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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?


Hi David, we would not be able to say without testing it – but personally I’d be wary. I’m not sure if I would trust myself to mix a perfect blend of washing detergent, and should you accidentally ruin a wash or damage your machine (should it froth up and block the inlet valves in the detergent drawer for instance) you wont be able to hold others accountable.

Also, I saw it stipulated in a washing machine warranty last week that it was a violation of the deal to use ‘unsuitable detergents or chemicals’ in your wash, which home made remedies could fall into.


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.


Thanks for your comment whitegoodshelp – and I must admit it has sparked a bit of a heated debate in the product testing department! I’m sorry to say we currently do not have any plans to test home made detergents. Though it would be very interesting to see if we could concoct our own detergent that is cheaper and more effective, we do have an issue with recommending the mixing and storing of chemicals.

We also have to factor in that store bought goods are vastly more popular, and so we are concentrating our efforts in testing the supermarket and big brand cleaning detergents available and will be publishing our results in the June issue of the magazine, and online on our Laundry Detergents reviews pages. (The current results we have online were last updated in January of this year.)


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 David, I’ve done a little investigation and though was told that the manufacturer recommends professionally made detergents (as you’d expect)… but when I listed the ingredients they said it all sounded fine – except for the oxygen bleach, which seems a little strange as that is found in some professional cleaning detergents anyway. I think the answer here is that if you’re thinking of making your own washing detergent and you’re worried about the warranty on your machine, it would be worth phoning the manufacturer to see if you’re covered – seems a little extreme but could be worth erring on the side of caution.


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.


To date we have not had any feedback asking us to test home made washing detergent, although we have often compared traditional cleaning methods (i.e. salt and fizzy water versus carpet stain removers) in our magazine articles.

The difference with this idea is that it would involve mixing up household chemicals and creating the product that we would test, which is not the first step that most consumers are prepared to make. We would not be able to recommend a carefully formulated, tested and controlled retail product, but instead a chemical recipe. Even if we did track down the best concoctions on the web, we could not guarantee that people would be able to replicate it perfectly, especially those with no prior knowledge of the individual ingredients. The bleach issue is a good example, should people confuse oxygen and chlorine bleach they could do damage to their machine or more importantly to themselves.

My previous comment does mention that oxygen bleach is found in some laundry detergents, which is why I thought it was strange that it would void the warranty from the manufacturer I approached.

I’m sorry to deliver disappointing news, we do try to test products that Which? members ask for – but we don’t have an unlimited testing budget and have to make sure the majority of members would be interested and benefit from the money that we spend on research.