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Revealed: the laundry liquid stripped of Best Buy status

Liquids and gels can't match powder for cleaning

Ariel Excel gel

New Which? tests show that laundry liquids and gels simply can’t match the all-round cleaning power of powder and powder tablets.

We’ve tested a dozen of the most popular laundry liquids, concentrated liquids and gels and none meet our new, tougher Best Buy laundry detergent benchmark  – our experts found that they just aren’t as good at clearing coloured stains, such as grass, and they won’t keep your whites white. 

This means that reformulated Ariel gel is no longer a Which? Best Buy. You can find out which detergents did make the grade in our laundry detergent review.

Best laundry detergents

Liquids and gels don’t contain bleach, so they aren’t as effective on coloured stains, such as grass, blood, red wine and fruit juice. And they struggle in our whiteness test (which measures how bright whites are after six washes).

The best liquids and gels do clean food stains, grease and make-up just as well as the top-scoring powders – and won’t fade colours. However, our tests show that powder and powder tablets aren’t too far behind when it comes to colour fading.

Liquid gels

Concentrated ‘greener’ cleaning?

Almost all the detergents we’ve tested carry some kind of ‘green’ logo or statement on their packaging. It can be hard to differentiate between their eco credentials at a glance.

Laundry liquids that are concentrated or double-concentrated mean you need only a small amount per wash, so you get more washes from less packaging.

The packaging of Surf Small & Mighty and Ecover Non Bio state how much packaging and freight these products save. Ecover claims that 54% less packaging and two thirds fewer lorry loads were used in making its concentrated non-bio liquid compared with its regular 1.5-litre liquid. Surf claims that it uses half the amount of water, packaging and lorries compared with its old liquid.

Our full laundry detergents review reveals the greener cleaning tips that can save you money whilst you do your laundry. 

How does your detergent compare?

Below is a full list of the laundry powders, liquids, tablets and gels we’ve reviewed and rated. See how your usual detergent shapes up to the competition in our laundry detergents review.

Powder washing detergents tested include:
Ariel Bio with actilift – standard dose washing powder
Bold 2in1 washing powder
Ecover Non-Biological Ecological Integrated washing powder
Ecover non-biological ecological washing powder
Fairy Non-Bio washing powder
Formil Biological washing powder (Lidl)
Persil Bio washing powder
Persil original Non-Bio washing powder
Sainsbury’s Bio Biological Powder
Sainsbury’s Non-Bio Washing Powder
Surf biological washing powder with essential oils, tropical flowers & ylang ylang
Tesco Non-Bio Washing Powder

Powder tablet washing detergents tested include:
Aquados Simply Sensitive powder tablets
Ecover Biological Washing Tablets
Fairy non-bio powder tablets
Persil Bio powder tablets
Persil Original Non-Bio powder tablets

Liquid and gel washing detergents tested include:
Almat Biological liquid (Aldi)
Ariel Excel Gel with Actilift Biological gel
Ecover Biological liquid
Ecover Non Biological liquid
Essential Waitrose Biological laundry liquid wash 2 x concentrated
Essential Waitrose Non biological laundry liquid wash 2 x concentrated
Fairy Non Biological gel
Formil Biological liquid (Lidl)
Persil Biological Small & Mighty liquid
Persil Non Biological Small & Mighty liquid
Surf Small & Mighty liquid
Tesco 2 x concentrated Biological liquid

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