Laundry Detergent Challenge: Which Brand Performs the Best?

laundry challenge

I’ve always been curious to find out if more expensive brands actually get stains out better than their lesser-expensive counterparts.  So, I decided to put a few detergents to the test with my own quasi-scientific experiment.

laundry detergent challengeI have three bottles of detergent at home:  Wisk, Tide, and Purex.  I sacrificed one of my white towels and stained it with the following:  grape juice, ketchup, dirt, vegetable oil, and red marker.  Next, I cut the towel into strips and wrote the name of each brand on the towel with a black Sharpie.

With the help of my lovely frugal living apprentice Sydney (pictured here) we’ll bring you the results later on this week.  What detergent brand do YOU predict will be our winner?

I have one more towel strip left to wash.  YOUR comments will help me choose a fourth detergent to put to the test.  Which one should it be?  Let me know by replying below.

*UPDATE 5/5*  I will be using All Free & Clear for the 4th test strip.  Results coming tomorrow!  I really wanted to do the homemade soap, but didn’t have time to make a batch.  I plan on doing this test again in the summer to test other detergent brands that were mentioned.  Thanks for all the feedback!

*UPDATE 5/6*  My detergent experiment findings are explained below.

detergent test
After First Wash

For my first test, I ran each strip through the wash by themselves in cold water.  I used half the recommended amount of detergent.  As you can see, the stains still remained.  I really thought that there would be a clear winner, but to me most of the detergents performed about the same.

detertent test
After Second Wash

For my second test, I ran each strip through the wash a second time with another load of clothing in warm water.  I used the full recommended amount of detergent.  Still, there was not a run-away winner.  However, when you put the strips up to a light source it is easier to see the stains.

detergent 3
After Second Wash

With the stains held up to the light, to me it looks like Tide (far right) and Wisk (second from the right) were the cleanest.  All Free & Clear (far left) seemed to have done the least effective job.  Purex seemed to be in the middle of the pack.  However, I’d say my overall conclusion was that all four detergents were almost equally effective in removing stains and there was no one clear winner.

I plan on doing this experiment again in the summer using homemade detergent as well, so be sure to let me know which other detergents you’d like me to test.  In the mean time, I have four bottles of detergent to use up!


    • Amy Crawford says

      Definitely use the homemade version. Would love to see how it stacks up to store bought detergents.

  1. abbey says

    I sooooo want to see the results of this! I’ve been wondering the same thing as I have all these brands plus All, Gain, Arm & Hammer and Xtra in my stockpile…Can’t wait to see!

  2. Melissa says

    My vote is for either Xtra (cheapest of the cheap) or All (mid-priced). Maybe All Free and Clear? I don’t know if free and clear really makes a difference in how clean the clothes get..

  3. Elee says

    Pick something super cheap like Xtra (think that’s the name). Will you be washing alone, or adding to a full load (since that’s how most of us wash stained items)?

  4. Elee says

    I’d be curious about homemade as well, since that’s the recipe for the kind I make when I can’t find it at the store super cheap.

  5. Melissa Swanson says

    I’d like to see Cheer tested. My husband is in the military and I can only use certain detergents(Cheer being one) on his uniforms and wonder if it is worth it to buy something else for the family clothes. Thanks =)

  6. laura says

    Would love you to try a “free and clear” and see if it cleans as well. I have kids with sensitive skin and have to use one.

  7. Katie says


    Lets see how a more environmentally responsible and safer one performs in comparison to the big brands!

  8. says

    All with Oxiclean! I have very active outdoorsy 2 sons (9 & 6), 1 daughter (17 months), and a husband whose clothes are often covered with grease and dirt. I would love to see how All with Oxiclean works compared to these other detergents. Thanks so much for this experiment!!!

  9. Lori says

    I vote for Era. It is inexpensive and boasts it can get out tough stains. This is all we used growing up.

  10. Karina says

    I vote for Method or 7th generation to see how an environmentally friendly detergent cleans compared to all the regular brands.

  11. tracey says

    I use Tandil from Aldi. It’s says it compares to Tide. It seems gentle and it cleans pretty well! It’s loads cheaper also!! Only $6 in my area!!

  12. angie says

    I would use arm and hammer with Oxy clean thats my favorite and keeps socks and everything really bright and white.

  13. Heidi says

    I vote to try the All free and clear. My family has sensitive skin and allergies to the smells of almost everything. Can’t wait!

  14. Wifelife says

    would love to see Gain as it is made by TIDE or a homemade recipe…
    I tried a big bottle of XTRA once..the clothes got clean but also got pilly!

  15. Serena Resler says

    I would love to have you use ALL Free & Clear for the allergy folks (such as myself and my family). We can’t use anything but Free & Clear.

  16. Lynn says

    I vote for a very cheap brand and something with oxyclean in it. This is a great test you are doing It will help me when trying to save money at home.

  17. Cortney says

    homemade! 🙂 We wanna see if it does as well as the others! 🙂
    Also, did you wash them all on the same day because the different lengths of time the stains sat treated (or untreated) might make the test unfair.

  18. says

    What a great idea!I think that you should try using one of those really cheap off-brands just to see if there is a major difference. I know that the more expensive detergents tend to leave clothes smelling scented longer, but I still typically go with the cheapest brand!

  19. les says

    Consumer Reports says Era w/ Oxi clean is the best detergent under $10 acoording to their test. I emailed P & G about the article & ask for a coupon to try it. They sent me a $1/1 Era 1/1 bounty napkins & a FREE box of Puffs w/vicks coupon;)

  20. Terri W says

    I’m throwing my vote in for the ALL Free & Clear as well. 🙂 I can’t WAIT to see my favorite though. I used to use Wisk ALL the time, but that was before the ‘reformulation’ so I’m VERY curious!

  21. Lisa says

    I vote for Surf. With those $2/1 coupons that come out every so often, I usually get it free so I’d love to see how it stacks up. What a great experiment. I’m definatly trying this too!

    • melissa barto says

      I think Tide will win, but who knows. I often use All free & clear and I like it. I have tried making my own with the same ingredients listed above and don’t have great results. I always get clumps of the soap in the clothes after washing and don’t see it to be a better alternative if I have to use hot water all the time.

  22. jen Hernandez says

    Pyrex I hope. I’d like to see something organic. Maybe crunchy clean detergent brand.

  23. Jean says

    I voted for the All free and clear!!! Yeah!!! Has anyone tried the new All Free and Clear with Oxy yet? I havent seen it at the store yet, but I havent looked hard. Any thoughts?

  24. Corrie says

    I would love to see how the homemade stacks up. You can easily make it in less than half an hour. I have made both liquid and powder and have helpful tips to make both a lot faster. Let me know if you are interested. I have dry that I would donate to the cause if you were local.

  25. says

    Wow, thats not what I was expecting! I really thought there would a runaway winner! I wonder if you could redo that experiment with some other brands, such as Ajax with bleach, or All with Oxyclean. You know what I mean???

  26. Nina T. says

    Wow, I’m kinda relieved they’re all about the same as I tend to jump around based on what’s on sale! I would love to see Method & the Arm and Hammer tested….I do make my own detergent using the fels naptha bar (grated), washing soda & borax….that one seemed to work better for me than method. LOVE that you tested this!!!!

  27. Sonya says

    I would love to see you use a store brand – maybe WalMart’s – as well as some of the laundry additives that are supposed to help get clothes cleaner. Additionally, what about Shout, Spray and Wash and those sorts of “helpers” in a test?

  28. shannon says

    I’d like to see Target’s Up & Up. I use Tide, but have been wanting to try the Target brand.

  29. Alicia says

    The only problem I see with this, is that it doens’t take into account the effect of some detergents on colored clothes. Wisk and Purex I have found to fade colors really badly. In which case, does cleanliness matter if you lose color?

  30. says

    I used the homemade detergent on all my clothes for one month. There was a noticeable difference in the whites and brutes. I ran a load of whites with Tide and compared. I now only use the homemade on dark. At least I save a few pennies there.

  31. Misha says

    After years of buying stain spray & countless hours spraying every teeny spot one by one, I now toss in a Tide Stain Release tab into every load. I swear by the stuff! I wonder if it…or other similar products are as effective as we think. I’d love to see those exact strips tossed back into the wash to see!!!! Pretty please!!!!! 🙂 thx

  32. Peggy says

    I’d like to see this tested against some of the “organic” detergents too, like Method and Mrs. Meyers. This might be one of those things that being a bargain might or might not be worth it.

  33. Melissa says

    I have a smell phobia… sometimes I will smell a detergent and think it smells great, then it comes out of the dryer and I gag at the smell. I used to LOVE Gain, now I can’t stand the smell. Currently, I am on the Tide Mountain Fresh kick. Smell to me, is as important as the cleaning aspect.

  34. Terri W says

    I’m pretty surprised there was so very little difference!!

    I’d also LOVE to see them done again with an additive. I use the liquid Tide product and was SHOCKED at how some nastiness from hubby’s workin’ dirtyness was removed. I had NEVER expected it to come clean, to be honest. I still end up with SOOOOOOOOOOO many food stains on SOOO many shirts. I’ve decided lately, my best results seem to be using dish soap (Dawn) on them before tossing in the wash.

  35. says

    I am so glad to see an impartial third party run this laundry detergent test! The results came out just as I would have guessed.
    I do hope in the following rounds of tests that you find a winner! I look forward to that day!

  36. kay says

    Try Dynamo. It is inrxpensive, concentrated, so no huge bottle to tote around. *Especially at a campground.) Smells great too, very fresh!

  37. Wendy says

    I buy Tide because I honestly believed it did so much better. I really don’t see a difference from this side of the computer. I think I just bought my last tub of Tide!

  38. Angela says

    Please try Era and the homeade version next time. Never used homeade before and would like to see how well it does and how much cheaper it is compared to store bought. Also, I was wondering if anyone knew if adding Calgon water softner to laundry makes any difference? I live in the country where I have well water and cannot affort a water softner at the moment and when I washed some of my laundry at a laundry mat where the water was softned it seemed like my clothes felt alot softer and not as stiff as when I do it at home. Just don’t want to waste my money if it’s not really gonna make a difference.

  39. KAREN says

    I use Gain i am allergic many detergent. so im limited to what i can use. i would liek to see Gain in the running too

  40. Ruby says

    Awesome. Thanks for doing this experiment. Now I don’t feel bad about my stock pile consisting of all three types. I will show this to my bestfriend who would not stock pile laundry detergent because she swears only by tide … how much money has she been missing out on all the savings! lol

  41. Liz says

    Hi, I use Melaleuca’s Ecosense brand called Melapower. It is very inexpensive and smells wonderful. Only takes 1/2 an once of detergent for one regular size load. I’d be interested to know how it compares to the rest. It is also made of natural ingredients so it’s good for people who have allergies. Thanks!

  42. beanbel says

    we use the melaleuca free b/c it is the only thing that leaves my youngest w/ no eczema! we also use vinegar in the fabric softner spot and dont use the sheets in the drier.

  43. Brittany says

    I buy Tide not necessarily for being a better stain remover, but for protecting the integrety of the fabric and color better. Any interest in doing that experiment?

    • Kimberly Danger says

      That would be interesting, Brittany, but I think may be harder to analyze the findings. Any suggestions on how to do that?

  44. Katrina says

    Thanks for doing this, we use All Free and Clear because most others give me a rash. Good to know I’m not really sacrificing anything huge for comfort 😀

  45. Dawnn says

    I love the smell of Tide Sport, so that’s what I’m using most right now. It’s the only thing that gets the stink out of the family’s hockey jerseys and equipment. In the past I’ve used Charlie’s Soap. I’d be interested in seeing how it fares. I have very hard water and the homemade soap recipe with Fels Naptha, Washing Soda and Borax just didn’t do it for me without adding TSP, which is really, really bad for the environment.

  46. Ronnie Hicks says

    I have made homemade detergent and it did a decent job. After about a month, though I noticed my clothing started to look really dingy. Perhaps the answer is to switch between using the homemade detergent and a store bought brand to get both the money savings and the longer term cleanliness.

  47. Shelly says

    My daughter did a science fair project a few years back with Tide, Arm & Hammer, and Ultra detergent from Costco. Believe it or not, Ultra was the hands-down, stains-out winner! It’s been my go-to detergent ever since.

  48. Vicki says

    I would like to see a generic brand used, that is what I buy all the time but I always wonder if I should be spending the extra $$ on something like tide…

  49. Tamra says

    I use homemade [powder: wash soda/borax/grated fels, would like to see how that holds up and also METHOD

  50. Adam says

    My wife also has a strong aversion to smells like Melissa, on May 6, explained. That’s why we prefer Tide.


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