June 20, 2013 — -- Tide detergent is so sought after that retailers in Colorado are locking up the product and hiring undercover security guards to patrol their aisles. While Tide is the most popular laundry detergent, other brands are nearly as good or better and cost less, says a top consumer testing group.
Tide is perennially a top performer in Consumer Reports' annual laundry detergent study, but this year some other products, including a store brand, broke into the top-ranked products.
Wisk Deep Clean rated highest among conventional detergents while Costco's Kirkland Signature is becoming a brand to be reckoned with among the name brand players, the magazine reported.
Consumer Reports senior editor Daniel DiClerico said laundry detergent is a "fun category" because manufacturers tweak their formula more frequently than, say, toilet paper.
Read More About the Best and Worst Toilet Papers
Products can be changed and new products introduced for several reasons, like cost-cutting, environmental green features or performance.
Consumer Reports tests each detergent for things like general cleaning and the ability to remove grass, blood and collar rings.
"Tide is really a perennial winner," DiClerico said. "You always know they're going to be in the running. It was exciting to see competition from Wisk and more surprisingly from Kirkland, a bargain brand. To see a value brand like that outperforming the big dogs like Tide in a couple of categories -- I would say that's the big surprise this go around."
By virtue of being a Costco brand, Kirkland is cheaper, but not the least expensive detergent Consumer Reports tests. Among the recommended brands, it offers the best value, he said.
While Tide Pods were the only single-use detergent to be recommended by Consumer Reports last year, it ranked behind Costco's Kirkland Signature Ultra Clean Pacs this year. They performed slightly better while costing 8 cents less per load.
DiClerico cautioned parents to keep the pacs and pods, which can look like candy, out of the hands of young children.
Consumer Reports' list of "losers" became longer this year. Martha Stewart Clean 2X was its lowest-rated detergent and All 2X Ultra Stainlifter and Basics 2X Concentrated were dinged for "unimpressive cleaning on grass, blood, and body oils" among conventional detergents.
Here are the top 7 picks for Consumer Reports' two categories for laundry detergents.
Top Conventional Brands, for standard top-loading washers:
1. Wisk Deep Clean, liquid
2. Tide Plus Bleach Alternative Vivid White + Bright, liquid
3. Tide for Cold Water, liquid
4. Cheer Stay Colorful for Darks, liquid
5. Tide Ultra Free & Gentle, powder
6. Tide TotalCare, liquid
7. Gain Icy Fresh Fizz Oxi Boost 2-in-1 FreshLock, liquid
Top High-Efficiency Brands, for front-loading or high-efficiency top-loading washers
1. Tide Ultra Plus Bleach Vivid White + Bright, powder
2. Wisk Deep Clean Free & Pure, liquid
3. Kirkland Signature Ultra Clean Pacs (Costco), pods/packs
4. Tide Ultra HE, powder
5. Tide HE Plus Bleach Alternative Vivid White + Bright, liquid
6. Kirkland Signature Ultra (Costco), powder
7. Tide Pods, pods/packs