High-efficiency (HE) washing machines -- including all front-loading machines and some top loaders -- use less water and energy than traditional machines. Consequently, these water-saving appliances require the use of specially formulated HE detergents, which create fewer suds than regular detergents.
Tide HE With Bleach Alternative Liquid Laundry Detergent (*Est. 37 cents per load) outperforms other similar products in one professional review (which looked at detergents' ability to remove a wide range of common stains in high-efficiency washers). However, consumers at Amazon.com and Tide.com give this detergent mixed reviews. Many maintain that it's unbeatable in getting out stains, while others say they are disappointed with its cleaning results.
If you are looking to spend less, Tide HE Liquid Laundry Detergent (*Est. 30 cents per load) also receives high scores by experts for stain removal. At Amazon.com, 20 consumers give it an average rating of 3.7 stars out of 5, but the main complaint is it's overpriced on this website, compared with stores. Consumers are generally happy with how clothes look and smell with this detergent. More than 60 reviewers at Tide.com give it a rating of 4.1 stars out of 5. The majority say clothes smell clean and fresh, but a few say washed gym clothes and towels still had a sour smell.
Gain HE Original Fresh (*Est. 19 cents per load) does not perform as well as Tide in removing stains in one professional review, but it's considerably more economical than other brands in its class. Thirteen reviewers at Amazon.com give it an average rating of 4.2 stars out of 5. They say clothes come out smelling and looking clean with Gain HE. A handful of reviews at GainLaundry.com rave about its scent and say it gets rid of sweat odors on clothing. Gain makes this HE liquid detergent in three other fragrances.
Consumers with a Costco membership may be interested in Kirkland Signature Ultra 2X (*Est. 16 cents per HE load), which performs nearly as well as Gain at stain removal and costs even less. Because it's only sold at Costco stores, however, we didn't encounter an abundance of consumer reviews online. Kirkland Signature is available as a scented or scent-free product as well as an eco-friendly, lavender-scent formula. Costco sells two powdered detergents: Kirkland Signature Ultra (*Est. 13 cents per load) and Kirkland Signature Ultra with Bleach (*Est. 19 cents per load). All Kirkland Signature products work in standard top-loading machines.