How To Do Your Laundry

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Powder vs. Liquid

So you're probably wondering by now whether you should be using powdered or liquid detergent, and why.
What are the advantages of powdered detergent?
It's cheaper. In my experience, for any given brand of detergent, the powdered version has a substantially cheaper cost per load than the liquid version. To determine cost per load, divide the cost of the package (box or bottle) of detergent by the number of loads indicated on the package. I believe you'll quickly see that a load of laundry costs less with powdered detergent.

It's also easy to take with you, which is important if you use laundramats or friends' machines often, as I do. You can take a bunch of ziploc baggies and put one scoop of powdered detergent in each and take them to the laundramat and easily dispense them into the machines, and this allows you to take only as much as you plan to use. In contrast, with liquid detergents you'd have to take the entire bottle under most circumstances.

What are the advantages of liquid detergent?
Liquid detergents are pre-dissolved, so if you have problems with getting your powdered detergent to dissolve, a liquid detergent can resolve the problem. (Such problems can occur in locations with particularly hard water or in particularly cold climates where you can't get water warm enough to dissolve the powder.)

Liquid detergent is also convenient for pre-treating stains: just dribble a little of the detergent on the stained area before placing the laundry in the washer. (See the manufacturer's instructions for product-specific information)

What other considerations should I keep in mind?
A manufacturer recommended to a friend of mine, who called to inquire about a problem he was having with a product generating excessive suds, that he try the liquid version, and sent him a coupon for a free bottle of the product to try it. They suggested that the slightly different composition of the powdered detergent might simply be interacting badly with the specific mineral content of his house's water, and that switching to the liquid might resolve the problem. It didn't, but the argument is valid and it's something you may want to keep in mind if you have problems with sudsing but would prefer not to switch brands. Remember that this could also work in reverse - if a liquid is causing excessive sudsing, the powdered version might resolve it.

If nothing is going wrong, is there any reason I should choose either powdered or liquid detergent other than price?
No. They should clean equivalently.

How come so many people insist on using liquid detergents and swear it's better, when I use powdered detergent and my laundry always comes out clean?
I think it's a religious thing. Try not to worry about it.