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Last updated: 17 August 2018

The best laundry detergents will remove spills like oils, tomato, and starches from your clothes. Detergent also amounts to at least half the running cost of your washing machine so it pays to pick the right one.

Did you know CHOICE tests much more than just detergents? Check out our top 50 reviews.

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We've tested more than 100 laundry detergents to tell you which one:

  • works best in your machine type
  • works well on 10 difficult-to-remove stains
  • is good value for money
  • is best for specific stains, and
  • is best for the environment.

We also expose how environmentally friendly they are by running them through the GreyWater assessment tool to find out their impact on gardens when laundry greywater is used and the impact on recycling at wastewater treatment plants. 

Our interactive comparison tool helps you find out which detergents claim to contain enzymes, which claim to be phosphate-free, and even how they compare to washing in plain water. Just like our washing machine reviews, our Recommended list will help you see quickly which products come out on top.

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Brand

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List of brands we tested in this review.

Price

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This is the price we paid for the pack size listed. The cost per wash is based on this price, so if you can find it cheaper, your cost per wash will be cheaper as well.

enter value/s in increments of 1 between 0 and 21.99

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Washing machine type

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Whether we tested the detergent in a top loader or front loader washing machine. If the detergent claims to be suitable for both, we test in both. You'll find the scores under the requisite machine type.

Type of detergent

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We test a range of liquids and powders. Occasionally we also test capsules, but they currently only make up a small part of the market. We've found powders are usually more effective.

GreySmart rating

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'GreySmart' – OK for regular use on gardens. '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 or addition of gypsum, lime or organic matter to manage soil structural changes). 'Fail' – Not recommended for use with the garden. The GreySmart analysis was conducted by Atura Pty Ltd on behalf of Melbourne's water businesses. Assessment of detergents is based on long-term use of wash and rinse water.

Total suspended solids

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Total suspended solids is an indication of the amount of insolubles in the detergent. More stars means less detergent residue left behind on your clothes when using a water-efficient washing machine. Detergents with crosses (x) have a large amount of insolubles, and are best avoided if you are experiencing residue problems. The Total Suspended Solids analysis was conducted on our behalf by City West Water.

Features

Has enzymes claim

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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 people with sensitive skin.

Optical brighteners claim

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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.

Low to no phosphate claim

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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.

Safe for septics claim

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A 'Yes' indicates the detergent is claimed to be safe for septic tanks if used as directed. The claim is usually based on the detergent having no chlorine bleach or phosphates. While detergents generally don't have much of an effect on the septic tank's treatment capabilities, a high sodium load can cause problems with the soil over time as it's released into the subsoil trenches.

Excludes optical brighteners and enzymes

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This excludes all those that claim they have optical brighteners, enzymes and includes those with low to no phosphate claims.

Test results

Blood

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Differences of seven percentage points or more are visible to the human eye.

enter value/s in increments of 1 between 26 and 88

General detergency

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General detergency is a measure of how well the detergent keeps soils suspended in the wash water and prevents them from being redeposited on your clothes. It's also a measure of how effective enzymes are at removing protein based stains; and how effectively a detergent removes oil. The 'General detergency swatch' is an 'all-rounder', stained with nut oil, milk and a colour pigment. Differences of 8 percent or more in general detergency and soil removal are visible to the human eye.

enter value/s in increments of 1 between 36 and 81

Grass / Mud

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Differences of less than one percentage point are visible to the human eye.

enter value/s in increments of 1 between 56 and 96

Chocolate ice cream

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Differences of  less than one percentage point are visible to the human eye.

enter value/s in increments of 1 between 34 and 94

Mineral oil

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Differences of 10 percentage points or more are visible to the human eye.

enter value/s in increments of 1 between 31 and 65

Olive oil

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Differences of eight percentage points or more are visible to the human eye.

enter value/s in increments of 1 between 32 and 71

Perspiration

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A measure of how well a detergent removes perspiration stains from your clothes. Differences of eight percentage points or more are visible to the human eye.

enter value/s in increments of 1 between 36 and 78

Tomato

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Differences of four percentage points or more are visible to the human eye.

enter value/s in increments of 1 between 60 and 94

Included in this review

Members-only access
  • Washes per pack
  • Cost per wash
  • Recommended
  • Overall score
  • General detergency
  • Perspiration
  • Grass / Mud
  • Olive oil
  • Tomato
  • Make up
  • Chocolate ice cream
  • Baby food
  • Mineral oil
  • Blood
  • Total suspended solids
  • Safe for septics claim
  • Excludes optical brighteners and enzymes
  • Contact
  • Brand
  • Model
  • Type of detergent
  • Price
  • Washing machine type
  • Pack size (g or mL)
  • GreySmart rating
  • Low to no phosphate claim
  • Has enzymes claim
  • Optical brighteners claim
  • Origin
  • Comments
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