Which Laundry Detergent is Most Effective in Removing Stain?

Researched by Kierstin W.


The purpose of this experiment was to determine which laundry detergent was most effective in removing stains from white cotton fabric.

I became interested in this idea when I was trying to get a dirt stain out of my shirt.  I wanted to know which laundry detergent would get the stain out the best.  So I thought that I would take this opportunity to find out which laundry detergent works best.

The information gained from this experiment could benefit many consumers who would like to know which laundry detergent best removes stains. 


My hypothesis was that the Oxi Clean detergent would be most effective, and would take out most of the stain.

I based my hypothesis on recent studies that show Oxi Clean is a reliable detergent/stain remover. 


The constants in this study were:

  •  The type of juice stain (cranberry juice, mustard, and black coffee).
  •  The amounts of stain put onto each cloth.
  •  The type of cloth (100% white cotton).
  •  The washing cycle used to clean the cloth.
  •  The amount of time being washed.
  •  The temperature that the clothes are being washed in.
  •  The speed that the clothes are being washed in.
  •  The drying cycle.
  •  The amount of different laundry detergents used per wash.
  •  The colorimeter used to determine the whiteness in each piece of cloth that has been washed.

The manipulated variable was the six different laundry detergents   used to determine which one would remove the stain the most effectively. 

The responding variable was the amount of stain removed. 

To measure the responding variable I used a colorimeter to determine the whiteness value. 

60 100% white cotton (10x10 cm squared)
2700 ml  cranberry juice
2700 ml black coffee
1200 ml regular mustard
1 spatula 
medium sized bowl
1 computer
1 measuring tubes in milliliters
1 camera


1. Cut 10 pieces of 100% white cotton fabric that is 10 cm squared for each detergent to be tested (Tide, Arm and Hammer, Era, Surf, Oxi Clean, and All).

2. Label each piece of cloth with the type of detergent it is being tested on.

3. Then pour 2700 ml. of Concentrate cranberry juice, 2700 ml. of black coffee, and 1200 ml. of mustard into a medium sized bowl.

4. Mix the juice, coffee, and mustard together with a large spatula for two minutes.

5. Then put the 10 pieces of cloth into the mix. 

6. Stir them around in the mix for 5 minutes with the spatula.  Make sure the mix has soaked into the clothes. 

7. Take them out and then let them dry hanging up. 

8. Put 300 ml. of one detergent into the washing machine.

9. Put the 10 stained pieces of cloth into the washing machine.

10. Wash and rinse the pieces of cloth in cold water in the regular cycle.

11. Put the clothes into they dryer for 30 minutes or until they are dry.

12. Repeat steps 2-11 using a different detergent and 10 new pieces of cloth.

13. Repeat step 12 with all remaining detergents. 

14. Once all of the detergents have been tested, go to Tree Top to use the colorimeter to determine the whiteness of each piece of cloth. 


The original purpose of this experiment was to determine which laundry detergent was most effective on removing stains from 100% white cotton fabric.

The results of the experiment were that Oxi Clean is the best detergent to take out stains.

See the table and graph


My hypothesis was that Oxi Clean would remove the stain better than most of the other detergents.

The results indicate that this hypothesis should be correct.

Because of the results of this experiment, I wonder if testing less expensive laundry detergents against more expensive detergents, which would be most affective.

If I were to conduct this project again I would try to use a stain that more people get on their clothing.  I would also try to use laundry detergents that are not as well known to people and test it to see how well the product/products works.
Research Report 
 Detergents, Soaps, and Cotton 
Their Uses
Detergent and soap help keep us clean and healthy.  Cotton is an important fiber used widely in clothing and linens. 

Soap is a substance used for washing many things.  The basic ingredients are water, lye, and fats or oils.  Coloring dyes and fragrance oils may be added if the producer would like color or fragrances in the soap. Soap unfortunately combines with water hardness minerals.  This combination of materials forms a lime soap curd, a sticky yellow or white residue that deposits on the washer or fabrics in the load that is being washed.  This performance problem has led to decreasing popularity of soaps.  Now only a few brands of laundry soap are available in two forms, powder and bars.  These materials are good for pre-treating heavy soiled stains prior to laundering. 

Detergents are substances that clean soiled surfaces, and usually are synthetic.  Different chemicals make up the detergents, including a basic cleaning agent called a surfactant or surface-active agent.  Detergents have replaced soap in laundry.  They perform over a broad range of water hardness levels.  There is considerable diversity among laundry detergents.  This product is classified by their general purpose.  Detergents are now available in powder and liquid forms.

Cotton is a fiber that is strong and durable, and still remains the most miraculous fiber under the sun.  Cotton has been used for over 8,000 years.  It has provided thousands, or more, of very useful products.  Just one of those products is clothes.  It is used to stuff mattresses and cushions.  Home furnishings are made with cotton materials.  In simple words, cotton is one of our main resources.

Phosphates are chemical compounds containing phosphorus. The salts are derived from naturally occurring minerals.  These minerals, which are mined, refined, and purified are used in various applications.  They will originate from a naturally occurring phosphate which has been mined from various places around the world. 
Phosphate fertilizers do not need to be applied frequently.  Plants do not use all of the fertilizers applied.  Large algae and water life make use of the increased supply of the phosphates in fertilizer run-off.  The algae grows rapidly. 
Phosphates are also used to make phosphoric acid.  Phosphoric acid is a colorless, odorless acid containing phosphorus.  It is obtained chiefly by the decomposition of phosphates.  This is used in making fertilizers as a reagent or thorphosphoric acid.

Lye is any strong alkaline solution used in making soap and in cleaning.  Sodium hydroxide is a type of lye.

 An Alkaline substance contains alkali.  Substances having a pH factor of more than seven are alkaline.  They have a relatively low concentration of hydrogen ions, and are the opposite of an acid. 

A surfactant consists of molecules that will attach themselves to dirt particles in a soiled material.  These molecules pull the particles out of the material.  Then, the molecules will hold them in suspension in the washing water until they are rinsed away.

Hunter Reflectance Spectrophotometer (Colorimeter)
A Hunter Reflectance Spectrophotometer is also known as a colorimeter.  This machine measures color.  A colorimeter uses A, L and B scales to measure the color.  The letters A and B are not the easiest things to explain.  The A scale measures green vs. red. The B scale measures yellow vs. blue.  A colorimeter has a hole at the top in which a light shines through.  This light measures the lightness and/or darkness of the object you are testing.  Before you can find the value of the object you are testing you must first standardize the colorimeter.  Once you have standardized it, you place your object over the light and then press the icon that is marked "scan".  L=92.89 A= -0.93 and B= 0.43 are the values of the tile.  You will not find anything whiter than this tile.


"Alkaline" The World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary, 2002 

"Cotton" The World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary, 2002

Feinstein, Myron E.   "Detergents and Soap," The World Book Encyclopedia, 2002.

Knapp, Brian, BS, Ph D Nitrogen and Phosphorus Grolier Educational, Sherman Turnpike Danbury, CT 06816  1997 pg.43 

"Lye" The World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary, 2002

"Phosphates" The World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary, 2002

"Phosphoric" The World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary, 2002

"Phosphoric Acid" The World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary, 2002

"Soap" The World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary, 2002

SDA (Soap Detergent Association)  "Laundry Facts," Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia Deluxe, 2002

"Textile" The World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary, 2002 

"The Uses of Cotton" Microsoft Encarta Deluxe Internet, 2002


I would like to thank the following people:

  • Mr. Newkirk for correcting my journal and report, and giving me advice. 
  •  Mom for helping me get my materials, and hanging up each piece of cloth that I stained, and for all of the support you gave me.
  •  Dad for hanging up three lines of string so I would be able to hang up the clothes.  Also, for taking me to Tree Top so I could use the colorimeter.
  • Sue Graf for helping me use the colorimeter and helping me print and understand the printouts.
  • Mrs. Helms for helping me with writing out my procedures and helping put in my data into a computer. 


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