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Warehouse club detergents close the gap with Tide

Costco and Sam’s Club cleaners combine value and performance

Published: March 12, 2014 04:45 PM

How’d you like crisp, clean clothes and an extra $30 or $40 in your pocket at the end of the year? Switching from a premium-priced detergent to a private-label brand from Costco or Sam’s Club could give you just that, based on the latest laundry detergent Ratings from Consumer Reports.

As part of our latest report, we put several lines of Member’s Mark, a Sam’s Club exclusive, through our tough tests, which involve fabric swatches stained with blood, mud, and other stubborn stains. The Member's Mark Ultimate Clean, a liquid detergent that sells for 12 cents a load, was second only to Tide Ultra plus Bleach Vivid White + Bright HE among dual use detergents, or those designed for all types of washing machines. The bargain brand was particularly tough on grass and ring around the collar, though it struggled with blood.

If you do 300 loads of laundry per year, about average for most households, the Member’s Mark would cost you $36. Our top-rated Tide, meanwhile, would cost you $69, though it's tough on all stains, including blood.

Is there a problem with Tide Pods? Read Users of Tide Pods speak out about stained laundry.

In third-place in the dual-use category was the Costco-exclusive Kirkland Signature Ultra Clean, a powder detergent that proved very good in all of our tests. At 9 cents per load, it costs an average of $27 per year. Though it missed our recommended list, we also judged the Kirkland Signature Ultra Clean Pacs very good overall, in case you prefer your detergent in a single-use pac.                      

Not all low-priced detergents fared well in our tests. Walmart’s Great Value Naturals, 14 cents per load, replaced Martha Stewart Clean 2X at the bottom of our Ratings. Both detergents were only slightly better than plain water at tackling stains in our tests. We were also unimpressed by Trader Joe’s Liquid Laundry HE.

Despite those few lowly performers, the bargain-brand category is clearly coming on strong. Perhaps feeling the heat, Procter & Gamble has introduced a lower-priced Tide detergent, called Tide Simply Clean. It sells for 10 cents per load. We'll let you know how the Tide Simply Clean peforms once testing is complete in the coming weeks.          

—Daniel DiClerico 

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