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Cheap detergents that get top marks for cleaning

Some bargain brands will save you loads of money

Published: May 19, 2014 03:00 PM

Tide Simply Clean & Fresh

Bargain laundry detergents have always been around, but the number of inexpensive brands that make our Consumer Reports' recommended list is on the rise. If you’ve been using a premium-priced detergent and make the switch to one of these bargain products, you could pocket about $50 per year, assuming you do 300 loads annually, the national average. The savings will be greater if you're in a large household that does multiple loads a day.

The perennial powerhouse Tide, which costs 23 to 28 cents per load, hangs on to the top spots in our Ratings of detergents suitable for all machines and those formulated for conventional top-loaders. But Member's Mark Ultimate Clean liquid detergent, a Sam's Club exclusive, and Costco's Kirkland Signature Ultra Clean powder performed nearly as well and cost about half as much; both can be used in all machines. Wisk Deep Clean, moderately priced at 14 cents per load, also makes our recommended list of dual-use detergents.

Procter & Gamble, maker of Tide, has also added a bargain option 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 definitely cheap, but it couldn't vanquish blood, grass, and ring-around-the-collar in our tests, making it an also-ran.

While you can do better than Tide Simply Clean & Fresh, you can also do a lot worse. At 8 cents per load, Trader Joe's Liquid Laundry HE is one of the cheapest detergents in our Ratings—and it’s also one of the lowest scoring. Sun Triple Clean, 5 cents per load, was only slightly better.

To ensure that your laundry detergent, no matter its price, does the job, use our six steps to cleaner clothes. And if you’re in the market for a new washer, check our Ratings of more than 125 front- and top-loading models.

—Daniel DiClerico (@dandiclerico)

Share your story. Consumer Reports wants to hear from consumers who use laundry detergent pods. We're especially interested in accounts from people with young children at home. Do you store the detergents differently? Is there anything manufacturers could do to make the products safer? Please share your thoughts in our short survey.

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