Knowing the best laundry detergents is essential to anyone who wants the best results out of every wash. As someone who works remotely, you can usually find me running loads of laundry between meetings. Between kitchen towels and my fiancée’s scrubs from working at a hospital, I’m often looking for detergent that’s easy to use and leaves my clothes smelling fresh without irritating my skin.
I also travel pretty frequently, and often bring detergent with me in case I can do my laundry in my Airbnb, so it’s nice to have detergent that’s easy to use on the go. I’m also mindful of the environmental impact of products, so I appreciate detergent types with reduced packaging and brands.
There are a lot of different forms laundry detergent can take, ranging from pods and sheets to powder and even a reusable egg. Each one has its own benefits depending on whether you’re looking for a formula that’s designed with sensitive skin in mind, the ability to travel with it, or you’re looking to reduce your environmental impact through eliminating excess packaging.
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Best laundry detergents
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In this guide, I’ve personally tested and reviewed a range of scents, types, and brands of laundry detergent to find the best ones out there. I’ve considered price point, ingredients and packaging and included all these considerations in the article below.
Best laundry detergents
I was immediately intrigued by laundry sheets for travel, especially because I usually bring detergent in case I can do laundry where I’m staying. The sheets come in a thin recyclable cardboard package, which is a welcome change from excess plastic waste since millions of plastic detergent jugs are thrown away each year. I also appreciate that for each pack sold, Earth Breeze (opens in new tab) donates 10 loads of laundry detergent to non-profits, shelters, and charities.
I used half to 2 sheets depending on the size of the load, though I typically stuck with 1 sheet for simplicity. Since I had a front-loading washing machine, I used this detergent by tearing it into small places and adding it to my washing machine’s drum for liquid detergent, where it will dissolve the same way as liquid detergent. Since the formula is low-suds, you don’t have to worry about running another cycle to get rid of bubbles. Because this detergent is so lightweight and compact, I would recommend Eco Sheets if you’re packing laundry detergent on a trip or have to travel to your washing machine.
This detergent is a great value for the price as it’s easily one of the cheapest options on this list, which is great if you do multiple rounds of laundry and go through it quickly. It’s backed by the Arm & Hammer brand, which you may know and love for its baking soda-based consumer products.
There are very few detergents that are actually fragrance-free, but this one fits the bill and is dermatologist tested. After using this on a load of towels, I did notice that my towels didn’t have any scent and they were a bit less soft than some of the other detergents I’ve used. I did appreciate that this laundry detergent formula isn’t tested on animals and supports the Arbor Day Foundation, which plants trees in the Mississippi River Valley.
This detergent is a pretty typical liquid detergent though it is more concentrated so it requires a small quantity than average. This detergent is also fragrance-free which makes it a good fit for sensitive skin but it doesn’t have the typical “fresh” scent that is usually achieved with the addition of chemicals. As such, as the name indicates, it’s ideal for use with babies and small children, who typically have sensitive skin.
This detergent is made with plant-derived cleaning agents like coconut oil and palm kernel oil. It did a good job of getting rid of small dirt stains, especially when pre-treating clothing by putting clothing by putting detergent directly on stains, but didn’t fully remove tougher ones like oil or blood. That said, not many basic detergents can claim to tackle these stains without using some type of stain remover.
This detergent comes in a screw-top bottle with a silicon cup that’s marked to measure out 6, 12, or 16 ml depending on the size and level of soil in the load. However, I found that it was tempting to add more to use the same amount as a typical liquid detergent, so keep that in mind if you feel the need to use more than necessary.
I washed the silicon cup outside between uses and left it to dry in the bathroom, so I lost track of it by the time I did another load. However, you can easily wash the cup and put it back on the lid.
The formula is made with advanced enzyme cleaning technology that’s designed to target stains and odors while still being gentle on the skin, and I found that it did a decent job at cleaning my clothes without leaving them with an overly perfumy scent. However, I found that the cost of this liquid detergent is higher than average without offering a very different experience.
This detergent was the most intriguing in its form factor, which is a latticed egg that you fill with cleaning pellets that activates in water and is free of microplastics. The egg is meant to last up to 210 washes, and it comes with additional pellets to top it off after 70 washes or when the line of pellets falls below the halfway point. If you run longer cycles with hotter water, the egg will be used up more quickly.
Putting the egg together was simple enough though not intuitive. I relied on the instructions to unscrew the egg, which took a few tries since I had short nails. The packaging comes with a few bags of pellets in small plastic bags: the white mineral pellets are designed to clean clothing, whereas the grey pellets are made with tourmaline, which is used to soften the clothing. I did spill some pellets in the process of filling up the egg with white and grey pellets, though this was only an issue when setting up the laundry egg for use.
From there, usage is simple. All I needed to do was add the egg on top of my laundry and let it dry between washes, which is not ideal when doing multiple loads in succession. This is ideal if you don’t have a lot of laundry to do at once and want to reduce your need to buy detergent over and over. I tested the laundry egg with a load of laundry that had workout clothes to see how well it would do at deodorizing the clothing.
After washing my clothes, they were certainly fresh but had no strong scent like some of the scented detergent options, which is to be expected. However, that could be fixed with the addition of scent booster beads (opens in new tab), which is worth exploring given the reusability of this laundry egg for up to 210 loads.
Founded by a nurse and mom, Molly’s Suds is designed with sensitive skin in mind. It’s made without dyes, formaldehyde, and petrochemicals, so this is a great option for people who have sensitive skin but still want their clothes to smell fresh.
This powder deterrent costs less per load than leading brands because the powder is more concentrated, and I used the provided cup to measure out about one to two tablespoons per load. This powder can get messy and be prone to spilling, so I made sure to reseal the bag between uses or put the powder in a large sealed container.
A powder detergent like this requires warm water to ensure that the powder dissolves entirely, so that’s something to keep in mind. Some of my darker clothes had a bit of powder on them after drying them that I could easily brush off, but I didn’t have the same issue with white clothes. I appreciated the simplicity of this formula, though I don’t personally prefer it over a concentrated liquid formula or tide pods.
This detergent bottle did not come taped, so some of the product had spilled in the packaging while shipping. Other reviewers noted the same issue, so it may be worth buying this detergent in store to reduce the risk of spilling in transit. This is also more expensive than some of the other detergents on this list without being any more concentrated.
This liquid detergent is pretty standard, though it has a pretty strong fresh scent that is what I look for in detergent. Plus, this formula is made with Oxi Boost to get rid of odors and stains while smelling great, and I appreciate the stain-fighting power is built right in. Even after washing my clothes, the scent was strong when I took my clothes out of the washer but ended up being pretty mild after going through the dryer. However, if scented detergent isn’t your thing or you have sensitive skin, I’d skip this one.
When I think of doing laundry in a pinch, Tide pods come to mind. I relied on these in college, especially because I had to carry my laundry to my dorm’s laundry room in the basement or a nearby building. I continue to appreciate the fact that Tide pods are portable and easy to pack on the go, especially if you’re traveling.
However, these aren’t as cost effective as concentrated detergent, which will usually cost less per wash. Tide pods are easy to use – just throw them on top of your laundry and forget about it. I’ve had instances where my tide pod skin doesn’t fully dissolve, but that’s more common if I overfill my washing machine. These power pods are double the size of a normal pod, so they’re meant to tackle stains and odors all at once.
Keep these out of reach of children and your eyes, though it’s worth noting that the pods usually come in childproof packaging. This formula isn’t necessarily designed with sensitive skin in mind, though it does have a strong cleaning power if that’s your goal.
Buying advice for the best laundry detergents
There are plenty of detergent options to choose from nowadays, so many it can be overwhelming. We’re here to cut through the noise and help you make the right choice for you.
If you’re often on the go or have to trek to a laundry machine, you’ll want to opt for sheets, pods, or something like the laundry egg as they’re portable. These options also contain less plastic, so you won’t be creating waste in the form of plastic jugs or containers.
On that note, if you’re environmentally-conscious, options with less packaging like the ones above are a safe bet. You’ll also want to think about ingredients, so a product with natural ingredients like Molly’s suds is a good choice.
If you have sensitive skin, opt for unscented detergents, which contain less irritants. However, if you’re looking for a “clean” scent, try the Gain laundry detergent or Tide pods.