FWIW-Consumer Reports new detergent ratings

Tracey_OHJune 3, 2009

From the July 2009 issue:

Top rated conventional detergents-(p=powder l=liquid)

1. Tide 2x ultra with color clean bleach alternative (l)

2. Tide 2x ultra for cold water (l)

3. Tide 2x ultra with dawn stain scrubbers (l)

4. Tide 2x ultra with a touch of downy (l)

5. Simplicity hypoallergenic non-toxic 2x (l)

6. Era 2x ultra with oxi booster (l)

***note-these last three were only rated as fair to good***

7. Gain 2x ultra with bleach alternative

9. Cheer 2x ultra dark formula color guard (l)

  1. Tide with bleach with color clean (p)

Top Rated HE detergents

1. Tide 2x ultra with color clean bleach alternative HE (l)

2. Cheer 2x ultra color guard for high efficiency HE (l)

3. Tide 12x ultra original HE (l)

4. Seventh Generation Natural Powdered HE (p)

5. Gain 2x ultra original Fresh HE (l)

6. SA8 Premium with Bioquest HE(p)

7. Kirkland signature free&clear ultra 2x (l)

8. Wisk dual action 3x concentrated HE (l)

9. Method squeaky green 3x concentrated HE (l)

  1. Seventh Generation 2x ultra blue eucalyptus&lavender HE (l)

The worst rated conventional detergents were from the bottom up, Xtra, Sun Burst, and Arm&Hammer. The bottom three on HE detergents were Purex and All.

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Thanks for posting this! The HE list pretty much mirrors my experience, except that Tide TotalCare isn't listed at all -- I love it for nice clothes, now that I can't find the Cheer ColorGuard HE at the store anymore.

I also wonder if/why they didn't test any of the Sears Ultra Plus formulas? My favorite is the Stain Fighting Formula (powder). I use it on jeans, tee shirts, work clothes, etc. It cleans my laundry really well -- probably because it has enzymes in it. When I buy it on sale, it's unbelievably inexpensive, compared to the brands listed on CR's list.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sears Ultra Plus Detergent - liquid & powder formulas

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 8:15PM
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So out of the top 20 detergents according to their ratings, only 3 were powders? That really doesn't seem to jive with what folks around here have seen, both in performance and (potential) washer-clogging effects. And then there's the issue with Tide (and other detergent) buildup that many have reported and that CR - I think - doesn't test at all.

I'm also surprised they tested Kirkland and not the Sears Ultra Plus since they are both "store brands." Not really surprised they didn't test Charlie's but I am disappointed.

For those of us who don't subscribe to CR can you briefly describe their testing methodology?

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 11:46PM
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Sears Ultra Plus Stain Fighting Formula 9835 Fresh Scent was ranked #29 out of 31 detergents on the conventional detergent list with a score of 31/100 total possible points. Bear in mind that the #1 detergent on this list (Tide 2x ultra with color clean bleach alternative) only received a 66/100.

There was a mention of Tide Total Care in the article. "It did well at protecting the color of several cotton dresses after 30 washes. But Tide's 2x ultra cold-water detergent protected color comparably and cleaned better for far less"

Here is the guide to the ratings. "Overall score based on warm, hard-water washing performance of cotton swatches heavily soiled with blood, mud, chocolate ice cream, grass, red wine, ring around the collar, and tea. Displayed scores are rounded; products are listed in order of precise overall score. Note that many detergents brightened white swatches significantly based on analysis under blac (uv) light; those providing little or no brightening are footnoted.

Detergents which have no brighteners added:
Cheer 2x ultra dark formula color guard
Woolite concentrated for all fabrics
Purex ultra concentrate natural elements
shop-rite ultra free and clear
Win high performance sport detergent
Cheer original with color guard (powder)
Sears ultra plus stain fighting formula 9835 fresh scent
sun burst clean and fresh 2x double concentrated
xtra new 2x concentrated lasting scentsations spring sun shine

Seventh Generation natural powdered HE
Seventh Generation 2x ultra blue eucalyptus & lavender HE

    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 11:28AM
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Brighteners = icky, icky, icky. Must we glow in the dark? No wonder they aren't recommended for hunting clothes.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 2:32PM
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Thanks for the updated info, Tracey. I wonder if Sears Ultra Plus Stain Fighting Formula works better in HE washers than in conventional washers? I've only used it in my HE washer, and it does an excellent job. I also like its light scent -- not overpowering at all, just a good clean smell.

I've only bought Tide Total Care on sale -- which is true for virtually everything I buy, LOL -- plus, I used coupons. The price I paid for it was at least as low, if not lower, than Tide Cold Water detergent (which is not formulated for HE washers). Tide Total Care does an even better job on my fine washables than both Woolite and Cheer ColorGuard. I guess I sound like a commercial, but it's the truth.

Speaking of Woolite -- was it not reviewed by CR?

    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 11:33PM
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Mara, I only listed the top 10 detergents. Woolite was ranked #11 with a score of 42/100. I've got a bottle of the Tide Total Care also and it seems to be doing a good job, but it seems to almost coat the fabric. I'm wondering if this coating is how they protect the fabric. I used a little too much the first time in my FL and the clothing had a waxy feel to it when I took it out of the wash.

I've used the Sears in the past and while I found it to be a good detergent, it was no more effective than Gain or Tide in my experience. And this was with STPP added.

One detergent I'd like to try but havent' seen in my little town is the Seventh Generation Natural Powdered HE. I'd love to go more natural and still have good, clean clothes. Hard to do with two boys in sports with ground in red clay in their clothes.


    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 10:21AM
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What I find interesting is that CR totally omits the two most common stains I get around here: oil-on-cotton (dark shirts especially) and concentrated tomato stains (ketchup, spaghetti sauce, etc.). Both of those seem to be impervious to most detergents without thorough pretreating. Surely they're not "too hard" to test?

    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 12:10PM
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To the Seventh Generation poster, I tried the Seventh Generation HE powder and found it only fair. Cleaning ability was OK but not stellar, and I found that it left a "dirty water" smell in the clothes, for want of a better description. Hope this helps.

FWIW, I recently found Oxydol powder at a local supermarket and really like it. It cleans very well and leaves no scent in the clothes other than clean fabric. I take it CR did not test this one?

    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 5:22PM
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Wasn't someone around here saying they couldn't find the Cheer Dark formula anymore? Seems to me they said it was discontinued.

I read part of the article out of curiosity but couldn't find the complete listing. Was curious where the powders came in and which ones they tested.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 1:10AM
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BTW, what came in at #8 on the conventional?

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 1:23AM
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One other question, on #10 conventional, is that saying they tested a 1x detergent? Or was there a different bleach alternative formula? 1x was discontinued some time ago but I imagine it's possible they wanted to compare the old formula with the new. Just curious.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 1:33AM
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Thank you for the information on the 7th Generation. It seems that natural products just don't seem to do as well as conventional laundry products sadly.

AARGH!!! I just realized that I totally messed up #7 and #8 on the conventional list. #7 was Tide Total Care and #8 was the Gain 2x ultra with bleach alternative. I apologive for the oversight.

Cynic, the only powders listed were:
Conventional-Tide with Bleach with Color Clean (47/100 score)
Tide Coldwater (40/100)
Tide with a touch of Downey (37/100)
Gain plus a touch of softness (36/100)
Arm and Hamner clean burst with color-safe bleach (36/100)
Cheer original color guard (32/100)
Sears ultra plus stain fighting formula 9835 fresch scent (31/100)

He powders:
Seventh Generation Natural powdered HE (57/100)
SA8 Premium with bioquest HE (56/100)

The list only listed 13 HE detergents compared to 31 on the conventional list.

#10 on the conventional list is a powder so there is not a 2x formula.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 8:58AM
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Well DUH, if I had let it sink in!! Yes, you had #10 as a powder. I saw that the first time but somehow went right overy my head after that! Sheesh! Guess I was too tired and/or thinking of something else.

Thanks for the info and the update. Although I have little respect for CR overall, it's interesting to look at the details of some of their writings.

What's interesting to me is the Coldwater formula rating so high. But there's been a couple people who have had glowing comments about the CW Tide. I'm a convert to the Free/Sensitive Skin version of Tide and I'm annoyed at the limited number of stench-free cleaners out there but that's my rant for today. (So far anyway!) Especially compared to Arm & Hammer that I used before, there's no comparison.

Of course the powder vs liquid debate will rage on. I guess I can see some logic to the improved performance of liquids since that's where the market is, the manufacturers would logically spend the bulk of R&D on liquid. Powder of course maintains a niche market and will continue to be made for a long time but my experience doesn't show any benefit to the powders. And it's worse yet trying to find a dye/stench free version of powder. I enjoy seeing the old brands come back, like Oxydol. Might give it a try some day.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 1:07PM
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Tide is number one? I'm not so sure Consumer Reports gets it right on all the products. I've been a subscriber of CR's for years, but certainly don't agree with all their results.

I've had no luck with Tide. Used it for years--grew up with it as it was all my mother used as well.

I live in black t-shirts and jeans; clothes that are not black, are a deep navy blue. So color retention is extremely important to me. I'm very careful about how I do my laundry (correct water temperature; I do not dry my laundry bone dry; and I hang a lot of my things to air dry to prevent fading.)

That said, my experience with all the Tide detergents was fade, fade, fade.

I now use Cheer Free and Gentle Bright Clean. I find much less fading and overall good clean. I do have a problem with the whites, but that is a hard water problem...we have really hard water so our whites get dingy really fast.

I used a tub of that oxiclean with my whites (I can't use bleach b/c of psoriasis and allergies) and found it made no difference on my whites. We recently bought a machine with the deep steam clean feature and that has done more to brighten our whites than the oxiclean. It's time to use the vinegar in the wash trick--even though I hate the smell. We've been in this state for a year now and all our whites have a terrible case of "dingetta"

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 1:42AM
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I've had the opposite experience with Tide. It has ALWAYS been expensive and it has ALWAYS outperformed everything else. A clear example of getting what you pay for.

Given the very high price of clothes vs. the very low price of detergent (even Tide) it's a no-brainer unless you are washing for an army.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 10:03AM
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Back in our agitator TL days, when I didn't pay much attention to laundry, my wife always insisted I spend the extra dollar or two a bottle to buy Tide Free & Clear, rather than All or Cheer or whatever. She said it did a better job.

Now that we have an FL (Miele), Sears Free powder is fine with her, and our clothes are cleaner than they ever were before. That includes the stuff we wash on Warm, not just items we can now wash at higher temps.

So, the washer seems to make as much difference as the detergent.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 2:26PM
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So, the washer seems to make as much difference as the detergent.
A washing machine can certainly contribute to a point. But I think the PERSON washing would make a far bigger difference. If you know what you're doing you'll get good results on any machine. If you don't know what you're doing, you might not get good results on ANY machine.

In theory, the testing removed both of these variables. Like with so many things the conditions you wash with will make a big difference. Water, types of soiling, and many more things.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 2:41PM
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Maybe if I write a fat check ... LOL

    Bookmark   June 10, 2009 at 10:59PM
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Okay, that was a bit much. :) But I am writing to them to gain at least an ear...

    Bookmark   June 10, 2009 at 11:09PM
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Tracey, when I wash our office/church clothes and fine washables in Tide Total Care, they don't come out with a waxy feel at all. They feel soft and supple and have a fresh scent. They still look new after many washings. Thanks to a great Target sale and coupons, I got a great deal on it and stocked up.

I do wonder if different washers and/or different types of water (ours is medium, not hard nor soft) give different results. My washer is a Maytag Bravos HE TL.

I had never tried Sears Ultra Plus Stain Fighting formula (for both HE and conventional washers) until I bought my HE washer. Until then I had used BJ's (warehouse store) store brand, which did a good job too, also at a great price. But it was not labeled HE, plus they quit selling it about the time I got my HE washer, which is why I tried the Sears detergent.

I use the Sears detergent on our everyday clothes, sheets, and comforters. I don't add anything to it. They come out very clean and smelling fresh.

I'm sure the regular Tide HE would clean them as well, but because I got the Sears detergent on sale, it was a tremendous bargain ($10 for 240 loads). I ended up buying two huge buckets and still have half the first bucket left after more than a year! I shouldn't have to buy more for at least another year, maybe two, which suits me just fine. :-)

    Bookmark   June 15, 2009 at 3:30AM
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Mara, I noticed the waxy feel after taking the clothes out of the washer. After they were dry, there was no noticeable difference between the clothes washed in the Total Care and the clothes washed in my Gain HE powder. I do use fabric softener and I know everyone's water is different so I'm sure it's one of those factors.

I tried the Sears detergent and thought it did a good job. There was virtually no scent left in the clothes and it rinsed really well.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2009 at 8:47PM
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Tide TOTALCARE contains what they call a "Protective Fiber Complex" that softenes fabrics and protects their shape and finish. Looking at the ingredients you will notice this:

Diquaternium Ethoxy Sulfate
Polyacrylamide Quaternium Chloride
Polyethyleneimine Ethoxylate
Silicone Polyether

Silicone Polyether is a polymer that "lubricates" fabrics to create softness and Polyacrylamide Quaternium Chloride is used to deposit that silicone/softener into the fabric fibers.

So with Tide TOTALCARE there is a little bit of a leave-behind in the form of a silicone complex that is mated to the fabric fibers to provide softness and also reduce friction in the wash for less pilling and supposedly better fabric care. But the softness you feel coming out of the dryer is due to the silicone polymer.

Vaska is another detergent that leaves your clothes so soft they won't need fabric softener. However, Vaska also lists a "vegetable conditioner" among its ingredients, so it's possible that is also some form of "softener" that does its job in the wash rather than in the rinse cycle. Silicones are used as finishing agents in the textile industry and are widely recognized to improve the physical properties of fabrics - drape, hand, softness, sewability, etc. One of the largest producers of silicone-based softening emulsions is Dow Corning.

Using 1/4 the recommended dose in my soft water conditions, I washed a load of dog bedding and small rugs. The laundry was clean, smelled fresh and felt soft to the touch. Before trying the TOTALCARE the rugs used to curl up a little bit in the dryer and came out looking a little stressed, but after washing in TOTALCARE the rugs lay perfectly flat and feel much softer and more luxurious than before. The only other way I can describe this is by saying that the fabrics look, feel and act much "happier" after washing in TOTALCARE.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2011 at 10:40AM
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@sstava....Does the Tide Total Care contain any Optical Brighteners? I am now on on total OB ban! I am not so worried about the toxicity or the actual chemicals, but I am convinced they make my blacks and navy blues look faded and dull.

I wonder if this TotalCare is OB free????

    Bookmark   January 23, 2011 at 11:53AM
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Tide Totalcare HE contains two optical brighteners to Tide HE's single optical brightener. P&G lists the brighteners as Disodium Diaminostilbene Disulfonate and Disodium Distyrylbiphenyl Disulfonate. Tide Totalcare HE, like its other liquid siblings, also contains four enzymes to Tide HE Powder's single enzyme. Tide Totalcare HE and other liquid variants contain Amylase, Cellulase, Mannanase and Protease.

Tide claims that Totalcare is designed to keep your colors from fading, so the OBAs must not be an issue in that regard. One of the differentiating factors of this detergent is its ability to keep your clothes looking like new, including minimizing color fade. I am excited by this product as it seems to offer Vaska-like softness, Persil-like cleaning power (multiple enzyme formula) and fabric protection.

I am doing a few loads today with this product and will report my experience in a new thread. This detergent has all the makings of a great product.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2011 at 1:21PM
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What is the scent like? Is its over the top like most Tide products (for me anyway)? I like the scent of Persil, have a small reaction to it in full strength form, but am fine after drying. The uber-concentrated liquid detergents (especially tide and new downy FS) are getting challenging for me to handle.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2011 at 2:43PM
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I just went to the Tide on-line site and checked. The powdered forms do not contain any 1x,2x, or ultra descriptors. Just plain Tide or Tide with Bleach or some softener. The Total Care products are all liquids. Couldn't see if any were non HE rated, but I am curious because I have been using the Tide with bleach option on my HE front loader with no problems and very good performance relative to the HE products I have tried. I think the latest consumer reports from 2010 tests lists non-HE tide with bleach powder as the best performing of all detergents tested. It was only down-rated because it was so expensive.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2011 at 3:17PM
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I think the Tide TotalCare took the place of the Cheer True Fit. The Cheer also softened and was supposed to help things "keep their shape and softness".

Also there was a Downy Totalcare for a while. I saw it recently at Big Lots in two scents--Cottonfresh or something like that and then Rainfresh--I am not exact on the scent names, just remember there were two of them. It must be discontinued now.

In the last rating I read on detergents from CR they say the Tide Coldwater Liquid does as well as the Tide Totalcare at retaining color and cost less, but no softening.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2011 at 3:26PM
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The scent of Totalcare HE is stronger than Persil. Although I don't find it objectionable, I think the more sensitive among us wouldn't like it. There is a lot of negative feedback online about the scent. I find it perfectly acceptable - I think it smells fresh and citrusy. So far clothes are coming out nice and clean, unwrinkled and with only enough scent to remind you the clothes were recently laundered, but not enough to make you think someone let loose an air freshener. The online reviews are funny - 1/3 of the people loved it, 1/3 hated the smell, and the remaining 1/3 thought it was wonderful but too expensive.

If Totalcare can be my perfect Vaska-Persil hybrid, then I would be happy to use this product and call it the cheapest one on my laundry shelf by far! It's definitely taking out stains that Vaska left virtually untouched, probably because of the enzymes in Totalcare.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2011 at 5:06PM
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We gave up fabric softeners because my wife did not like the feel and water absorbancy of softened towels, and because of fire safety concerns. Does Total Care cause the same "feel" in washed towels? If not I might give it a try because Target is running a sale locally for $17.99 for 150 oz. bottle, and we have a $1. off coupon.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2011 at 10:31AM
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I do not use any FS on towels, for the same reason your wife gave. I have found that baking soda in the wash (plus detergent, of course, and OxyClean on white towels) leaves my towels very soft and plush.

My washer is big (5.2 cu ft capacity), and I usually use 1/2 to 1 cup of baking soda. I wash towels in true hot water w/ the washer's internal water heater, use white vinegar in the FS dispenser (about 1/2 cup) and am VERY pleased with the results.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2011 at 10:23PM
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This is an interesting convo going on here. I am a tried and true powder person. I have tried liquids over the years w/o a whole lot of success. Not sure if it's our water softener or what.

I just recently purchased my first box of Persil and I am loving it so far. I wanted to give it a try before my new washer came so I would know if it was the detergent or the machine. With every other variable the same, the Persil is doing a better job for me than Sears, Charlies or homemade did. I haven't used Tide in years do to the scent.

All of my clothes have been coming out soft, I don't use softener. They look, feel and smell clean and it's the first time I could ever say "blinding white". Now I will grant you that some of those whites are brand new, so the jury is out on how long they will stay that way. I've never had luck w/whites no matter what I do. I've boil washed, warm washed, different detergents etc.

I truly believe that some issues are related to water quality. I also think the water difference are why different individuals love different detergents.

When, and if I start having issues w/Persil, I may look into the Tide Totalcare and take another stab at a liquid.

Thanks everyone for sharing your input.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 8:17AM
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nerdyshopper, I overlooked your question. I love to use Tide TotalCare on delicates and our nice church/office clothes. But I do not use it on towels.

I use Tide HE w/bleach* on white towels, and ERA HE liquid on colored towels -- plus the things I mentioned above. These detergents give me great results.

*At this point in time, Tide HE w/bleach only comes in liquid form. In another thread, someone said P&G is going to bring it out in powder form soon, perhaps next month (February). If I see it here on store shelves, I will definitely try it.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 10:28PM
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I have recently tried the new Tide Total Care, and I can't get past the smell. It leaves a very strong fragrance - even with a second rinse - and it's not one that I enjoy. I have the "renewing rain" scent, as that is the only one I've seen for sale around here. It's too bad, since I otherwise like the detergent.

I have recently used Persil, regular Tide, and Cheer and none of those scents bother me - in fact, they smell good. I just can't like the TotalCare smell. Too bad they don't make an unscented version.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 6:30AM
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A few days after washing some loads with Totalcare I think this product is disgusting. First of all, the scent after drying isn't initially objectionable - it smells kind of fruity. However, the scent lingers on my clothes for days and I can't stand that. A whiff here and there is no big deal, but if I have to smell it all day and every day that's way too much for me.

The product leaves a white powdery residue at the bottom of my rubber boot and around the water exit holes. I don't like that. After three deep rinses and spins, there should be nothing left in the water. There is certainly no obvious visible residue after washing in Vaska, Persil, or any of the other products I've tried over the years. If there's white powder on my rubber seal then there's white powder in my clothes. No thanks.

I've learned my lesson.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 9:46PM
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I haven't seen any powdery residue in my washer after using Tide TotalCare HE (or any other detergent). Doesn't it only come in liquid form? That's all I've seen.

Maybe because I use a bit of white vinegar and FS in the last rinse, all I smell on the laundry is a fresh scent. And I don't smell anything on it after the day I washed it, even on those items I dry on plastic hangers.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 3:10AM
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