Fine linen and clothing should be washed with a detergent specially formulated to clean and protect luxury fabric. This article compares six popular luxury detergents and evaluates them on price, performance, scent, purity of ingredients, and more. Note: As of December 2022, all detergents from The Laundress have been recalled and are not currently available to purchase; they are included in this blog for comparison purposes only. We will update if/when new products come to market.
Choose the Best Detergent for Your Luxury Washables and Fine Fabrics
Your luxury washables are an investment. And when it comes to laundering, they deserve only the best.
Quality bath and table linens, clothing, and bedding should be laundered with a detergent gentle enough to protect the fabric yet effective enough to clean and remove tough stains. Regular detergent won't fit the bill; these commercial formulations may clean your items effectively, but they often contain harsh chemicals that will ultimately take a toll on fine fabric.
Fortunately, there are many wonderful detergent options made specifically for fine fabrics. These are typically pH=neutral formulas that clean thoroughly without causing damage. At Fine Linen and Bath, we always recommend using a detergent specially formulated for delicate fabric to wash towels, bedsheets, and table linens. Our team took a look at some of the best-selling brands and weighed in with their thoughts and feedback on each.
For purposes of this discussion, we are focusing on each brand's "all-purpose" liquid detergent formula which is the most versatile option. We cleaned similar loads of towels and clothing in each brand on a regular wash cycle and followed manufacturer directions for measuring laundry soap.
Heritage Park All-Purpose Laundry Detergent, Fragrance-Free
The promise: To formulate a detergent with powerful cleaning enzymes to remove dirt and stains while preserving and restoring the natural beauty of fine linens and luxury bedding. This all-temperature detergent wash has a neutral pH; is fragrance-free, and 100% biodegradable. It has also been tested by a third-party lab (AMA Laboratories) to be hypoallergenic as well as dermatologist and pediatrician tested. It contains no harsh chemicals (sulfates, phosphates, chlorine bleach, or brighteners) and is certified cruelty free with no animal testing by Leaping Bunny. The plant-based natural ingredients are organic and are listed on the bottle and website, where they are explained in detail. The Heritage Park website features laundry tips and a blog and highlights several companion products including:
The performance: This detergent absolutely knocks it out of the "park" when it comes to towels, leaving them clean, soft, and smelling wonderfully fresh (even though it contains no added scent!) Our fussiest family member offered unsolicited praise after their towel was washed without their knowledge in this fabulous detergent, saying, "Whatever detergent you used on the towels makes them way softer and smell much better. Like incomparable." We think it's the proprietary blend of enzymes at work, cleaning the fibers and allowing them to retain their innate softness and absorbency. The bottle yields between 16 (regular machine) and 21 loads (HE machine) at a cost of of $1.14 to $1.50 each. The easy-pour spout with a "drain-back" design also eliminates mess and waste. Heritage Park All-Purpose Laundry Detergent also comes in an environmentally-friendly 64 oz. refill pack that uses 80 percent less plastic.
Recommended for: Towels, sheets and clothing that you want cleaned, restored, and freshened up. This is a versatile detergent that is also available in Shore Breeze, Lavender Mist, and Spring Magnolia scents.
LeBlanc Linen Wash, Original
The promise: Designed for the laundering of luxury and everyday washable and colorfast linens and apparel. LeBlanc Linen Wash is formulated to protect fibers while preserving the original beauty of fine textiles and apparel. It can be used on washable, colorfast, and organic linens as well as all cottons, synthetics, and blends. This cold-water wash (lukewarm for hand wash or pre-treating) has a pleasing flower/fruit/herb scent and is neutral pH. It's 100% biodegradable with no animal testing but no outside certification that we can find. It has NO cleaning enzymes as well as no bleach, caustics, phosphates, sulfates, or parabens. The ingredients aren't listed on either the website or the bottle, but the website does say that the formula contains organic ingredients; is environmentally safe; not tested on animals, and is biodegradable. The website offers laundering tips and showcases a full line of detergent and laundry accessories.
The performance: LeBlanc left our towels soft, though not quite as soft as Heritage Park, with a light pleasant scent. It did well on our laundry, too. The big limitation is that LeBlanc is formulated only for cold water and does NOT contain enzymes; therefore, it's not ideal for heavily soiled towels or laundry that need heavy-duty cleaning. Also, LeBlanc makes multiple formulations, including specialty detergent for towels, lingerie/silk, and general laundry (again, the original has no enzymes and is cold-water only). That's a LOT of separate detergents to buy! LeBlanc Linen Wash yields 16 loads per bottle for both regular and HE washing machines at a cost of $1.50 per load.
Recommended for: Clothing that can be washed in cold water.
Puracy Natural 10x Laundry Detergent
The promise:Puracy makes a lot of really big promises, starting with the idea that you can do 64 loads of wash with one bottle. However, they do send a helpful pump (something the other brands do not) to measure their very concentrated detergent. This unscented detergent is hypoallergenic and formulated for allergies/sensitive skin; it is also plant-based, 100% biodegradable, and made without harmful chemicals. It is not tested on animals and is certified by PETA as well as Leaping Bunny. Puracy contains enzymes and is neutral pH. It contains NO sulfates, petrochemicals, caustics, phosphates, phthalates, animal by-products, chlorine, allergens, or optical brighteners. Ingredients -- including enzymes -- are listed on the bottle but are not explained on either the bottle or website. The website offers tips for cleaning, wellness, and healthy living and highlights other Puracy products for the laundry, home, and personal care.
The performance: Let's begin with the math. The bottle promises up to 64 loads of wash but that is based on a single pump for hand washing. A large, non-HE load could require four pumps of detergent, which means you’re getting 16 washes out of a bottle. That said, the pump is helpful for measuring and avoiding spills and waste. Puracy left our towels clean and fresh (we needed three pumps even in our HE washing machine) but was not very effective on moderately soiled clothes, which had to be washed a second time. Perhaps Puracy would perform better on clothing if used in combination with an oxygen bleach powder or a scent booster. Additionally, the Puracy bottle says it can be used for washing silk, but it contains enzymes that can actually degrade silk and other protein-based fibers. Despite the overpromising, Puracy gets credit for eco-friendliness and sustainability. Puracy lives its commitment to fighting waste both by producing a highly concentrated formula and selling refill pouches that allow you to reuse the bottle. A large, non-HE load washed in Puracy will cost up to $1.
Recommended for: Individuals with sensitive skin or allergies, babies. Not for heavy-duty cleaning.
The Laundress Signature Detergent
EDITORIAL UPDATE: In December 2022, all of The Laundress' detergent products were recalled due to potential contamination. We will continue to monitor the situation and update our information as news becomes available.
The promise: Master everyday laundry. The company says it developed this product for those who are "serious about caring for their clothes and linens." For all-purpose laundering, Signature Detergent is perfectly formulated to whiten, brighten, and preserve color while being effective at stain removal. This all-temperature detergent is made with a "clean laundry scent" blended from flowers, citrus, and herbs. It is biodegradable, non-toxic, allergen-free, and made with no animal testing (although the Laundress' parent company DOES conduct animal testing on other products). It contains no artificial color, petroleum, phosphates, or phthalates. The ingredients are listed on the bottle and website with no detailed explanation. The site does offer robust how-to's but they often link to ancillary companion products.
The performance: The Laundress Signature Detergent did a great job on our mildly soiled clothes, leaving them clean, soft, and smelling great. It did an adequate job on our towels, not nearly as good as Heritage Park or Woolite Clean and Care. The cap on the bottle is incredibly hard to work worth; the usage instructions recommend measuring by capful which leaves us with detergent running down our arm and the side of the bottle. Also, math used to calculate loads per bottle is a bit sketchy; 64 "loads" means 64 handwashes with one capful per wash. The reality is the bottle will deliver either 32 HE loads or 16 regular machine loads following directions; this works out to between 68 cents and $1.38 per load. The Laundress also offers dozens of companion products for laundry (delicate fabrics, denim, whites, baby, etc.), household cleaning, gifts/baby, and more. The Laundress was recently purchased by Unilever, which is consistent with the aggressive upsell/cross-sell/brand extension. Honestly, should you really have to buy a completely different detergent to wash your jeans?
Recommended for: A pleasing scent and being a good value on mildly soiled clothing.
Tyler Glamorous Wash Diva
The promise:Made by Tyler Candle Company, Glamorous Wash allows candle fans to enjoy their "favorite scents throughout the day and night." (And how! More on that later). While it is formulated for HE machines, this detergent can be used in regular machines; it promises to "clean effectively yet remain gentle" on delicate fabrics such as "linens, lingerie, and fine fabrics." Instructions say to shake the bottle before using it. It is made without phosphates but otherwise, the ingredients are not listed on the website or the bottle. The website sells many scented products such as sachets and signature scented candles. We tested the DIVA scent, which is a heavy mix of fruits, florals, aromatic chocolate, and amber.
The performance. The towels we washed came out smelling VERY strong but not as clean feeling or fluffy as with other detergents. It almost appeared that the nap was down a bit. With clothing, it's hard to tell how clean the items are getting because the scent is, frankly, overpowering; in fact, we were woken up in the middle of the night by the very strong Diva smell from our recently washed nightgown. The bottom line: this detergent is NOT for everyone. You really have to be a fan of the smell, and use it judiciously. The bottle suggests the same amount of detergent for every load no matter the size or efficiency of the machine; that means a bottle yields 10 loads at a cost of $3.29/load. We think you can get away with using less than is suggested, particularly if you are just looking to scent your wash.
Recommended for: Super-fans of Tyler Candle Company DIVA scent. Consider using less than suggested, both due to cost and strength of scent.
Woolite Damage Defense (formerly Clean and Care)
The promise: The name Woolite is a legendary brand that is synonymous with washing delicate items. Damage Defense, formerly labeled “Clean and Care” says it is made to keep the clothes you love looking like new even after 30 washes without causing stretching, shrinking, or fading. It is formulated to smooth fibers; remove pilling and fuzz, and revive color. The Sparkling Falls scent is extremely mild. It can be used in all temperatures and both regular and HE machines. The ingredients are not listed on the bottle; you have to search the parent company website to find them, and they do include sulfate. The same parent company website also vaguely mentions environmental initiatives but we weren't able to click through for any specifics. However, the product website is robust and includes instructions and helpful guides for decoding fabric symbols. Companion products are Woolite Darks and Woolite Delicates (the traditional formula).
The performance: This detergent was really good on our towels, second only to Heritage Park. It also performed well on clothing. There are some odd instructions for top loaders, which include filling the machine with water, then adding the detergent, then the items to be washed. We realize this is to allow the proper dilution of the detergent, but it's super awkward, particularly if you are working with a top loader that locks. The amount of detergent recommended is the same for both HE and regular machines; each load works out to a cost of 35 cents. Our experience tells us that Clean and Care is likely a highly commercial formulation, which is why we had to dig for ingredients and environmental information. (You will note in the comparison chart below there were many questions left to be answered about this particular detergent).
Recommended for: A very cost-effective way to wash towels and keep them looking nice.
Fine Linen and Bath Top Detergent Picks are...
Best Detergent for Towels
- Heritage Park All-Purpose Laundry Detergent
- Woolite Damage Defense
Best Detergent for Clothing
- LeBlanc Linen Wash (cold only)
- The Laundress Signature Detergent
- Heritage Park All-Purpose Laundry Detergent
Best Detergent for Sheets
- Heritage Park All-Purpose Laundry Detergent
- LeBlanc Linen Wash
- The Laundress Signature Detergent
Side-by-Side Comparison Chart of the Top Luxury Detergent Brands
Click the chart image below to download the PDF. The PDF chart offers a comprehensive comparison of each of the detergents:
Tips for Caring for Towels and Sheets
Taking good care of your luxury home linen is an important step in ensuring it will last and stay beautiful. Follow these tips for taking care of your luxury towels:
- Use a laundry detergent specially made for fine linen.
- Wash towels before using. Sort towels before washing by both color and weight. Wash towels separately from clothes and don't overload your machine.
- Follow care instructions. Use bleach sparingly, if allowed, and only on a white towels or towel set. (Chlorine bleach should NEVER be used on any kind of colored towel. Use non-chlorine bleach if recommended on label).
- Avoid fabric softener or any type of dryer sheet which can cause waxy build-up on towels. Dry towels using wool dryer balls instead.
- Hang wet towels to dry to minimize mold and odor.
- Follow these simple steps to restore and refresh bath towels at any time.
And follow these tips for caring for your luxury sheets and bedding:
- Read care guidelines and wash sheets before using. Sort by color and be sure to wash all pieces of a bedding set together to ensure even wear.
- Use a detergent made for fine linen.
- Pre-treat stains prior to washing. Don't pour the detergent directly onto the fabric; instead, add it to the water as the wash tub fills, or dilute detergent with water and then add linens.
- Don't overload the washing machine, as this can cause unnecessary abrasion to the fabric.
- Wash linens on a gentle cycle in warm water, with a cold-water rinse. Only use bleach if specifically allowed and only on white sheets.
- Line dry or use a warm dryer. Shake out and smooth damp linens before placing in the dryer. Consider drying fitted sheets and duvet covers separately as they tend to get easily "balled up" and don't dry thoroughly.
- Avoid dryer sheets, which can leave behind build-up and damage fine fabric.
- Use a cool, damp iron if needed.
A Word About pH in Detergent and Why It Matters
At Fine Linen and Bath, we always recommend using a pH-neutral detergent to wash luxury linen. In layman’s terms, pH translates to “potential of Hydrogen” (or “power of Hydrogen) with the H denoting the chemical symbol. pH is measured on a scale of 0 to 14, with low pH being acidic (for example, lemon juice has a pH of around 2) and high pH being alkaline, or basic (bleach has a pH of 13). Most commercial modern detergents tend to be a bit on the alkaline side, with a pH of between 8 and 10; this is considered “good” for targeting routine dirt and stains, but the pH of these detergents is achieved by using harsh chemicals.
Detergents with a truly neutral pH measure somewhere between 6.5 and 7.5 (the same as pH of skin). A pH-neutral detergent will protect the integrity of fine fabric while not irritating your skin. Consider this: nearly everything you wash (with the exception of, perhaps, a tablecloth) comes in direct contact with your skin. An acidic low pH detergent can irritate your skin, causing irritation, rash, and redness; an alkaline high pH can damage the protective acid mantle on your skin that serves as a barrier to infection. Using a pH-neutral formula is a better choice for your health and wellness as well as the longevity of your luxury linen.
Please visit the Fine Linen and Bath website to learn more about caring for your luxury towels and sheets. We are also happy to answer any questions you may have regarding fine fabric care.