Is Washing Liquid Better than Powder?

Washing machine drawerThere’s never been a bigger choice of laundry detergents on the market than there is now, and the main decision for many of us is whether to use washing powder or liquid.

Washing powder was first produced over 60 years ago, so it’s a traditional and well tested product. Liquid detergents have become widely available in recent years, and there are many varieties to choose from, but are they an improvement on traditional powder?

We discuss the pros and cons of both types of detergents below.

Washing Powder – Pros and Cons

  • Cheaper: Washing powder is usually much more economical than liquid detergents. This can be a big factor for large families who do a lot of laundry per week.
  • More eco-friendly: Washing powder is usually packed in eco-friendly, recyclable cardboard boxes, making it the best choice for those who care about the environment.
  • Better at cleaning stains: Many studies show that powders clean more effectively than liquids, because they can contain cleaning ingredients such as non-chlorine bleach, which can’t be put into liquid detergents successfully. Powders are particularly good at cleaning stains such as blood and soil.
  • Longer shelf life: Washing powders tend to have a longer shelf life than liquid detergents due to better stability of the surfactants found in the powder.
  • Leaves reside: One of the cons of washing powder is that the powder doesn’t always break down fully, leaving a residue on laundry and inside the washing machine.
  • Less suitable for cold washing: Washing powders tend to dissolve better in warmer water, and may not be suitable for cold washing cycles – although this was more of a problem with powders in the past, with most modern powders being suitable for lower temperature washes.
  • Contain more chemicals: Washing powders tend to contain more chemicals, and some ingredients such as sodium sulphate can destroy septic systems.
  • Could damage clothes: There has been some discussion as to whether washing powders can damage clothes more easily than liquids because they contain more chemicals and can be more abrasive. This hasn’t been proven, and the wear and tear of clothes is more likely to be caused by the agitation of clothes in the washing machine.  However, some people prefer to use liquid washing detergent for more delicate clothing to be safe.


Washing Liquid – Pros and Cons

  • Pre-treating stains: One of the benefits of washing liquid is that you can pour some liquid directly onto stains to treat them before the wash.
  • No residue: Also, as the detergent is already dissolved, there’s no risk of residue being left on clothing or your washing machine.
  • Effective at low temperatures: Liquid detergents can be used for washing at low temperatures as the detergent is already dissolved, so they’re excellent for washing delicate items.
  • Good for coloured clothes: They’re also great at keeping coloured clothes bright and vibrant, as they don’t contain any bleach. (See the best laundry detergents for colours here)
  • Poor at stain removal: One of the biggest drawbacks of washing liquids is their poor performance on stains such as blood, grass and mud.
  • More expensive: They’re also usually much more expensive than powders, so they’re not an economical option for households who do a lot of laundry.
  • Less eco-friendly: Washing liquids tend to come in plastic packaging, and not all parts can be recycled, so they’re not an eco-friendly option.



As discussed, there are pros and cons to both washing powder and washing liquids. Powder is definitely the best option for value and stain removal, but liquids can be kinder to delicate clothes and appliances. For these reasons, some people choose to keep both washing powder and washing detergent in their homes, to suit different laundry requirements.


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