Before arriving at the Olympics, the athletes underwent years of training and produced piles of sweaty workout clothes. But you don’t have to be a world-class athlete, or the parent of one, to appreciate the benefits of a top-performing laundry detergent. Across the country kids are coming home from camp with duffel bags full of smelly clothing and, at the same time, pre-season sport camps are ramping up for the beginning of school. Time to break out one of the detergents that medaled in Consumer Reports tests.

Top of the podium is Persil ProClean Power-Liquid 2in1, 25 cents per load, which beat out our long-time champ, Tide. But Tide held steady with two varieties tied for second, liquid Tide Plus Ultra Stain Release, 25 cents, and Tide HE Plus Bleach Alternative, 23 cents, a powder. All three are intended for front-loaders or high-efficiency top-loader washing machines and are superb at removing grass and blood stains and ring-around-the-collar. The trio also aced our cold-water washing test. (October 21, 2016, update: Check out the results of our latest laundry detergent tests.)

Bargain Buys
Paying top dollar for Persil and Tide can add up in a hurry if your washer is running nonstop to keep up with a small team's worth of workout clothes. Sam's Club members should consider Member's Mark Ultimate Clean, which can be used in high-efficiency or conventional washers. It costs just 12 cents a load, and was tough on grass and ring-around-the-collar. Costco shoppers can consider Kirkland Signature Free & Clear liquid detergent, a good choice at 11 cents per load. And if you don’t shop at Costco or Sam’s Club, opt for Wisk Deep Clean at 14 cents per load.

Convenient If You’re Careful
While we stopped recommending single-dose detergents because of the poisoning danger they pose to small children, they are still a good option for grownups on the go because you can throw a few in your gym bag. Tide Pods Plus Febreze tops our tests of pods and packs but at 33 cents per load costs almost twice as much as the runner-up, All Mighty Pacs Oxi, which is only 17 cents per load. Just make sure to keep any pods away from children who might mistake them for candy.

Laundry Tips
Whichever laundry detergent you choose, it's important to follow best practices, especially when you're dealing with large, smelly loads. Sort by colors as well as fabric types—jeans and heavier items in one load, and T-shirts and lighter fabrics in another. Don't overload the machine with workout clothes, or you’ll probably have to wash them a second time. And follow the manufacturer's measuring directions for large or very dirty loads. You might be tempted to add even more detergent, but this can leave residue in your machine and on your clothing.