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Best low-cost laundry deteregents

Consumer Reports' latest tests will help you tell the super suds from the detergent duds

Published: July 2014
Tide Simply Clean & Fresh

Even if you’re not a fashion plate, you probably own a small fortune in clothing, not to mention linens, towels, and the like. But if you use one of the best low-cost laundry deteregents from our tests you don’t have to get soaked keeping those washables looking new. Some of the top stain fighters in our latest detergent tests were among the least expensive. We also found several suds that were duds—in every price category—and so-called detergent-less laundry systems that barely made a dent. Here are the details:

Warehouse clubs win big. Tide hangs on to the top spot among detergents suitable for all machines and those formulated for conventional top-loaders. But a Member’s Mark, a Sam’s Club exclusive, and a Kirkland Signature (sold at Costco) did very well overall for about half the cost, and both can be used in all machines.

Can a bargain Tide compete? Procter & Gamble has added its own budget detergent to the Tide family—Tide Simply Clean & Fresh, described as “tough on odors and easy on your wallet.” At 11 cents per load it’s cheap.

Pods and packs are still dangerous. More manufacturers are coming out with single-load detergents, those convenient packets that eliminate the need for measuring. None made our recommended list this year. Keep those enticing packets out of the reach of tots. Since they went mainstream in 2012, poison-control centers have received more than 20,000 calls concerning incidents involving children 5 or younger. Get more details on the risks associated with pod laundry detergents.

Why being green still isn't easy

There’s no federal standard for such terms as “natural” and “earth-friendly,” but that doesn’t stop marketers from using them. Dubious claims aside, no green detergents made our winners’ list, in part because they often do without optical brighteners and grime-fighting polymer compounds.

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