Detergents for standard top-loading washers are available in both liquid and powder form. (It's important to note that many manufacturers also offer separate low-suds detergents for water-saving high-efficiency HE washers.)
Overall, Tide Coldwater Liquid Laundry Detergent (*Est. 37 cents per load) repeatedly receives solid praise in both expert and user reviews -- a fact that ultimately places it in our Best Reviewed list. In one professional test, it proves to be one of the best detergents at removing a wide range of stains, such as grass and blood. Additionally, according to manufacturer Proctor & Gamble, Tide Coldwater also works fine in both warm and hot water. At Tide.com, more than 90 consumers give Tide Coldwater Liquid Laundry Detergent a high average rating of 4.4 stars out of a possible 5. Reviews say it keeps whites white, colors bright and gets tough stains out easily. One drawback: A few users don't like its Mountain Fresh scent, and some consumers with sensitive skin developed a rash when using this detergent.
Tide makes many similar formulations that also receive high marks in expert and consumer reviews. For example, Tide HE With Bleach Alternative (*Est. 37 cents per load) costs about the same as Tide Coldwater. This detergent edges out Tide Coldwater, according to one reviewer who applied nine tough stains to cotton swatches, but it doesn't receive the same amount of praise from consumers at Tide.com. Some say the product leaves spots on clothing. This detergent comes in three fragrances.
Tide TotalCare Liquid Laundry Detergent (*Est. 53 cents per load), which also promises to fend off color fading, is a more costly detergent that receives mixed reviews. Impressed by its claims, Good Housekeeping magazine editors gave TotalCare a Very Innovative Product (VIP) award in 2009. In their evaluation, editors found that colored fabrics didn't fade after 15 washes, compared with another unidentified brand of detergent. However, another expert reviewer says TotalCare did no better at preventing fading than Tide Coldwater, which costs considerably less. This version of Tide barely has any reviews at Amazon.com, but it ranks behind Tide Coldwater in consumer reviews at Tide.com. Here, more than 170 consumers give TotalCare an average rating of 3.6 stars out of 5. Although many people say they love the results they get with TotalCare, some say they wouldn't buy it again because of its fragrance, and others complain that it discolored their clothing.
The All Small & Mighty 3X line offers triple-concentrated detergents that are among the least expensive; the advantage of these concentrated detergents is that you use a smaller amount of product, cutting down on weight and packaging. However, All Small & Mighty Stainlifter (*Est. 20 cents per load) didn't perform as well at removing stains as Tide did in one professional review, and clothes faded more than with Tide Coldwater and Tide TotalCare after 30 washes. There are very few recent reviews at Amazon.com. All Small & Mighty 3X detergents are available in several scents and a Free Clear formula (which skips dye and fragrance).
In recent years, active individuals and athletes have become more vocal about stains and odor-- a fact that has prompted detergent manufacturers to introduce more items to address these issues. For example, Win High Performance Sport Detergent (*Est. 44 cents per load) is a detergent specially formulated to remove sweat odor. According to one professional review, it lives up to its odor-removing claim, but it wasn't an effective stain-fighter. Still, this detergent receives very good reviews (particularly from parents of teenagers) on Amazon.com and Drugstore.com. Many owners say they were ready to throw away their odorous apparel before they tried this detergent. However, some users say this product can be difficult to find in local stores.
Tide Plus Febreze Freshness Sport Liquid Laundry Detergent (*Est. 29 cents per load) is another less expensive option for removing odor from workout clothes. It has near-perfect ratings from 14 consumers at Tide.com, who say it's very effective at removing sweat stains and odor. Consumers' main complaint: Some find its fragrance to be overpowering.