Match Your Detergent to Your Machine

Detergents are available as liquids, powders, and single-use packs or pods (see below for our take on these). Most are concentrated, which reduces the plastic needed to make the bottles and the fuel for the delivery trucks. But old habits die hard, so follow the usage directions and measure the concentrated detergent—no more free-form pouring. Here are the detergent types to choose from.

High-Efficiency (HE) Laundry Detergent

Washing machine manufacturers recommend HE detergents for front-loading washers and high-efficiency top-loaders, which use significantly less water than agitator top-loaders so they require low sudsing detergent. Most HE detergents are dual-use, and can also be used in agitator top-loaders.

Standard Top-Loader Laundry Detergent

Dual-use detergents are so common that it’s hard to find detergent meant only for agitator top-loaders. That's why you won't see any in our Ratings.

Cold Water Laundry Detergent

Using less hot water saves energy and money. With cold water detergents, the cleansing enzymes are designed to work better in cold water. We test these detergents in 60°F water, instead of the 75°F water used in our cool water tests. 

Green Laundry Detergent

Detergents we've tested that make green claims haven’t delivered the same cleaning power of the top-rated detergents. One possible factor is that green detergents may lack the enzymes and other chemicals that give many regular detergents their stain-fighting power.

Laundry Lessons

Even the best detergent can’t make up for bad laundry practices. Here are four rules to live by when you do the wash, plus our expert advice for tackling the toughest stains. Our textile experts show you how to remove tough mustard, red wine, chewing gum, and ink stains. Some of our advice involves weird but solid science.

Drawing that illustrates best laundry practices and helpful hints.