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Clark Howard: The best detergent is also the cheapest

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If you’re looking for the best laundry detergent for the money, look no further than the house brand at one of my favorite stores.

The latest issue of Consumer Reports  gives “best buy” checkmarks to two detergents for front or high-efficiency top-loaders. Both show that it’s entirely possible to pay twice as much for roughly equivalent cleaning power from the industry leader ... but why would you want to?

Wisk Deep Clean (liquid) costs 14 cents a load and scored an 80 on a scale of 100.

Costco’s Kirkland Signature Ultra Clean (powder) costs 9 cents a load and scored a 73. 

Both of those “best buys” are much cheaper than Tide Ultra plus Bleach Vivid White+Bright HE (powder), the highest-ranked laundry detergent of all. At 23 cents a load, the Tide offering got an 82 yet failed to clinch the magazine’s seal of approval.

Target’s Up & Up HE (liquid) — a previous “best buy” winner — raised the price per load in the latest tally from 11 cents to 13 cents, but only scored a 67 this time out.

When it comes to laundry detergent for top-loaders, the only one to get the “best buy” checkmark was Tide Plus Bleach Alternative Vivid White+Bright. At 18 cents a load, it scored a lowly 61 — still the best score in its class.

Not really into commercial laundry detergents? Try making your own. It takes about 20 minutes to make and works out to cost only 6 cents a load; find the recipe on my website.

Meanwhile, Procter & Gamble is readying a new budget version of Tide. The new product, Tide Simply Clean & Fresh, will be 35 percent cheaper than regular Tide, according to The Wall Street Journal. It will be packaged in a yellow bottle like Arm & Hammer detergent.

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Find more answers to your consumer questions at Clark's website.

-- Clark Howard -- Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs -- for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog

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