Laundry detergent reviews

We test and compare washing powders and laundry liquids to find out which are better at stain removal and the best value for money.
 
Learn more
 
 
 
 
 

01 .Introduction

Laundry powder

We review 57 laundry detergents - 37 top loader and 20 front loader detergents. In this test:

  • We used some of the top 10 most common stains, as picked by you in a recent member survey, to test the detergents 
  • We also calculate the cost per wash to find which product gives the best value for money, as laundry detergent is one of the biggest expenses when it comes to running your washing machine. 

On this page, you'll find:

How we test

Overall score/performance

We measure out the recommended detergent dose for a normally soiled load, and use it to wash specially soiled swatches attached to laundry items in cold water (20°C).  

Using a spectrophotometer, which measures how much light reflects off the swatches after filtering out any effects of optical brighteners, we measure how much dirt is removed from each swatch. These readings are more accurate than the human eye – differences of about 5% are noticeable.

Stain removal An all-rounder general detergency swatch is stained with nut oil, milk and a colour pigment. We also include swatches with common stains our members told us they need to tackle according to our latest product use survey:

  • perspiration (stained with sebum - natural body oils and perspiration, i.e. stains commonly found on collars and cuffs)
  • household dust
  • olive oil
  • tomato
  • make-up
  • grass
  • baby food
  • motor oil
  • and aged blood. 

We also teamed up with City West Water (a government-owned Melbourne water corporation) to analyse the chemical load the detergents add to the environment, and to find out which are better for your garden using the GreySmart model.

Brands tested

We picked the top-selling brands of laundry detergents, and tested a selection suitable for the two different types of washing machines.

Top loader detergents
  • BioZET Attack Air Burst Technology top loader powder
  • Bosisto's Euco Fresh Allergen front & top liquid
  • Bosisto's Euco Fresh ultra top and front loader powder
  • Cold Power Sensitive Touch top loader liquid
  • Cold Power Bright and White Clean top loader liquid
  • Cold Power Bright and White Clean top loader powder
  • Cold Power Maximum top loader powder
  • Drive Ultra top loader powder
  • Duo Cleans and Cares fragrance free sensitive top and front powder
  • Duo Cleans and Whitens linen fresh top and front powder
  • Dynamo Superior Stain removal top loader liquid
  • Dynamo With a Boost of sard OXY plus top loader liquid
  • Earth Choice Ultra liquid top and front loader liquid
  • Earthwise Plant and Mineral Based Fragrance Free for Sensitive Skin liquid
  • Earthwise Plant and Mineral Based Orange and Eucalyptus front and top powder
  • Ecostore Eucalyptus top and front loader liquid
  • Ecostore Lemon top and front powder
  • Euca Front and top loader liquid
  • Euca Top and front powder
  • Fab Fragrance Tempations Floral Enchantment top loader powder
  • Omo Sensitive top loader liquid
  • Omo Sensitive top loader powder
  • Omo Ultimate top loader powder
  • Omo With Built-in Pre-treaters top loader liquid
  • Omo With Built-in Pre-treaters top loader powder
  • Orange Power 3X top and front loader liquid
  • Orange Power 3X top and front powder
  • Radiant Colour Guard No Sort front and top loader powder
  • Radiant Colour Guard front and top loader liquid
  • Radiant Colour Guard sensitive front and top loader powder
  • Radiant Sensitive Colour Guard front and top loader liquid
  • Surf Tropical Oasis Ylang Ylang and Lily top loader liquid
  • Surf Tropical Oasis Ylang Ylang and Lily top loader powder
  • Trimat Advanced top loader powder
  • Trimat 2X front and top loader liquid
  • Trimat 2X sensitive front and top loader liquid
  • Trimat Advanced sensitive front and top loader powder
Front loader detergents
  • BioZET Attack Air Burst Technology front loader powder
  • Cold Power Bright and White clean front loader liquid
  • Cold Power Bright and White clean front loader powder
  • Cold Power Maximum front loader powder
  • Drive Ultra front loader powder
  • Duo Cleans and Whitens Linen Fresh top and front powder
  • Dynamo Excellent Stain Removal front loader liquid
  • Dynamo With a boost of sard OXY Plus front loader liquid
  • Earthwise Fragrance Free for Sensitive Skin front and top powder
  • Ecostore Lemon front loader powder
  • Fab Fragrance Temptations Spice allure front loader powder
  • Omo Sensitive front loader liquid
  • Omo Sensitive front loader powder
  • Omo Ultimate front loader powder
  • Omo With Built-in pre-treaters front loader liquid
  • Omo With Built-in pre-treaters front loader powder
  • Radiant Colour Guard No Sort front and top loader powder
  • Surf Tropical Oasis Ylang Ylang and Lily front loader powder
  • Surf Tropical Oasis Ylang Ylang and Lily front loader liquid
  • Trimat Advanced front loader powder
For more information on Washing and drying, see our Laundry and cleaning section.

 
 

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Top stain removal power

We used some of the top 10  most common stains to test the latest lot of detergents, as picked by you in a recent member survey. The results clearly show that for stain removal power you can’t go past a powder detergent. So for those of us who like to get down and dirty, or have kids and babies that do – your best bet is one of the top performers in our recommended list below.

For light soiling

But many of us will only have lightly soiled clothes – no stains, just a bit of collar scuff or sweat marks. In this case, any detergent with a score of 60% or more for general detergency and shifting perspiration stains is worth considering. See the compare table before you choose a detergent.

Detergent is one of the main expenses when running your machine, so also use our cost-per-wash figures, below and in our compare table, to help you choose.

 

TOP LOADER

 

Cost per wash

 74% Cold Power Maximum powder  $0.60
 72% Omo Ultimate powder  $0.67
 71% Trimat Advanced powder  $0.31
 

FRONT LOADER  

 

Cost per wash

 72% Cold Power Maximum powder  $0.56
 70% Omo Ultimate powder  $0.74

Prices listed are what we paid in February 2014.

5 CHOICE buys

Cold Power Maximum top loader powder

Scored 74/100 | $9.4974%
 

Cold Power Maximum front loader powder

Scored 72/100 | $8.9972%
 

Omo Ultimate top loader powder

Scored 72/100 | $11.8572%
 

Trimat Advanced top loader powder

Scored 71/100 | $5.9971%
 

Omo Ultimate front loader powder

Scored 70/100 | $11.8570%
 
 

Using the filters

  • Use the filters to show only products that meet your specific requirements or which have the features you're interested in.
  • Selecting filters automatically updates the Comparison table list. 
  • The number shown in brackets represents the number of products that will be shown if you select that filter. 

Compare products

 
Table Allowing the user to select a number of products dependant on their filter options.
Items to compare

Select up to 5 items below.
Then click the compare button

Compare
 
Tested inCost/wash (cents)Overall scoreGeneral detergency (%)Perspiration (%)Household dust (%)Olive oil (%)Tomato (%)Make-up (%)Grass (%)Baby food (%)Motor oil (5 %)Blood (%)Total Suspended SolidsGreySmart ratingPrice ($)Pack size (kg)Washes per packP or NP on packagingEnzymesOptical brightenersOriginType of concentrateContactBrand
                          
Maximum top loader powderTop loader6274718269727597Cold Power
Ultimate top loader powderTop loader6772727470697397Omo
Advanced top loader powderTop loader3171687764667394Trimat
Bright and white clean top loader powderTop loader3868657169577594Cold Power
Attack air burst technology top loader powderTop loader4267637365637394BioZET
With built-in pre-treaters top loader powderTop loader5267686764647294Omo
Colour guard sensitive front and top loader powderTop loader4865617164616691Radiant
Colour guard no sort front and top loader powderTop loader4164626962606791Radiant
Advanced sensitive front and top loader powderTop loader2963547563656791Trimat
Sensitive top loader powderTop loader5062546864586893Omo
Euco Fresh ultra top and front loader powderTop loader3159546463506683Bosisto's
Ultra top loader powderTop loader3259506962576687Drive
Ultra liquid top and front loader liquidTop loader3359516863536895Earth choice
2X front and top loader liquidTop loader2859526657586596Trimat
Bright and white clean top loader liquidTop loader4358515963546797Cold Power
Sensitive touch top loader liquidTop loader3658506065546995Cold Power
Cleans and Whitens linen fresh top and front powderTop loader2958566259446588Duo
Superior stain removal top loader liquidTop loader3958515962556797Dynamo
With a boost of sard OXY plus top loader  liquidTop loader4958516163566598Dynamo
Top and front powderTop loader2858506663526585Euca
Fragrance tempations floral enchantment top loader powderTop loader2558546161466785Fab
Sensitive top loader liquidTop loader5258506558566897Omo
3X top and front powderTop loader4158536461466480Orange Power
2X sensitive front and top loader liquidTop loader2758506557586897Trimat
Tropical oasis ylang ylang and lily top loader powderTop loader2857516362476586Surf
Cleans and cares fragrance free sensitive top and front powderTop loader3356496359466186Duo
Lemon top and front powderTop loader2056496362486482Ecostore
Colour guard front and top loader liquidTop loader4156516256536593Radiant
Sensitive colour guard front and top loader liquidTop loader4256526255536292Radiant
With built-in pre-treaters top loader liquidTop loader5255515955516395Omo
Tropical oasis ylang ylang and lily top loader liquidTop loader3155506154546494Surf
Euco fresh allergen front & top liquidTop loader6554485953526495Bosisto's
Eucalyptus top and front loader liquidTop loader3753485756466390Ecostore
Front and top loader liquidTop loader2853475955516293Euca
3X top and front loader liquidTop loader2953476054486389Orange power
Plant and mineral based orange and eucalyptus front and top powderTop loader2351445857416576Earthwise
Plant and mineral based fragrance free for sensitive  skin liquidTop loader3550455356406479Earthwise
Top loaderTop loaderna50455154406377Water
Maximum front loader powderFront loader5672707960717594Cold Power
Ultimate front loader powderFront loader7470697659687991Omo
With built-in pre-treaters front loader powderFront loader4767677157668091Omo
Attack air burst technology front loader powderFront loader4266637259637290BioZET
Advanced front loader powderFront loader2966647158647190Trimat
Bright and white clean front loader powderFront loader3764636657587086Cold Power
Sensitive front loader powderFront loader4962587155617888Omo
Colour guard no sort front and top loader powderFront loader4162616655576783Radiant
Bright and white clean front loader liquidFront loader4261527459616692Cold Power
Excellent stain removal front loader liquidFront loader4561527256646994Dynamo
With a boost of sard OXY Plus front loader liquidFront loader3160507459616694Dynamo
Ultra front loader powderFront loader2958546255546685Drive
Cleans and Whitens linen fresh top and front powderFront loader2958566053496681Duo
With built-in pre-treaters front loader liquidFront loader5158536152587197Omo
Fragrance tempations Spice allure front loader powderFront loader2456536154496283Fab
Tropical oasis ylang ylang and lily front loader powderFront loader2855476255486583Surf
Sensitive front loader liquidFront loader5453485748526596Omo
Fragrance free for sensitive skin front and top powderFront loader2352495551457071Earthwise
Lemon front loader powderFront loader2352455854436179Ecostore
Tropical oasis ylang ylang and lily front loader liquidFront loader3152475747516496Surf
Front loaderFront loaderna43394342355879Water
Compare

Using the table

Overall (dirt removal) score is made up of general detergency (35%), natural oils – sebum/perspiration (20%), household dust (15%), olive oil (6%), and tomato, make-up,  grass, baby food, motor oil, and aged blood at 4% each. All tests are done in cold water (20°C).

Total suspended solids is an indication of the amount of insolubles in the detergent. Choosing one with more stars may leave less residue on your clothes when using a very water-efficient machine.

GreySmart rating

laundry-detergents-filler-greysmart-mono-garden-friendly-logo-only Greysmart - OK for regular use on gardens. The GreySmart analysis was conducted by Atura Pty Ltd on behalf of CWW. Assessment of detergents is based on long-term use of wash and rinse water.

laundry-detergents-filler-greysmart-mono-garden-friendly-with-care-logo-only Greysmart with care - OK for use if greywater will be used to irrigate the garden but will probably need some management of the soil within a year or two (e.g. pH adjustment, nutrient management of addition of gypsum, lime or organic matter to manage soil structural changes). Before using products on your garden go to www.greysmart.com.au for further information.

P or NP on packaging Phosphates help soften the water and keep extracted dirt in suspension. But high levels of phosphorus can lead to excessive growth of blue-green algae in inland waterways. P means low phosphorus (<7.8 g/wash) and NP is for no phosphorus or less than 0.5%. PF means there isn't an NP or P symbol, but phosphate free claims are made.

Enzymes target protein, starch or biological-based stains such as grass or blood. Different enzymes target different stains. Enzymes are known to cause irritation, so should be avoided by those with sensitive skin.

Optical brighteners coat the fabric with fluorescers that absorb ultraviolet light and re-emit it as blue light, making the clothes look whiter and brighter even though they don’t actually remove any dirt. They help minimise greying of whites. Products with brighteners are best avoided by people with sensitive skin.

Packet size/number of washes The most popular size we found in stores, calculated on the number of washes using the recommended dose for a normal wash (or lightly soiled if there isn’t one).

Price This is the price we paid for the pack size listed.

Water only, i.e tests without detergent were also done in a top loader and a front loader to show how much soil is removed by water alone.

ns - Not stated.
na - Not applicable


Laundry detergents

  • Powders are still best for general soil and stain removal performance. The test swatches we use are stained with soils that are particularly tough to remove, which show up differences in a detergent's performance. But many of us will only have lightly soiled clothes – no stains, just a bit of collar scuff or sweat marks. In this case, any detergent with a score of 60% or more for general detergency and shifting perspiration stains is worth considering.
  • Liquids are generally better for minimising detergent residue -- often seen on dark clothes when using a highly water efficient washing machine. They're also generally better for the environment, see going green for more.
  • Cost per wash Although unit pricing (usually per 100g) is a great way to compare costs, it’s not accurate for laundry detergents because of the vastly different dose recommendations between brands, so use our cost-per-wash figures for a better comparison. Try experimenting by using a fraction of the dose, as it will save you money and still clean your clothes, with less impact on the environment.
  • Packet size Check the comparison table for the number of washes per pack – the more you can get, the less package waste, so the better for the environment. Buying larger packs, or when on special, will usually be more cost effective, but transfer bulk purchases to an airtight container to maintain your detergent's performance.
  • P or NP on packaging Phosphates, which contain phosphorus, help soften the water and keep extracted dirt in suspension. But high levels of phosphorus can lead to excessive growth of blue green algae in inland waterways. In our table, P means low phosphorus (<7.8 g/wash) and NP is for no phosphorus or less than 0.5%, and PF means the product claims to be phosphate free, but has no official NP symbol.
  • Enzymes target protein, starch or biological-based stains such as grass or blood. Different enzymes target different stains. Enzymes are known to cause irritation, so should be avoided by those with sensitive skin.
  • Optical brighteners coat the fabric with fluorescers that absorb ultraviolet light and re-emit it as blue light, making the clothes look whiter and brighter even though they don’t actually remove any dirt. This helps to minimise the greying of whites over time. Products with brighteners are best avoided by people with sensitive skin.

Cold water washing

A waxy film can build up inside your machine from cold water washing – more so if you use a fabric softener. To clean your washing machine, regularly run a full-wash program without clothes (or a cleaning cycle if your machine has one) with a good detergent and hot water. Alternatively, do a warm or hot wash every few loads. For more information, see our washing machines article.

Warm water washing

In the past we have retested the highest- and lowest-performing detergents to see whether a warm wash (40°C) would produce a great difference in results. Generally, there's an overall benefit, but only by a couple of per cent - some actually are a little worse in cold water and some are a little better. Ultimately the wash temperature you choose will depend on the fabric you're laundering and the type of stain as some stains are set in warmer water and others in cold.

Can I use top loader detergent in a front loader or high-efficiency top loader?

No, it's best not to use top loader detergent in a front loading or top loading high-efficiency (HE) machine as it could damage your machine.

A detergent specifically made for top loaders used in a front loader or an HE top loading machine will create too many suds. The foam builds up between the outer drum wall and the inner drum of the washer and can create a suction issue, causing the motor to burn out. This is called "suds lock".

If you want to use a top loader detergent, say from a previously owned machine, use a lot less of it (a quarter dose). If you bought it accidentally, you're better off exchanging it for the right version.

You can generally use a front loader or HE detergent in a regular top loader without a problem.

 

In addition to our performance tests, we’ve once again teamed up with City West Water (a government-owned Melbourne water corporation) to analyse the chemical load the detergents add to the environment.

Greywater refers to water from the hand basin, shower, bath, spa bath, washing machine and laundry tub. Technically, the kitchen sink and dishwasher are also considered greywater. However, water from the kitchen is generally too high in grease and oil to be reused successfully without significant treatment. The GreySmart Household Product Assessment tool was developed using the framework of the Australia Guidelines for Water Recycling (2006).

The GreySmart research identified the hazards that should be considered when greywater is used on household gardens and developed a detailed environmental risk assessment which determines if greywater containing individual products such as laundry detergents will be safe and sustainable for use on the garden.

There are two GreySmart ratings that a product can receive if it passes the risk assessment, GreySmart and GreySmart with care. Products that do no pass the risk assessment are not given a rating.

 laundry-detergents-filler-greysmart-mono-garden-friendly-logo products are OK for regular use on the garden.

laundry-detergents-filler-greysmart-mono-garden-friendly-with-care-logo recommends that the greywater is OK for use on the garden. However, some soil management may be required within a year or two to maintain its health.

Water utilities are also doing more to recycle wastewater for use in industry, agriculture and urban irrigation, but are finding higher concentrations of detergent ingredients in wastewater. This limits the potential use of recycled water. So even if you don’t use the greywater on your garden, by choosing a greener detergent you can help reduce the chemical load detergents add to wastewater treatment plants, which maximises opportunities to use recycled water and limit the impact on inland ecosystems.

These options are the better performing detergents that score a Greysmart or Greysmart with care rating:

Green options 
 Cost per wash (cents)
 59% Earth choice liquid (t)  
 33 laundry-detergents-greysmart-with-care-logo
 59% Trimat 2X concentrated liquid (t) 
 28 laundry-detergents-greysmart-with-care-logo
 58% Omo sensitive liquid (t)  52 laundry-detergents-greysmart-logo
 58% Trimat 2X sensitive liquid (t)  
 27 laundry-detergents-greysmart-logo
 58% Omo with built-in pre-treaters liquid (f) 
51 laundry-detergents-greysmart-with-care-logo

(t)=for top loaders
(f)= for front loaders


See the table for all detergents that receive a Greysmart rating.

For more information on the Greysmart rating system, go to greysmart.com.au.

06.Ingredients and grey water for the garden

 

Ingredients

Different laundry detergents contain differing ratios of ingredients, which are closely guarded by manufacturers and constantly tweaked to get a better performance, but your bulk of detergents will contain the following main ingredients.

Surfactants - these are the active ingredient in detergents and remove the soil.

Bleach - these act as another way of helping making difficult stains disappear.

Enzymes - these help get rid of hard to remove stains.

Builders, or fillers - these help the surfactants by softening water, providing a more alkaline solution and prevent the product from becoming too rigid (pours freely), among other things. Sodium phosphates are a major component in fillers, and can be difficult to remove from waste water (see below) and going green

Grey water for the garden

The water from washing machines contains several chemicals that aren’t good for plants or soil. If the concentration or total load of these chemicals is too high, you’ll eventually end up harming your plants and soil.

The GreySmart Household Product Assessment tool was developed using the framework of the Australian Guidelines for Water Recycling (2006). The hazards that were considered when grey water is used on household gardens are:

  • Acidity/alkalinity or pH – laundry detergents are highly alkaline (that is, have a high pH) to help dissolve organic dirt, such as grease, oils and food scraps. Most biological systems prefer a pH between 6 and 9, and grey water with a high pH is likely to harm many plants and soil organisms.
  • Total alkalinity Laundry detergents contain chemical "buffers" to help prevent pH changes in the water/detergent solution, thereby maintaining optimal pH level. A measure of total alkalinity tells us that many are very highly buffered, so would require enormous amounts of acid to counter the alkalinity. If you put this water onto soil, the pH of the soil would be more likely to change than that of the grey water.
  • Electrical conductivity or salinity – a measure of the dissolved salt content of water
  • Boron – present in some laundry detergents to reduce water hardness and aid bleaching. Boron is an important plant nutrient, though it can be a problem if there’s too much. The small amounts of boron in laundry water shouldn’t cause any problems unless the soil is prone to water logging for long periods.
  • Cadmium – a contaminant in some components of powder laundry detergents
  • Phosphorus – small amounts of phosphorus can be useful for plants, and it’s a major component of fertiliser. Australian soils are typically low in phosphorus, and some native species can’t tolerate high levels. Higher levels of phosphorus can be acceptable if you have clay soil, because it binds to clay minerals and doesn’t leach away. On sandy soils, excess phosphorus can leach into groundwater. When it gets into waterways it can contribute to excessive algal growth, leading to toxic algal blooms.
  • Nitrogen – present in many solid and liquid laundry detergents.
  • Sodium adsorption ratio - a ratio of the sodium (detrimental element) to calcium and magnesium (beneficial elements) and is related to known effects on soil surface structure and soil stability. All laundry detergents contain sodium salts, typically sodium nitrate, sodium sulphate, sodium phosphate and sodium silicate. Table salt – sodium chloride – isn’t used in detergents.
  • Residual sodium carbonate – calculated using milli-equivalents of calcium, magnesium, carbonates, and bicarbonates and combined with Sodium Adsorption Ratio to evaluate impact of carbonates on the sodium hazard in water applied directly to the soil.
  • Degradability of organic chemicals – there are many organic chemicals in both powder and laundry detergents.

For a summary of the ranking system criteria, see greysmart.com.au.


Claims on packaging

Some products are marketed as "green" detergents. Presumably, we’re meant to think their impact on the environment is less than that of regular laundry products. In reality, all detergents, no matter what's in them, affect the sewerage system and aquatic environment.

A laundry detergent is a complex product made up from numerous chemicals. To determine its full environmental impact, you’d need to assess the physical, biological and chemical effects of its formulation on the environment.

Biodegradability

This is the ability of chemicals to break down naturally in the environment. Manufacturers tend to make claims about biodegradability in reference to the Australian Standard. All laundry detergents must comply with this standard anyway, though it’s limited. It states that 80% of the surfactant must break down within 21 days. There’s no mention of the other 20%, or of chemicals produced during the breakdown process which could be toxic or non-biodegradable. Furthermore, there are many more ingredients in a detergent - it's not just surfactant, and there's no regulation on these.

More about grey water

What’s your soil?

If you don’t know what type of soil you have, this quick test will give you an idea. Take a handful of soil, add a little water and make it into a ball.

  • Loam soil will form a moist ball with an "earthy" smell. It’s usually brown, and holds and drains water well.
  • Clay soil forms a hard, smooth ball. Its fine, dense particles inhibit water movement, and when it dries it resists water. Its colour can range from white to red to dark brown.
  • Sandy soil is soft and crumbles easily – it probably won’t form a good ball. It’s light in colour, has little or no smell and is low in nutrients and organic matter.

Using grey water

  • Grey water can be treated and stored and used on the garden (or even in toilets or washing machines), or else it can be diverted to the garden with a plumbed-in diverter (with a switch so that if it’s raining, it goes into the sewer instead). Conditions may apply in the area where you live; contact your local council for advice on options available.
  • If it’s untreated, limit usage to water from the shower or bath, and the rinse water from the washing machine. Kitchen water contains fats and solids that might damage soil and plants.
  • Don’t store untreated grey water for more than 24 hours; if you can’t use it, don’t keep it.
  • If someone in your family is sick with gastro or flu or another contagious disease, stop using the grey water.
  • Don’t water herbs or vegetables.
  • Don’t water pot plants.
  • Keep the grey water underground, or under mulch – this helps prevent evaporation, as well as keeps it away from kids and pets.
  • We tested only the wash water for chemicals that could harm your garden. What comes out of your machine may also include dirt, bacteria and viruses from the dirty clothes. These are good reasons for not storing untreated water from your washing machine.
  • Potential impacts are very much dose-dependent – try reducing the amount of detergent you use.
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