Consumer Reports: Detergents that do the job

CONSUMER REPORTS -- 378 loads. That's how much laundry Consumer Reports' Pat Slaven did to find the best laundry detergents. She tested more than 50 liquids, powders, and pods.

Also in the tests: two laundry systems that claim to clean without detergent, the $300 pureWash and the $400 Wash It. Both mount on the wall above your washer and inject ozone into your wash water.

All the detergents and the laundry systems were rated on how well they eliminate a variety of stains.

"We have a palette of soil and stains that include blood, wine, dust sebum, which is ring around the collar, tea, chocolate ice cream, grass," said Slaven.

The detergent-less systems couldn't handle the stains. They were only slightly better than just plain water.

When it comes to detergents, some didn't shine, including Tide's lower- priced Simply Clean and Fresh. Far better and top-rated: Tide's Ultra Stain Release, a liquid, and Tide Plus Bleach Alternative, a powder. Both are for high-efficiency machines.

The tests found some other winners that are close behind and work in any type of machine: Member's Mark Ultimate Clean from Sam's Club and Wisk Deep Clean. They cost about half as much per load.

If you're a Costco shopper, Consumer Reports named the Kirkland Signature Ultra Clean Powder a Best Buy, but get it fast, because it will be discontinued sometime in August.

Another worth trying: Kirkland Signature's Free and Clear. While not quite as good a cleaner as Consumer Reports' recommended detergents, it's still able to handle some tough stains.