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Best washing powder: Keeping your clothes looking fresh and vibrant

Learn how to beat tough stains with our handy buying guide

Washing powder may not be the sexiest thing to read about, but if your clothes are smelly, stained or lacklustre, then you’re unlikely to be commanding much attention either! A decent washing powder is therefore a must. And there’s probably more to consider when choosing a product than you may have realised.

Are gel, liquid or capsule products better than your traditional box of washing powder? Should you wash your smalls in the same detergent as your table cloth? Should you buy bio or non-bio options? The good news is that we’re here to answer all those questions and plenty more, as well as providing a list of the products we think are the best on the market.

READ NEXT: The best washer dryers you can buy

Best washing powder: At a glance

Best all-rounderAriel Washing Powder Original (~£6)Check price at Amazon
Best non-bio laundry detergentFairy Non-Bio Washing Powder (~£10)Check price at Amazon
Best for removing makeup stainsSainsbury’s Bio Washing Powder (~£4.75)Check price at Sainsbury’s
Best for washing delicatesEcover Delicate Laundry Liquid (~£5.65)Check price at Ecover Direct

How to choose the best washing powder for you

What types of washing detergents are there?

Biological washing powder These contain an optical brightener to stop clothes going grey and, with the exception of powders designed for coloured laundry, they include a bleaching agent to tackle both everyday and more stubborn stains. On the downside, a spill can see washing powder granules end up everywhere, and it can even clog up your deterrent drawer. A regular maintenance wash at 60 degrees can help solve the latter problem.

Non-biological washing powder Bio detergents contain enzymes that are good at tackling stains even at low temperatures and on quick wash cycles, but non-bio detergents do not. But since the latter are gentler on the skin and don’t contain any fragrance, non-bio detergents are far better suited to babies and those with sensitive skin.

Liquids and gels These are more expensive than a traditional box of washing powder, but they won’t get stuck in the detergent drawer. They work well at keeping colours vibrant, but they don’t contain bleach, so aren’t the best for stains. They’re great for everyday washing of items with low-level dirt, if you’re prepared to pay the higher price tag. Using them at low temperatures can cause a build-up of mould in the machine, but a regular maintenance wash at 60 degrees can help.

Liquid capsules These capsules are the newest kid on the block, and although they’re the most expensive out of all the options here, they’re also the lowest maintenance – you don’t have to take a guess over how much to use; simply use one capsule per wash. Note that liquid capsules are better for higher temperature washes since they don’t always dissolve at lower ones.

How much do I need to spend?

Some supermarket own-brand detergents come in at just 10p a wash, while products from the big brands can cost upwards from 40p per wash. But as you’ll see from our roundup, paying for the more expensive detergent doesn’t necessarily guarantee better results. In fact, some of the pricier brands didn’t even make it into our list. Also, be sure to shop around for special offers.

Should I use a different kind of detergent for wool, silk and other delicates?

Yes, you should wash these fabrics in a specialist detergent that’s free of both bleach and enzymes.

The best washing powders you can buy in 2023

1. Ariel Washing Powder Original: Best all-rounder and best at keeping your whites looking white

Price when reviewed: £6 | Check price at Amazon

You may remember your own mum using this – and with good reason. It keeps your whites looking as good as new, rather than turning them grey. In fact, we couldn’t find any another washing detergent that managed to keep our whites whiter. It keeps coloured items in tip-top condition, too.

Plus, it did well with the likes of mud, sweat and grass too. We thought it might fall down when it came to food-and-drink stains – but again, it surpassed our expectations. It works a treat on both cotton and manmade fabrics, making it a great all-rounder in every sense.

Key specs – Pack size: 20 capsules; Number of washes: 40; Cost per wash: 15p

2. Fairy Non-Bio Washing Powder: Best non-bio laundry detergent

Price when reviewed: £10 | Check price at Amazon

Non-bio detergents aren’t known for their stain-removing qualities since aren’t made up of the same enzymes as their “bio” counterparts. But that’s not to say they won’t get rid of any stains. Fairy’s Non Bio actually did surprisingly well at removing mud, grass and drink stains, but didn’t fare so well when it came to food and grease.

However, if you want a non-bio that won’t irritate babies or sensitive skin, then this is our top recommendation. It’s better on cotton than man-made fabrics and it will fade colours over time – but, unfortunately, that’s the nature of the beast with non-bio powders. It isn’t cheap, though.

Key specs – Pack size: 650g; Number of washes: 10; Cost per wash: 35p

3. Sainsbury’s Bio Washing Powder: Best washing powder for removing makeup stains

Price when reviewed: £4.75 | Check price at Sainsbury’sbest washing powder Sainsbury’s Bio Washing Powder

There aren’t many washing powders that excel at tackling makeup stains; even if an item of clothing has been run through an intense cycle, it’s still likely to emerge with some mark. Yet this washing powder makes it look like a breeze. Lipstick marks? No problem. Foundation stains? Piece of cake. Sainsbury’s washing powder performed well at everything else too, although it isn’t quite as good as some of the other detergents when it comes to keeping whites white.

Also note that, like many others, it does result in colour fading in the long-term. Nevertheless, for a budget powder – the cheapest in our roundup, in fact – this is an excellent detergent that smells great and dissolves exceptionally well in the machine.

Key specs – Pack size: 2.6kg; Number of washes: 40; Cost per wash: 10p

Check price at Sainsbury’s

4. Ecover Delicate Laundry Liquid: Best for washing delicates

Price when reviewed: £5.65 | Check price at Ecover Direct

For washing wools, silks and fine fabrics, it’s wise to use a dedicated non-bio cleaner and this is far and above our favourite. Woolmark approved, it works well for both hand-washing and in the washing machine on low temperatures. A lambswool jumper on a quick wash and a silk top on a delicates wash both came out as a good as new.

Since it’s completely biodegradable (exceeding legislative requirements in this area), you don’t need to worry about it harming the environment; it isn’t tested on animals, either. We found it did a grand job on all our delicates and we love the eco-friendly credentials; even the packaging is recyclable.

Key specs – Pack size: 750ml; Number of washes: 16; Cost per wash: 23p

Check price at Ecover Direct

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