Some Fancy New Laundry Products Are Utterly Pointless

Our colleagues at Consumer Reports test all sorts of products to determine which are worth buying, and which aren’t. This month, they rounded up some laundry products currently on the market that aren’t worth picking up in the store: including a detergent blessed by Martha Stewart herself that wasn’t any more effective than plain water.

Here’s a video about the disappointing performance of Martha Stewart Clean Laundry Detergent:

Purex’s 3-in-1 laundry sheets also didn’t fare well, performing worse than some much less expensive detergents. And an expensive tablet designed to clean the inside of washing machines, Affresh, didn’t do much. To wash your washers, just run the machine empty with some bleach in it instead.

Our sucker list of money-wasting laundry products [Consumer Reports Home]


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  1. Jfielder says:

    They should have tested the Bounce dryer bar…. that thing intrigues me.

    • DariusC says:

      Agreed, I get those as well, but now I am not sure they are worth it… They don’t seem to soften my stuff as good as dryer sheets.

    • Tim says:

      I read that they often fall off the side of the dryer, then get their stuff all over your clothes (like, more than they’re supposed to).

      Personally, I use a communal laundry room, so it’s not an option. Though they definitely intrigued me at first too.

      • frugalmom says:

        Yep, when Vocalpoint sampled these a few months ago, many people had problems with the dryer bars crumbling all over their clothes within a few uses. They may have retooled them, but the dryer bars never came off store shelves, so there may be some of the older bars still out there.

    • davere says:

      I bought one a while back and it has lasted way more than the package said it should. It has never fallen off and it works just fine.

    • wednesdayaddams says:

      I work for a large company that makes these for hotels and restaurants. We have a company store were we can pick them up. I have talked to people who use them and they really like how they work. If they work on towels at a hotel they must work on your clothes. I don’t know if the ones at the store are just as good, but I imagine they would be.

    • momtimestwo says:

      I have one also and it works just fine and it doesn’t leave a heavy scent on your clothes.

    • qbubbles says:

      From folks I know, they think its great. Unfortunately, I’m ridiculously allergic to Bounce.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        i wish i could figure out the allergen in bounce. my sister used it when i lived with her and when i ran a load after her i had to wait a day or two to let my clothes air out or i’d be sneezing and itching like mad

        • Julia789 says:

          I believe many dryer sheets have rendered animal fat in them. Perhaps if you are allergic to certain animal products that could be it. But it’s more likely not an allergy – instead a strong chemical irritation/sensitivity to the perfumes and chemicals, which can cause some people to break out in rashes. Those perfumes are heavy-duty because they are meant to last on the clothes for a few days, so they’re much stronger than even department store perfume you’d spray on that wears off in a couple of hours. I can’t handle strong perfume smells. My eyes water up.

          • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

            you’re assuming i’ve been near a department store perfume area more than once. if a store puts one near an entrance, i just don’t go near that store. actually, between that and the kiosks, i only go to the mall when i need my watch battery changed and have it pressure tested so i don’t ruin it underwater.
            but yes, i guess i meant irritant rather than allergen. i’m not allergic to any animal products that i know of but i am allergic to a load of plant products

    • Julia789 says:

      What about that sheet that absorbs dye in the washer, so a red shirt doesn’t turn your clothes all pink? Anyone tried that out yet?

      • caradrake says:

        I’ve used it. It seems to work really well – but I don’t trust them enough to put a new red shirt in with the wash. It’d likely be fine… but it’s not something I want to test.

    • jacques says:

      According to the company, the dryer bar contains beef fat/tallow like all bounce products. A shame, since the Mrs. Meyers sheets I use are fine but can’t handle anything larger than a medium load without needing more sheets.

    • Laura Northrup says:

      I’m trying one now. I like it a lot, but I think it gives off more scent than I normally would have used.

    • Puddy Tat says:

      I have one due to my new washer gobbling up all my fabric softener had to switch though now I should do two of them at a time.

  2. jpdanzig says:

    Anyone who has read the stories of Martha Stewart’s exploding glass patio tables knows that her name on a product doesn’t seem to stand for anything except poor quality and steep prices. It doesn’t surprise me that CR found her laundry detergent to be no exception.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      So because a tempered glass table breaks the way it should break, All Martha Stewart stuff is crap?

    • cash_da_pibble says:

      we have a Martha Stewart Glass Patio Table, and it’s been wonderful for the past 6 years. No signs of rust, the glass hasn’t chipped OR broken. I like my patio Set, and other then the death of the seat cushions ( expected after 6 years, i guess) it’s really surprised me for being from Kmart and built over the course of a few beers.

    • quail says:

      We have a Martha Stewart patio table & chairs that are 9 years old. No explosions.

      I’ve known several others who had them for only awhile before they shattered without a soul or object near them. In comparing notes those people seemed to have taken Martha’s directions to heart and they waxed the chairs and exterior of the table. Their chairs looked like crap a year after they began the waxing regimen per Martha’s orders. Mine did not and they were treated with neglect.

      After much debate, with beer involved, our little group believes it was these instructions that caused the table’s demise. Wax must have gotten on the glass portion and uneven heating in the sun caused the shattering.

  3. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Yeah, was just about to ask about the dryer bar.

    My main gripe with the concept though is that you then lose control of the ability to soften or not to soften some clothes.

    And my REAL worry is that fabric softener, if left on fabric, can stain. I leave my laundry in the dryer for days on end. I don’t want whatever laundry is stuck next to the dryer bar to get ruined.

    • j_rose says:

      If you don’t want to soften some clothes, take the bar out and just leave the holder. The holder sticks to the dryer and the bar (which is the part that contains the chemicals, etc) is replacable when it wears out. So take it out early, and then put it back in.

      For us, that’s easier than doing something every time (but we never really take it out anyway)

  4. sonneillon says:

    Tide is still the best laundry detergent you can get.

    Really, it always has been.

    • redskull says:

      Which is great if you can afford $12 to $15 for a jug of laundry detergent.

      • kmiles says:

        $12-15 a jug is worth it as long as you don’t use the amount they recommend in the instructions. If you consider that they say it’s good for X amount of loads using their amounts, and then use about 1/3 of the detergent, you then get 3X amount of loads and it ends up being a lot closer to the cheap, crappy brands that fade your clothes and smell like only chemicals (instead of chemicals + mountain freshness, or whatever you prefer) :-) And 1/3 the amount of detergent is still plenty, unless you do something really gross and nasty to your clothes on a regular basis… most of us don’t.

        • Wombatish says:

          Agreed, we buy Tide HE and I really, really like it. Same stuff my mom bought so I’ve used it for years and years and years (I learned to do my own laundry pretty young, hard to screw it up if you use cold almost exclusively and save anything really messy (mud-caked or grass stains) for mom) and never noticed any fading other than maybe 1 very cheap old shirt, but I kind of like the fade and it could easily be any number of other things.

          Anyways, I use a tiny, tiny bit and wash everything on cold so I don’t have to sort in our limited space, no-laundry room apartment. Most of our stuff is just ‘lightly’ dirty, but so far it works great.

          The only thing I ever use more on (and even then not usually the whole amount) is boyfriend’s work clothes because they do get gross sometimes, and occasionally if something gets extra gross (sick kitty threw up on a blanket, it got pre-soaked and washed with some rags with more detergent. Worked great.

          The one time (we had both lost our jobs and we were trying to stretch money to leave our savings be as much as possible) we tried the cheap-o walmart brand powder in the huge tub it was horrid. You’d wash the clothes and pull them out and there would be ‘pockets’ of powder still stuck in them, or little spots where it had hit the clothes (even adding it properly with the water going, it didn’t dissolve very well so it would sit there in the gentle ‘sloshing’ phase).

          Long story short: I love my modern front-load washer (and having my own finally!) and I love Tide. I’m a bit of a brand-whore sometimes (I know what I like) but not if it doesn’t deserve it, and I feel Tide does.

    • dearabby says:

      Depends on what you’re using it for – a ChemE friend who worked for them said it essentially worked by stripping the outer layer of fiber, breaking them down with each wash.

      So it’s great if you’re cleaning really dirty clothes or things that you don’t intend to use forever – like kid’s clothes. Not so great for things you want to last a long time or could be cleaned with something less abrasive.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      It’s good, but I can’t afford it. I use Arm & Hammer or the cheapo Purex.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      When I was a kid Tide would seriously fade your clothes in a hurry. Does it still do that?

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      also tide and other phosphorous containing [whitening agents] detergents can be used for neat effects at hallowe’en – blacklight reactive

  5. idx says:

    I make my own detergent at home. Seriously. It’s the only way I can get peppermint scented clothes.

    • Jeff_Number_3 says:

      That sound pretty interesting… do tell.

    • marsneedsrabbits says:

      I do, too. Here is the recipe we use:

      1 regular sized bar soap, grated. I used an old garlic grater. Some people use Fels Naptha or Zote, both of which are meant for laundry. If those are used, be careful not to inhale the smell & only use 1/2 a bar. I use whatever is around and it works perfectly.

      1 cup washing soda (not baking soda, not detergent). Ask for it at the hardware store. Kroger (King Sooper around here) carries it here for a few dollars.

      1 cup borax powder (20 Mule Team)


      5 gallon bucket

      Grate soap & dissolve in 8-10 cups water over very low heat. I’ve recently tried to do this in the sun (water, gallon sized glass jar, grated soap) and after a day outside it was melted/dissolved enough to use. This is now my preferred method. Heat until just below the boiling point (the microwave is good for this). Place the other dry ingredients to the bucket, followed by the hot water/soap mixture. Stir until melted. When everything is melted together, add water to the half-way mark on the bucket. Add essential oils now if desired & stir really well. We have clothes which are lighted scented with Frankincense & Myrrh (left over from cold process soap making) this year. They always smell so nice coming out of the drawer.
      Make sure that the bucket is covered as an uncovered bucket is a danger.
      The soap should gel after it cools down/after about a day . Sometimes it doesn’t, though. Either way, it is effective.
      We use a couple of tablespoons per load, squirted from a plastic squirty water bottle. The above is about a year’s worth of detergent for our largish family. Not counting any equipment needed (we already had everything), our laundry soap costs about $3.00 a year.

    • Big Mama Pain says:

      I add a few drops of lavender oil to my load using an unscented laundry detergent. Works great for a light scent without all the work of making it yourself. Of course, not as cheap, but you just mentioned wanting your clothes to smell like peppermint, not necessarily cost

  6. BuddhaLite says:

    Cleaning the inside of washer reminds me of this Dilbert comic

  7. j_rose says:

    In the shot of the laundry detergents, were the ones on the top of the shelf the best? If so, YAY.

  8. FatLynn says:

    How about Dryel and Dry Cleaner’s Secret? They make my clothing smell nice, but I suspect they are not actually making them “clean”.

  9. You Can Call Me Al(isa) says:

    I got a free sample of the Purex 3-in-1 laundry sheets. They left a few greasy marks on my sheets and too much scent.

    • Xenotype51 says:

      Same thing happened to me. It took several washes to get the stains out. I think it’s because the dryer sheet portion is made from some sort of waxy compound that doesn’t do well on the high heat setting. Either way, I’d just stick with whatever’s cheap unless you really need to get out some serious stains.

    • Cantras says:

      I had two sheets. One wash came out fine, the other practically stuck to itself with static.

  10. backbroken says:

    In this economy, I can’t afford these fancy ‘extra’ laundry products. I can’t even afford to run my washer and dryer. So I just throw my clothes when they get dirty and buy new ones.

  11. It'sRexManningDay! says:

    Wegman’s store brand detergent is awesome, inexpensive, and smells great. Wegman’s FTW!

  12. aloria says:

    I got a sample of Purex 3-in-1 and they left softener spots all over my laundry. I had to rewash the entire load.

    Plus, it’s ridiculously expensive… for the same price as a box of sheets I can get enough regular laundry supplies to last me a year.

  13. Geekmom says:

    I wish I knew where Arm & Hammer detergent stood on the list, but it was in the middle of the rack so maybe it’s good enough. It’s the only detergent I like the smell of and won’t break my pocket book.

    • webweazel says:

      When we moved into our newest house, we washed a boatload of stuff for the linen closet, to get a fresh start. We used A&H detergent. The closet started to stink. The towels, sheets, etc. stunk. Even some of our clothes in the closet stunk, but not all of them.) Just a weird, funky smell. I pulled everything out, scrubbed the closet fully, washed everything, put it all back in, and everything stunk again after a while. Got a different brand of detergent, and eventually, the stink went away. Got the A&H again, and the linen closet started to stink again. Now, I’m starting to pay attention and investigate. I checked items coming right out of the dryer, and they stunk already. Dryer sheets would not even help cover the funk. I make sure to avoid it now.
      Very weird.

  14. hills says:

    I picked up some “dryer balls” at Restoration Hardware figuring I’d give them a try – supposed to cut drying time by 1/4, and surprisingly, they work!

    • kmiles says:

      Yes! We LOVE dryer balls… especially the cheapo ones. ($5 for two, or whatever) :-)

    • cash_da_pibble says:

      really? I will have to look into this.
      How do they work- agitating the clothing in the dryer more?

      • MrEvil says:

        Probably puts more cavities in the clothing for warm air to get in. Fold up a pair of damp jeans and they’ll take longer to air dry than if you unfold them. it probably REALLY helps on smaller loads where you don’t have as many items to get stuff tumbling.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      I have 2 sets because one dryer ball inexplicably broke in half one load. So I run it with 3 balls. Even if it doesn’t make it dry faster, it does prevent sheets and other large bulky items from tangling into a ball that never dries.

  15. TheGreenMnM says:

    I just bought a new Whirlpool Cabrio washer and dryer. The washer actually has a cycle setting for that Affresh thing. Most of the front loaders also have this cycle labeled “Affresh”. It claims to remove the “musty” problem but I’m not buying it. Kind of irritates me that they put these fly by night settings permanently on the equipment when a year from now it will be obsolete/not available.

    • thekevinmonster says:

      Well, perhaps Whirlpool knows that a year from now, your washer won’t work and you’ll need a new one?

  16. momtimestwo says:

    Dryer balls work! I have several bouncing around the dryer now. My grandmother, back in “the day”, used to have a pair of tennis shoes that she would put in the dryer to make the clothes dry faster and fluff them up. If she were alive, she would love the dryer balls.

    • Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

      I use tennis balls when I’m drying sheets and blankets. It helps a great deal, actually. I have no idea if the actual dryer balls are any better than that or not, but the tennis balls sure were cheaper.

  17. Yoko Broke Up The Beatles says:

    The Purex 3-in-1 sheets are UTTER GARBAGE. I’ve tested them myself.

    The reasons:
    1) Cost. They are very expensive!
    2) Cleaning power (or lack thereof). For example, they simply do not perform well in cleaning dirt from socks. White socks come out with a little brown (the dirt/mud) even when washing with hot water.
    3) Softener marks on clothing. Yes, even following the manufacturer’s directions leads to some spotting.

    Now, of course, these things are convenient for the laundry-doer that doesn’t want to take the time to add a seperate dryer sheet….

    My recommendation: Stay away from the Purex 3-in-1 sheets.

  18. mopar_man says:

    I got a couple samples of the Purex 3-in-1 sheets and they seemed to work pretty well. I don’t think I would ever buy them except if I was traveling for an extended period of time. They would be much more convenient than lugging bottles of detergent and softener around.

    • Working Mom says:

      I tried the Purex 3-1 sheets to see how they worked to send with my 16 year old son to boarding school. He will be doing his own laundry and has limited storage space for a bottle of detergent. I bought the unscented ones since he hates the smells most detergents leave. I thought they did a great job, and while expensive, are good for travelling or in this situation where lack of space or inability to get to a grocery store and purchase more make them the perfect solution. I can easily mail him more when he runs out.

  19. somepoet says:

    I take my clothes to a local laundromat to get them done. For 50 cents/pound it’s cheaper than buying any laundry products and they fold them!

  20. webweazel says:

    Happy Handy Tip of the Day:
    Do NOT use fabric softener on bath towels. (or dish towels)

    I have no idea what the insistence is on this point. The softener coats the cotton fibers and makes them somewhat water-resistant. It’s like trying to dry your body with a piece of plastic wrap. The absorbency of the towel plummets to almost nothing with regular use of softeners.

    Experiment: Buy 1 bath towel in an odd color, similar to what you use regularly. Never use softener on it when washing. (Give it some time and some washes to remove any manufacturer’s softening agents.) See if there’s a difference in absorbency. See which way you like it, with or without.

  21. RLars says:

    The purex 3 in 1 is actually pretty nice for traveling. We picked some up at the commissary in San Diego for our month long business trip and it’s worked really well so far. Clothes are clean, smell nice, and packaging is convenient. Haven’t had any of the spotting problems other people mentioned.
    While it’s about $5.50 for 24 sheets, we’ll never buy them for every day laundry use, but they’re great for long business trips.

  22. lunasdude says:

    I agree with webweazel, when we bought our front load machine several years ago (because of a smallish septic tank) I changed the way I do laundry FOREVER!
    1. Less detergent = better cleaning (in most cases) and no residue left behind.
    2. For whites get a machine with a SANITARY cycle which heats up the water to very hot!
    3. I use white vinegar (yes vinegar) in the rinse cycle instead of Fabric softener. it helps get out all residue from your clothes and they rinse totally clean. I can take one of our towels and lay it on my skin and watch the water get absorbed and there very soft!
    4. use oxy clean, borax or Arm N Hammer with the detergent which helps clean better (doesn’t take much)
    5. I use either hydrogen peroxide or pure lemon juice like (Real lemon) in the bleach dispenser for my whites.
    Either one will work well since their both acidic and will (with the sanitary cycle hot water) get you a very bright white and won’t eat the clothes like bleach will.
    Our clothes are clean, bright do not smell like anything, just clean(no smell) and they last a lot longer, also for people with allergies this works great as almost all the chemicals and smells are rinsed away leaving pure clothing not scented crap!