When it comes to laundry, Tide rules. It's one of Consumer Reports' three top picks for conventional detergents and accounts for half of those for high-efficiency washers.
But Consumer Reports' tests found lots of other subpar performers. Here are the details:
Tide hits a new high
Tide's top-scoring Ultra Plus Bleach, 23 cents per load, vanquished grass, blood, ring around the collar and other tough stains. And its Plus Bleach Alternative, 18 cents per load, joins Consumer Reports' top picks for conventional washers. For high-efficiency detergents, Tide Ultra HE, 16 cents per load, was a CR Best Buy.
Dual-use detergents grow
More HE detergents can be used in conventional washers, but only a handful made Consumer Reports' winners list. And most wind up costing more than Target's conventional-only Up & Up Ultra Concentrated, a CR Best Buy at just 10 cents per load.
Few packs make the grade
Single-use packs make proper dosage easier for normal loads. But only Tide Pods cleaned impressively in Consumer Reports' tests. And because packs dissolve quickly in water, you must handle them with dry hands and keep the bag sealed. Also, packs may be especially harmful if ingested or rubbed into eyes. Consumer Reports suggests keeping detergents out of the reach of children.
Being green still isn't easy
GreenShield's Organic Elite Care and Whole Foods' 365 Organic Everyday Value are among the first to earn the Department of Agriculture's "Organic" seal, which requires at least 95 percent organic ingredients. But both products proved to be only slightly better than plain water at tackling stains, as did Martha Stewart's Clean 2X, which was as dismal this time as in prior tests. A better bet: Seventh Generation Natural super-concentrated detergent, which did well at cleaning and is said to be biodegradable.
Four ways to save on detergent
• Choose the right one. You can use a conventional or dual-use detergent in a regular top-loading washer. But using a conventional detergent in a high-efficiency machine could compromise cleaning if it produces too many suds.
• Check the dose before using. Many dual-use detergents use the same dose for high-efficiency and conventional washers. However, Fuller Brush Plus Concentrated calls for twice the amount in traditional machines, boosting its cost per load to 40 cents.
• Spend at least 10 cents per load. None of the detergents that cost less than that scored better than mediocre.
• Don't overdo it. Using too much detergent costs you more per load. Overdosing wastes energy and water if it leads to added rinse cycles in your washer. Read the instructions carefully and measure the proper amount of detergent for your load size.
Consumer Reports; www.consumerreports.org.