There's nothing worse than when your child ends the day covered in mud, dirt, or pasta sauce, and you find yourself wondering "how on earth will I get that out?" From the first nappy blowout to the inevitable grass stains on school shirts, kids bless us with new laundry challenges almost daily. But few of us have time to scrub, treat and pre-soak every time.

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Thankfully, if you choose the right detergent and use it in the correct way, you should be able to minimise the time you need to spend treating stains and spills. But there are so many different options to choose from, all for different fabrics, colours and temperatures. The choice can get slightly overwhelming and it's hard to know which is right for your family.

There's also a lot of technical jargon that confuses your decision too. To help you understand and choose the right washing powder, liquid or capsule for you, we researched and scoured the market for the best options ideal for different situations, from sensitive skin to tough stain removal.

Washing clothes unfortunately isn't the end of the process, either, but we can also help with that. You'll need to dry and (potentially) iron or steam them too. With increasing electricity costs and the unpredictable British weather, this may mean you're drying your clothes indoors or using a heated airer rather than a tumble dryer. A dehumidifier can also help dry your clothes quicker as it removes any additional moisture from the air.

Best washing powders and laundry detergents at a glance

  • Best washing powder for whites: Daz Brilliant White Washing Powder, £11
  • Best washing liquid for delicates: Woolite Hand & Machine Wash, £4.65
  • Best for sensitive skin: Fairy Non-Bio Washing Liquid for Sensitive Skin, £10
  • Best sustainable washing liquid: Wilton London Laundry Liquid, £8.99
  • Best laundry capsule subscription service: Smol 24 Capsule Pack, £5.30 per pack
  • Best washing capsules for colours: Persil 3-in-1 Colour Capsules, £11
  • Best washing powder for cloth nappies: Napisan Non-Biological Stain Remover, £3.20
  • Best laundry detergent alternative: Ecoegg Laundry Egg, £9.99
  • Best budget washing powder: Just Essentials by Asda Non-Bio Washing Powder, £2.30
  • Best washing liquid for stains: Persil Bio Stain Removal First Time Laundry Washing Liquid Detergent, £6.51

What to consider when choosing a washing powder or laundry detergent

Type – There are 3 main types of methods you can use to wash your laundry. Washing powder, washing liquid and washing capsules/pods. The cheapest option tends to be powder, but this can get quite messy as you have to measure it out. The same goes for liquid detergent. A washing capsule or tablet is very easy to use as you just throw it into the drum with your laundry and it is already measured out for you. However, you can't use them to pre-treat stains the way you could a liquid. Which method you use is completely up to you and you may find it works better to switch depending on what kind of wash you're doing (e.g. colours, darks, whites, bedding or delicates).

Number of washes – In the specifications below we have noted approximately how many washes you can get out of each option. This is also usually stated on the packaging too. This is useful to know in order to work out the value of each option. For example, you may see a really cheap option, but it may only last you 20 washes, whereas you may see a slightly more expensive option that lasts 50+ washes and is therefore better value for money. If you live in a hard water area you will need more detergent, regardless of type.

Bio/non-bio – Biological "bio" detergents contain enzymes which help break down dirt and grime on your clothes. Non-bio detergents do not contain these enzymes. This tends to mean non-bio detergents are considered softer and kinder on your skin, making them a better option for people with sensitive skin. However, if you have a really tough stain that's organic in nature (food, grass, grease, sweat etc) then you are likely to find that a biological washing detergent is the most effective at removing the stain. Which detergent you use may differ on a case-by-case basis depending on what you're washing and whose clothes you're washing. For example, if you're washing baby clothes a non-bio is usually recommend as their skin is more sensitive.

Garment / fabric type – There are different washing detergents suited for certain garments. For delicates, such as wools and silks, it might be a good idea to get a specific one designed for delicates, especially if you're using it to hand wash. If it is a durable fabric and has a tough stain then again, you may need to opt for a stronger option.

Stains – As previously mentioned, due to the enzymes, biological washing detergents will likely be better at removing organic stains. However, this is not to say that non-biological detergents can't remove stains, they most definitely can. Liquid detergents are a great idea for removing stains as you can pre-treat the stain by rubbing some detergent directly onto the stain before popping it into the washing machine.

Child lock – If you're worried about your child getting hold of your washing detergent then it may be a good idea to try and find one that comes in a child lock box. Alternatively, you could buy your own child lock box or child lock the cupboard your laundry products are kept in (ideally up high) to prevent any accidents from occurring.

Best washing powder and laundry detergents

1. Daz Brilliant White Washing Powder, £11

– Best for whites

Daz Brilliant White Washing Powder

Type: Powder | Number of washes: 75 washes | Biological/Non-biological: Biological

If you're sick of your whites fading to grey then try this biological fast dissolving Daz washing powder. There's enough powder in the box to last approximately 75 washes.

The anti-residue formula dissolves quickly in water and instantly activates for a fantastic clean.

Pros: Keeps whites white, anti-residue, lasts up to 75 washes
Cons: Not for sensitive skin, cannot pre-treat stains, no child lock

Available from: Ocado, Tesco and Morrisons

2. Woolite Hand & Machine Wash, £4.65

– Best for delicates

Woolite Hand & Machine Wash

Type: Liquid | Number of washes: 12 washes | Biological/Non-biological: Non-biological

Woolite is a great option for hand washing and machine washing delicates from silk to wool. It's a liquid detergent that should last up to 12 washes or hand washes. It's suitable for wool, cotton, silk, microfibres and mixed fabrics.

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It has a triple protection formula to prevent stretching or shrinking, fraying and thinning whilst also leaving your delicates feeling soft.

Pros: Great for delicates, protects from stretching, shrinking, fraying and thinning, suitable for machine washing and hand washing
Cons: Only lasts for approximately 12 washes, not strong enough for non-delicates, no child lock

Available from: Amazon, Wilko and Tesco

3. Fairy Non-Bio Washing Liquid for Sensitive Skin, £10

– Best for sensitive skin

Fairy Non-Bio Washing Liquid for Sensitive Skin

Type: Liquid | Number of washes: 54 washes | Biological/Non-biological: Non-biological

If you or someone in your household has sensitive skin it's important to get a washing powder or laundry detergent that's kind to your skin.

This Fairy Non-biological liquid lasts approximately 54 washes and has been voted the number 1 brand for sensitive skin in an online panel of 3,347 females ages 18-70. It has also been awarded the Skin Heath Alliance Seal "huggable soft for sensitive skin". It's very popular with parents of newborns.

As it's a liquid rather than a powder you can use this to pre-treat heavily stained clothes too.

Pros: Good for sensitive skin, lasts 54 washes, can be used to pre-treat stains
Cons: May not be as powerful as a biological option, no child lock

Available from: Ocado, Wilko and Amazon

4. Wilton London Laundry Liquid, £8.99

– Best for sustainability

Wilton London Laundry Liquid

Type: Liquid | Number of washes: 25 washes | Biological/Non-biological: Non-biological

Wilton London is a lovely sustainable option with a delightful cedarwood scent. It also has a matching fabric conditioner to make your laundry extra soft.

The laundry liquid has no bleach, dyes, optical brighteners or phosphates. It's completely plant-based and non-biological as well as being vegan-friendly and fully biodegradable.

This is also another great option if you have slightly sensitive skin. However, for really sensitive skin, we do still recommend the Fairy option above.

The fragrance is a gorgeous woody, citrusy and slightly spicy one. I have used this laundry liquid and found the scent to be great for the winter weather. For a more summery scent they have a Jasmine option.

The 1L bottle should last around 25 washes depending on dosage. Similar to the Fairy above, as it's a liquid it can be used for pre-treating stains too.

Pros: Plant-based, sustainable, vegan, biodegradable, lovely scent, can be used to pre-treat stains
Cons: Only lasts around 25 washes, no child lock

Available from: Lakeland, Amazon and Ocado

5. Smol 24 Capsule Pack, £5.30 per pack

– Best for subscription service

Smol 24 Capsule Pack

Type: Capsules | Number of washes: 25 washes | Biological/Non-biological: Non-biological and biological

Smol is an up-and-coming cleaning subscription service who deliver laundry capsules as often as you need them straight to your door. This is a great option if you struggle to get out the house or can't drive and don't want to carry a heavy washing powder or liquid back from the shops.

They have biological and non-biological capsules available and have been heavily tested. Smol believe in their capsules so much so that if you're not happy they will give you 100% of your money back.

They do not test on animals and their packaging is plastic-free and designed to take up minimum space with its clever compact design. The box even has a child lock closure to keep children safe.

All the capsules have a lovely but not overpowering scent too.

When signing up it asks you whether you want biological or non-biological capsules, how many capsules you want to put in for 1 wash and how many times a week you run your washing machine to work out how often they need to deliver to you.

To see if you like them they have a free trial too.

Pros: Delivery subscription, biological or non-biological, no animal testing, compact design, child lock, lovely scent, free trial available
Cons: Cannot pre-treat stains

Available from: Smol – Start your free trial now

6. Persil 3-in-1 Colour Capsules, £11

– Best for colours

Persil 3-in-1 Colour Capsules

Type: Capsules | Number of washes: 50 washes | Biological/Non-biological: Non-biological

Persil's Colour Protect capsules will help keep your colourful clothes vibrant and prevent them from fading over time.

The capsules are made from plant-based and biodegradable ingredients and come in a resealable pouch.

Inside the pouch are enough capsules to last approximately 50 washes. They dissolve fast and are tough on stains but gentle on colour.

Pros: Keep colours vibrant, plant-based, biodegradable, enough capsules for 5 washes
Cons: Not as tough on stains as biological, no child lock, cannot pre-treat stains

Available from: Amazon, Ocado and Waitrose

7. Napisan Non-Biological Stain Remover, £3.20

– Best for cloth nappies

Napisan Non-Biological Stain Remover

Type: Powder | Number of washes: 22 washes | Biological/Non-biological: Non-biological

If you're washing cloth nappies then you need to be sure that your laundry detergent is very hygienic and kills bacteria. This Napisan non-biological Stain Remover kills 99.9% of bacteria but is soft and shouldn't cause any irritation on your delicate baby's bottom.

However, it is recommended that you add this to regular laundry detergent, we recommend a sensitive option such as the fairy one above if you are cleaning cloth nappies.

Pros: Disinfects, sensitive, good for cloth nappies
Cons: Need to be used alongside another laundry detergent, no child lock

Available from: Wilko, The Range and Ocado

8. Ecoegg Laundry Egg, £9.99

– Best laundry detergent alternative

Ecoegg Laundry Egg

Type: Ecoegg| Number of washes: 70 washes | Biological/Non-biological: N/A

An alternative to washing power, liquid and capsules is this ecoegg. Inside the egg are 2 types of powerful cleaning pellets which activate in water. They produce a foam to clean your clothes. The egg is cleverly designed to weaken the adhesion between the dirt and your clothes' fibres and the pellets ionise the oxygen molecules to deeply penetrate and clean your fabric.

The ecoegg is kind to your skin and the pellets are gently fragranced to leave your clothes smelling fresh.

It's great value too, the ecoegg will last 70 washes. Once the pellets have run out, you can buy refills for £4.99 for 50 more washes.

The egg is eco-friendly as there are no chemicals to pollute the environment and no bulky packaging.

Pros: Kind to your skin, fresh fragrance, lasts 70 washes, affordable, eco-friendly
Cons: May not be as tough on stains as other options, cannot pre-treat stains

Available from: Lakeland and Amazon

9. Just Essentials by Asda Non-Bio Washing Powder, £2.30

– Best budget buy

Just Essentials by Asda Non-Bio Washing Powder

Type: Powder | Number of washes: 45 washes | Biological/Non-biological: Non-biological

This Asda washing powder is a great budget option. The box contains enough powder for approximately 45 washes and is non-biological so should be soft on your skin.

However, it may not be as tough on stains as some of the more expensive branded options.

Pros: Affordable, enough for 45 washes
Cons: Cannot pre-treat stains, no child lock, may not be as tough on stains as biological option

Available from: Asda

10. Persil Bio Stain Removal First Time Laundry Washing Liquid Detergent, £6.51

– Best for stains

Persil Bio Stain Removal First Time Laundry Washing Liquid Detergent

Type: Liquid | Number of washes: 53 washes | Biological/Non-biological: Biological

This washing liquid is for parents who's children walk into the house covered in mud, paint or just love to get messy. This Persil laundry detergent is biological and should remove tough stains on their first wash. It's made up of plant-based, biodegradable stain removers and will leave your clothes stain-free and smelling fresh.

There should be enough detergent in this bottle to last 53 washes. The super concentrated formula has allowed Persil to resize their bottle to reduce plastic but you still get just as much for your money.

Pros: Tough on stains, plant-based, biodegradable, lasts up to 53 washes, can use to pre-treat stains
Cons: Biological may not be good for sensitive skin, no child-lock

Available from: Amazon, Ocado and Sainsbury's

How did we choose our 10 of the Best?

When testing and selecting the best washing powders, liquids and capsules we considered number of washes, bio or non-bio, suitability for different garments and value.

Our 10 of the Best lists are compiled by qualified and experienced parenting journalists. They rely on a number of sources, including our independent reviews, testing undertaken during the MadeForMums Awards, and feedback from our home testing panel and Top Testers Club. Each year thousands of products are put through their paces by hundreds of parents across the country on behalf of MadeForMums, to ensure we’re bringing you honest and true reviews and recommendations.

Our list is not an ordered ranking from 1-10, instead it is a carefully selected group of tried-and-tested products, each of which we believe is best for a different situation or requirement. We don't just tell you what is best, we help you discover what is best for your family.

Biological vs non-biological washing detergent

We asked Lisa Williams, Executive Housekeeper at The Grand, York to explain the difference between bio and non-bio detergent, here is what she said:

"The main biological difference is the presence or absence of enzymes. Bio washing powder contains enzymes which help to break down heavy stains such as food, sweat, grass and grease. Non-bio detergent on the other hand, does not contain these enzymes, and is a gentler alternative which is why it's often more suitable for people with sensitive skin."

What should I use on different colours and fabrics?

We also asked Lisa's opinion of which method is best on certain colours and fabrics:

Colours – It's advised to use a special coloured detergent to keep colours bright and stop them from fading in the wash.

Silk, wool and cashmere – These items tend to be hand wash only, use a small amount of liquid detergent to avoid any leftover residue from powder. Pods may also be too concentrated for delicate fabrics.

Whites – White fabrics are fine to be washed with powder detergent, just always make sure they are in their own, separate wash.

What's the difference between detergent and washing powder?

"Washing powders are generally better at getting rid of clay stains whereas liquid detergents break down oil and grease stains more effectively. Sometimes, powders tend to leave a residue on clothes whereas liquid detergents don't because they dissolve in water," says Lisa Williams, Executive Housekeeper at The Grand, York.

What are the pros and cons of each method?

Washing powder

Pros: Affordable, good for clay stains

Cons: Can leave residue, can be messy, have to measure out

Liquid

Pros: Good for pre-treating stains, can be used for delicates, effective at removing oil and grease stains

Cons: More expensive than powder, can be messy, have to measure out

Capsules

Pros: Easy to use, no measuring needed, mess free, concentrated detergents

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Cons: More expensive, not suitable for delicates

About our expert

Lisa Williams is the an Executive Housekeeper at The Grand, York and knows everything there is to know about laundry and cleaning.

About the author

Chloe is a Digital Reviews Writer and Coordinator for Immediate Media's Parenting team. She researches and writes articles, recommending the best products for parents, ranging from best sleep aids to best playpens. She has a First-Class Honours Psychology degree where she developed a strong interest in child development.

Authors

Picture of Chloe Brightwell
Chloe BrightwellDigital Reviews Writer and Coordinator
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