Last updated: August 5, 2021

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Detergents clean our dirty laundry, give off a great scent and ensure long-lasting colours. Advertisements recommend a wide variety of detergents, all of which are supposed to deliver promising results. But for different laundry items, materials, wash cycles and temperatures, different variants are better or worse suited.

With our detergent guide, we want to help you find the best detergent for you. We have compared different detergents with each other. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of detergent pods, colour detergent, liquid detergent or powder? The listed tips and information are intended to make the purchase decision as easy as possible.




Summary

  • Detergents are designed to remove stains from laundry in combination with the washing machine. There is a very wide range of washing powders, heavy duty detergents, colour detergents and detergent pods.
  • When washing laundry, it is not only the temperature and the wash cycle that play a major role, but also the detergent itself. The variety of materials and laundry items do not simplify the selection of the right detergent. That's why the washing and selection process starts with the careful sorting of the laundry.
  • Especially for allergy sufferers and babies, the chemicals and ingredients can be harmful. That's why choosing the right detergent for sensitive and delicate skin is especially essential.

The Best Detergent: Our Choices

There are many different detergents on the market. But not all detergents convince buyers in every respect. We have selected the following detergents to help you make your choice.

Detergent: Buying and Evaluation Criteria

In the following, we will show you which aspects you can use to decide between the many possible detergents. The criteria you can use to compare the detergents with each other include:

In the following paragraphs, we will explain what is important in the individual criteria.

Scent

The fragrance plays a major role for many buyers of laundry detergents. The choice of fragrance is usually individual and subjective. Nevertheless, it helps to choose a detergent that does not contain fragrances.

Fragrances can irritate the skin and cause allergic reactions. In addition, you can do something good for the environment if you do without fragrances and chemicals. If the laundry still doesn't hold up well, it may be due to the washing machine. It helps to run the washing machine empty at the highest temperature to remove all residues.

A good household tip is to add some bicarbonate of soda to the compartment for the washing powder. Baking soda can neutralise odours. This cleans the laundry and eliminates unpleasant odours.

Ingredients

Detergent ingredients are various chemical compounds found in laundry detergents. Each ingredient is responsible for different tasks. Depending on the type and brand of detergent, the ingredients are present in different quantities and qualities.

Among the ingredients are surfactants, which are the main detergent active ingredient. They also contain water softeners, washing alkalis and enzymes for the removal of protein and starch stains.

Alcohols can increase the effect of the substances contained in the detergent and, in the case of liquid detergents, enable the surfactants to dissolve. They also act as preservatives.

In addition, optical brighteners in detergents are used to make white laundry appear whiter. Coloured laundry, however, should be washed without brighteners, as this can reduce the intensity of the colour.

The following list is an overview of the ingredients in detergents:

  • Bleachactivators: They enhance the effect of bleach and serve to increase the efficiency even at low temperatures.
  • Bleach: Used to remove unwanted discolouration from clothes. They work best at higher temperatures, but only on white laundry. They are not included in colour detergents so as not to bleach out the colour from the textiles.
  • Fragrances: Serve to mask the smell of the wearer and ensure that the laundry smells fresh and good.
  • Softeners: These are additives that are used to soften water containing lime and to achieve better washing results. They also help the washing machine not to calcify, so that no additional water softener needs to be added.
  • Defoamers: They regulate the formation of foam in the washing machine. For example, curd soaps or silicones are used for this purpose.
  • Enzymes: At high temperatures they are destroyed and cannot develop their effect. They therefore work best at low to medium temperatures and thus remove protein, starch and fats.
  • Preservatives: They protect liquid detergents from micro-bacteria.
  • Surfactants: They are the main component of detergents. The so-called washing-active substances reduce the surface tension of the water and thus ensure that the fabrics in the washing machine are well wetted with water. They mix grease and water so that they can be dissolved. The best are biosurfactants, which are biodegradable and made from renewable raw materials.
  • Washing alkalis: Are responsible for increasing the pH value of the suds and cause fibres to swell so that dirt can be better dissolved from the textiles.

Suitability for laundry

Detergents differ both in consistency and in their suitability for certain types of laundry. Powder and liquid detergents come in different types. If optical brighteners are included, the detergent is suitable and optimal for white laundry.

There are also detergents for coloured and dark clothing as well as for fine fabrics such as wool or functional textiles. When buying a detergent, you should pay attention to what needs to be satisfied.

Suitability for temperatures

Ideally, the detergent should have a wide range of temperatures so that you don't have to keep changing it. The best results are achieved with medium to high temperatures. However, enzymes are destroyed at higher temperatures and can no longer develop their effect.

Detergent: Frequently asked Questions and Answers

In the following, we would like to answer the most important questions about detergents. We have selected the most frequently asked questions and answered them for you. After reading the guide, you will know all the essential features about detergents.

How does detergent work?

In numerous detergent tests, very detailed information has been found out about the many variants. This section is about the basic functioning of a detergent.

How surfactants work: The reaction of the chemical substances water and surfactants ensures that the laundry is cleaned. Surfactants make it easier for the liquid to leave the fabric and for the water to penetrate. A surfactant anion acts as a link between the fibre and the water. Negatively charged surfactants and dirt particles repel each other, which consequently flushes the contamination out of the fibres. Surfactants are an original component of detergents. Nowadays, however, the formulations have become much more complex. This is important because of the different fibres and materials.

Types of detergents:

  • Washing powder in granular form
  • liquid detergent
  • Detergent gel pads/ detergent pods

waschmittel-test

A laundry basket filled with laundry can be cleaned with many different detergents. (Image source: Anni Spratt / unsplash)

All variants are suitable for different needs and washing cycles or types of laundry. Basically, a distinction is made between allergy detergents, detergents without fragrances, colour detergents, heavy-duty detergents or special detergents for functional textiles.

What types of detergents are there?

Type of detergent advantages disadvantages
Powder usually suitable for a wide range of temperatures, very high solubility, does not stick in the machine, low price usually not suitable for functional textiles and fine fabrics, powder clumps together in large packs over time
Liquid detergents easy to dose with a dosing aid often stick at low temperatures, pipes and lines of the washing machine are affected
Pods and gel pads easy to dispense coating harms washing machine and environment

Different types of detergents are used for different purposes. While liquid detergent and gel pads or pods are now declared to be harmful to many fabrics and the washing machine, powder detergent is considered the pioneer of detergents. Nevertheless, you decide which form your detergent takes, because every detergent has advantages and disadvantages.

How do I dose detergent correctly?

When the question of detergent dosage comes up, we also distinguish between types of detergent. With pre-made pods, only the portion size can be used, as one package should be used per wash cycle.

Liquid detergents and powders, on the other hand, you dose yourself. By using detergent sparingly, you can not only save money, but also the environment. Overdosing will damage the laundry and the washing machine.

To help, the manufacturer's instructions on the packaging can be followed. The correct dosage is usually given on a scale. The water hardness is also decisive. The harder the water, the more lime it contains, which leads to a higher dosage of detergent.

The degree of soiling is also an indication of the detergent dosage. But sometimes it helps to pre-treat spot stains with an extra product and thus still keep the detergent low.

What does detergent cost?

The following overview gives an impression of what costs can be expected in relation to detergent.

Type Detergent Cost
Powder detergent Persil Universal-Megapearls from 25 euros
Powder detergent Ecover Zero Sensitive washing powder universal from 13 euros
Powder detergent Lenor Vollwaschmittel Powder from 15 Euro

Detergent should be dosed correctly to take advantage of the price and to be able to clean many wash loads with the detergent.

What alternatives are there to conventional detergents?

Alternative methods to detergent are clearly broken down in the following table.

Alternative Description
Homemade detergent Homemade detergent can be made from a pure oil soap and washing soda. If a larger quantity is prepared, only 1 to 2 tablespoons need to be added to a wash load. There is also the possibility of making detergent from chestnuts or ivy. This produces a liquid detergent that is also sustainable.
Environmentally friendly detergent there are several options for an environmentally friendly alternative to detergent. There is the possibility to refill detergent in organic or unpacked shops. This saves on packaging and reduces waste.

In the following paragraphs we show additional alternatives for conventional detergent that are also sustainable.

  • Washing nuts: Washing nuts are natural alternatives to conventional detergents, traded from rhita or reetha. They are about the size of a hazelnut and their shell contains a natural soap content. They contain saponin, which is a sudsing agent and cleans the laundry.
  • Bile soap: Bile soap is a mixture of curd soap and bile. The bile salts it contains, such as glycholic acid or taurocholic acid, act as emulsifiers.
  • Washingsoda: Washing soda is an alkaline lye that swells and dissolves dirt. It also neutralises acids and softens the water. Due to the softened water, less washing-active substances are needed, which means that detergents can be saved. However, a certain soaking time is required.
  • Washing balls: Wash balls serve as mechanical helpers. They are quite inexpensive to buy, as you can usually buy several in a pack. They have a long life of up to 10 years and are supposed to help clean the laundry through additional friction.

How do I use detergent correctly?

The correct use of detergent begins with the sorting of the laundry. Due to the different materials and the differences in temperatures, you should distinguish between the following types of laundry:

  • Sort laundry: white cooking laundry, coloured laundry, easy-care laundry, socks and underwear, silk and delicates.
  • Fill the machine correctly: laundry drums that are only half full waste energy and water. However, to avoid overloading the drum, there should always be room for a fist at the top.
  • Pre-treatment of stains: Special products can be used to combat stubborn spots. Examples are grass, blood or red wine, which disappear after only one wash.

With a dosing aid, the detergent can be poured into the chamber provided. With powder detergent, this is usually at the top left with the recommended amount. In the case of liquid detergent, the dosage aid can also be added directly to the laundry in the drum.

Another variant are the pods or gel pads. These are also placed directly in the drum with the laundry. The water dissolves the coating and the detergent can clean the clothes.

Conclusion

The right choice of detergent depends on certain preferences and needs. A detergent should have as many functions as possible and perform them well. To avoid having to use many different types of detergent, it helps to find out about the different forms beforehand.

A good detergent is not only important for cleaning the laundry. It should also be gentle on the materials, the skin and the washing machine. Therefore, it is also worthwhile to pay attention to the aspects and to keep sustainability in mind.

Photo source: Ryoji Hayasaka / unsplash

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