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Laundry detergent: Consumer Reports comes clean about which products are best

Have you tried laundry detergent sheets? Testing shows they work if you don't have heavily soiled clothes.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — When it comes to laundry, people are particular! But did you know that some manufacturers tweak their laundry detergent formulas as often as every year—and some several times a year—so it might be a good time to make the switch to a new detergent? 

Fortunately, the experts at Consumer Reports test those detergents every year and can tell you which ones clean the best. 

Whether you’re pro powders, prefer pods, are loyal to liquids, or shop sales, Consumer Reports tests of dozens of laundry detergents can help.

"CR’s tests are extremely tough; even the best detergents can’t remove every stain completely, so it’s really about getting one that works for what you are typically laundering and whether you routinely have heavily soiled clothes," said Perry Santanachote of Consumer Reports.


CR’s testers launder fabric swatches soaked with blood, body oil, chocolate, coffee, dirt, grass, and salad dressing. The lighter the stain after washing, the better the detergent scores on cleaning performance. 

Tide Plus Ultra Stain Release and Persil ProClean Stain Fighter tackled dirt and body oil, as well as tougher stains like grass and blood. 

But if grass and blood stains aren’t a routine occurrence in your home and you’re looking for a better value, CR says to consider Kirkland Signature Ultra Clean Liquid from Costco. 

If convenience is key, the Power Pods from Tide earned top scores among the pods. However, that convenience costs more and pods have other downsides: Pods can be dangerous, especially in households with cognitively impaired adults or young children who might accidentally ingest them.


Testers also checked out an alternative to typical detergents—laundry sheets—made of concentrated laundry detergent and held together by a resin and dissolvable paper. And they are also free of plastic packaging. 

"The laundry sheets as a group didn’t perform as well as liquids and pods in our tests. However, if your laundry isn’t heavily soiled and you’re looking for a more sustainable laundry routine, these could be a good option," said Santanachote.

Another reason to stick with liquid detergents: They can also work double duty as pre-treaters for stains, which means one less product you need to buy. 


None of the detergents in CR’s tests were stellar at removing coffee stains, so if you spill, CR says your best chances of removing the stain are to act especially fast by flushing the fabric from the back with cold water and then applying a pretreat or detergent. 

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