Man loading clothing into a front-load washer

Comparing Laundry Detergents: How to Choose

When choosing a laundry detergent, cost and stain-fighting power are usually top considerations for some. Others may prioritize detergents for sensitive skin or one that’s compatible with their washing machine.

Whatever it is you’re looking for, this guide will help you learn about the main differences between detergent types so you can narrow down the choices and find one that suits your specific needs.

What are the qualities of a good detergent?

Aside from washing and removing stains, a good laundry detergent should leave clothes feeling refreshed and smelling clean. Depending on the formula, they can also leave whites whiter, colors brighter and sensitive skin unharmed. Whatever type you choose, read the label to check if it’s free of any known irritants.

Does it matter what laundry detergent you use?

You should always choose a detergent that meets your specific needs. A family with young children may need a detergent formulated for heavy stains and sensitive skin, while others may prioritize a detergent for delicate fabrics. Start by determining what qualities are most important to you and choose the option that meets those needs.

What are the different types of detergents?

Laundry detergents come in 3 main forms: liquid, powder and pods. There are also a variety of different types of laundry detergent that are formulated to target specific needs like sensitive skin, heavy stains or for high-efficiency washing machines. Additionally, there are laundry detergents that are specially formulated for certain fabric types and colors. Read on to learn more about each type.

Hand pouring swash liquid detergent into washing machine


Liquid detergents are a popular choice since they can be used as a stain pretreater and are convenient for bulk dispensing. When using liquid detergent, you have more control over the dosage than when you use laundry detergent pods. However, liquid detergents may be commonly overused so consult your washing machine’s user manual for the recommended detergent amount. You can also get liquid detergents, like Swash® Laundry Detergent1, that are designed to use less and still give you the results you want. The Precision Pour Cap prevents overloading and waste for extra dosing convenience.


Also, note that it is important to use high-efficiency laundry detergent if you have a high-efficiency washing machine.


Tight shot of powder detergent pouring into washing machine


One reason many reach for powder is that it’s usually more affordable. With powder laundry detergent, you can control the dosage more so than with laundry detergent pods and powder laundry detergent has better hard water cleaning performance than liquid. Unlike liquid, powder doesn’t always fully dissolve, especially with cold cycles, potentially leaving small granules of detergent on clothes and in the washing machine. One way to prevent this is by using a warm-water cycle and to make sure you’re not using too much. Another benefit is that powder laundry detergent can be used to make a paste to pretreat stains. Keep in mind, though, that powder laundry detergent also can’t be used in bulk dispensers, while liquid detergent can.



Bottle of liquid detergent next to jar of laundry pods


Laundry pods are one of the most convenient options because you just toss them into the washing machine drum, add the load and run your cycle. Even easier, they are proportioned and filled with concentrated ingredients, saving both time and space. On the downside, they are usually the most expensive option especially if you have to use more than one for larger loads, and they can't be used with bulk dispensing. There’s also a chance that the pods won’t fully dissolve if used improperly. If you’re looking for similar dosing precision and convenience but want to skip pods, consider something like Swash® detergent1, which is designed to pour the exact amount you need for each load.

Detergent being poured into the HE slot in washing machine


High efficiency detergent, or HE detergent, which is low sudsing and quick dispersing, is especially designed to work in front-load machines and top-load machines that can run low-water wash cycles. By producing fewer suds and encapsulating dirt and dyes quickly, soils aren’t likely to redeposit on clothes. To ensure that the detergent you’re using is made for your high efficiency washer look for the HE symbol.

Hand pouring liquid detergent into washing machine


Choosing the right detergent for sensitive skin means avoiding ingredients that can irritate your skin such as dyes, fragrances, and preservatives. Many brands will label these products “scent and dye free”, “free and clear” or “hypoallergenic”.

Hands placing pet collar into washing machine


If you are a pet owner then you’re likely used to washing everything your pet uses from blankets to toys to bedding. Since pets can be extra sensitive to smells and certain dyes you may want to choose a laundry detergent that’s fragrance and dye-free. There are also some pet-specific detergents that can help neutralize pet odors.


If you have pets and are looking to achieve a clean you can see, explore the Maytag® Pet Pro washing machines. These washing machines for pet hair2 remove 5x more pet hair with the Pet Pro Filter. You can even spot treat, rinse or soak clothes with the built-in faucet and get more water when you want it with the Deep Fill option.


Overhead shot of clothes in washer mid cycle


Sport laundry detergents are specifically formulated to clean technical fabrics. Since sweat and dirt are more likely to build up in workout clothes, sport laundry detergents are designed to work harder and help reduce odor-causing bacteria.

Basket of cleaning ingredients on counter


If you run out of laundry detergent, there are homemade alternatives that can work in a pinch. Many of these detergent recipes use ingredients like vinegar, baking soda and borax. While this may work quickly, it’s important to note that DIYing a detergent may void the warranty on your appliance since it could run the risk of damaging the machine. Check the user manual before using this method. Always make sure to check the care tags on your laundry items as well before choosing a detergent or wash method.


The best laundry detergent comes down to your specific needs and preferences. Look for something that will work with both your clothing type and lifestyle. A reliable washing machine, like the Maytag® Front Load Washer with Extra Power, can also make a difference in getting your clothes clean and fresh with every wash.


Find the best washing machine to manage your family’s laundry and pair it with Swash® laundry detergent for precision cleaning that’s ready when you are.


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1. Swash and the recommending brands are owned and distributed by Whirlpool Corporation.
2. Comparing Normal cycle with Pet Pro Filter and option to cycle using traditional agitator without Pet Pro Filter and option. Results will vary based on fabric and type of pet hair.