Is there such a thing as a perfect laundry detergent? That was the first question I asked myself when, after almost 4 years of using a wash and fold service, we finally purchased a washer and dryer. I must have spent at least two months reading various reviews, trying to figure out where to start, and finally singled out the top two recommended brands: Tide (huge in North America) and Persil (one of the biggest names in Europe). Read on to find out how they stack up!
And yes, I definitely understand both ladies in the picture above – laundry is hands down my favorite chore! While you might not see me hugging a box of detergent too often, I most certainly get excited about trying out new products, choosing new favorite scents and trying to find the absolute best laundry detergent out there.
All of the reviewed detergents are HE or HE compatible and contain enzymes unless otherwise noted (detergents with enzymes are not recommended for wool, silk and other delicate fabrics).
Update March 12, 2015: This review is about German-made Henkel Persil. If you are looking to read about the US version of Persil, Persil ProClean sold at Walmart, I posted about it here in detail and with before/after pictures.
All of the products were purchased by me personally, and I have not received any kind of compensation for this review. The post does contain some affiliate links.
- Persil Universal Megaperls – powder
- Persil Color Megaperls – powder
- Tide HE Plus Bleach Alternative – liquid
- Tide HE Plus Colorguard – liquid
- Tide HE Plus Bleach Alternative – powder
- Large granules with blue flecks; meant for whites
- Extremely powerful stain removal
- 5 enzymes, OBAs and oxy bleach among its ingredients
- Scent strong in box, medium on clothes
- Available online only
- Purchase price: $15 for an 18 load pack (1.2 kg)
- Cost per load: $0.83 at recommended dosage, around $0.41 at my rate
- Where to buy: Amazon.com, persilstore.com
The Persil Universal Megaperls detergent is meant primarily for whites, even though the “universal” part in the name might lead you to think otherwise. It contains OBAs, oxygen bleach and TAED to activate the oxy bleach at lower temperatures, as well as five enzymes in a highly concentrated formula. In my 2 cu.ft. machine with moderately hard water I use on average 2-2.5 Tbsp of the granulated detergent, which means an “18 load” pack lasts me for months, and some people can go as low as 3/4-1 Tbsp of detergent (I have never had much luck with super low doses though).
The cleaning power is AWESOME – whites come out brilliantly white, and it even “cured” some old pillowcase dinginess for me (see the picture at the bottom of this post). The scent is a traditional, clean one (not fruity or floral, which is a huge plus for me) and in my machine at the dosage I use it has medium staying powder. I do prefer to use a touch of fabric softener on sheets that I wash with this Persil, otherwise they have a lot of wrinkles out of the dryer, but I find that to be the case with most powder detergents that contain zeolites.
This is one of my two preferred detergents for whites, and my go-to for heavily soiled laundry – nothing gets white socks as clean. I also add about 3/4 Tbsp of sodium percarbonate (an oxygen bleach) to each super dirty load, and use the Heavy Soil/Extra White/Hot settings in my Miele W3038 to imitate a profile wash – the washer fills with cold water that then gets gradually heated with the internal heater (this gives more time for the enzymes to do their thing, since they work best at warm temperatures). That combination has removed mascara, red wine sauce, blood, espresso – even on clothes that had not been washed immediately.
- Large granules with pink flecks; meant for colors
- Powerful stain removal
- No OBAs or oxy bleach – safe for darks and saturated colors; contains five enzymes
- Fresh scent similar to the Universal version, rinses out well
- Available online only
- In my machine leaves clothes stiff without added softener
- Purchase price: $19 for an 18 load pack (1.2 kg)
- Cost per load: $1.05 at recommended dosage, $0.52 at my rate
- Where to buy: Amazon.com, persilstore.com
Persil Color Megaperls is one of those rare powder detergents that combine strong cleaning power (five enzymes!) and do not contain oxy bleach or, more importantly, OBAs, which can give dark clothes a faded/gray look with regular use. The cleaning power is very decent, especially considering that you use cooler water for darks and colors. The scent is clean, similar to the Universal but slightly stronger, with medium to strong staying power at my dosage of 2.5 Tbps/load. Overall, this detergent fills a rare niche: well-cleaning HE powder detergent with enzymes and without OBAs (only other example I can think of is MieleCare UltraColor, and Cheer Powder
for those who are willing to risk a non-HE detergent in and HE machine Update May 2015: Cheer powder is now HE compatible!! Read more in this post.). Only cons are that in my machine it leaves clothes feeling rather stiff, more so that the Universal version, and doesn’t always tackle stubborn greasy stains (but liquids are known to better for those types of stains than powders). I also find the scent to be a little on the strong side, and much prefer the way the Universal version smells.
I use this for all my dark and saturated colors, as well as for heavily soiled medium/light colors and towels that need some extra cleaning (on a regular basis I prefer liquid detergents for bath towels, so that they come out softer). It’s common practice in Europe to use different products for whites and colors, while in the US most people prefer the convenience of one universal detergent, which probably explains why alternatives are so difficult to come by.
- Dark blue thick liquid; meant for whites
- Strong cleaning power, almost as good as Persil Universal
- Contains borax and four enzymes
- Stronger scent than Persil, more prominent on fabric
- Leaves clothes softer than powder detergents
- Regular use of liquid detergents (especially with cold water) may cause smells in front loaders
- Purchase price: around $4 for a 5 load bottle (10 oz.)
- Cost per load: $0.80 for 10 oz. bottle, $0.28 for 69 oz. bottle
- Where to buy: Amazon.com, Target, local grocery and big box stores
I purchased a small 10 oz bottle of Tide HE Plus Bleach Alternative for one reason: I needed a liquid detergent for whites to wash my wedding dress, but didn’t want to spend $20 on Persil Universal liquid. After the deed was done (and very successfully, to my great relief), I decided to use the rest of the bottle up on some regular white loads, and was very pleasantly surprised! It cleans almost as well as Persil, has a slightly stronger scent, and left grimy socks very clean, however did not tackle sweat odors on exercise gear as well as other options. An added bonus was that it left clothes softer than the powders, and the liquid can be used as a pretreater on especially stubborn stains. I will gladly repurchase and use in my rotation.
There is also an HE powder version of this that gets very good Consumer Reports ratings (you can read more about it here, on The Sweet Home blog), however I did notice that the powder only has two enzymes vs the liquid’s four.
Some of the reviews mention this detergent leaving purple spots on clothes, but I personally have never experienced that. I wash whites on Hot (140F) or Sanitize (160F), which might help it dissolve properly.
One major con – it seems that regular use of liquid detergents might lead to the so-called “stinky washer syndrome”, i.e. mold and smells in front loaders. One of the solutions is running at least one wash in hot water with a powdered detergent a week, and of course wiping off the gasket and leaving the door open between uses.
- Creamy orange thick liquid; meant for colors
- Average cleaning power at recommended dose
- Contains OBAs, so not the best choice for darks and saturated colors; contains three enzymes and borax
- Very strong, lingering scent
- Advertised as a replacement for Tide Total Care; leaves laundry nice and soft
- Purchase price: $7.99 with $2 off coupon for 36 load bottle (69 oz. – regular price $9.99)
- Cost per load: $0.28 at regular price, $0.22 when factoring in coupon
- Where to buy: Amazon.com, Target, local grocery and big box stores
I had heard lots of good things about the Tide Total Care line, but of course when I decided to try it out it had just been discontinued. Tide recommends Tide Plus Colorguard as a replacement for the Total Care, but there is a bit of confusion there with the ingredients posted on the website being VERY different between the two products (you can compare here and here), and the Colorguard version not including all of the “color care” ingredients that Total Care had. This detergent contains OBAs, but according to Tide the concentration is low enough not to fade darks. I personally am not willing to risk it, so only use it on light and medium colors.
The cleaning power is decent at the full recommended dosage, but when I tried to scale down and use less than the first fill line, I had some issues with odors lingering on gym clothes and berry stains not fully washing out of kitchen towels. It also leaves clothes softer than powders.
My main issue with this detergent is the scent: it is VERY strong, and even when used at half of the lowest recommended dosage (halfway to fill line 1), I still have to make sure to air the clean clothes out for a couple of days. Surprisingly enough, it smells stronger on clothes than in the bottle! So if you are sensitive to scents, this might not be for you, however after some trial and error I have found the perfect solution: I use this on towels at a dose of 3/4 to fill line 1 with an added extra rinse. This leaves the towels soft and fluffy without any added softener (more so than with any powder detergent!), and leaves a medium lingering scent on them. I prefer more fragrance on towels than on clothes – that way they still smell nice when you take them out of the closet 2+ weeks after washing.
- Fine powder with blue flecks; meant for whites
- Strong cleaning power when used at recommended dose
- Contains OBAs, oxygen bleach and two enzymes
- Medium strong fresh and clean pleasant scent
- HE version is hard to find offline
- Consistently gets high rankings from Consumer Reports
- Purchase price: $12 for 53 load box (95 oz.)
- Cost per load: $0.23
- Where to buy: Amazon.com, Target
Tide Plus Bleach Alternative can be described as the North American Persil Universal Megaperls – both are strong powdered cleaners with a fresh, clean scent that is not overpowering. Both offer great stain removal and have OBAs and oxygen bleach added, and both are virtually impossible to buy offline (the non-HE version of Tide is in every grocery store and Target, but the HE version is not easy to come by). Both contain zeolites (Tide lists them as Sodium Aluminosilicate, Persil names them Zeolites) and leave clothes a little stiff without added softener. There are, however, some differences.
First of all, the Tide is a true powder while the Megaperls are larger granules that I personally find more convenient – less dust and easier to measure (although Persil offers a powdered version too: Persil Universal Powder). Secondly, in my experience I have to use at least the smallest recommended dosage of Tide (60 ml or 4 Tbsp) to get good results, while with Persil I can go down to 2 Tbsp, or half of what the package recommends. Thirdly, it has only two enzymes vs Persil’s five, and last but not least I find Persil to be slightly more reliable. With Tide I’ve had some variations – socks will come out super clean in one load, and not quite as perfect the next.
If you do a lot of white loads and cost starts to become important, this is a great HE powder option. According to the Tide website, they offer 53, 95 and 125 load packages, and buying in bulk would bring the cost per load down even more. I currently alternate between the two on light to medium soiled white loads, and find myself slightly preferring the scent of Tide. However, P&G are notorious for “improving” scents multiple times a year, so this could change! (Update February 6, 2015: I might have jinxed it, because P&G just changed the Original scent and it is now sweet and fruity, somewhat reminiscent of Juicy Fruit gum, which I am hugely disappointed in.)
I definitely had a fun time reviewing all these detergents. My method of testing is pretty simple: I used every one of the listed products at least several times on different loads of laundry: from strongly soiled ones containing gym clothes and cleaning cloths with wine and berry stains, to fine work clothes to fluffy bath towels. I then made notes of what I did and did not like about the results, and compared them to each other, trying to figure out which of these detergents come close to perfect and which I personally would repurchase.
In my opinion the better detergent for colors is Persil Color Megaperls. While I am not 100% satisfied with it due to the scent not being fully to my taste and the stiffness issue, I definitely prefer the lighter scent and lack of OBAs that Persil offers compared to the Tide Plus Colorguard. However, for my next purchase I will be testing out the MieleCare UltraColor detergent – it is not cheap at $40 for a 48 load box (I like that Persil has the smaller, 18 load packs available so you can test the detergent out before committing to a larger size), but I am curious whether it will leave clothes softer (it does not contain zeolites) and how it will stack up against the Megaperls in terms of cleaning power.
Update May 2015: Cheer Powder is now (finally!) HE compatible and is a great inexpensive option for those wanting to test out a detergent without OBAs. You can read more about it here. However, since there is still plenty of old stock, I’d recommend buying offline if you can to make sure that you get a new box with the HE logo.
As for singling out the best detergent for whites, that’s a tougher choice, since both Tide and Persil perform very well. For me personally, the winner is Persil Universal Megaperls, just because I have found it to be more consistently reliable than Tide, and after the most recent scent change of Tide Plus Bleach Alternative I definitely prefer the scent of Persil. Since both products have to be ordered online (I have not been able to find the HE version of Tide anywhere locally, so ease of purchase does not come into play), Persil comes in more convenient smaller packaging and we do on average just two white loads a week, making the price difference not a deciding factor, I will continue to buy Persil. I also want to give Miele UltraWhite a try, but have to finish up at least one of my current detergents for whites first.
Wrapping up the Tide and Persil chapter, I hope this has been helpful! Both brands offer plenty of other options, which I will eventually get around to testing, but for now I can’t wait to share my experience with other, lesser known brands. Stay tuned for more laundry info.
Update March 12, 2015: When I wrote this blog post only German Persil was available for purchase online. A couple of weeks ago the US version of Persil, Persil ProClean became available at Walmart stores nationwide! If you would like to read my review of Persil ProClean, check out this blog post from March 2015. Lots of pictures in there!
Have you tried any of these detergents? Do you have any others that are your favorites? Please share in the comments!