Consumer Reports: Finding the best laundry detergents

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Nobody likes doing laundry, but most of us have to do it. We don't want to waste our time with a detergent that doesn't get the job done. When it comes to nasty stains or just ordinary grime, 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney reports on Consumer Reports' new detergent ratings in finding the best laundry detergents.

Liz Salvati does a load of laundry a day, and says she's picky about which detergent she uses. "My son plays sports, and there's constant grass and dirt stains all over his clothes," she said.

Consumer Reports tests laundry detergents to see how well they perform against many types of stains.

Testers use special fabric swatches stained with ingredients like body oil, dirt, blood, chocolate, wine, and tea. "We have an instrument that can measure how much of the stain is removed we can tell how well the detergents are working," said Rico De Paz, Consumer Reports.

In the video above, you can clearly see the difference. You have the unwashed, stained fabric swatch. Then, you have fabric swatch washed in a top-rated detergent. It's much cleaner than the original. "If you just washed it with water, you can see that the water is not really very different from the original," said De Paz.

And if you use one of the lower rated detergents--like "Trader Joe's Liquid Laundry H.E." Or "Xtra Scentsations," you're cleaning with something that performed only slightly better than plain water in Consumer Reports' tests.

The top-scoring detergents are "Tide Plus Ultra Stain Release" and "Persil Pro-Clean Power Liquid 2-in-1." They are tops at removing body oil and dirt.

But those detergents are not cheap.

Consumer Reports' expert says you might not need all that cleaning power. "If you're not up against tough stains like grass or you don't have a bunch of grungy clothes to wash, there are a lot of lower priced detergents that will do the job really well," De Paz added.

This "Member's Mark Ultimate Clean" from Sam's Club, or this "Kirkland Signature Ultra Clean Free and Clear" from Costco, are both good options. So is "All Stainlifter" detergent for half the price of Tide.

Another money saver? Skip stain removers and pre-treat. That's what Liz Salvati did. "Yes, I usually take some of the laundry detergent, and I pour it directly on the stain, rub it in, and let it sit for a little while before I put it into the laundry," she said.

Consumer Reports says it's important to add the correct amount of detergent. Using too much is not only a waste of money but it can also leave a residue on your clothes.

Written and produced by Justin Mendoza.

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