Powder vs. liquid high-efficiency laundry detergent

Updated April 17, 2017

High-efficiency washers use less water and less energy than traditional machines and require high-efficiency detergents. These detergents are low sudsing. They are more expensive, but less detergent is required. Heavy-duty high efficiency detergents work in hot and cold water in high-efficiency washers. They remove stains including blood, grass, food, oil, organic grease and ink. Ultra detergents are more concentrated, requiring even smaller quantities of detergent.

Powder Detergents

Powder detergents consist of tiny granules. They are ideal for general wash loads and are particularly effective in removing clay and ground-in dirt. They should be added to the water before the fabrics to prevent streaks. Powder detergents most often are packaged in cardboard boxes.

Liquid Detergents

Liquid detergents are particularly effective in removing food, grease and oily stains. They are ideal for pretreating stains or for washing garments by hand. Liquid detergents are packaged in bottles or jugs with a handle.

Composition and Cost

A powder detergent may, or may not, have the same ingredients, without the water, as a liquid detergent from the same manufacturer. Liquid detergents are more expensive than their powder counterparts.

Ultra Detergents

Available in liquid and powder form, ultra detergents can be added to the washer before the water and fabrics, into the water ahead of the fabrics, or onto the fabrics in the washer at the start of the wash.


Do not mix ammonia, or other cleaning agents, with detergent. Some of these chemical mixtures can release irritating gases.

Mixing powder and liquid detergents in a dispenser can cause caking or clog the dispenser.

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About the Author

Based in Washington, DC, award-winning editor Barbara Conn has been writing about science, technology, small business, and general interest topics since 1984. Her articles have appeared in the Capital PC User Group “Monitor.” She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Bucknell University.