Fashion

The Laundry Soap You Should Be Using for Each Fabric, According to an Expert

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Most of us don’t think of the laundry detergent aisle as a particularly daunting place. As it turns out, however, choosing a laundry soap isn’t quite as simple as picking out a great scent or reaching for the container that’s on sale at your local supermarket. Not all laundry soap is created equal. It’s not universal to all fabrics, either. The best laundry soap for your clothing will depend largely on the material it’s constructed from. 

Certain fabrics — think silks, wools, and cashmeres, in particular — require special care that can’t be found with a run-of-the-mill soap, while others will require a little added oomph to keep things looking white or bright. 

As trends in clothing fabrics have changed over time, so too, have our cleaning agents. “We’re moving to primarily synthetic [materials and] away from cotton,” fabric care expert Laura Goodman, who serves as one of 825 global scientists for Proctor and Gamble, tells us. 

Unfortunately, while synthetic blends and fabrics may be more durable and less expensive, they’re more difficult to clean. “Synthetic fibers are hydrophobic,” Goodman explains. “They don’t like water — they love grease and oil.” 

Considering that Goodman says 70 percent of clothing stains come from body oil, which she cites as the second-hardest stain to remove besides shoe polish — yes, even harder than meat and taco grease! — that can be a real problem. Unless, of course, you have the right laundry detergent on hand! 

Laundry Soaps That Make Clothes Last Longer

Apart from stains, the main reason to invest in a good laundry soap is to extend the shelf life of your clothing — something that’s particularly important for our ever-changing world. According to a 2017 report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 11.5 percent of municipal waste landfill materials were comprised of rubber, leather, and textiles — that shakes out to more than 81 pounds per household per year. Goodman says a good cleaning agent can not only take out tough stains with ease, they can make your clothes last up to four times longer, working as a shampoo does for hair to condition and smooth garment fibers, reducing your eco footprint in the process. 

Another easy way to cut down on environmental strain caused by laundry? Switch your water from the “hot” cycle to “cold.” The EPA’s Energy Star program estimates that 90 percent of the energy it takes to operate a clothes washer comes from heating. 

Many laundry soaps, such as Tide Plus Coldwater Clean Liquid ($11.99, Target) have been reengineered to be able to work more effectively in cold water, with cold water enzymes that will attack gravy stains and the like, even in frigid temperatures. 

The Best Laundry Soap for Every Fabric

From cotton and denim to silk and wool, we’ve rounded up the best detergent for every type of material, plus expert tips on how best to launder them. As always, however, it’s best to check your garment’s instructions prior to washing for maximum results. Keep reading for Woman’s World’s picks for the best laundry soap for every fabric.

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