Test results for 49 detergents - 20 liquids and 29 powders
We test and compare whether liquid or powder detergents are better for general soil removal, stain removal, waste water recycling, and which are safe to use on our garden. We also calculate the cost per wash to find which product gives the best value for money, as laundry detergent is the largest expense when running your washing machine.
- Reasonably priced detergents that wash well and have a lower environmental impact.
- A notable product on performance, price and environmental grounds when used at a half dose.
For more information on Washing and drying, see Laundry and cleaning.
We picked the top selling brands of powder detergents, and tested a selection suitable for the two different types of washing machines.
Front loader detergents
- # Biozet Attack Powder Front Loader
- Cold Power Powder Front Loader
- Drive Powder Front Loader
- Duo Exotic Tiger Lily Powder Front Loader
- Dynamo Liquid Front Loader
- Earth Choice Liquid Front Loader
- Eco Store Lemon Powder Front Loader
- Fab Sunshine Fresh Powder Front Loader
- Hurricane Liquid Front Loader
- Omo Small and Mighty Powder Front Loader (Also tested at HALF DOSE)
- Omo Small and Mighty Liquid Front Loader
- # Omo Sensitive Small and Mighty Powder Front Loader
- Omo Sensitive Small and Mighty Liquid Front Loader
- Omo Ultimate Powder Front Loader
- Radiant Micro Max Powder Front Loader
- Radiant Micro Max Liquid Front Loader (also tested at HALF DOSE)
- Seventh Generation Liquid Front Loader
- Spree Lavender Powder Front Loader
- Surf Powder Essential Oils Tropical Flowers Ylang Ylang Front Loader
- Surf Liquid Essential Oils Tropical Flowers Ylang Ylang Front Loader
Top loader detergents
BEE I'm One Tough Little Squirt Liquid Top loader
BEE I Triumph Over Grime and Evil Powder Top loader
Biozet Attack Airburst Powder Top loader
Bosito's Euco Fresh Liquid Top loader
# Cold Power Powder Top loader
Cold Power Liquid Top loader
Cold Power Sensitive Liquid Top loader
Drive Powder Top loader
Duo Exotic Tiger Lily Powder Top loader
Dynamo Liquid Top loader (Also tested at HALF DOSE)
Earth Choice Liquid Top loader
Eaternal Soapnut Sachets Top loader
Eco Store Lemon Powder Top loader
Euca Powder Top loader
Fab Frangipani Powder Top loader
Herbon Oil of Eucalyptus Liquid Top loader
Hurricane Lemon Liquid Top loader
Omo Ultimate Powder Top loader
Omo Small and Mighty Powder Top loader
Omo Small and Mighty Liquid Top loader
# Omo Sensitive Small and Mighty Powder Top loader
Radiant Micro Max Powder Top loader
Radiant Micro Max Liquid Top loader
Seventh Generation Powder Top loader
Seventh Generation Liquid Top loader
Spree Lavender Powder Top loader
Surf Powder Essential Oils Tropical Flowers Ylang Ylang Top loader
Surf Liquid Essential Oils Tropical Flowers Ylang Ylang Top loader
Trimat Powder Top loader (Also tested at HALF DOSE)
# Has been reformulated since we tested.
How we test
- Dirt removal score Our testers, Graham Byrne and Petr Valouch, measure out the recommended detergent dose for a normally soiled load (or lightly soiled if a normal recommendation is not given), and use it to wash specially soiled swatches attached to laundry items in cold water (20°).
- Soils swatches used to measure general soil removal are stained with nut oil, milk and a colour pigment.
- Stains In addition, they include swatches with two very common stains according to our product use survey: grass (which tests detergents for their action on general stain removal and enzymes that target proteins) and tomato (enzyme “cocktail” action and bleaching effect).
- Dirt Using a spectrophotometer, which measures how much light reflects off the swatches after filtering out any effects of optical brighteners, they measure how much dirt is removed. These readings are more accurate than the human eye – differences of about 6% are noticeable.
- Waste Water Recycling These tests are conducted in collaboration with the Water Services Association of Australia and Melbourne’s City West Water. The detergents are analysed for the total dissolved solids (TDS) that hinder the recycling process at water treatment plants. The lower the TDS value, the better it is for recycling and reuse.
- OK for the garden To find out which detergents are safe to use as greywater on a garden or lawn, Lanfax Laboratories, which specialises in soil, water and waste water makes recommendations on which detergents are best. While none of the products are completely harmless, the ones noted with stars in this column are suitable for intermittent use on a home garden or lawn with an area of 150m2-200m2.
Coles, Woolworths and Aldi have committed to remove phosphates from their detergents by 2013, and Unilever has already started to roll out phosphate-free detergents (look for the NP symbol), though there are already many phosphate-free and low phosphate detergents available. However, the total dissolved solids (mostly salts such as sodium) are most detrimental to the environment. For details on what to look for, using greywater, and what makes a detergent OK for your garden or for recycling, read on.