Soaps and Detergents (laundrysoap)

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Soaps & Detergents

Submitted by Lorene Bartos, UNL Extension Educator

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Shopping for soaps and detergents can be a challenge for families. The main shopper in the family is faced with many decision in the soap and detergent isle – which is the best choice for my laundry, home use, and what is right environmentally. One must consider packaging as well as detergent when shopping. There are many choices including liquid and powder form, concentrate and regular. Others come with bleach and softener additives. Choosing what is best for your situation is the right choice for your family.

The Soap and Detergent Association gives the following information about items available in stores today:


High Efficiency (HE) Detergents – Detergents (both liquid and powder forms) designed for use in both front and top-loading HE washers. These products are formulated for use in low-water volume.

Liquid Detergents – Especially effective on food and greasy or oily soils. They are also good for pretreating spots and stains prior to washing.

Powder Detergents – Ideal for general wash loads. Powders are especially effective at lifting out clay and ground-in dirt, making them ideal for children's play clothes.

Ultra Detergents – Concentrated detergents are available in liquid or powder forms. They come in smaller packages, yet are designed to offer the same cleaning power as similar products in larger packages. You'll need less ultra detergent than with an unconcentrated product, so follow label instructions and use the measuring cap or scoop that comes with the product.

Single-Use Detergents – Compacted and/or concentrated powder, liquid, or tablet detergents that come in unit-dose sizes for measuring accuracy and laundering convenience.

Fragrance or Dye-Free Detergents – Many laundry products are now fragrance-free and/or dye-free. Read the labels for details.

Soap Bars– Formed detergent bars are generally made from tallow or a combination of tallow and cocoa (coconut oil). They were the precursors of the chip and powder forms of detergent.

Combination Detergents – One detergent formulated to do two jobs. Look for liquid or powder detergents with built-in fabric softeners; powder detergents with color-safe bleach; liquid detergents with bleach alternative.

Keep this information in mind when selecting the correct product for your family. Your selection will depend on your situation and how much is used in your home. To be environmentally correct, families should recycle all containers that can be recycled in their area. Most #1 and #2 plastics and cardboard containers can be recycled at local drop-off sites. Be a S.M.A.R.T. Shopper - Save money and reduce trash.


Ask Lorene

(This resource was added February 2008 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement)

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