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10 Laundry Products That Waste Your Money (and What to Buy Instead)

Find out the washing machines, detergents, and dryer sheets that are not worth your cold, hard cash—and what you should be buying instead.

1 / 10

Best washer/dryer for small spaces

For some, a traditional washer and dryer, is a waste of money—and not necessary—especially if you live in a small space, yet Consumer Reports wasn’t crazy about the compact Whirlpool WFW5090GW washing machine, rating it only a “fair,” describing it as “the worst at cleaning” from the compacts they tested.

What to buy instead: “Because I live in a 650-square foot apartment, I have an LG WM3488HS 2.3 cu.ft. Compact All-In-One Washer/Dryer that fits right under my kitchen countertop,” says writer Alden Wicker, founder of EcoCult, a sustainable fashion and travel site. Although fab for small spaces, Wicker warns that items take a while to dry in this machine, so if you want it, patience is a virtue. “It does indeed save space and money upfront to get a combo, but I would only recommend this machine if you want to line dry most of your clothing.” Find out the 11 things that should never ever end up in your washing machine.

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2 / 10

Best eco-friendly front loading washing machine

Front-loading washing machines use up to 36 percent less water, shares Kyle Kroeger, Founder of Renewity, a green-living community that teaches the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy. Consumer Reports tested the Samsung WA40J3000AW, and rated it “Fair,” stating it “uses the most water of the dozens of HE (High-efficiency) top-loaders we tested, yet it still leaves stains on fabrics.”

What to buy instead: Kroeger’s a fan of the LG 14-Cycle Front-Loading Smart Wi-Fi Washer with TurboWash and Steam. “This machine is awesome because of the Smart ThinQ technology that gives you push notifications on completed cycles and problems and it’s compatible via Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant,” he says. “Also, this one has a TWIN Wash system and SideKick pedestal washer that allows you to tackle two loads of laundry at the same time.”

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3 / 10

The best value front loader

When it comes to top loaders, Kroeger isn’t the biggest fan, especially of the GE 3.8 cu. ft Electric Washer. “It’s extremely clunky and has limited durability issues and as a result, might drain more water than necessary. The high-energy consumption is shown through the washing machines loud noise and high number of wash cycles relative to energy-efficient and Energy Star certified models.”

What to buy instead: He really likes the Samsung Energy Start Front-Load Washer. “I love this energy-efficient front load washer that uses the Self Clean+ technology that keeps your washer fresh and clean without the use of nasty chemicals. Additionally, there really isn’t a better value for this kind of front-load, high-efficiency washer on the market.” Find out the real reason your clothes shrink in the washing machine—and what you can do about it.

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4 / 10

Best combo machine

“Last year, we came across a machine so bad we gave it a ‘Shonky Award’,” says Ashley Iredale of CHOICE, an Australian-based company that reviews appliances. “The Samsung WD16J9845KG 16/8kg washer dryer combo had appalling drying performance, taking 6.5 hours and using up to 210 liters of water to dry a load of clothes on top of the time and water used for washing.” In a water-scarce country like Australia, it’s “downright negligent,” says Iredale. “And we found that in the time it takes to dry a load of clothes you could fly somewhere sunny and line dry them. Luckily, it has recently been discontinued.”

What to buy instead: Consumer Reports recommends the LG WM3997HWA washer/dryer combo, rating it an 84 and calling it, “gentle on fabrics and relatively quiet.” Just note in general, washer/dryer combos are fab for small homes and apartments, but drying your clothes in them can take a while—up to three hours. As Consumer Reports summarizes, these combo machines aren’t perfect, but they’re better than hauling your big laundry pile to a laundromat. (If you can line dry your clothes; go for it!)

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5 / 10

The best overall washing machine

When it comes to washing machines, Sara Morrow Harcourt, deputy home content editor at Consumer Reports, says, “We have more than a dozen washer-dryer pairs in our combined ratings that earn an Overall Score of just, ‘Good’ or ‘Fair.’ Why? One reason is that some of the washers didn’t fully remove the stains from our test fabrics, despite using more water than other machines.” The lowest-ranking pair is the Speed Queen TR7 top-loader and its matching dryer. Adds Morrow Harcourt, “It’s the only washer we’ve rated that received a “Poor’ for cleaning.”

What to buy instead: “The washing machine that tested the best in Reviewed’s labs is the Electrolux EFLS627,” says Jonathan Chan, senior lab technician, “Not only is the 627 eco-friendly by using very little water and power compared to other washers, but it also has a spot for detergent pods–to ensure they dissolve completely so you don’t waste soap.” Here’s why it’s important to clean your washing machine.

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6 / 10

Best fabric softener

“I don’t think Eco Nuts are worth the money,” says Chan about the dried berries that can be used as a detergent and softener. according to the packaging. “I know they got popular after appearing on Shark Tank, but in the lab, they came in dead last in our testing at Reviewed, which showed they are only slightly better than just using water.”

What to buy instead: For eco-friendly laundry products, Chan likes Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent. “It came out on top during our Eco-friendly Laundry Detergent Roundup. Aside from cleaning well, Seventh Generation also makes it a point to partner up and donate to worthy causes like the Rain Forest Alliance.”

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7 / 10

Best stain remover

Guess what—you don’t really need to buy any special type of stain remover. You can clean your clothes without it—and save money.

What to buy instead: “I would hand scrub any stains first with regular bar soap, any brand—then toss the clothing in the wash with a cup of Borax and a cup of vinegar. That would do the trick,” says Christine Dimmick, founder/CEO of The Good Home Company Inc. Chris Blanchette, franchise owner, Mr. Appliance of Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts, is also a fan of Borax. “In addition to your regular laundry detergent, adding 1 tablespoon of 20 Mule Team Borax to every load of laundry does wonders for both your clothes and washing machine. Borax evenly disperses the detergent, which in turn, eliminates soap residue build-up in your machine, which in turn causes mold and musty odors.”

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8 / 10

Best laundry pods

Traditional, big-box brand laundry pods are so-so at best, according to Blanchette. “They’re pre-measured with detergent to provide consistent results, but depending on the size and cleanliness of your load of laundry, it might not be cost-effective to use multiple pods to tackle the grime.”

What to buy instead: Vapor Fresh Laundry Detergent Pods are a favorite of Dan Linsell of Duffy’s Tri-C Club Supply, a Michigan-based company that distributes toiletry supplies and gym, hotel, and spa amenities nationwide. “They truly eliminate stains and odors on a molecular level instead of just masking them with artificial fragrances and brighteners. Our clients—from professional and college sports programs to clubs and resorts—wash hundreds of jerseys, towels, and workout shirts at a time and need their detergent to work perfectly the first time. Vapor Fresh works on all fabrics, not just synthetic wicking fabrics, so we know it can deliver what our clients need.” Find out the right way to wash athleisure.

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9 / 10

Best for baby

You know you need a gentle laundry detergent for baby’s skin, but some are awfully expensive and you may be only paying for marketing as there are other gentle, scent-free options in the market.

What to buy instead: “My go-to is Tide Free and Gentle, says Melissa Maker of Clean My Space. “It removes stains, doesn’t have any scent, and doesn’t leave any residue. I like that I can use it on my clothes and my daughter’s, without having to worry about it irritating her skin.”

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Best dryer sheets

Avoid color catcher sheets, such as Shout Color Catcher, since they’re a waste of money, shares green home expert Natalie Wise, author of The Modern Organic Home. “Dye-catching sheets are mainly a marketing ploy, in my opinion,” she says. “If you separate your lights and darks, you should have no need to add this expensive product to your laundry shelves. Use common sense and wash new jeans and new red clothing separately, too.”

What to buy instead: Just stick with traditional dryer sheets, especially ones that are planet-friendly. Seventh Generation Fabric Softener Sheets are made of more natural materials and do decompose,” says Maker. Be sure to avoid these 10 laundry mistakes you didn’t know you were making.

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Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest