Washing powder vs liquid detergent

Is Liquid or Powder Detergent Better for Washing Machines?

Both liquid and powder are very similar in what they are designed to do. In some ways, powder detergent is better because it’s stronger with those tough stains, but liquid detergent has numerous benefits as well.

Liquid detergent has the key advantage of already being a liquid, which means that it dissolves immediately into the machine as the water starts to fill.

This makes it much less likely that residue will build up in your machine as it sometimes does with washing powder.


Build-Up in the Drain

Winner: Liquid

Powder detergents may sometimes leave undissolved chunks in your machine, often in places where you can’t even see it, like the drains and the pipes. A blockage in these areas could create a serious problem for your machine.


Residue in the Machine or on Your Clothes

Winner: Liquid

When you run your machine on a cold wash cycle, it could also lead to the powdered detergents leaving white stains on your clothes or a powdery residue inside the machine.

The best solution to this would be to run an additional rinse once your first cycle is over, just to wring any residue out of your load.

Liquid detergent will not have this reaction as it dissolves right into the water when it is drained from the drawer, but it’s important to put the right amount of liquid into your machine or you could end up with over-sudsing or even lingering bad smells.


Cleaner Washing Machine Drawer

Cleaning the Detergent Drawer

Winner: Liquid

Powdered detergent can also cause a build-up in the washing machine’s draw, which would mean the need for more regular cleaning on your part, as well as wear and tear on the machine that could potentially have been avoided.



Winner: Powder

The main downside to liquid detergent is that the liquid left behind after your wash could lead to mould. This often starts in the washing machine drawer and will spread through the pipes and end up in the drum.

A build-up of mould will mean that your machine will need a proper clean as mould is has a reputation for sometimes being difficult to permanently remove.


How to Choose Which Is Right for You

It can be tough to choose between the two as both have positives and negative impacts on your washing machine. It may be easier to consider which works best for your personal needs.

Liquid is less likely to cause clothes to fade

Liquid can be better at stopping your clothes from fading over time as it doesn’t contain any bleach. Most washing powders contain some bleach, which can be beneficial as it keeps white clothes brighter for longer but may contribute to slowly fading your other clothes.

If you’re not the type of person that often has stains on your clothes then you may be better off with a liquid, as you don’t need the extra oomph of the bleach.


Liquid can be used as a pre-wash stain treatment

It’s also easier to use a liquid detergent for pre-wash stain treatments. It can be poured directly onto the stain and left to soak for a little before it goes into the wash. For powders, it would need to be mixed with water and turned into a paste before you apply it to the stain.


Powder is more eco-friendly

One of the other benefits of powder is that it is more environmentally friendly as it is most often packaged in a paper box, whereas liquid detergents are almost always in plastic packaging.



When balanced out next to each other, it appears that liquid detergent inches into the lead when it comes to which is more beneficial for your washing machine.

This is mostly because liquid detergent is quick to dissolve, doesn’t leave a lasting residue on your clothes or your machine, and doesn’t add to the blockages that could build up in pipes from undissolved powders.

See our roundup of the best laundry detergent in the UK for some recommendations.