The simple luxury and comfort of freshly washed laundry can create an experience to look forward to in your home. Knowing which type of detergent to use will help to ensure an effortless and effective wash, every time.
There are several factors that one might consider when choosing a laundry detergent – from effectiveness to convenience to environmental impact. Discover the pros and cons of powder, liquid, and laundry pods in our comprehensive guide to help you find the best detergent for your laundry needs.
FACT OR FICTION?
There are many misconceptions and misunderstood facts about the powers of powder and liquid detergents. Both will leave a residue if too much detergent is used. Both will clean effectively and efficiently if used properly. This is a fact. Both must contain the correct ingredients and formulation to clean safely and well. This is a fact.
But “desolvability” is simply and often the single most misunderstood factor when debating the use of powder versus liquid vs pods. More is not always better. Bigger is not always better.
As Julia Child used to say, everything in moderation!
Comparisons must be made fairly to be accurate.
Powder laundry detergents were first introduced in the early 1900s as a cleaning product used to wash clothing, towels, carpets & rugs, and other fabrics. Powder detergents are made using a naturally sourced surfactants in place of the animal fats and oils found in soap.
Soaps are designed to clean our face, hands, and body. They are gentle and not as effective for cleaning clothing and linens. Soaps are made from fats and oils that can leave a residue on your clothing and linens and the inside of your machine. Ideally, detergents are made from organic surfactants that are formulated to clean your favorite clothing and everyday household items effectively.
When choosing a soap to clean your body or a detergent to clean your clothing and linens, it is important to choose wisely. Trusting the product and its ingredients are important to your well-being and that of our planet.
While powder detergents are not as popular in the present day in the U.S. they are heavily used in other countries including Germany, India, China, and other European markets.
Pros of Using Powder Detergent
Powder detergents are both effective and economical.
Powder detergents use compound ingredients that have proven effective on dirt, mud, blood, food, and grass strains. High quality powdered detergents are highly concentrated so that less detergent is required to clean effectively and efficiently. When dissolved in water, the powder detergent releases oxygen, which works with the water to gently release dirt and stains without harming your most prized possessions.
This is not to say, that every stain is released without added effort or specialty cleaning products such as Oxyclean, Zout, Dawn, or Fels Naptha Laundry Bar to name a few.
There are many powder detergents made with natural ingredients & natural surfactants that are safe on the skin and less likely to cause allergic reactions.
Powder detergents are generally more affordable than liquid or laundry pods because they are not diluted with water and use concentrated ingredients to make.
Cons of Using Powder Detergent
The biggest and likely most common misconception of using powder detergent is that powder has a tendency to leave residue on clothing. If too much detergent is used, no detergent will fully dissolve in water. To help prevent this, follow the directions on the container and fill the washer with water first, then add your items. Unfortunately, with the new technology of HE washing machines, this is not an option. So, the best solution is not to add too much detergent. When washing machines use less water, the need for extra detergent is not needed. In addition, I like to select the “extra rinse cycle” on my washer. This ensures that all detergent and other treatments are released and rinsed from your washed items.
Like other types of household products, all detergents can pose skin irritations or allergic reactions depending on the ingredients used and your personal allergies. To help to combat this, using less detergent is best. Choose a detergent from a trusted brand that uses safe ingredients, such as The Laundry’s Finest Powder Detergent.
Using Powder Detergent
Most powder detergents are compatible with any high-efficiency, or HE, washing machines. This helps to reduce suds and allows the machine to use less water. Some of you may remember the famous scene from I LOVE LUCY when she uses the wrong type of detergent in her washer and it overflows with suds everywhere. It was hilarious but a mess! Powder detergents are safe to use in both front-loading and top-load washers.
For precise advice on usage, refer to the directions on the laundry detergent container and the manual for your washing machine. Bear in mind that it is best not to overload your machine. No matter what kind of detergent that you use, if overloaded the items will not get washed, rinsed or cleaned well.
Liquid detergent was officially available in 1946 and, due to extensive marketing by the consumer product companies, is the most popular type of laundry detergent used in the U.S. today. Liquid detergents are formulated with anionic and non-ionic surfactants, water, and other added ingredients used for washing clothing. Today, there are both natural and synthetic liquid detergent options on the market that will keep your laundry looking and smelling fresh.
Pros of Using Liquid Detergent
Liquid detergents are thought to be easier to use and are highly accessible in most grocery stores. They are also thought to be more compatible with a broader range of washing machines than other types of detergents.
Liquid detergents dissolve quickly in water, but no better than powder detergents, and are thought to leave less residue on your garments or leave less build-up in your washer. This may be true only if you do not use too much detergent.
There are liquid detergents made with natural ingredients that are safer on the skin and less likely to cause allergic reactions.
Cons of Using Liquid Detergent
Liquid laundry detergents can be difficult to measure and can cause a multitude of messes from spills to drippage from the bottle.
Many liquid detergents contain phosphates, which negatively affect the waterways and aquatic life. They may also be made with harmful ingredients that can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions.
Liquid detergents are often packaged with non-recyclable or non-biodegradable materials, making them a less environmentally friendly option.
Some liquid detergents are less cost-effective, as they require the highest amount needed for one load. One 50oz bottle of liquid detergent can wash up to 32 loads. However, there are plenty of highly concentrated formulas on the market now. As I repeatedly suggest, be sure not to use too much detergent.
Using Liquid Detergent
Liquid detergents are compatible with any high-efficiency, or HE, washing machines with either a front or top load.Most standard loads of laundry require up to two tablespoons of liquid detergent to effectively clean your items, but larger loads may require more. Be sure to choose a liquid detergent that uses a high-efficiency formula. Please read the directions and add only the suggested amount for your load size.
Using a measuring cap that comes with the detergent, fill the desired amount needed for your load. Depending on your washing machine, pour either directly into the drum or the automatic detergent dispenser compartment. For precise advice on usage, refer to the manual for your washing machine.
The first laundry detergent pods were launched in 2012 and have become increasingly popular over the last 10 years. Laundry pods contain concentrated liquid detergent in a water-soluble pouch. The pouch dissolves in the washing machine, releasing the cleaning ingredients to wash your garments effectively.
Pros of Using Laundry Pods
Doing laundry can be a chore for some and a ritual for others – Laundry pods are a convenient and mess-free solution to doing laundry, as they eliminate the need for measuring, scooping, or pouring.
Laundry pods may save some space, as they are much smaller and more contained than a bottle of liquid detergent or a box or canister of powder detergent.
All are toxic if ingested and should be left out of reach of children or pets.
Cons of Using Laundry Pods
Laundry pods tend to be more expensive than other types of laundry detergent due to production and transportation costs. This may not be the best choice if you are staying within a certain budget.
Despite the appeal of their convenience, laundry pods contain ingredients that are detrimental to the environment. The film wrapping that dissolves in the washing machine is made of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), a plastic that is non-biodegradable. Make sure that you select a laundry pod that does not use PVA coating, if possible.
Laundry pods can often be mistaken for candy by younger children or animals and pose a safety hazard if ingested. Be sure to keep laundry pods out of reach of smaller hands and use a child-safe locked container.
Using Laundry Pods
When choosing the right pod for your laundry needs, consider a formula that is appropriate for your washing machine and washing needs. Some laundry pods, like Arm & Hammer’s 5-in-1 Power Packs, are designed to release different liquids throughout the wash to isolate specific stains or types of fabrics. Other pods are outlawed in some countries due to their toxicity. However, none are outlawed in the USA.
Laundry pods are convenient for standard washing machines without an automatic detergent or fabric softener dispenser. A regular size load of laundry only requires one laundry pod, but larger loads and bulky items may require multiple pods. Simply drop the pod(s) directly into your HE washing machine before or after you place your garments. Be careful. Should the part of the pod with additives open on a colored item, it can cause discoloration. For the most accurate use of your choice of laundry pods, refer to the instructions on the packaging label.
Comparing the Three
With so much information to digest about the different types of laundry detergents, it can be hard to know which is the best to use in your household. Below is a comparison of the benefits of liquid, powder, and laundry pods to help you choose the right fit.
Here are the best choices out of the three types of detergent based on factors of effectiveness, convenience, cost, and environmental impact:
- Liquid detergents and laundry pods may be best for cutting through oil and sweat stains because they contain additives. Keep in mind that you may not need to clean your items with these additives and adding unneeded deterioration to your items.
- Powder detergents are most effective at removing dirt, mud, blood and grass stains. Also, you can control what additives and how much that you use to remove all stains.
- Laundry pods are the most convenient and space-saving detergent out of the three different types. Sort of a “laundry for dummies,” similar to Word for Dummies or Excel for Dummies! Who remembers those manuals?!
- In terms of price, powder detergents are the most cost-effective, followed by liquid detergents and then laundry pods.
- Powder laundry detergent is more beneficial for the environment than liquid or laundry pods, due to the fact that they often have less harmful additives added.
- All are made to accommodate using less water and energy efficient formulas.
When it comes to the lifestyle of your household, the type of detergent you choose can make the laundering process smoother and more enjoyable. Consider the following tips for finding the right detergent for your home:
- If you suffer from allergies or have sensitive skin, find a laundry detergent that uses natural ingredients and is made without additives or harmful chemicals. There are many powder and liquid laundry detergent options that are gentle on the skin and safer for the environment.
- Laundry pods simplify the laundry process greatly. They are especially useful if you want a no fuss, no muss lifestyle.
CAUTION: While laundry pods are more convenient, they can be dangerous if left within reach of children or animals.
Depending on the type of washing machine you own, there are several factors to consider when choosing the right laundry detergent to use:
- Powder laundry detergents are best used in a standard or high-efficiency HE washing machine. They can be used in both top and front-load washers and can be poured directly into the drum provided that they have no additives.
- Liquid laundry detergents can be used in any top and front-load, HE washing machine or not. The liquid can be placed directly in the drum, provided it has no additives, or in the automatic detergent dispenser to make washing easier. Always check that the liquid detergent you choose is made with a high-efficiency formula.
- Laundry pods can be used in any style washing machine.
- No matter which choice you make, always refer to your washing machine’s manual and the laundry container for precise usage.
Best Laundry Detergent Overall
When it comes to quality washing and practical luxury, The Laundry’s Finest Powder Detergent is a superior choice of laundry detergent to use in your home. Time tested for over 50 years, this powder detergent is made with organic surfactants that clean naturally and PH balanced for prolonged fabric health.
The Laundry’s Finest is gentle on clothes, the environment, and you – formulated without the use of:
- Bleach alternatives
- Chemical or harmful additives
- Non-biodegradable materials
- Optical brightening agents
This exclusive, American-made detergent is fully biodegradable and made without chemical additives or brightening agents, making it gentle on clothes, the environment, and you. The Laundry’s Finest can be used in any style washer with each 40 oz bag cleaning up to 80 loads of laundry, and has a light lemon scent that leaves your laundry smelling fresh and clean. Keep your detergent moisture-free and neatly stored in the decorative, refillable canister. This canister is made of recycled materials and can hold up to one 40 oz refill bag of The Laundry’s Finest detergent.
Making the Best Decision for Your Laundering Needs
Knowing the different types of laundry detergents available will help you to find the one with the right benefits and value for your household. Whether you want a detergent that cuts through stains and odors or is eco-friendly and cost-effective, it’s important to consider all of the factors when choosing a laundry detergent for your home.
Having worked alongside fashion and interior industry leaders for over a decade, Liz Barbatelli provides her most valuable insights to help you choose the best products for keeping your laundry fresh and pristine. Visit the Liz Barbatelli website for more solutions to all things bed, bath and table.