Types of Laundry Detergent UK 

By  Enda McLarnon

Have you ever walked around the laundry aisle of a supermarket and just looked a little bewildered. I know that I have. There are a multitude of laundry detergents available. They range from liquid and powder detergents to pods and tablets. Each type promises the most superior cleaning power!!!

There really are so many options to choose from, how on earth do you figure out the best laundry detergent for your needs? We do all have slightly different needs whether it is washing a lot of shirts, tackling a mountain of muddy soccer gear or delicately hand washing a silk blouse.

If you can properly understand, the different types of laundry detergents and what makes them different, I know it will help you out. I did my research because I was frustrated at just not knowing.

"Did you know that the average UK household spends an estimated £120 per year on laundry detergent? - This figure highlights the importance of selecting the right laundry detergent to ensure not only effective cleaning but also cost-efficiency."

Here's another interesting fact:

"According to a recent survey, 62% of UK residents believe that using the wrong laundry detergent can damage their clothes. This concern underlines the significance of selecting a detergent that is compatible with the fabrics you regularly wash. "

In this guide I will explain laundry detergents simply, explain the pros and cons of each type, which in turn will help you make a more informed decision. That should help you unravel the differences in liquid detergents, powder detergents, laundry pods, and detergent tablets. Time to get started.

Types of Detergent UK

There are four types:

  1. Liquid detergents
  2. Powder detergents
  3. Laundry pods
  4. Detergent tablets

Here is a quick comparison table that shows the type, the main characteristics, the advantages, disadvantages and the recommend uses.

Detergent type




Recommended for

Liquid detergents

Pre-mixed liquid form

Easy to use, effective in cold water, versatility for various fabrics

Higher cost, residue concerns

Everyday washing, delicate fabrics, cold water cycles

Powder detergents

Granulated powder

Affordable, strong cleaning power, suitable for hard water

Dustiness, residue concerns, not suitable with cold water washing

Heavy duty cleaning, outdoor clothing, hard water conditions

Laundry pods

Pre-measured detergent packets

Convenient, pre-measured dosage, effective in various laundry tasks

Higher cost, overdosing concerns, limited fabric suitability

Quick and easy washing, multi-tasking individuals, convenience seekers

Detergent tablets

Concentrated detergent packets

Concentrated formula, eco-friendly aspects, effective in hard water conditions

Slower dissolution rate, clogging concerns

Eco-conscious consumers, HE washing machines, hard water conditions

4 main types of laundry detergent sold in the UK

Liquid Detergents

Liquid detergents are the most popular type of laundry detergent in the UK. That is because they are easy to use.

These detergents come in a pre-mixed liquid form, which means you don't have to measure or mix unlike powder detergents.

That is ideal for those who value a quick and hassle free laundry method.

Persil liquid detergent sold in the UK


  • Liquid detergents are incredibly easy to use, simply requiring a pour or a squeeze into the washing machine. This fuss-free application makes them a popular choice for busy individuals and those who prefer a straightforward laundry routine.
  • Unlike powder detergents that may not dissolve entirely in cold water cycles, liquid detergents are designed to disperse effectively in both hot and cold water. This versatility allows for energy-efficient laundry practices without compromising cleaning power.
  • Liquid detergents are generally considered suitable for a wide range of fabrics, including delicate materials like lingerie and silk. They tend to be gentler on fabrics compared to powder detergents, reducing the risk of color fading or damage. 


  • Liquid detergents are often more expensive per load compared to powder detergents. This cost difference may be a factor for budget conscious consumers.

  • Some liquid detergents may leave residue on clothes, especially in high-efficiency washing machines. This residue can cause stiffness or a buildup of detergent in the washing machine.

Recommended for:

  1. Everyday Washing: Liquid detergents are a convenient and effective choice for everyday laundry needs, handling a variety of soils and fabrics.
  2. Delicate Fabrics: For delicate items like lingerie, silk, and wool, liquid detergents provide gentle cleaning without compromising fabric integrity.
  3. Cold Water Cycles: Liquid detergents are well-suited for cold water washing, ensuring optimal cleaning performance while conserving energy.

In the UK, the most popular are sold by Persil, Ariel, Fairy, Ecover, Surf, Method, Tesco (store brand), Sainsbury's (store brand), Morrison's (store brand) and Asda (store brand).

Powder Detergents

Powder detergents have been a mainstay in UK homes for decades. They continue to hold their own in the face of the newer detergent formats.

These detergents come in a granulated form, offering a combination of affordability and strong cleaning power.

Persil washing powder


  • Powder detergents are generally the most cost-effective option per load compared to liquid detergents or pods. This makes them a budget-friendly choice for households with frequent laundry needs.
  • Powder detergents are known for their robust cleaning power, effectively tackling tough stains and dirt. They are particularly well-suited for heavy-duty laundry loads, such as workwear, sports apparel, and heavily soiled garments.
  • Powder detergents are formulated to perform well in hard water conditions, where mineral deposits can hinder the effectiveness of liquid detergents. They contain water softeners that help neutralize these minerals, ensuring optimal cleaning results.


  • Powder detergents can be dusty and messy to handle, creating a potential for inhalation or skin irritation. It's important to use caution when filling the dispenser and to avoid direct contact with the powder.

  • Similar to liquid detergents, powder detergents can leave residue on clothes, especially in high-efficiency washing machines. This residue may cause stiffness or a buildup of detergent in the washing machine.
  • Powder detergents may not dissolve completely in cold water cycles, potentially leaving undissolved particles on clothes and reducing cleaning effectiveness. They are generally more suitable for hot water washing.

Recommended for:

  1. Heavy-Duty Cleaning: For tackling tough stains and heavily soiled garments, powder detergents provide the necessary cleaning power to leave clothes fresh and clean.
  2. Outdoor Clothing: Powder detergents are effective at removing dirt, sweat, and grime from outdoor clothing, making them a good choice for sports apparel, workwear, and gardening attire.
  3. Hard Water Conditions: In areas with hard water, powder detergents are designed to counteract the mineral deposits and ensure optimal cleaning performance.

In the UK, several brands sell powder detergents. Some popular brands that offer powder detergents include:

Persil, Ariel, Fairy, Surf, Ecover, Daz, Tesco (store brand), Sainsbury's (store brand), Morrison's (store brand) and Asda (store brand)

Laundry Pods

Laundry pods have changed laundry routines in the UK by offering a convenient and mess free solution for cleaning clothes.

These single-use detergent packets contain a pre-measured dose of detergent, stain remover, and fabric softener, eliminating the need for measuring and pouring.

Persil laundry pods


  • Laundry pods offer unmatched convenience, requiring no measuring or mixing, simply toss a pod into the washing machine and let it do the work. This makes laundry a quick and hassle-free task, ideal for busy individuals or those seeking a streamlined laundry routine.
  • The pre-measured dosage of laundry pods ensures consistent and accurate detergent usage, eliminating the risk of overdosing or underdosing. This consistency leads to optimal cleaning results without the hassle of measuring.
  • Laundry pods are designed to handle a variety of laundry tasks, effectively removing dirt, stains, and odors from various fabrics. They are suitable for everyday laundry, tackling tough stains, and refreshing delicate garments


  • Laundry pods are generally more expensive per load compared to liquid or powder detergents. This cost difference may be a factor for budget-conscious consumers.

  • While laundry pods are pre-measured, there is a risk of overdosing if multiple pods are accidentally used. Overdosing can lead to excessive suds, detergent residue, and potential fabric damage.
  • Some laundry pods may not be suitable for all types of fabrics, particularly delicate materials. It's important to check the pod's label for compatibility with specific fabrics.

Recommended for:

  1. Quick and Easy Washing: For those seeking a quick and effortless laundry routine, laundry pods are an ideal choice. Their pre-measured convenience eliminates the need for measuring and mixing, streamlining the laundry process.
  2. Multi-Tasking Individuals: For busy individuals who value time and convenience, laundry pods offer a hassle-free solution. They can be easily tossed into the washing machine without interrupting busy schedules.
  3. Convenience Seekers: For those who prioritize convenience and simplicity in their laundry routine, laundry pods eliminate the need for measuring, mixing, and pouring, making laundry a breeze.

In the UK, several brands offer detergent pods or capsules. Some of the brands that sell detergent pods in the UK include:

Persil, Ariel, Fairy, Tide (in some stores or online retailers), Ecover and Surf.

Detergent Tablets

Detergent tablets are relatively new and are gaining popularity due to their concentrated formula and eco-friendly attributes.

These tablets, similar to laundry pods, are pre-measured and contain detergent, stain remover, and/or fabric softener.

Fairy detergent tablets


  • Detergent tablets pack a powerful punch in a compact form, offering a concentrated dose of cleaning agents. This concentrated formula reduces the amount of detergent needed per load, leading to cost savings and reduced packaging waste.
  • Many detergent tablets are formulated with eco-friendly ingredients, such as plant-based surfactants and biodegradable components. They also tend to use less packaging compared to liquid or powder detergents, further reducing their environmental impact.
  • Detergent tablets are designed to perform effectively in hard water conditions, where mineral deposits can hinder the performance of other detergents. They contain water softeners that neutralize these minerals, ensuring optimal cleaning results.


  • Compared to liquid detergents or pods, detergent tablets may require slightly longer to dissolve completely in the washing machine. This can lead to residue buildup on clothes, especially in cold water cycles.

  • If not properly used, detergent tablets can potentially clog the washing machine dispenser or drain pipes. It's important to follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully and use the correct amount of water for the tablet to dissolve effectively.

Recommended for:

  1. Eco-Conscious Consumers: For those seeking environmentally friendly laundry solutions, detergent tablets offer a concentrated and eco-friendly alternative to traditional detergents.
  2. HE Washing Machines: Detergent tablets are well-suited for high-efficiency (HE) washing machines, as they are designed to dissolve effectively in low water levels.
  3. Hard Water Conditions: In areas with hard water, detergent tablets are formulated to combat mineral deposits and ensure optimal cleaning performance.

In the UK, some brands offer detergent tablets specifically designed for washing machines. These tablets are formulated for use in laundry machines. Some popular brands that sell detergent tablets for washing machines include:

Persil, Ariel, Fairy, Ecover, Surf, Tesco (store brand), Sainsbury's (store brand), Morrison's (store brand) and Asda (store brand).

Choosing the Right Laundry Detergent

When choosing the detergent type, we believe there are four main considerations to think about:

  1. Fabric type
  2. Water hardness
  3. Laundry load size
  4. Your personal preferences

We have included a quick comparison chart below, and then explained them in more detail.



Fabric type

Delicate, everyday, heavy duty washing

Water hardness

Soft, hard

Laundry load size

Small, medium, large

Personal preferences

Fragrance free, eco-friendly

Step 1: Assess Fabric Type

Different fabrics require different types of detergent care. Delicate fabrics like lingerie, silk, and wool demand gentle detergents that won't cause damage or color fading. For everyday clothing, a versatile detergent that handles a variety of fabrics is suitable. For heavily soiled garments or outdoor apparel, a heavy-duty detergent can tackle tough stains and dirt.

Step 2: Consider Water Hardness

Water hardness, the presence of dissolved minerals in water, can affect detergent performance. In hard water areas, powder detergents or tablets with water softeners are recommended to neutralize the minerals and ensure effective cleaning. Liquid detergents may not perform as well in hard water.

Step 3: Evaluate Laundry Load Size

Laundry detergents are often formulated for specific load sizes. Choose a detergent that matches your typical laundry load size to ensure optimal cleaning and avoid overdosing. For smaller loads, a concentrated detergent or pod may be sufficient, while larger loads may require a larger container or multiple pods.

Step 4: Address Personal Preferences

Personal preferences play a significant role in detergent selection. If you prefer fragrance-free detergents, consider options specifically labelled as such to avoid potential allergies or sensitivities. For those seeking eco-friendly detergents, look for formulations with plant-based ingredients and minimal packaging.

Step 5: Read Detergent Labels Carefully

Always read detergent labels thoroughly to understand the ingredients, usage instructions, and compatibility with your washing machine. Follow the recommended dosage guidelines to avoid overdosing, which can lead to excessive suds, residue buildup, and potential fabric damage.

Step 6: Common Concerns




Fragrance-free, hypoallergenic

Impact on the environment

Plant-based ingredients, biodegradable formulas, minimal packaging

Fragrance sensitivity

Fragrance free detergents, fragrance free fabric softeners

  • Allergies: If you have allergies or sensitivities to certain ingredients, carefully check detergent labels and choose options that are fragrance-free or hypoallergenic.
  • Environmental Impact: For eco-conscious consumers, consider detergents with plant-based ingredients, biodegradable formulas, and minimal packaging waste.
  • Fragrance Sensitivity: If you are sensitive to fragrances, opt for fragrance-free detergents or consider adding a fragrance-free fabric softener separately.

Remember, choosing the right laundry detergent is not just about getting clean clothes; it's about protecting your fabrics, your skin, and the environment. By following these guidelines and making informed choices, you can maintain your garments while minimizing the impact of your laundry routine.

Further Reading

Good Housekeeping Institute: - The Good Housekeeping Institute's Textiles Lab tests a wide variety of laundry detergents to evaluate their cleaning performance, stain removal effectiveness, and overall value. 

The Good Shopping Guide: - The Good Shopping Guide is a UK-based consumer magazine that provides information on ethical and sustainable shopping. 

Enda McLarnon owner of the Steam Gen Reviews UK website

Enda McLarnon

I hope that you find my How to articles helpful as I know that laundry can be a real chore. On this website, I have tried to help out with buying guides and reviews for the many forms of ironing and other laundry issues.

Enda McLArnon

We have chosen products we think you will really like and may earn a commission from links on this page. Read about why you can trust our reviews and recommendations.

November 25, 2023

Have you ever walked around the laundry aisle

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November 25, 2023

Have you ever walked around the laundry aisle