effective at pretreating stains.
  • The 235-ounce Purex Mountain Breeze container will net you 135 loads.

There’s also nothing stopping you from making your own soap. All it takes is:

  • 4.5 ounces of bar soap
  • 1 cup of Borax
  • 1 cup of washing soda

Place the ingredients for a few minutes in a blender. You’ll yield 33 ounces of laundry powder at the cost of 0 cents per 10-pound load, minus the price of those materials of course.

Meanwhile, Consumer Reports says it will no longer recommend any detergent that comes in pod form, or the small, caplike, colorful version. In 2017, nearly 12,000 calls to poison control centers involved illnesses among children who mistook the items for candy. The consumer group strongly recommends that buyers refrain from their purchase for households that include children under 6. This includes any value brand pods that may have been involved.