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What's The Best Laundry Detergent for Your Washer?



Modern laundry detergents work wonders compared to those available 10-15 years ago. These laundry detergents come in many formulas; Regular, He, Cold Water, Green-Eco friendly, Liquids, Power and Pods! So what detergent is best and which one should you use?


Let’s Take a Look!




Regular Laundry Detergent


Laundry detergent has been available for generations, over the course of the years’ formulas have been modified to improve performance. These formulas include a number of chemical ingredients to boost cleaning and stain removal performance. Here is a brief rundown on the ingredients.


Laundry Detergent Chemistry



Builders, are the base ingredient, these are a form of sodium, sodium citrate, tetra sodium EDTA and acrylic polymers. They form the base of the formula to which other ingredients are added.


Anti-redisposition agents, these keep the soil particles suspended in the wash water to prevent the soil from redepositing on the clothing.


Color transfer inhibitors, (in color safe detergents) these agents prevent dyes from transferring or bleeding from one garment and redepositing on another.


Soil release polymers, these polymers block the redisposition of soil on the fabrics, they in turn are washed away during the wash cycle carrying the soil with them.


Brighteners, as the name implies these agents improve the brightness of the fabric, these are also known as bluing agents which give off a blue fluorescence, which made the fabrics look brighter.


There are additional ingredients which are used to maintain the pH level, viscosity improvers and silicone's to control the level of foaming (suds), as well as perfumes and dyes. These ingredients are increased or decreased to adjust the product to specific geographic locations and water quality levels.



High Efficiency Laundry Detergent



High Efficiency Logo



High Efficiency Laundry detergent is a special formulation designed for use in High Efficiency washers. It is concentrated and the formula is specifically created for the low water levels found in High Efficiency machines. The silicone anti foaming agents are a big part of the formulation as these machines use sensors to monitor the load size and select the water level based on the sensed load size.


Excessive suds reduce the efficiency of these washers and confuse the sensors making the machine think it is overloaded. This is the main reason regular detergent cannot be used in High Efficiency washers.


High Efficiency Detergent has a special (He) symbol on the packaging. Look for this symbol when purchasing detergent. All manufacturers offer an (He) version of their detergents, so which ever brand or scent you prefer an (He) version is available.



Cold Water Detergents



Cold Water Detergent



If you prefer to wash your clothing in cold water, then look for Cold Water Laundry detergents. These detergents are specifically formulated for use in cold water and are not as effective as regular detergent when hot water is used.



Green or Eco Friendly Laundry Detergents



Natural Laundry Detergent:



Testing by the leading consumer magazine has shown that “Green” or” Eco” friendly detergents do not clean as well as regular detergents due to the elimination of enzymes and other ingredients that may harm the environment. The problem with these detergents is that since they do not clean as well, people tend to use more detergent to increase the cleaning power thus negating the environmental advantages of the detergent.




Oxi Detergent Additives

Oxi Clean Detergent Additive


Oxi additives used in some detergents are made from sodium percarbonate, this is a color safe bleaching agent with is milder and less harmful to clothing than chlorine bleach. Oxi works with all detergents and is safe to use on most types of clothing.




Detergent Pods


Laundry Pods



Pods are the latest creation of soap manufacturers, introduced by Procter and Gamble, they offer an ideal solution for the users of (He), machines as they are sized with the exact amount of detergent necessary for a regular sized load in an (He) washer.


No measuring is necessary and they are very neat and tidy, no liquid to spill, no power residue. The pods are formulated with all the additives found in regular (He) detergent and the original pods were very bright and colorful.


Unfortunately, these colorful pods are attractive to children and some have ingested them with harmful results. Newer versions of the pods are now solid white in color and do not appear as candy like as the originals. Always store pods out of the reach of children.


Interestingly, when Proctor and Gamble introduced the pods the other soap manufacturers were outraged, P & G was telling the public that this little pod with a specific amount of soap was all they needed, no longer could soap manufacturers use large cups with very generous load size markings to get to get the consumer to use as much soap as possible, often much more than they needed. Law suits were threatened but never pursued, the cat was out of the bag and there was no going back!


Today almost all manufacturers offer pods, and to make up for the lost volume, they have increased the price.



So which laundry detergent is best for your washer?



1.  Choose the detergent based on the type of washer you have, regular detergent for conventional washers, (He) detergent for High Efficiency washers. (He) detergent will work in all washer types.


2.  The brand is up to you, choose what works best for you and the water hardness level in your area. Hard water, water with a high mineral content, often hinders the performance of detergents. Detergent manufacturers consider water hardness levels when formulating detergents. Use Cold Water formulas only in cold water.



3.  Bargain brands cost less because they contain fewer additives which often results in poorer performance. As a result, may people use more soap to compensate for the lower performance negating the cost savings.


However, some private label brands do offer a good value such as our HDX Laundry Detergent available at Home Depot. Consumer magazines review detergents, check the reviews for recommendations.



4.  Don’t be afraid to try a different brand if you unhappy with your current detergent. Manufacturers change formulas on a regular basis to try to improve performance, and reduce cost. If your soap doesn’t seem to be doing the job lately, try a different brand.



5.  Don’t use too much detergent, soap manufacturers want to sell soap. They regularly recommend more soap than you actually need, and many people have been conditioned to think If a quarter cup is good, a half cup is better. If your unhappy with the soaps performance, try less soap not more.



6.  Finally, remember (He) washers use much less water and thus need much less soap. Washer manufacturers recommend two table spoons of liquid (He) detergent for your largest load!


That is usually half way up to the number one mark on most laundry detergent measuring cups. (He) detergent is concentrated and using more will not improve performance. In fact, it may not all rinse away, causing your laundry to be dull and dingy as the soap residue is still in the fabric.

(He) detergent is like instant coffee, when making one cup you use just a teaspoon full, not a whole scoop, (He) washers are like that teacup, they have very little water so be sure to use less soap.


Mike, The Home Depot Answer Man


Not what you were looking for ? Try posting a question
Posted 2016-08-15T19:50:10+0000  by Mike_HD_OC Mike_HD_OC
Greetings Mike,

Thank you for such an informative article! I have been doing  laundry for more decades than I would like to reveal, I have never really question the difference in the basics of laundry detergents; but I have found out that more detergent, (unlike chocolate) is not better, just as you wrote.

The bubble or suds factor generated in HE detergents is such a benefit to know while directing our customers to the many detergent options in the Home Depot cleaning aisle....thanks a lot Mike!

Hey what do you think about dryer sheets?    Maureen
Posted 2016-08-16T12:15:44+0000  by Maureen_HD_BOS
Hi Maureen,

Thank you for the kind words, according to the leading consumer magazine I mentioned in the article, liquid fabric softener is more effective than dryer sheets, this is due to the fact that dryer sheets only treat the surface of the fabric while the liquid softener in the washer is absorbed by the fabric to a greater extent, however dryer sheets are more convenient to use.

Because of this surface treatment effect of the dryer sheets, more people tend to complain of allergic reactions to softeners applied via dryer sheets than softeners used in the washer.

Finally some appliance manufacturers do not recommend dryer sheets due to the fact that the softener chemicals in the sheets tend to accumulate on and effect the performance of moisture senors in the dryer drums prolonging the dryer cycles, which results in the over drying of the clothing and less efficient dryer operation.


Posted 2016-08-18T19:40:15+0000  by Mike_HD_OC
Thanks again Mike!  

Great information, perfect product knowledge to share with customers in the cleaning aisle!

Posted 2016-08-30T17:04:01+0000  by Maureen_HD_BOS
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