Laundry on a budget: Best detergents for your buck


In this edition of Stretch Your Dollar, we teamed up with Consumer Reports to see how several laundry detergents measured up.

The latest in laundry detergents is pre-measured packs that give you the exact amount of detergent you need for an average load. No measuring required! Laundry packs may be handy, but Consumer Reports says there are drawbacks.

They tested packs from Tide, All, Arm & Hammer, Ajax, Purex, and Dropps.

Some of the packs are quick to dissolve in water, but that can be a problem if you have wet hands.

And there is also a safety concern. The American Association of Poison Control Centers has issued a warning about pack detergents. It's received more than 1,000 reports of children being injured or sickened by them.

As with all household cleaners, it's important to keep them out of children's reach.

As for how well the packs clean, Consumer Reports tested using swatches that had been soaked with tough-to-remove stains like wine and grass. The swatches were washed along with a full load of towels, then a machine analyzed the results.

Only one pack detergent -- Tide Pods -- cleaned well enough to earn a Consumer Reports recommendation. They cost 22 cents per load. You can use them in both front- and top-loading washing machines.

However, another Tide detergent -- a powder -- does an even better job of cleaning. It's Tide Ultra Plus Bleach for about the same price, but it can only be used in high-efficiency washers.

If you have a conventional top-loader, Consumer Reports says to consider powder laundry detergent Ultra Up & Up from Target. While it doesn't clean as well as the Tide detergents, it costs half as much.

Because of the dangers posed to children with laundry detergent packs, Tide says it's adding a safer double latch on its plastic containers. Consumer Reports says if your child is exposed to a detergent pack, serious side effects can occur quickly, so call the poison control helpline immediately.

And what about those "green" claims on certain laundry detergents?

Consumer Reports found that, in the past, manufacturers can make green claims without checks or federal standards. In fact, safety warnings for many detergents include eye, skin or respiratory irritation.

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