/ Home & Energy

Are you married to your branded washing detergent?

Trust, faith and delivering on promises – relationships depend on these principles. But are you too devoted to your costly, branded laundry detergent, or do you fancy a bit of own-label washing powder?

You might expect that throughout the recession, sales of big brand detergents would have fallen in favour of people choosing the more wallet friendly supermarket own-brand goods.

But in reality, the opposite is true.

It’s all about trust

The word on the street is that less than 20% of adults will regularly buy an own-label laundry detergent. Why such a small proportion? Well, it’s all about the assurance that your chosen detergent will get the job done.

Research by Mintel reveals that people value a detergent’s ability to remove tough stains over all other factors, including the cost. This is supported by the sales of own-label detergents falling over the course of the recession, with big brand products becoming more popular.

Are you loyal to branded detergents?

But just because people are buying branded goods, that doesn’t mean we’re buying the same name every time. Brand loyalty can waver in the face of a money-saving special offer, and research shows that people will use these offers to stock up for a while.

I’ll hold my hands up and admit I’m not good relationship material – I have pride in finding good deals but also a prejudice against supermarket brands. I have previously ignored supermarket own-label products because it feels like I’m taking a step into the unknown when it comes to quality (though I’m being rapidly re-educated thanks to Which?’s laundry detergent test).

But after this own-brand paranoia, comes the wellbeing of my bank account. If there’s a good detergent on offer, I’ll let any of them clean my laundry whether they’re branded or not.

Do you feel safer with big brand detergents? Do you feel they clean better? And if you are a big brand detergent fan – do you have a favourite brand that you stay loyal to, or will you switch depending on what’s on offer at the time?

What type of laundry detergent do you usually buy?

Big brand detergent and the same one every time (34%, 99 Votes)

Big brand detergent, but whatever's on offer (28%, 81 Votes)

Supermarket own-label detergents (21%, 60 Votes)

Whatever is cheapest at the time (17%, 50 Votes)

Total Voters: 290

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I only use Supermarket brands since I found very little difference in the results – but I still will only use Fairy washing up ;liquid.

Sophie Gilbert says:
30 March 2012

I bought a liquid detergent recently at Lidl’s. I couldn’t name you the brand without going in the kitchen and looking it up. I’ve used it a few times now and it doesn’t seem to be doing a worse (or better) job than any other detergent I’ve ever bought.

Sophie Gilbert says:
15 April 2012

Yesterday at Tesco’s I found this: Tesco Value Biological Concentrated Laundry Liquid, 28 washes, in a 1 litre bottle, £1.65. That’ll do me fine.

I’ve been reading Which? for years and it has always struck me that the supermarket detergents
don’t do as well as the brand leaders in Which? tests, no matter it if is powder, liquid or (with one or two exceptions of products that are from non-UK supermarket chains). Supermarket detergents are ‘me-too’ products and don’t have the same investment or innovation as the big brands.
I’d rather buy a big brand when it is on special offer than a supermarket own-brand.
I’m a mucky pup and I’ve found that supermarket own-brands just can’t cope with the salad dressing I usually dribble down my top!

Apparently you can make your own laundry detergent with 4 readily available ingredients. Is it cheaper – and is it better?

I reckon the home made detergent question is a can of worms. There will be many thousands of people who believe (and will give anecdotal evidence to show) that home made detergent is better, more environmentally friendly – and cheaper. I personally think modern detergents do a complex job under difficult circumstances and have highly technical ingredients that can’t be mimmicked. But then again, that’s just what they want us to believe 😉

There are lots of uses for basic cheap things such as vinegar for example, which people have written countless books about and possibly millions of people (albeit a minority) swear by them as alternatives to expensive chemical based commercial products.

At the end of the day I wouldn’t like to call it, but I can see the logic in arguments both for and against making your own detergent.

I think Which? would serve us well to do some proper tests. If they make some as described in the video, and then do the same tests as when testing Persil etc. the report back to us I think a lot of members would be very interested in the results.

Hopefully Which? can see some merit in testing and comparing not just commercial products, but also the increasingly popular money-saving and environmentally-friendly alternatives such as this.

Hi Adrian

None of them ingredients are strong chemicals and one of them – Soda Crystals – I’ve used for years without any problems, as it’s cheaper than Calgon and does the same thing i.e. softens water.

“Unsuitable detergents or chemicals” would refer to corrosive products such as chlorine bleach!

Liquid soap flakes don’t cause excess foam (the other type does). Ordinary laundry detergents do create a *lot* of foam if you use even slightly too much or wash a small load.

Hi Adrian

Oxygen bleach is NOT the same as the chlorine bleach you clean the toilet with. In fact oxygen bleach is found in ordinary laundry detergent and laundry stain removers (read the ingredients on a box of washing powder, the ones with green cardboard, not the “colour friendly” detergents). Consider that the manufacturer of these products (Dri-Pak) would not be recommending these products in a washing machine if they were corrosive – and the fear of being sued.

Looking at how easy it is to make this concoction, it may be cheaper to make and work as good – or better – than any branded detergent. I know that soda crystals work well and I soak pans or oven dishes with soda crystals and it always loosens stuck-on food and does not harm my skin. I don’t use it on aluminium because it discolours aluminium (this is not corrosion).

Which? could test this mixture and recommend that people check with the appliance manufacturer before use (the same advice they give to consumers when using “3 in 1” and “combination” dishwasher tablets), but I doubt it does any harm at all. I’m happy to pay my monthly Which? subscription, but Which? should consider testing products that their members ask to be tested. I’m not the only person who would like Which? to test this home-made mixture. In the past, I’ve asked if Which? would test “ISE” washing machines, which could benefit consumers with their long guarantees and cheap repairs; again I had a lukewarm response. Please Which? – test more products which could REALLY benefit consumers instead of just testing popular branded products from companies only interested in profit. You are supposed to be helping consumers.

I’m puzzled as to why Dri-Pak does not mass produce this ‘home made’ laundry mixture for people to buy? If anyone has used any home-made laundry mixtures like this, I hope it works out cheaper and cleans just as well. The rising cost of living means that people are looking for cheaper alternatives everywhere.

Which? could easily test lesser-known brands which could benefit consumers (or be waste of money!). Looking at the number of washing machines tested by Which?, as an example, look at the number of Indesit and Hotpoint washing machines tested – lots! Yes these are the popular brands, but I know (and I expect many readers will also know) that they are not very reliable compared to brands such as Miele and Siemens. I asked if Which? could test “ISE” washing machines as ISE only produce TWO washing machines; one is hot and cold fill and the other is cold-fill only. Both have 10-year guarantees and claim to offer cheap repairs.

Please consider testing lesser known brands and see if we would be better off buying them. I’m happy to see Which has tested the “almost unheard of” computer software e.g. the free LibreOffice. Looking at the “customer views” for LibreOffice on this website, it has positive reviews and using it will save people from spending money on expensive Office software.

Yes I remember the carpet stain remover tests with fizzy water. 😀

I would imagine relatively few people would be bothered to make their own detergent, a very small percentage of people indeed. However, in a way, although Which? members may tend to be (generally speaking) slightly more affluent and have less “need” to try and save money they may well be more inclined to make efforts to recycle, and switch to more natural environmentally friendly products?

I also think Which? should lead, and not just be led. I’m sure they do a healthy mix of both though.

Andy says:
26 April 2012

Hello guys,

I have sat infront of me
*Tesco 20 colour Capsules (Bio)
*Persil 20 colour Capsules (Small and mighty Bio)

I was wondering if the tesco brand has been tested to date. After reading all the reviews on the website I have decided to use Daz powder for all my whites with an occasional 60 degree wash for towels and bed sheets. But for colours is there really that much difference between the Tesco and the Persil?

What happens if I decide to use the Tesco brand with a stain remover like Vanish Oxi Action fabric stain remover? Would that level the playing field?

M. James says:
3 June 2012

We changed from using a big-name washing detergent (Ariel) to Lidl’s Formil Biological washing powder a couple of year’s ago after a favourable Which? report. True to the report we have had excellent washes with it for a fraction of the cost. We were surprised it wasn’t included in the latest report on Bio powders in the current Which? magazine (June edition). Are they changing their formula?

C Gibbs says:
17 June 2012

Similar to M James I was also surprised when I read the June report why Lidl’s Formil Biological powder was not included in the report and no mention as to why not. Even in the January 2012 Which report on washing powders (pg 42) Which stated: ‘Use Best Buy Lidl Formil Biological
Powder rather than Ariel with Actilift Biological Tablets for four washes a week and you could save £44 a year.’ We have been using the Formil powder with good results so why was it not included in the June test?

Raymond Sweeney says:
25 June 2012

I got an itchy rash on my stomach. Went to dr. First question he asked was, “Did you change your washing powder?”. I said, “Yes, I changed to LIDL’S W5”. As soon as I reverted to Persil the rash disappeared. I have to admit that I was the only one of 7 in the house thus affected.

Peter says:
26 June 2012

I’m with David on this one. I look to Which? to do the things the average Joe cannot do. I might be prepared to make my own cleaner, if it were viable. One needs to know the risks and downsides, as well as the advantages. I have been disappointed that Which? have not tested Delta Bio and Morrison’s ‘M’ Bio, which appear to be very good value for money and that there has never been a comment on the need for total rinsing, or if there is any difference in the quantity of water needed to thoroughly rinse out each product.

Go for it! Make the cleaner and use LIQUID soap flakes – they don’t cause excess foam like the standard soap flakes! It may be cheaper per wash if you can order the packs in bulk somewhere.

@Raymond Sweeney
Is rinsing to blame? One sign of rinsing trouble is when dark clothes have white streaks after the final spin – this is a clear sign of detergent residues not rinsed off. Any wonder why people are having allergic reactions to laundry detergents? Even if “extra rinse” settings are not helping, you may have to run a full rinse and spin cycle afterwards. I have always said that people are allergic to detergents because they have not been rinsed off properly. This problem is more widespread now, because modern washing machines use barely any water to rinse, compared to 20 years ago and before, when washing machines would fill up to nearly half the drum with water per rinse. Be sure you are not overloading as this will make the problem worse. Mix large and small items of laundry for best results. Hope that helps? 🙂

Save Dosh says:
27 June 2012

Hi, i personally buy branded, when on offer, as i have allergic reactions to many powders, so i use persil no bio liquid for my colours and surf bio liquid for my whites, which i buy when on offer. I have posted a link to the washing gloop you refer, which is discussed in detail on the money saving expert, hope it helps people http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=35756&page=4

dave says:
10 July 2012

Having worked in manufacturing of detergents for almost 20 years , all i can say is you pay for what you get ! Most if not all cheaper products contain very little active ingredients or goodies. One thing i will say is stick with powder . And don’t use liquids or gels unless you like replacing your washing machine every few years .

On what basis will liquids or gels will shorten the life of a washing machine, Dave?

My washing machine is 30 years old and I have been using liquids since they became available at a reasonable price. I switched because some of the powder tended to stick in the tray and I did not want detergent getting into the rinsing water.

liam1 says:
11 July 2012

Hi Dave,

Are commerically available detergents safe. I been seeing more and more recently that they are really not good for us (especially fabric softeners) causing an array of things, even cancers?

Would you say this is true.


Ben Monk says:
22 October 2012

If liquids and gels were bad for washing machines then surely they wouldn’t be sold or made in the first place? Why are they bad anyway as they are fully dissolved whereas powders contain filler which doesn’t get dissolved.