Tide: Mystery Of Different Loads For Different Scents Solved!

Reader Zack was curious why three different kinds of Tide detergent on the shelf had the same price and same volume, but the label said they delivered different amounts of loads. Consumer Reports investigated, and they have the answer.

P&G told Consumer Reports that they had two choices, charging more for the “value-added” bleach or fabric softenter, or do what they did and vary the amount of loads while keeping the price the same. What they opted is more economical for them and easier for retailers (they didn’t specify how but I imagine it makes managing inventory easier if the price is the same across the board).

However, Consumer Reports notes that you can’t do effective comparison shopping by unit price on detergents. Instead, do some mental math or if your brain has atrophied, bust out the calculator on your cellphone and compare cost per load, total cost divided by loads.

Mystery solved: The “load-down” on Tide detergent [Consumer Reports] (Thanks to James!)
PREVIOUSLY: Tide: Different Loads For Different Scents?

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  1. thesadtomato says:

    I feel like the load number they print on detergent is a little like the serving size on food packaging. It’s what they think, not what you’re going to do with it.

    I do a load of laundry a week, so if I buy the one in the middle, it’s going to last me a year? Doubtful. I use more detergent on big loads or extra soiled items, and less on smaller “cleaner” loads.

  2. bagumpity says:

    sounds like corporate speak for “because we can.”

    • Necoras says:

      @bagumpity: Actually it makes a lot of sense. They’re able to use the same packaging (all 3 of those bottles are identical in shape and size) for multiple products. They instead vary the strength of the contents based on the type of detergent. Concentrated detergent costs less per oz than detergent plus bleach or detergent plus fabric softener.

      Also, when you add bleach or fabric softener to the bottle, there’s less detergent, so it has less cleaning ability per bottle. Hence, less loads.

  3. lawnmowerdeth says:

    Are the measuring lines in the caps in the same spot on all the bottles? If so, then their marketing is still deceptive.

    • LiquidGravity says:

      @lawnmowerdeth: Can you even see the measuring lines? Most of the time I just eyeball it. About half for a normal load and 3/4 if I was dirty. But That depends on the size of the cap.

      • Ben_Q2 says:

        @LiquidGravity:

        Same here, I cannot even see the line. I just go by 1/2 or full cup. Works for me. I have no clue if I get the load amount or not.

        • MsAnthropy says:

          @Ben_Q2:

          Half or full cup? Jeeezus, I use just about enough to cover the bottom of the cup, and everything comes out perfect. True, I buy the HE stuff, but I ignore the fill lines even on that – that stuff is uber-concentrated.

  4. AbbottScrofa says:

    Translation: The ingredients in some bottles are are more expensive so instead of charging different prices, or designing new bottles and packaging them in different sized containers, we decided to just dilute some of the detergents and “adjust” the overall number of loads per bottle.

    As an FYI, you really only need about 1/2 as much laundry soap as they recomend you do on most bottles..

  5. allnitecp says:

    I saw a Tide commercial recently that I thought was weird for them.

    It basically asked the viewer what the most expensive bottle of water was in the grocery store. The answer: Laundry detergent. Of course Tide gives you a better value because they use less water and more detergent in their product.

    Maybe this is them proving their own point.

  6. blackmage439 says:

    “…compare cost per load, total cost divided by loads.”

    BREAKING NEWS

    Leading mathematicians have just discovered that dividing the total cost of a bottle of detergent by the number of loads it yields will show the cost per load. Additionally, leading molecular physicists have revealed that adding compounds to a standard bottle size will leave less room for the actual detergent.

    It’s also not just a matter of cost per load. It’s also a matter of what goes into the loss of loads. Scents might seem trivial to most people, but some people want their clothes to smell like a spring meadow fresh flowery rain. Additions of bleach or other cleansers make the cleaning power per drop more potent. Some people are perfectly happy with Aldi branded, standard, no frills, detergent.

    This is hardly news. There was no mystery. Any idiot could have seen what these companies were doing. I can’t believe it took Consumer Reports to officially figure it out…

    • XianZhuXuande says:

      @blackmage439: Actually, it is not immediately obvious that the two Tide bottles, otherwise identical in appearance, might actually contain drastically different strengths of product inside. And even with labeling on the bottle, people with experience as consumers might react skeptically.

      Sometimes little tidbits are worthwhile.

  7. Snarkysnake says:

    Better yet,get an efficient,modern front load washer and use less detergent than you have to with a top loader. Tide IS a good product. But, using a full cap for a load in a front loader is unneccessary. (In fact if you switch from a top load machine,you can run the first few loads without ANY detergent. You will be amazed with how much detergent is trapped in your clothes)

    I use half a cap of Purex in my Frigidaire front loader and the clothes have never been cleaner…

    • Cyclokitty says:

      @Snarkysnake:

      Agreed!

      My local laudromat has excellent front loaders and they are much more efficient clothes washers, using much less detergent.

      As far as Tide goes, unless the unscented variety is on sale I buy no name unscented detergent at the grocery store. Everyone in my home is allergic to the scented detergents so no mountain lavender spring scents for us!

  8. 310Drew says:

    I think what they are trying to say is “the more crap we put in there to cross market it, the less cleaning power it has so you need to use more ! “

  9. Ein2015 says:

    Oh no… another round of everybody saying “DUH, this is why!” Don’t believe me? Click here (also the first link in the article): [consumerist.com]

    This one was definitely beaten to the ground last time. :)

    • supercereal says:

      @Ein2015: That was my first reaction too… I though the general consensus was that they weren’t different scents, they had different additives with different cleaning power. Getting more loads with the bleach alternatives seems to make more sense since bleach alternative should be a better cleaner…or something like that.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Why do research and waste more money, Its a fact that its cheaper to produce a one size fits all. The loads are based on a certain amount of cleaning agent. When you start adding stuff like sents and softners you have less cleaning agent in that same bottle. In some cases its very minute as it takes the place of the water however you can only replace so much water.

  11. kc2idf says:

    I got into a debate with a co-worker over detergents. She buys the “cheap” detergent, and I buy an eco-friendly detergent, which is somewhat pricey by the ounce or the bottle. I contend that I have gotten the better deal, though, because the fairly small “expensive” bottle lasts and lasts and lasts.

  12. Bahnburner says:

    BTW: Today’s washers are extremely efficient and use way less water…they also require far less detergent. In fact, in most cases, they require only 1/4 the amount of detergent recommended by the detergent manufacturers. Try it with a load and see if you can tell! Don’t throw money down the drain! J

  13. calquist says:

    I like the Tide that is for cold water, so I don’t have to use hot water. And Dryer Balls make everything fluffy and soft without softener.

    • bobloblawsblog says:

      @calquist: you can use any liquid detergent with cold water. more marketing propaganda!

      • calquist says:

        @bobloblawsblog: Valid point, but I still love my Dryer Balls!

      • MsAnthropy says:

        @bobloblawsblog:

        Of course you can. But this one was developed for use in, well, developing countries where people were more likely to be doing their laundry by hand in cold water, and was designed to wash better and rinse more easily at lower temperatures, blah blah blah. (I say blah blah blah because while I have heard/read/been told why it’s more suited for use with cold water, I have failed to retain any more information in my head than what I typed above!)

        I guess it will just dissolve, wash and rinse better at lower temperatures than the regular stuff. But you’re right, you can use any detergent in cold water – I have, it works.

  14. friendlynerd says:

    Or you could get a gigantic 300-load bucket of Sears HE detergent on sale for $15. I know, it involves stepping foot in a Sears, but even they haven’t managed to mess up a bucket of soap yet.

  15. FiftyFourFortyOrFight says:

    From a logistical point of view, it’s way better to have one standard bottle for all the different sorts of Tide….they get the best deal from the bottle company because they’re buying in large quantity, never have to change over their bottle-filling equipment, can have one standard shipping box, one standard shelf size, etc.

    And yeah, I usually use about half the recommended amount of detergent and haven’t seen any issues.

  16. Juliekins says:

    I am a big fan of the cellphone calculator method. I use it for all sorts of products, not just laundry detergent. I do try to scoot my cart off to the side the aisle while my cheapskate self is dicking around with my phone.

    • MercuryPDX says:

      @Juliekins: Some of the supermarkets here are open very late (one is 24 hours). I really enjoy going food shopping at 10:30 at night in an empty store…. taking my time to do math…. :)

  17. Keep talking...I'm listening says:

    Makes scents to me…

  18. Cupajo says:

    If your clothes are coming out of the washer smelling like “mountain spring” or “rainy day” or what-the-fuck-ever, then they aren’t clean.

    Clothes that smell like nothing are clean.

    • ShikhaCadimillac says:

      @Cupajo: By that rationale, if you step out of the shower smelling like soap and/or shampoo, then you aren’t clean.

      The detergent helps get the dirt and oils out of dirty clothing and the scent is simply an after effect.

    • krunk4ever says:

      @Cupajo: Completely agree with ShikhaCadimillac

  19. Optimus says:

    Being allergic to Tide saves me from such expensive research.

    :D

  20. Ben_Q2 says:

    I remember many years ago walking into a food plant (I with the USDA at the time) 1st time I seen a 55 gal drum of this stuff (made by Tide). The stuff was so thick. I never gave it any thought for some time. A new person that was doing the wash was not told what power it had. She used a full cup (at the time it was a full cup) where she only need a tablespoon. We had to close the plant down till it was clean up.

    I did ask someone from Tide about his (There was food and I had to know, Red Tag, Orange Tag, etc) seem that is what it really is made of and looks like. I love marketing. I was that people did not want this, they wanted to know and feel that they are spending their money and getting something for it. That is why the big boxes of and and water.

  21. bobloblawsblog says:

    i avoid tide anyway because they kill bunnies.

  22. katzeroo says:

    Since we’re quoting Consumer Reports: [tide.com] was rated #1 as of last year (the last ratings of these things I saw). Don’t waste $ of liquid if you can help it..the solid granulated ones are better. My 2 cents.

    • MsAnthropy says:

      @katzeroo:

      Yep. I actually prefer liquid detergents, but supposedly the powder does work better, all other things being equal. P&G resisted bringing out a liquid version of Tide because it didn’t clean as well as the powder, then figured out that it was a bit arrogant to tell consumers (who wanted liquid detergent and couldn’t give two shits that some R&D types said powder was better) what they should and shouldn’t be buying.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I would make the point that one of P&G’s possible “choices” isn’t actually a choice at all.

    “charging more for the “value-added” bleach or fabric softenter”

    Value-added is something that is added to increase the perceived value of an existing product without increasing the price. Charging for it would mean that it’s not value-added. It would be value-charged for.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Actually you don’t need laundry detergent. I have been washing my clothes without detergent for six months now. Two things led me down this path. First, I bought some cheap detergent and I noticed that after using it my skin was itchy and a little rashy. Second, after telling my friends about it, they said they don’t use detergent at all and haven’t for years. So I decided to give it a try.

    I’m never going back.

    I think the agitation of the washer and the chlorine in the water is sufficient to do the job. My clothes come out smelling like… nothing. Maybe it wouldn’t work if you have well water, but I live in a city.

    Now, there are times when you do need a little detergent. For example I’ll put a little on the cuffs of my jeans if they get muddy from running around outside. Other than that, it’s simply not necessary.

    Take your sweatiest, stinkiest socks and wash them without detergent. You will be amazed.

  25. MauraEmpusa says:

    Don’t waste your money on the store bought stuff.I have a way you can wash your clothes for a year with 4 people under $20.00 a year.go to my website.I’ve washed clothes for 20-years like this and it works.

    http://ran-the-monkey.livejournal.com/4109.html
    just try it.click on the first 2 sites.

    • nsv says:

      @MauraEmpusa: You’ve washed your laundry for 20 years using recipes that were posted in 2007 and 2006? That’s some incredible foresight on your part.

      Do you have the lottery numbers for next week?

  26. krunk4ever says:

    Was anyone really ever confused about why the same volume resulted in different load numbers?

    I mean if you could just take a few seconds and think about it, it becomes quite obvious. Compare the volumes between just using detergent and when you use multiple cleaning liquids (detergent + bleach + fabric softener). For the same load, the detergent amount is the same, but bleach/fabric softener adds to the volume you need to use.

    So if you’re using a blended detergent that has bleach or fabric softener added, it makes sense that you need to add more of the detergent to get the same amount of ACTUAL detergent in the washer.

    Of course with a blended detergent, you can’t control the ratio, but you gain the convenience of not having to deal with multiple bottles of cleaning liquids.

    Another way to look at it is spending $10 on just detergent and spending $10 on detergent + bleach + fabric softener. Do you think you’d get the same number of loads in both scenarios?

  27. Anonymous says:

    I work at a health food store and we sell essential oils. One day a woman asked me why lavender oil cost more than peppermint oil, and I was kind of dumbfounded. Uh, because they’re different plants? Why would you assume that bottle size determines price? This seems totally logical to me: some ingredients are more expensive than others, and the prices of the final products must be adjusted accordingly.

  28. Agent Cow3.14 says:

    “…bust out the calculator on your cellphone and compare cost per load, total cost divided by loads.”

    Err…if the price was the same across the board, then the one with the cheapest cost per load would be the one with the largest load? No need for any calculations at all… unless I’m missing something here.

  29. Marshfield says:

    I had some arm and hammer detergent that has the same volume of liquid AND the same lines on the caps but different load counts. Prices are the same.

    voodoo math.

    And if you REALLY want to go nuts, head on over to the toilet paper aisle. single rolls; double rolls; nobody can agree on what a single roll really IS even. It’s grocery-store math at the most confusing.

    Oh, wait.. head on over to the cheese and check unit pricing. $ per oz, $ per pound and $ per gram even are all side by side for just blocks of cheese. Criminey, they don’t make comparison shopping easy, do they?

  30. savdavid says:

    Every company I have called or emailed about why they lower quanities of their product but not the price give the same answer. It is like they have all copied each other’s homework. “The price of our raw materials has gone up, instead of lowering quality we made the “difficult” decision to put less product in our package.” They NEVER say why they just don’t raise prices. At least that would be honest.