Powder vs Liquid Detergent: Which is Best for Your Laundry?

When it comes to powder detergent versus liquid detergent, many of us are creatures of habit and stick with the same product, much like softener. This is not surprising considering the sheer amount of brands and types on offer. But did you know that using each of these types of detergent has different benefits? You might even argue that one is better than the other, depending on your situation.

Here, we’ll lift the lid on these types of laundry detergents and help you understand the pros and cons of each. We’ll look at the scenarios for which they work best, as well as how they can make a difference to the best washing machines laundry day. You might even want to change what you use accordingly. So if you’re hesitating between powder and liquid detergent, here’s the answer.

Benefits of washing powder

A pink spoon filled with powdered laundry detergent

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1. Ideal for mud and blood stains — First, powdered detergent is generally more effective at removing active/outdoor stains. This is because powder detergent contains different surfactants than liquid, which provides the cleaning power. The compounds in powdered detergent tend to make it more effective on stains such as mud, blood, and grass. This means that if you are an avid gardener or often deal with tough stains, powder detergent is best.

2. Keep the Whites White — Powder detergent is also great for keeping your whites white. Indeed, it often contains enzymes and bleaching agents, although you should check the ingredient list to confirm this. So if your white sheets are graying, a powdered detergent might be the solution.

3. It lasts — I speak from experience when I say that washing powder lasts. A box of powder detergent can cover more than 100 washes. This means that it may take months before you need to consider recharging. In powder form, this type of detergent will also stand the test of time, giving it a long shelf life.

4. Value for money — Because of the point above, strong detergent is also generally good value for money. It can cost as little as 10 cents per wash depending on your load and water hardness.

5. More environmentally friendly packaging — Although most detergents are not ideal for the environment, the packaging itself makes the difference. Powdered detergent is usually available in recyclable cardboard packaging, which is a bonus over the plastic found with liquids.

Powder Detergent Negatives

A spoon filled with powdered laundry detergent is poured into a washing machine dispenser drawer

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1. It’s messy — You can’t coat it in sugar, powdered detergent is messy to use. It can easily tip over during dosing and application, for which you will need to get one of the best vacuum cleaners to collect. It can also leave residue in your detergent drawer if it hasn’t been completely rinsed out, which will also need cleaning.

2. Not good for sensitive skin — Because it is a powder, this type of detergent must dissolve in the wash to be effective, which requires high temperatures. However, powdered detergent doesn’t always dissolve completely, especially in colder cycles, which means it’s harder to rinse out than liquid. The result is more residual detergent left in the laundry, which can cause reactions for sensitive skin.

3. Not good for the washing machine — We’ve covered powdered detergent leaving behind residual lumps in your detergent drawer. This can actually happen throughout the inside of your washing machine, leading to a potential blockage or at least a breeding ground for mold. To avoid costly repairs, be sure to learn how to clean a washing machine if you suspect it.

4. Not ideal for hand washing — Because it doesn’t dissolve easily in cooler temperatures, powdered detergent isn’t ideal for hand washing either. You can end up with a lot of powder residue covering your delicate clothes if you do this.

5. Can take up space — Boxes of washing powder are usually quite large and bulky, especially once opened. So make sure your laundry rack has enough space before purchasing. Due to its cardboard packaging, it is vulnerable to moisture and leaks, so store it in a cool, dry place.

Benefits of liquid detergent

A cap filled with liquid detergent

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1. Ideal for oil and grease stains — Just as powder detergent is good for mud and blood stains, liquid detergent works well on oil and grease stains. Indeed, it contains alcohol ethoxylates, which are particularly effective on these substances. So if you are an avid chef or auto mechanic, liquid laundry detergent may be the best.

2. Better for Sensitive Skin — Due to its liquid state, liquid detergent dissolves easily, even in cold water. Thus, it naturally rinses better during the last stages of the wash cycle. As such, there’s likely less residual detergent in your clothes compared to powder, making it the best option for those with sensitive skin and allergies.

3. Convenient to dose — Liquid can still spill when you measure it, but it’s arguably less messy than powder. Moreover, if you opt for liquid pods, measuring the dosage becomes completely unnecessary.

4. Good for storage — Liquid detergent bottles are more compact than powder detergent boxes. Being made of plastic, they are also generally sturdier.

5. Better for hand washing — Since it dissolves much more easily, liquid detergent is naturally the best choice for hand washing. Additionally, liquid detergents designed for delicate washes are also widely available, such as Molly’s Suds Delicate Wash Liquid Laundry Soap ($12.34, Amazon (opens in a new tab)). Additionally, liquid detergent is more ideal for treating stains.

6. Better for the washing machine — For the same reason, liquid detergent is unlikely to leave residue in your washing machine. That’s not to say you’re completely clear – washing machines will still need to be cleaned regularly to avoid any buildup of soap scum and limescale.

Negatives of liquid detergent

Liquid laundry detergent measured in a cap above a washing machine drawer

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1. Expensive — When comparing prices directly, liquid detergent is the most expensive option, especially if you buy pods which can cost up to twice as much.

2. Can be used quickly — It seems like you go through the liquid much faster than the powder as well. Bottles tend to hold fewer wash loads, although this is not always the case.

3. Easy to dose incorrectly — It is very easy to use too little or too much liquid detergent because the measurements on the measuring cap are often difficult to read. This results in excess waste or insufficient cleaning performance.

4. Packaging not so good for the environment — Liquid detergent packaging tends to be plastic, making it the less environmentally friendly of the two options.

Verdict

Ultimately, liquid detergent seems to have more benefits. However, powder detergent provides a solution where liquids cannot. The best option for you will depend on what you’re washing and your situation. If you have sensitive skin, you should stick to liquids, while those who care about value for money prefer powder.

Personally, I use both, and I switch depending on the situation. To figure out which option is best for you, consider your needs and preferences and see which one ticks the most boxes.


For more washing tips, tricks and how-to’s, check out our guides to the best clothes dryers, 7 signs you need a new washing machine and what do the laundry symbols mean? Also, don’t make this mistake when you do your laundry!


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