Kinds Of Detergent & Which To Pick?

Doing the laundry is nothing new, for centuries, we’ve toiled over dirty clothing and linens. As early as 2800 BC humans were using soap-like materials to try to make the process easier. 

Nowadays there are more washing options and types of laundry detergent than ever before, which makes it tricky to separate real things from snappy marketing.

To help you make a decision, we’ve put together a knockout guide that will answer all the questions you might have about detergents and help you pick the right kind of detergent for your specific needs.

What Is Actually Laundry Detergent? 

The first point to make clear is that soap and laundry detergent are two entirely different things - they both create suds and can cleanse, but their chemical make-up differs significantly. While soap is made from natural ingredients such as animal fats heated and mixed with lye, detergents are synthetic and man-made. They contain petroleum-derived sulphates, enzymes, optical brighteners, dyes, perfumes and often, phosphates.

Laundry detergents are also highly water-soluble and are particularly effective in hard water. Unlike soap, they do not bind with the salts in hard water to create a scum, meaning no residues left on your clothing. Further, detergents emulsify dirt and hold it in suspension, meaning they mix with the dirt in your wash, lift it and allow it to be carried down the drain. 

Kinds Of Laundry Detergent 

There are four main types of laundry detergent, while the delivery method to your wash may vary, the vast majority will contain similar active ingredients. Most laundry detergents contain a huge cocktail of chemicals, which can be harmful to both you and your family. 

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular kinds of detergent and examine the key benefits and drawbacks of each solution:

#1 Liquid

Liquid detergents are often favored for their versatility, they can be used as a pre-treatment and for in the wash itself. 

Pros of the liquid laundry detergent:

  • They dissolve easily, will not leave powdery residues on your clothes like powders
  • They work very well on greasy marks
  • They work well in both hot and cold wash cycles
  • Come in a variety of fragrances and types such as sensitive, for colours or dark washes 

Cons of the liquid laundry detergent:

  • Messy, detergent jugs, no matter how careful you are, end up with a sludgy mess around the cap. 
  • They are packaged in heavy plastic jugs, most of which are not recycled and end up in landfill.
  • They are often 90% water, making them less cost-effective and with a larger carbon footprint due to increased weight for transport
  • Contains a host of toxic ingredients\

#2 Powder

Powdered detergents are typically one of the cheapest laundry detergents and are equally as effective as liquid options.

Pros of the powder laundry detergent:

  • Usually packaged in a cardboard box, which is kinder to the environment
  • Many contain oxygen bleach compounds that cannot be added to liquid detergents, making for a brighter, whiter wash
  • Available in a variety of fragrances and formulations such as those for sensitive skin, dark washes and colours.  

Cons of the powder laundry detergent:

  • Like liquid detergents, powder can easily make a huge mess in your laundry room. Spilled powders tend to infiltrate every crevice on the floor and can be a pain to clean up.
  • The cardboard box, while eco-friendly, isn’t really wet-room friendly and can break down in the damp laundry room environment. 
  • Do not always fully dissolve and have been known to leave long-lasting marks on dark clothing.
  • Contains a host of toxic ingredients

#3 Pods

Easily one of the most convenient and mess-free options, laundry pods are the kind of detergent that is increasing in popularity. The detergent is contained within a soluble resin that dissolves in contact with the wash water. 

Pros of laundry detergent pods:

  • Mess-free
  • Pre-measured
  • Highly concentrated, so no added water, making for less of a carbon footprint
  • They have a long-shelf-life

Cons of laundry detergent pods:

  • Laundry pods are a leading cause of household poisonings in children and pets due to their enticing fragrance and colourful appearance - they are highly toxic.  
  • They are one of the most expensive laundry detergent options
  • You cannot adjust the dose for smaller or larger loads, you have to have too much for small loads or add extra for large making it less economical

#4 Sheets

Sheets are the kind of laundry detergent that combines the mess-free benefits of a pod, with powerful cleansing ingredients all suspended in a biodegradable, water-soluble sheet. 

Pros of laundry detergent sheets:

  • Pre-measured
  • No unnecessary dilution with water offering powerful cleansing action 
  • No filler ingredients such as starch
  • Works the same in hot or cold water
  • Lightweight and travel friendly
  • Some sheets, such as those by Kind Laundry, are developed with non-toxic, biodegradable, plant-based ingredients. Making them safe for your household and the environment. 

Cons of laundry detergent sheets:

  • No pre-treatment option, though you can dissolve in water and soak an item before washing
  • Pre-measured sheets mean it may be harder to adjust the quantity to match the soil level of the load

So What Kind of Laundry Detergent Should You Choose?

When it comes to choosing the right type of laundry detergent, avoid being drawn in by bright packaging and snappy marketing. Always read the ingredients carefully, ensuring you avoid the worst offenders

In our opinion, the kind of detergent you should go for is the laundry detergent sheets. It checks all the boxes - cleans powerfully, without putting your household or the environment at risk of toxic exposure. It creates no-mess, is easy to store and contains no plastic waste! 

You can expect pristine wash results, with zero safety risk and a clear environmental conscience. If you are interested you can check them here.