Best Washing Powder For Clean Laundry

A guide to the best laundry powders on the market for bright and clean clothes.

Best Washing Powder

by Ellen Kinsey |
Updated on

From environmentally friendly detergents to the best value washing powders - doing laundry may not be your favourite task on your to-do list, but it is one of the most essential ones. Therefore it is important to find the best washing powders for you. The smell of a clean load of laundry fresh out of the best washing machines is one of the most comforting smells in the world, from crisp sheets and cosy, clean pyjamas to a fresh pair of trousers.

Traditional washing powder differs from laundry liquid detergent and is the most economical option as it tends to be cheaper than liquids. Washing powder is a type of soap detergent made up of surfactants, that eliminate dirt and stains, co-builders that minimise the effects of calcium and sodium in the water, enzymes to eliminate food and bodily stains, as well as perfumes and oxygen powder bleach.

Best Washing Powder At A Glance:

• Editor's choice: Bio-D Washing Powder - View on Ocado
Best for sensitive skin: Fairy Non-Bio Washing Powder - View on Wilko
• Best for sustainable powder pods subscription: Homethings' LAUNDRYTHINGS Powder Pods - View on Get Home Things
• Best for stubborn stains: Ecover Non-Bio Washing Powder 3kg - View on Sainsbury's

A box or tub of powder detergent usually comes with a small measuring scoop and goes directly into the washing machine's designated detergent drawer. This then goes into the drum of your combined washer dryer, or washing machine and pulls away the dirt and grime from the clothing, and rinses it out with water. To avoid any powder buildup, it's best to clean out your drawers regularly as well as use the best washing machine cleaner to keep your appliance performing at its best.

So before deep diving into the best washing powders on the market in the UK, let's look at a few things to consider to find the best fit for you and your household.

The best washing powders

Editor's choice

It doesn't get much better than our top choice on the list, The Bio-D laundry powder. It ticks all our boxes as it is eco-friendly, biodegradable, non-fragranced, and accredited by Allergy UK, so it is gentle on the skin, not to mention a fair price too. This powder formula is powerful and not only cleans clothes extremely well but can be used for most temperatures and modes as well. Plus, it is available in a number of sizes too, from the 1kg pack listed here to 2kg and 12kg pack, making it perfect for large households and the environment. 

Customer review: "I like this powder; clothes come out clean. I love the neutral clean smell! I always help the powder along with a little bit of water in the detergent draw; that way, it doesn't get stuck.


  • Eco-friendly
  • Biodegradable
  • Accredited by Allergy UK


  • Non-fragranced if you prefer scented laundry

Best for sensitive skin

Fairy is a household name when it comes to cleaning products and can be trusted to get the job done at a good price. Fairy claims that this washing powder is as gentle on the skin as water for those looking for a laundry powder for sensitive skin. It is dermatologically tested, and Allergy UK has awarded the Fairy Non-Bio range the British Allergy Foundation Seal of Approval. The powder smells light and fresh without an overpowering fragrance and is great for large households, and can get rid of stains even at 40 degrees.Customer review: "I cannot rate this product enough. I have been using this product on bath towels, new and old, for years. They come up white, soft, and fluffy. The fragrance is beautiful. Reminiscent of baby powder/cotton. I finish off towels in the drier, and they come out bouncy and bright. Also cleans well. Ideal for underwear too."


  • Gentle on skin
  • Trusted brand
  • Good cleaning performance


  • Basic features and may not be as effective on tough stains

Best for white washes

If you are looking for an efficient washing powder to tackle your whites, then Miele's Ultrawhite powder detergent will make the dirtiest of white t-shirts fresh and bright again. It comes with a fresh fragrance and will lift the most stubborn stains. Miele claims that its powder is suitable for use at 20, 30, 40, 60 right up to 95 degrees, so it should work with an extensive range of modes.

Review: "Very good, effective, gently scented. I'm pleased."


  • Great for targeting whitewashes
  • High efficiency
  • Premium quality


  • May require more product for hard water areas

Best scented washing powder

If the scent of your laundry is important to you, then this washing powder from Surf smells lovely with the scent of fresh lily and sweet ylang-ylang and is one of the best laundry detergent scents on the market. That being said, it’s not the best choice for those with sensitive skin because it is biological and uses fragrance. This powder is suitable for all fabrics except wool and silk and offers excellent value for money with 130 washes in the box.

Review: "The fragrance is wonderful; it’s a cross between the fresh lining and a spring river garden, absolutely sublime. It's good on our sensitive skin, smells great (and holds its fragrance well), and leaves your clothing bright and clean. The price far surpasses what I can buy in my local supermarket; it lasts for months and is delivered right to your door."


  • Biological
  • Pleasant fragrance
  • Effective cleaning
  • Good for everyday laundry


  • Not suitable for sensitive skin
  • Fragrance may be too strong for some

Best supermarket brand washing powder

Cheap and cheerful, this powder not only leaves your clothes smelling great but also packs a punch when it comes to eliminating stains in dirty loads. The box on this one tears open at the top, and despite the mixed reviews on Sainsbury's website, this washing powder has been ranked highly, and many customers claim it works very effectively.

Review: "Found this powder works well in cleaning on daily washes on both 60 min cycle and longer. No problems with using in the dispenser draw on my Hoover washing machine."


  • Cheap and good performance
  • Good stain removal
  • Widely available


  • It doesn't come with a scoop and is prone to clumping

Best for sustainable powder pods subscription

Eco laundry pods
Price: £10 or (subscription £8.50 + /monthly)

Homethings are all about using tablets and powders as they produce the best outcome with the lowest environmental footprint. The ingredients in Laundry things pods are made with mild detergents that are vegan friendly, SLS and plastic free, and have a fragrance-free option for those with sensitivities. They are made in a factory run from 100 per cent renewable energy sources and also just 19p a wash. Plus, you can subscribe and save 12.5 per cent on your order if they become a standard cleaning item for your household.

Review: "We love the scent, and it cleans as good as our previous washing pods and soap without the worry of the plastic affecting the environment."


  • Environmentally friendly
  • Good for sensitive skin
  • Sustainable packaging
  • Convenient pod format


  • Subscription model may not suit all

Best for stubborn stains

This lavender and eucalyptus-scented powder smells clean and light but is not to be overlooked when it comes to tackling stains. Ecover is an eco-friendly brand made with plant-based, biodegradable ingredients, which are also suitable for use in houses that are fitted with septic tanks. A 3kg box should see you through 40 washes; however, in urban areas with hard water, you may need to add a little more product.

Review: "I have been using this for 10+ years. Lovely natural scent. Does a pretty decent job on stains on a 40-wash. I'm really sensitive to brands that aren't natural. I tried a few other natural brands, but I always come back to this for reliability and smell. Everyone always tells me my clothes smell beautiful. I use the Ecover fabric conditioner."


  • Sustainable and powerful detergent
  • Plant-based ingredients
  • Effective on stains


  • The scent may not appeal to all

Best bulk buy washing powder

This bulk box contains 140 washes from Ariel and has been created to be tougher than the average washing powder, making it a good choice for stains and for keeping whites pearly white. You can get the washing powder in several different-sized packs, but the 9kg pack, which has 140 washes, is the best choice in our opinion.

Review: "Never disappointed with Ariel. Used it for over 40 years and never had a reason to complain."


  • Bulk buying is cost-effective
  • Excellent stain removal
  • Suitable for white and colour laundry


  • The box is big, so you will need somewhere sufficient to store it


Is it better to use washing powder or liquid?

Like most things, this comes down to preference. However, powder detergent is stronger at combatting tough stains, but liquid detergent is already a liquid, which means that it dissolves immediately into the machine as the water starts to fill up. In tests, washing powder has outperformed liquids and pods on stain removal, and it's often the cheapest option

Is washing powder better for the environment?

Washing powder tends to be more eco-friendly than liquid detergent because they have not been diluted with water, which in turn makes them more energy efficient. However, you can get liquid laundry detergents that are manufactured to minimise water and energy waste, but as a whole, powder is more sustainable.

What to consider when buying washing powder

Bio vs non-bio washing powder

The first thing you will want to decide between is whether you want biological (bio) washing powder or non-biological. Biological powders contain enzymes which are excellent for stain removal, whereas non-biological powders do not contain these enzymes. Therefore, they are more suitable for those with skin sensitivities, but they aren’t as effective at removing stains.

The enzymes break down protein, starches, and fat that are often found in food stains, sweat and other common stains leaving your clothing and fabrics clean and renewed.

Related: The Best 9kg Washing Machines For Every Household

If you or any member of your household have any severe skin sensitivities or if you are particularly prone to irritation, then opt for a non-bio option. The biological powder is going to be the higher performance choice you can use at lower temperatures, which cuts down on the chances of shrinkage or damage and reduces energy bills.

Hard and soft water

Another thing to look at is the water quality in your area. As the UK supply is mainly composed of chalk and limestone, around 60 per cent of houses in the country have a hard water supply. Laundry detergents don’t work as well in hard water areas as they cannot lather up as much. So you will need to use a bit more washing powder in hard water areas. So even if the box says that it will have 40 washes, you may be looking at a bit less.

Check your postcode here to see if you live in a hard or soft water area with this water hardness map.

Can you put washing powder directly into the drum?

Technically, you can put washing powder directly into the drum, but only if you're skipping the pre-wash cycle. If you choose to do this, you should use good quality washing powder and a high temperature - otherwise, you could end up with powdery streaks on your clothes and clumps of powder in the drum, which will be no fun to clean.

Is fabric softener necessary?

No, you don't need to add fabric softener to your wash. The short answer is that fabric softeners don't contribute to the cleaning of your clothes, so you don't need to worry about stain removal or lingering smells if you don't use it.

Ellen Kinsey is a Senior Health & Wellness Product Writer for A Modern Kitchen, specialising in sustainable living and healthy cooking. She lives and breathes all things food, travel and wellness.

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