The 10 Best Laundry Detergents for Every Household's Needs

We like Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Laundry Detergent for its grease-busting ingredients and amazing scents.

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best laundry detergents
Photo: amazon.com

A good laundry detergent should leave your items odor- and stain-free, but not every formula is created equally. So to be more efficient on laundry day, you'll need a reliable detergent that actually cleans your clothes, bedding, towels, and more.

To come up with these recommendations, we thoroughly researched the best laundry detergents on the market and rounded up our top picks based on factors such as type (like pod, powder, or liquid), formula, and available scents. For expert insight, we tapped Leslie Reichert, the Green Cleaning Coach and author of the book "The Joy of Green Cleaning." She explained how laundry detergents remove germs from clothing and discussed the importance (or lack thereof) of expiration dates.

Our top pick, Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Laundry Detergent, is a great choice because its plant-derived formula contains grease-busting ingredients and comes in amazing scent options.

Here are the best laundry detergents.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall Laundry Detergent: Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Laundry Detergent

Best Laundry Detergents
Amazon.com

Also available at Grove Collaborative, Target, and Walmart.

Who it's for: People who want an effective laundry detergent that uses plant-derived ingredients.

Who it isn't for: People who would rather use unscented detergents.

Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Laundry Detergent is jam-packed with powerful plant-derived cleaning ingredients. For starters, it uses enzymes to remove dirt, grime, and stains from clothing. (When detergents list enzymes as an ingredient, they are typically referring to lipase and protease enzymes, both of which are found naturally in the body.) Enzymes are great in laundry detergents because they break down fats, oils, and protein chains, so that the stains are naturally lifted off of fabrics.

We also like that there are plenty of garden-inspired scents to choose from. Options include lemon verbena, lavender, honeysuckle, and basil—and all are powered by essential oils. The entire bottle is good for 64 loads of laundry, and the biodegradable formula can be used in any type of washer, including high-efficiency machines. Finally, it's important to note that this formula is free of parabens and phthalates, as well as artificial colors and optical brighteners.

Product Details:

  • Type: Liquid
  • Size: 64 ounces
  • Number of Loads: 64
  • Scent: Basil, Lavender, Lemon Verbena, and Honeysuckle

Best Laundry Detergent Pods: Tide Pods Laundry Detergent

Best Laundry Detergents
Amazon.com

Also available at Walmart and Target.

Who it's for: People who want a laundry detergent that comes in convenient, pre-portioned packs.

Who it isn't for: Anyone who is looking for a wide variety of scents to choose from.

Perhaps one of the most well-known brands for laundry detergent pods, Tide pods contain 90 percent active ingredients to get stains and odors out of your clothes. They work well in both hot and cold water, so you can rest easy knowing they'll fully dissolve in every cycle. The multi-chamber design holds three different formulas: detergent, stain remover, and color protector. This keeps the ingredients from mixing until they hit the water, which makes them more potent.

Since excess suds can actually leave your clothing feeling dirtier due to the soap film, the brand designed these pods to suds up the perfect amount to effectively clean your clothing without going overboard. A word of warning: The pods will start to dissolve when in contact with water, so avoid putting wet hands into the container. Still, laundry pods are the most convenient form of laundry detergent since there isn't any measuring or pouring required.

Product Details:

  • Type: Pods
  • Size: 81 pods
  • Number of Loads: 81
  • Scent: Spring Meadow

Best Powder Laundry Detergent: Gain Original Powder Laundry Detergent

Best Laundry Detergents
Walmart.com

Also available at Walmart.

Who it's for: Anyone who wants enough detergent in one package to last for a while (like people who do laundry very often).

Who it isn't for: People who live in very humid environments should pick an option that isn't as sensitive to humidity.

Gain's powder detergent formula uses enzymes and biodegradable surfactants, which means it is prioritizing natural options as the active ingredients. It comes in the brand's original scent, which is equal parts crisp and floral without being too overpowering—and it is instantly recognizable to people who have used it before. The scent capsules are so small that they're invisible—but they stick to your clothing and continue to release fragrance for up to six weeks, according to the brand.

The best part about this detergent is that it lasts for up to 120 or 150 loads of laundry (depending on which size you buy), which makes it the ideal choice for someone with a large family who needs to wash clothes and bedding a few times a week. While it will likely last longer than the liquid detergents that come in bottles, you do have to be careful where you store this detergent. Make sure that it's in a dry place because too much humidity has the potential to cause clumping.

Product Details:

  • Type: Powder
  • Size: 137 or 172 ounces
  • Number of Loads: 120 or 150 loads
  • Scent: Original Gain scent

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Best Laundry Detergent Sheets: Ecos Plastic-Free Laundry Detergent Sheets

Best Laundry Detergents
Amazon.com

Also available at Target.

Who it's for: People who want to be less wasteful while washing their clothes.

Who it isn't for: People who want to be able to use a little bit of detergent for hand-washing or spot-treating clothes.

Laundry sheets aren't the most common type of detergent, but they're just as easy to use as pods. Ecos has successfully eliminated its use of plastic with these laundry detergent sheets. Not only is the formula itself free from dyes, optical brighteners, parabens, and phosphates, but it also uses enzymes as the active ingredient. They help break down oils so that stains are easily released from fabrics.

These laundry sheets are also certified hypoallergenic by dermatologists. And since they're so lightweight (especially compared to large bottles of liquid detergent), these sheets are easy to take with you while traveling—whether to the laundromat or on vacation. This particular version is unscented for people who want the most natural option, but the sheets are also available in two scented options.

Product Details:

  • Type: Sheets
  • Size: 114 sheets
  • Number of Loads: 114
  • Scent: Free and Clear (none), Lavender Vanilla, and Magnolia and Lily

Best Laundry Detergent for Hand-Washing: The Laundress Delicate Wash

Best Laundry Detergents
Target.com

Also available at Target and The Container Store.

Who it's for: People who have a lot of clothing that needs to be washed on delicate cycles or by hand.

Who it isn't for: People who want to avoid sulfates.

Hand-washing your clothes helps you focus on specific stains and areas that are exposed to grimy or bacteria-heavy places. It also allows you to be gentler with clothing items that are delicate or fragile, like undergarments and blouses. And for a laundry detergent that's safe enough for those hand-washed pieces, we recommend The Laundress Delicate Wash.

It's designed for delicate items, including silk and silk-like fabrics, as well as clothing with embellishments like lace or beading. This bottle may be smaller than competitors, but the 16-ounce size is enough for 32 wash cycles. (You can use it in washing machines, too.) The formula can also be used to pretreat stains by adding a bit to the area and allowing it to soak. The scent is soft and musky, with notes of amber, bergamot, lavender, and musk.

Product Details:

  • Type: Liquid
  • Size: 16 ounces
  • Number of Loads: 32 loads
  • Scent: Lady

Best Scented Laundry Detergent: Method Detergent Pour

Best Laundry Detergents
Amazon.com

Also available at Grove Collaborative and Target.

Who it's for: People who want plenty of fun scent options to choose from.

Who it isn't for: People who want a more convenient formula, like pods or sheets.

If you're craving uniquely scented laundry detergents, look no further than this concentrated liquid detergent from Method. It's available in seven interesting scents, including Beach Sage, Lavender and Cypress, and Coconut and Cactus Water. And if scented products aren't your thing, this formula also comes in a fragrance-free version.

It uses plant-based stain-lifters like enzymes, and it works to cut dirt and brighten whites so that your clothes come out super clean. Since this laundry detergent is concentrated, you only have to use one capful per load. It'll be a lot less soap than you think, especially if you haven't used a concentrated detergent before. One bottle is enough for 66 loads of laundry.

Product Details:

  • Type: Liquid
  • Size: 53.5 fluid ounces
  • Number of Loads: 66
  • Scent: Beach Sage, Lavender and Cypress, Coconut and Cactus Water, Fresh Air, Ginger Mango, Nectarine Blossom, Spring Garden, and Free and Clear (none)

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Best Laundry Detergent for Sensitive Skin: Arm & Hammer Sensitive Skin Liquid Laundry Detergent

Best Laundry Detergents
Amazon.com

Also available at Target.

Who it's for: People who have sensitive skin and want to minimize their exposure to common irritants.

Who it isn't for: People who would rather use a laundry detergent that comes in compact packaging.

Those with sensitive skin already understand how difficult it can be to avoid irritants in everything from hygiene products to laundry detergents. Luckily, this liquid detergent from Arm & Hammer is designed specifically for sensitive skin, so it's free of common irritants like perfumes, preservatives, and dyes. It has also been certified to be 100 percent safe for sensitive skin by SkinSafe, which means that it meets rigorous standards—including being free of coconut, lanolin, parabens, and more—to qualify as hypoallergenic.

In addition to being super gentle on the skin, this detergent is also an incredible value. The bottle itself is on the larger side, so it provides up to 140 loads of laundry before you need to restock. It also has a low-sudsing formula so that it works for standard washing machines as well as new energy-efficient machines.

Product Details:

  • Type: Liquid
  • Size: 144–255 ounces
  • Number of Loads: 107–189 loads per bottle
  • Scent: None

Best Laundry Detergent for Workout Clothes: Hex Laundry Detergent

Best Laundry Detergents
Amazon.com

Also available at Target.

Who it's for: People who regularly have to wash sweaty activewear or sports uniforms.

Who it isn't for: This is not meant for heavier fabrics.

This laundry detergent from Hex was specifically designed for workout clothes, so a little goes a long way. Its concentrated formula helps remove odors from tight-knit synthetic fabrics that are often found in activewear (like spandex). The laundry detergent helps these performance fabrics maintain their stretch, breathability, and moisture-wicking capabilities to help them last longer.

The consistency of this detergent might be a little shocking at first because it pours like water. But it's still effective at removing odors and sweat from fabrics. In addition to this Fresh and Clean scent, the laundry detergent also comes in a few other scents as well as an unscented version. It works at all water temperatures with both regular and high-efficiency washing machines.

Product Details:

  • Type: Liquid
  • Size: 32 ounces
  • Number of Loads: 32
  • Scent: Fresh and Clean, Citrus Woods, and Fragrance-Free

Best Laundry Detergent for Babies: Seventh Generation Concentrated Baby Laundry Detergent

Best Laundry Detergents
Amazon.com

Who it's for: People who need a detergent for babies that's extra-gentle but tough on stains.

Who it isn't for: People who want a detergent that comes in pod form.

Seventh Generation's laundry detergent for babies uses three different enzymes to pull away tough stains from things like fruit puree, milk, and diaper leaks. Because of these enzymes, 96 percent of the stain-fighting agents used in this detergent come from bio-based ingredients. It's also free of dyes, artificial brighteners, and synthetic fragrances—all of which could potentially irritate sensitive baby skin.

A vast majority of the ingredients in this formula are plant-based, and it also meets the strenuous set of EPA Safer Choice Standards. Even if you aren't using this laundry detergent to wash clothes and bedding for babies, you'll appreciate the safe yet powerful formula. The brand also makes liquid laundry detergents that come in a variety of scents.

Product Details:

  • Type: Liquid
  • Size: 40 ounces
  • Number of Loads: 53
  • Scent: Fresh

Best Plastic-Free Laundry Detergent: Blueland Laundry Starter Set

Best Laundry Detergents
Blueland.com

Who it's for: People who want to save space and minimize their carbon footprint.

Who it isn't for: People who need to remove super tough stains from their laundry.

Not only are Blueland's laundry tablets entirely plastic-free, but they also come in a reusable container that takes up very little space. If you have never used laundry tablets before, they're pretty much the same as pods—just pop one in with a load of laundry and you're good to go.

All of the ingredients in these unscented laundry tablets are naturally derived, which means that this formula is free from parabens, phosphates, chlorines, and so many more potentially irritating ingredients. It uses citric acid to cut through grease stains and alcohols to break down oil-based stains. When you're finished using the detergent in this starter pack, you can keep the tin and simply order a refill pack, which comes with 40, 120, or 240 tablets in compostable packaging.

Product Details:

  • Type: Tablets
  • Size: 40 tablets
  • Number of Loads: 40
  • Scent: None

Final Verdict

Our top pick is Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Laundry Detergent because it's a highly effective liquid formula that comes in multiple scents. But if you prefer the convenience of single-use pods, we recommend opting for Tide Pods Laundry Detergent. Each pod has pre-portioned detergent, stain remover, and color protector so that you don't have to measure out any liquid (which can get messy).

How to Shop for Laundry Detergents Like a Pro

Type

There are plenty of types of laundry detergents on the market, but the most common are powders, liquids, and pods. Powders and liquids require measuring out the detergent for each cycle, whereas pods come in pre-portioned packs that take the guesswork out of how much to use. (More on that below.)

Formula

If you are sensitive to harsh cleaning ingredients, it might be a good idea to opt for a natural laundry detergent. Natural formulas tend to use enzymes to clean fabrics, which are naturally occurring in the body and less likely to irritate sensitive skin. Luckily, there are lots of formulas on the market today, so there's something for everyone.

Scent

Some laundry detergents come in a variety of scents so that your clothes can smell incredible post-wash. Some brands like Method and Hex derive their scents from natural flowers, herbs, and even citrus fruits. But if you are sensitive to fragrance, consider looking for an unscented laundry detergent.

Questions You Might Ask

How much laundry detergent should you use?

Using too much detergent is one of the most common laundry mistakes. You should always measure detergent rather than pour it directly from the bottle to the machine. But a foolproof way to figure out how much laundry detergent to use is by following the directions on the packaging.

For liquid formulas, the amount you should use is typically dictated by the size of the bottle's cap, which brands often use as a measuring cup. Some formulas are more concentrated, so you can use significantly less per load than you'd expect. For powders, the boxes usually include a scoop that measures out to be around 110 milliliters. Since pods are pre-measured, simply tossing one or two directly in the machine should do the trick. Keep in mind that if you are washing an extra-large load, you may need to increase the amount of detergent.

Does laundry detergent expire?

The short answer is yes, but this doesn't necessarily mean you have to throw out your expired detergents—especially if you've been storing them correctly. "They can be used past those dates," says Reichert. "Just keep it in a cool, dry place, and if it's a powdered detergent, keep it sealed and in a dry area."

The biggest concern about expired detergents is that they might lose some of their effectiveness after their expiration. In general, unopened liquid detergents last about nine months to one year. As for powder detergents, they're fresh until they're exposed to moisture.

Does laundry detergent kill germs?

Laundry detergent is a form of soap, which doesn't actually kill germs, according to Reichert. Instead, it "lifts [germs] off the fabric and washes them down the drain." If you want an added measure of safety, you can try using a laundry sanitizer.

Take Our Word for It

This article was written by Brittany Loggins, a contributing writer for Real Simple who specializes in lifestyle and beauty content. To come up with this list, she thoroughly researched laundry detergents on the market and narrowed down the options based on factors like type, formula, scent, and more. For expert tips, we spoke to Leslie Reichert, the Green Cleaning Coach and author of the book "The Joy of Green Cleaning."

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