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Liquid Vs. Powder & Bio Vs Non-Bio - Which Is Better?

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Hello all,

Firstly, Andy, this is really a great site with some fantastic information - bravo! :).

Now, the great debate between powders and liquids - a personal annoyance of mine, so please excuse the rant ahead. I thought I'd provide as much info as I can. This is a question that I find comes up again and again. Everyone has a preference, but here are some of the facts.

There are 4 main types of laundry detergent available - powder, tablets, liquitabs, liquid. I'm goig to focus mostly on powder vs. liquid as tablets are just ready-dosed powder and liquitabs are ready-dosed liquid.

Laundry detergent also comes in 3 different formulars - biological, colour and non-biological.

ALL detergents contain anionic surfactants. The term "surfactants" is actually quite a broad term, but when used in context of laundry detergent, this is essentially the soap part of the detergent - the bit that foams up and performs the main cleaning act.

Non-Biological powder detergent contains oxygen based bleaching agents. This aids with stain removal and keeps white items looking white. These also aid with hygiene.

Biological powder detergent contains less oxygen based bleaching agents, but adds in stain removing enzymes to help break down stains on clothes (in the same way that enzymes work in our saliva to break down food). Again, the oxygen based bleaching agents are present to aid stain removal, keep clothes bright and keep everything hygienic.

Colour powder detergent is the same as Biological detergent, only this does not contain any oxygen based bleaching agents. In theory, this is to keep colours from fading (I say "in theory" because dye particals are ALWAYS going to run in water, regardless of the detergent used - it's impossible to stop coloured clothes fading completely).

Oxygen based bleaching agents are NOT included in liquid detergent as these are unstable in liquid form, therefore opitical brighteners are included instead. These are designed to keep things looking bright, but they don't actually help with any cleaning. Non-bio liquid is, in my honest opinion, completely pointless as it's essentially just liquid soap.

In my opinion, biological powders are the best all round detergent. They contain enzymes for stain removal as well as bleaching agents for brightness and hygiene. Not only that, but the bleaching agents also help keep your washing machine clean and mould free (though if you wash at low temperatures which one should never do on whites, towels or bedding, run a maintenance wash monthly to keep the machine really clean) which liquid detergents don't. You could get away with using any detergent on your day to day clothes, such as jeans and jumpers. But when it comes to heavy washing where items are particularly dirty or where hygiene is a factor such as bedding, towels or kitchen cloths, bio powder is the way to go.

Further to that, I've found that not only do powders wash well, but they rinse out much easier than liquid when dosed correctly due to the wash water being considerably more dense than laundry liquid, which is very gloopy and often leaves unpleasent residue in cloths and around the door and seal of the washing machine. In a recent study by the British Institute of Dermatology, it was found that biological detergent did not cause any more skin irritation that non-biological (see link) and that skin irritations caused by laundry detergent were largely a result of poor rinsing. Poor rinsing is often caused by over-dosing by the user or a poorly designed machine.

Do yourself a favour - go out and by a large 50+ wash box of Persil or Ariel bio, following the dosing instructions on the box (I used about 80ml in medium-soft water, more will be needed in hard water areas) and enjoy the results. You'll also save on the pennies as the bigger boxes tend to be much better value.


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  • Root Admin

No worries JetSystem, your post adds more information to the topic, I've now linked to it from my article (and this one too - You don’t just use one type of detergent do you?)

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  • 2 years later...

hello I too am very concerned about germs and bacteria having three fatal lung 

Diseases, I also researched the difference between powders and liquids, I think you are in error, biological powders do not have bleach in but non - bio does, this from the manufacturers, bleach kills some germs or the popular word "bacteria" I also use diluted Hydrogen  peroxide in the wash I use 12% from the internet this is food strength, diluted to 3percent, and soda crystals, one cupful into drum, these help to keep the machine lime scale free, and make the water softer, and thus clothes brighter colours, and also kills all germs, I also put in the wash the Dettol laundry cleanser to kill germs, but not as they say I put it in the wash because one still needs fabric conditioner for the softness,

but no washing detergents are very good at killing germs at low temperatures, they do not mention this, they go on about clean and bright colours, but never say their products kill germs, because they do  not.  Dettol also make a cleanser for the service wash which as most know should be at 900  

however i am not an expert, but am cross that manufacturers do not tell people that their products do not kill germs, referring to washing liquids.

as with so many things it is not what they say, it is what they DO NOT say. Ttfn


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  • 1 month later...

Hi Keith,

My apologies, but you are not correct there. Biological powders do contain bleaching agents. Colour powders are biological and contain enzymes but don't contain bleaching agents.

Here are the ingredients list for Persil and Ariel biological poweders:


5-15% Anionic Surfactants, Oxygen-Based Bleaching Agents, <5% Enzymes, Nonionic Surfactants, Optical Brighteners, Perfume, Phosphonates, Polycarboxylates, Soap, Zeolites, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Geraniol, Hexyl Cinnamal


  • Phosphonates,
  • 15-30% Oxygen-Based Bleaching Agents,
  • 5-15% Anionic Surfactants,
  • <5% Non-Ionic Surfactants,
  • Polycarboxylates,
  • Zeolites,
  • Enzymes,
  • Optical Brighteners,
  • Perfumes,
  • Coumarin,
  • Geraniol,
  • Hexyl Cinnamal
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  • 7 months later...

After reading the  opening two posts in this thread a few years ago I have happily been using Ariel actilift biological tablets with no issues ever since.

They seem to have been discontinued now and replaced with a 3-in-1 Pod which has liquids in. I don't want to go down the liquids route due to the reasons explained in those opening posts. However, it seems to be much harder to find tablet alternatives now and I'd rather not use loose powder due to the waste and mess involved.


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