These Tide Bottles Are Not At All Confusing

Reader Garret wants to know how two bottles of Tide containing the exact same amount of liquid, with identical measuring caps, can contain two different numbers of “loads.”

The wife and I were at Sam’s Club the other day and needed to pick up some laundry detergent. We always buy the largest capacity they have and check the price accordingly. On this trip, Sam’s had 3 large capacity Tide containers; Regular Tide, Tide w/Frebreez and Tide w/ Downy. Each container was priced at $19.84.

Of course we wanted the one with the largest capacity. So we picked up the regular Tide that stated on the bottle “110 Loads”. As we started to look at the other choices, I noticed that the other two containers stated “81 Loads” but were also priced at the $19.84 price. This being the case I looked at the container capacity. All three were “170 FL OZ (1.32 GAL) 5.02 L” (pics attached).

Thinking that the additional additives to the Tide (Frebreez and Downy) might have diluted the strength of the detergent I pulled and compared the measuring caps of each bottle and they were identical. It appears price wise they were all the same. But, I could not figure out how there would be less loads with the same 170 FL OZ and identical measuring caps. Do the marketing folks at Procter & Gamble realize that the advertised load capacity of the detergents makes no sense?

So the question remains. Is it 110 loads or 81 loads?

If the measuring caps truly are exactly the same then… we don’t have the first damn clue. Maybe you’re supposed to wash fewer clothes.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Usually they base the load amount on the size of the load, and what line inside the cap you fill to.

  2. bsalamon says:

    it could just be a typo

  3. JackAshley says:

    The predetermined level or line on the fill cap will most likely be higher on the cap, requiring you to use more for each load, as it is diluted with fabric softener!

  4. zomgorly says:

    That touch of Downy throws off the amount of loads.

  5. Pancakes?? FRENCH TOAST!! says:

    The 81 load bottles are filled with the missing sheets of toilet paper.

  6. egosub2 says:

    Dark matter?

  7. Nissan288 says:

    the downy one may be more concentrated due to the softener in there…

  8. Erskine says:

    I would imagine that “touch of Downy” takes away from the amount of detergent in the bottle, thereby lessening its cleaning capacity per fluid ounce.

    This, of course, is based on me reading the label – which seems to be done less and less these days…

  9. Dashrashi says:

    I bet the caps are the same, but the lines are drawn differently inside of them.

  10. MPHinPgh says:

    *off-topic mode=ON*

    Sam’s Club? Why would you want to give your money to the evil empire that is WalMart? Is there no alternative in your area?

    I would hope there is some other reailer that is more deserving of your money.

  11. There is an asterisk next to the numbers. Could we get a close up of what they indicate?

  12. kingKonqueror says:

    This isn’t at all illogical. The one that advertises fewer loads is diluted with fabric softener. Therefore you need a larger volume of liquid to get the same amount of detergent.

    Sure, the caps look the same, but since when do you fill the cap to the very top? There’s always a line inside that demarcates the suggested amount for one load.

    That being said, it sure is a funny picture.

  13. projoe1979 says:

    Wow. Two different products do two different things. Amazing.

    People use too much detergent anyway. Just use about 75% of the reccomended value and your clothes will turn out fine.

  14. randombob says:


    EXACTLY. You take the same-sized container, but this time instead of loading 170 fl. oz. of TIDE, you load ~135 fl. oz TIDE and the rest DOWNY.

    So to get the same amount of DETERGENT, the main product being sold, you are required to use MORE per cap, resulting in LESS LOADS as compared to the DETERGENT-ONLY formula….

    This really shouldn’t have made it onto the site, c’mon.

  15. fdx3k1 says:

    It has fabric softener in it! Not sure how that didn’t make sense. It basically means that they put enough softener in it to reduce the amount of loads the bottle of soap can clean. It isn’t rocket surgery or brain science.

  16. MercuryPDX says:

    I don’t understand why you would mix softener and detergent in the same bottle/Washer.

    I thought fabric softener is added to the rinse (final) cycles of the washing machine because it “cuts through or neutralizes” the detergent, allowing the softener to saturate/coat the fabric?

    This is why fabric softener used on towels makes them less absorbent.

  17. Amelie says:

    @MPHinPgh: Why buy Tide, as it’s made by the equally evil Proctor & Gamble? The bottom line is people can buy whatever they please, wherever they please. They don’t need some self-righteous, ignorant prick, moralizing at them.

  18. MBZ321 says:

    Off topic, but I laugh at people who buy Tide at the grocery store…when they could easily pick up one of the “2nd tier” brands (Purex, Dynamo, etc) that is usually on sale for $1.99 for a standard size bottle. I don’t think my clothes are getting any less clean.

  19. theblackdog says:

    @mercurypdx: What about using dryer sheets, do they also make towels less absorbent?

  20. Hoss says:

    All this one proved is that Sam’s Club, along with the other membership stores, shaft you on items like this. You think it’s a good deal because it’s in a large bottle and it’s at Sam’s, but the fact is the price is no cheaper than most department stores

  21. topgun says:

    I think there is probably a toll free phone number on the back to answer such questions.

  22. MercuryPDX says:

    @theblackdog: The article I linked above says they’re one and the same (one is liquid dispersal, the other would be gaseous), but further googling will reveal an entire “Anti-Softener” contingent who says to use baking soda, vinegar, or a combination of the two instead.

  23. MPHinPgh says:

    @zouxou: No, sometimes they DO need a prick to do plant a bug in their ear.

    As far as being self-righteous, there was nothing of the sort in that remark, and moralizing is a bit of a stretch.

    Compare the number of posts on The Consumerist that deal with WalMart to those that deal with P&G. WalMart seems to come out the winner of the “Evil Empire” award. Is it not a fair question to ask if there’s an alternative?

    I have the right to pose the question, just as you have the right to call me a prick.

  24. socalrob of the 24 and a half century says:

    OMG I’ve been looking for just Plain old ass orange bottle tide without any stupid ass additives for ever. I’ve used that downey one. Its crap. Costs the same and has less loads. Plus they put SOOOOOOOOOO much downey in the product you have to was the clothes 2x (once with soap and once on just a rinse without detergent) just to get the downey out of the clothes.

    All these companies do now is just add crap to their producs. Tide is going to come with dirt added soon just to get you to use more.

  25. mopar_man says:


    I wish my sister-in-law would listen to that advice. My wife and I live with her and she fills the cup and lets it overflow into the washing machine. She also uses 2 cups of fabric softener for every full load as well. This is also the same one who drinks a case (24) of Diet Mountain Dew every week. “Moderation” is not in her vocabulary.

  26. IndyJaws says:

    @theblackdog: No, but they supposedly cause cancer (but what else doesn’t?). []

  27. Laffy Daffy says:

    The cap sizes are different to account for the addition of the Downy. Also, be aware that detergent manufacturers are moving toward more concentrated formulas, so 85 ounces may now be doing the work of what 170 ounces did last summer.

  28. DeeJayQueue says:

    Ok, all you math whizzes out there.

    according to the label on the bottle, the bottle contains 170 fl.oz. of “something”. it doesn’t specify what, and in what ratio. That means that even if 75% of the bottle were fabric softener, it would still be 170 fl.oz..

    So, there are 2 possibilities here.

    1. a Load of “regular” tide is 1.55oz, while a load of Tide with Downy is 2.1 oz. Since the OP said that the cups were the same size, the lines might be in different places inside the cups, but there’s no way to know that.

    2. the marketing department, ad department, or some other department fucked up and put the wrong number on one or the other bottle.

    I’m leaning towards #2, since it would be hard not to notice that the line would be 25% higher in the downy cup than in the regular tide cup.

  29. catskyfire says:

    Two things. The one mixed with Downy would have fewer loads because, well, it’s mixed. That makes the big difference.

    And second, can we stop with the ‘how dare you even think of shopping at ***’ comments?
    This happens a lot on Best Buy threads, but it’s cropped up here against Sam’s Club. Maybe they are evil. Maybe all they want is your money. (…Okay, that’s the basis of a business…) But we shop there for our own reasons. Maybe we don’t have many options. Maybe we’d rather go to the Super Conglomerate than spend 7 bucks on something we could buy there for 4. Heck, maybe we like the places we choose to shop most of the time.

  30. mmathers says:

    Here’s a tip: instead of buying the pricey brand name detergent, look for the cheapest brand name detergent that contains BOTH SURFACTANTS AND ENZYMES.

    Most of the cheaper brands will contain just surfactants (soap) and will NOT work as well as the higher end brands that also contain enzymes to break up organic bits like sweat.

    There is a middle ground though and as long as you are OK with the smell, you’ll save a few bucks off of the premium products. My wife and I don’t care about the smell so that’s what we end up buying.

  31. sly100100 says:

    I don’t like products like this that add to things together, like celery salt. I prefer to add my own salt to taste. And the celery seed is just that celery seed.
    The same with these detergents I buy soap to be soap and then add or not add other products. You get a better deal by buying just a single product than if you buy the blended version. Like others have said they add more fabric softener to the detergent so your getting less soap. Therefor loosing money.
    Also keep in mind the number of loads is based on there “measurement” of how much soap to add. I often only add 3/4 of that amount into each load, depending on the load size and how dirty the laundry is.
    You’ll find you save a lot on soap just by cutting back a little bit and I assure you you wont notice the difference.

  32. framitz says:

    The two bottles obviously contain two DIFFERENT products, I would expect less loads from the bottle with fabric softener added.

    Seems that actually reading the container would have answered the question before it was asked.

  33. shadow735 says:

    the downey one has a false bottom so that the bottle looks bigger

  34. polyeaster says:

    I second Dashrashi’s comment.

  35. Jetfire says:

    It appears that they just change what the “Medium Load” detergent recommendation is. On some containers it says Line 1 and on other Line 2.

  36. Shadowman615 says:

    @kingKonqueror: Did you even read the article? For example the part that said, “Thinking that the additional additives to the Tide (Frebreez and Downy) might have diluted the strength of the detergent I pulled and compared the measuring caps of each bottle and they were identical.”

  37. RulesLawyer says:

    It could also be that the caps are identical, but the instructions on the Downy-Tide might say “fill to line 3”, while the regular Tide might say “fill to line 2”. That’s what I’d do, if I was manufacturing caps like this.

    Of course, filling either one to line 1 would probably get your clothes just as clean.

  38. DarthShan says:

    the caps are identical to leverage costs. They are two completely different products. One is a regular liquid detergent and the other is a liquid detergent with a fabric softening agent so you don’t have add fabric softener to the rinse.

  39. Erskine says:

    @Shadowman615: There’s like four of us who showed you the logic behind that – read, please.

  40. youbastid says:

    @MBZ321: That crap ruins clothes.

  41. krunk4ever says:

    @JackAshley: that would be my guess too. even though both have the same size measuring cup (from the outside), the lines inside I’m pretty sure are different since the fewer loads Tide is mixed in with Downy.

  42. velvetjones says:

    @mopar_man: I got itchy reading that, and I’m guessing her clothes always look filthy.

  43. Framling says:

    Ye Gods, people!

    Fewer loads! Less detergent, fewer loads!

    If you count it, use ‘fewer’; if you measure it, use ‘less’.

  44. @Erskine: The problem is with all those damn words that do this thing like MAKE IT CLEAR that there is a softener additive in one and not the other which obviously dilutes the detergent which means it takes more to get the same number of loads clean (this is based on science and bunny torture).

    I know this has been explained several times above, but I thought it would be nice to point out how idiotic it is that this post was made.

    Some real cracker jack reporting here, guys.

    Dont by that toxic garbage anyway, spend a buck more and get non toxic Method Home products.

  45. gingerCE says:

    When u use regular tide liquid, line one is medium loads–when you use tide with bleach or in this case, tide with downey, line two is the medium load–you use more liquid for the load in the tide with bleach or with downy.

    Tide has been doing this for decades (with their bleach version–their downy one is newer).

    I like Tide, it does clean well, but I have started making my own detergent which I like better.

  46. Ghede says:

    Oh, the loads are equal. When you account for the loads of bullcrap.

  47. Tide is wildly overformulated and provides a great deal less marginal utility value added for the cost increase they charge.

    I use Purex, but then, my dad is the packaging manager for all Purex lines.

  48. gingerCE says:

    @Shadowman615: Yes, the caps are the same, but the directions on the back of the bottles are different. Line 1 for regular Tide, Line 2 for Tide with Downy.

  49. trujunglist says:

    Mystery solved, different directions require different fill lines!


    Good point. No point in calling out any one business when they’re ALL out to screw you over in some way…
    But seriously, I used to live in Georgia, and there was a club store there called BJ’s (awesome name for a store btw). I saw them around quite a bit, but I’ve never seen them anywhere else. The nearest Costco was like 20 miles away. We all know that BJ’s are great, but what if BJ’s sucked (ba dum psh) for whatever reason? Well, you might feel morally superior for not going to Costco, but you’d better feel sort of shitty because you used up all that gas getting there. Sometimes there aren’t options. Sometimes, all you really need is a BJ.

  50. guroth says:

    It is simple, you don’t have to use as much detergent per load of the type that advertises more loads.

    This story outlines how too many people lack common sense and problem solving skills

    “oh noes I dun git it, email consoomerist!”

  51. yasth says:

    Just a note that there really are real differences between the low mid and high grade stuff…


    And just because gain cleans as well as Tide did doesn’t mean it cleans as well as Tide does, as there is continual pressure downward.

    That said the number of people who really notice must be pretty low, and the difference seems larger in dry then liquid.

  52. enascar88 says:

    Since I saw this posting I have since contacted the makers of Tide and once I get a response I will share.

  53. synergy says:

    @JackAshley: IAWTC

  54. Buran says:

    @MPHinPgh: And we have the right to be annoyed at stuff like this that has NOTHING to do with topic being discussed… if you don’t want to take the flak, don’t fly over the target.

  55. Buran says:

    Well, gee, no one’s mentioned this yet so I think I’ll throw this in – the less-loads one has less detergent! Gee! Wow! No one here has thought of that yet!

    (geez people, don’t people bother to read past comments before they start typing? That’d take actual effort…)

  56. Psqunq says:

    What I’m curious about is why the coldwater tide has fewer loads per bottle than the regular tide.

    I also get a chuckle out of the fact that if it were not for a single space, the bottle would be advertising that it was both MORE EFFECTIVE and USELESS.

  57. Kenneth says:

    I’ve lost precious minutes of my life in the detergent aisle calculating this very puzzling problem. In the end I buy the regular tide. But it still confuses me.

  58. SkyeBlue says:

    I would guess they add the fabric softener to the laundry detergent because like with all other convienence products the manufacturers figure we are now even too lazy to get up off the couch to add a cap of fabric softener to a load of laundry!

  59. theblackdog says:

    @mercurypdx: Great, I’ll have to look up to see if I can reverse this on my towels :-/

  60. RandomHookup says:

    @GitEmSteveDave: It’s probably another ‘phantom asterisk’ where they include it, but nowhere is there an actual explanation of what it means (or it leads to ‘see store for details’ and no one at the store has any info).

  61. ladylarkoflunacy says:

    Wow can you believe how many of us have the time & energy to write about various caps sizes, evil empires,utility values, more evil empires, flavouring it all with cursing, strange abbreviations, product insults, & scientific stats! Personally I buy both tide and Purex. I’ve read that Tide doesn’t necessarily clean better but helps preserve your clothing. I find my clothes just too expensive to take any chances but I do wash the towels, sheets, dog & hubbies stuff in good old Purex. But then I vote libertarian so what do I know!

  62. guymandude says:

    Real simple: Find a scale. Weigh the caps before any liquids are in them. Find something to measure the detergent in and put equal volumes of detergent in each cap. Reweigh the caps+liquid. Put caps near a dehumidifier and allow them to “dry”. Reweigh caps. Remeasure volume of detergent in caps. Now you can compute the densities for each cap. By knowing the results from the “softenerless” cap you know the density of just the detergent. Back compute amount of fabric softener in the other cap. This will tell you what fraction of softener to detergent you have. Scale per load as required. Simple. :)

  63. Shadowman615 says:

    @Erskine: I understood the logic, but if the lines on the measuring cup are the same, well, you get the point. Apparently the directions specify to use different amounts, so that explains it.

  64. SimonSwegles says:

    @MBZ321: And I make my own detergent for roughly $0.50/5gal. It takes about 30 minutes of my time every few months. Humongous savings!

  65. bubuli says:

    @Erskine: LOL! and i agree!

    …come on, Consumerist, not all corporations are trying to screw the average Joe.

  66. AcidReign says:

        The wise consumer will test laundry detergent. When I switched to liquid from powder, I started with the recommended amount, then put in less and less, till I ended up with a dirty result that needed to be run again. Then, I went back up a little. For regular, no-additive Tide, that’s about 45% of the measuring cup. If you’ve got extra nasty items to wash, you might want to increase it to 60%. And results are going to vary depending on the hardness of your incoming water. In areas where the calcium hardness is very low, getting soap out is a real problem…

        As far as big box stores, my choice to use Sam’s is based on convenience. Sam’s is 3 miles from my house, Costco is 20. And Tide is DEFINITELY better than most other brands. I cheap out on lots of stuff in my life, but wearing stinky, dirty clothes is NOT going to work!