Best laundry detergents: 5 best buys for clean clothes

Use the best laundry detergent to keep your clothes in tip top condition

best laundry detergent: Seventh Generation Free & Clear
(Image credit: Seventh Generation)

In search of the best laundry detergent to keep your clothes clean? Whether it comes in liquid, powder, or pod form, laundry detergent is one of the most necessary things we use on a weekly basis. Armed with the best laundry detergent, we can keep our clothes looking new and smelling clean, prevent colors from fading, or rid our favorite home items from accidental coffee spills and the dirty vestiges of work and play.  

From stain-fighting formulas to those that smell great or are inexpensive, we’ve taken a look at laundry detergents and determined the best five. A few detergents are even good for the environment and sensitive on your skin. Pair the best laundry detergent with the best washing machine and you're sorted.

The best laundry detergents

Best laundry detergent: Persil ProClean Stain Fighter

(Image credit: Persil)

1. Persil Proclean Stain Fighter

Best laundry detergent: for the toughest of stains

Type: Liquid
Size: 40, 50, 100, 150 fl oz
Scent: Floral
Reasons to buy
+Stain fighting capabilities+Brightens and whitens+Works in cold water
Reasons to avoid
-Scent can be a bit strong for some

When it comes to laundry detergent, everyone wants the same two things: a detergent that cleans your clothes and dissolves stains. Persil Proclean Stain Fighter does all of that – and then some. Persil’s formula was recently redesigned to tackle a wider range of stains thanks to a few new ingredients, and it seems to do the trick. Whether you want to remove grass stains from your kid’s soccer jersey or clean that dish towel that got spaghetti sauce all over it, Persil Proclean Stain Fighter can handle it all. Persil Proclean also has a mildly strong flowery scent that will remain on your freshly-cleaned clothes for days, even weeks, after the wash.

Load your items into the washing machine, set it on any water temperature (yes, even cold), and fill the cap with detergent. Use a third of a cap of detergent for regular loads and two-thirds of a cap for large loads or those with lots of stains. While the detergent does pretty good on most stains without pre-treatment (even set-in stains), you could pre-treat a difficult stain by rubbing some of this detergent into the stain before washing.

Best concentrated laundry detergent: Method Laundry Detergent Pump

(Image credit: Method)

2. Method Laundry Detergent Pump

Best concentrated laundry detergent: plant-based with a pump design

Type: Liquid
Size: 20, 30 fl oz
Scent: Fresh air, lavender cedar, and no scent
Reasons to buy
+Easy-to-use pump feature +Plant-based formula +Two scent options 
Reasons to avoid

Method has redesigned the way we do laundry with the Method Laundry Detergent Pump. Though you may be used to filling up the detergent cap with liquid, scooping powder into your washing machine, or throwing in a pod, Method is offering users a new way to do laundry – with a pump. A pump isn’t the only thing this detergent has going for it. The plant-based formula does a great job of clearing away dirt and stains. You can even choose between Lavendar Cedar, Fresh Air, or no scent with this detergent.

Two pumps will do the trick for a small load, though most will need four pumps for a regular load. Six pumps will take care of a large or heavily-soiled load. With the pump feature, you won’t have to worry about spilling liquid or powder detergent or the plastic wrapping around the pod not actually disintegrating in your drum. Best yet – this method could save you money, ensuring you don’t lose any precious detergent and actually utilize the 50-75 loads that Method promises.

Best coldwater laundry detergent: Tide Coldwater 4-in-1 Pods

(Image credit: Tide)

3. Tide Coldwater 4-in-1 Pods

Best for cold water washing: four cleaning features in one pod designed specifically for cold water use

Type: Pods
Size: 32, 54, 61, 73 count
Scent: Fresh scent
Reasons to buy
+Convenient pod form to throw into drum+Designed to work best in cold water+Deep stain-fighting power
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Two pods required for large loads

Hot and warm water has long been thought of as the best temperature for washing clothes. But there’s a lot to love when it comes to cold water – like how your clothes are less likely to fade, ruin, or shrink. And it saves you money! If you’re a cold water washing fan, you’ll want to go with the Tide Coldwater 4-in-1 Pods.

These pods are designed to dissolve in cold water (they can also be used in hot water too), and as the name implies, they’re filled with four things: super-concentrated detergent, odor fighters, stain removers, and a coldwater clean solution. Conveniently packaged into a tiny pod, it's easy and efficient to throw a pod into the drum of your washing machine and let it do its magic. No need to pour or measure which is half the effort of doing laundry anyway. 

Tide Coldwater 4-in-1 Pods

(Image credit: Tide)

4. Seventh Generation Free & Clear

Best eco-friendly laundry detergent: a mostly biobased detergent in recycled packaging

Type: Liquid
Size: 8, 50, 100, 150 fl oz
Scent: None, Citrus, Alpine Falls, Lavender
Reasons to buy
+Great for sensitive skin+97% of the detergent was made with biobased materials+In recycled bottle 
Reasons to avoid
-Somewhat pricey

Seventh Generation has a wide range of eco-friendly home products, but we’re a fan of their Free & Clear laundry detergent. This biobased product was made with 96% of plants and other renewable agricultural, marine, or forestry materials. Some laundry detergents that claim to be eco-friendly are only 65% biobased, so Seventh Generation Free & Clear is well above the rest. How does it do on stains? Very well! You’ll enjoy clean items and a product that does an above-average job at ridding your clothes of stains over the course of 66 loads, proving that you don’t need a lot of chemicals to get the job done.

What does this mean for you? The product is free of dyes, perfumes, and artificial brighteners which could irritate those with sensitive skin. And the bottles are made of recycled materials which is a nice perk for those who want to protect the planet.

Best laundry detergent for sensitive skin: Persil ProClean Sensitive Skin

(Image credit: Persil)

5. Persil Sensitive Skin

Best laundry detergent for sensitive skin: powerful on stains but soft on skin

Type: Liquid
Size: 100 fl oz
Scent: Soft flowery scent
Reasons to buy
+Designed for sensitive skin +Deep clean technology dissolves stains+Dye- and perfume-free 
Reasons to avoid
-Some ingredients could be irritating to some 

Sensitive skin shouldn’t prevent you from a laundry detergent that works. That’s why we like Persil ProClean Sensitive Skin. This formula has all the benefits of the Persil ProClean Stain Fighter: a formula that rids clothes of deep stains, brightens and whitens, ability to pretreat stains, and works in cold water and all washing machines. Keep in mind that while ProClean Sensitive Skin is perfume-free, it does have a faint scent that is arguably more pleasant (and less strong) than that of the Persil ProClean Stain Fighter.

However, this formula has been specifically made to be gentle on skin. Tested by dermatologists, this hypoallergenic liquid laundry detergent is free of dyes and perfumes. Though they've done a great job with sensitive ingredients, Sodium Borate or Propylene Glycol have been known to be irritating to some. A list on their website of the ingredients is helpful for any interested in the product. 

What is the best laundry detergent?

Our pick for the best laundry detergent is Persil Proclean Stain Fighter. Stains don’t stand a chance against this powerful detergent. 

In the number two spot is Seventh Generation Free & Clear because it cleans and removes stains well and is a plant-based solution that’s kind to those with sensitive skin. There are plenty more on this list that you might find work better for you.

Laundry detergents: what's the difference?

Laundry detergent comes in three different forms – liquid, powder, and pods. While they all have the capability of cleaning your clothes, there are pros and cons to each type of solution. We go over them below:

Pros: You won’t have a hard time finding a liquid detergent as it’s the most common type. Liquid detergent can be as cheap as a $1 or cost upwards of $17, which is nice for those with varying budgets. Plus, it’s supposedly better on grease stains than other types of detergent.  Whether you’re looking for something tough on stains, sensitive on skin, or retains color, there is plenty to choose from among liquid detergents.

Cons: If you don’t measure out liquid properly, you could find that it leaves a residue on your clothes. It’s also not the easiest thing to measure and sometimes it results in messes, unless you use an innovative product like the Method Laundry Detergent Pump which has a pump to prevent any minor waste.

Pros: Powder is a little old school in the laundry detergent scene, but many people like it for its affordability. And if you find yourself with a lot of mud-covered clothes – powder is the way to go.

Cons: Be wary of using powder detergent with cold water as some formulas have issues dissolving in that water temperature which could cause build-up and problems in your washing machine.

Pros: Pods are the most convenient form of laundry detergent. You grab one and throw them in the machine; it’s that easy. Pods come in various solutions, some are powder, some are liquid, and some have both. Find the one that works for you.  

Cons: Not all pods sealings are created equal; some don’t dissolve in washing machines as they advertise. Plus, pods are the most expensive form of detergent.

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