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    Best Laundry Stain Removers From Consumer Reports' Tests

    OxiClean MaxForce takes on dirt, blood, and more, but some stain removers aren't as effective as the best laundry detergents

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    Stain remover testing
    CR's tester Li Wang uses a colorimeter to measure stained fabric swatches before and after they're treated with stain removers and laundered.
    Photo: Consumer Reports

    What's a stain remover anyway? Laundry detergent in a spray bottle? Consumer Reports ran lab tests to find out. The results: Only one laundry stain remover from our tests gets rid of stains better than everyday liquid detergent: OxiClean MaxForce.

    The other five spray-on laundry stain removers we tested, from Shout, Spray n’ Wash, and OxiClean (a different formula from the MaxForce) couldn't match the best liquid detergents from our ratings for getting rid of the 14 stains in our tests.

    “Prewash stain removers are concentrated and designed to go directly on the stains," says Rico de Paz, CR's chemist who performs these tests. "Detergents, on the other hand, mix in with lots of water to clean, and the water dilutes the stain-removing power. But if you apply a dab of detergent to the stain before washing and let it sit, the detergent alone can remove stains.”

    That's just what we did with the two detergents we included in our tests. The Tide Plus Ultra Stain Release and Persil ProClean Stain Fighter detergents we used to pretreat stains came close enough to the cleaning power of the OxiClean MaxForce that some people might want to use these detergents to pretreat stains and wash your laundry.

    Here's how five laundry stain removers from our tests stack up against the top-performing OxiClean MaxForce. You'll also find details on how the Tide and Persil detergents handle stains, too. Prices listed below are per bottle (some might be for a multipack). In our ratings, you can find our comparative pricing: per ounce for stain removers and per load for detergents.

    For detailed test results, see our laundry stain remover ratings.

    Stain Removers

    CR’s take: OxiClean MaxForce gets down to work, but it costs more per ounce than the other stain removers listed here. It removes stains from body oil, dirt, salad dressing, grease, gravy, grass, and blood with just 5 minutes of soaking time. It earns an Excellent rating in these tests. This stain remover also tackles chocolate ice cream better than the rest in 5 minutes. Allow the MaxForce to soak in overnight when dealing with stains from baby food or black coffee.

    CR’s take: This OxiClean is less than half the price per ounce as the one above, and it's better at removing coffee than the one above. Body oil and dirt, no problem. But it doesn’t deliver the same punch when taking on salad dressing, gravy, chocolate ice cream, and grass. It’s the worst of the group at removing blood stains, earning only a Fair rating in this test. To get the best performance from this stain remover, allow the stain to soak overnight.

    CR’s take: The cheapest of the group per ounce, Shout Triple-Acting, improves with time. Body oil, grease, grass, and blood stains need just 5 minutes of soaking time, garnering Shout an Excellent rating in these tests, but other stains like dirt, salad dressing, and gravy benefited from an overnight soak.

    CR’s take: For a rough and tumble life, Spray n’ Wash Laundry Stain Remover can handle stains from grass and blood, earning it Excellent ratings in these tests. But caffeine lovers, beware: Black coffee stains are a challenge with this stain remover. An overnight soak will help, but coffee stains we treated with this spray never totally disappeared. Chocolate ice cream, however, will remain even after a long soak.

    CR’s take: The Spray 'n Wash Max costs a little more than the Spray n’ Wash above but doesn't best its cheaper brandmate overall in our tests. The Max is better, however, at removing dirt if you let it soak in overnight. Salad dressing proves daunting, earning it a middling rating in this test, but let this stain remover soak in grass stains overnight, and the stains are gone.

    CR’s take: Shout Advance Action is the lowest-scoring of the six prewash stain removers we tested. Shout removes body oil, grease, blood, and grass, snagging this stain remover an Excellent rating in these tests. But it has a tougher time removing dirt, gravy, coffee, and salad dressing. Letting this stain remover soak in overnight will improve performance, but it still doesn’t deliver the top-rated OxiClean’s punch.

    CR’s take: Pretreat stains with a dab of the top-rated Tide Plus Ultra Stain Release, and the results are better than most of the stain removers above. Tide removes common stains like dirt and grease in 5 minutes, and even tackles chocolate ice cream well. But if gravy and used motor oil stains show up in your laundry basket, the OxiClean MaxForce can do a better job (it's also better at taking on black coffee and baby food if you let it soak in overnight). As a laundry detergent, Tide removed more grass stains than any of the dozens of detergents we test.

    Laundry Detergents

    CR’s take: Persil ProClean Stain Fighter, when used to pretreat stains, is also better than most of the stain removers we test. With just 5 minutes of soaking, Persil lifts common stains like body oil and dirt, and takes on chocolate ice cream. Not in a rush? Persil can remove salad dressing and gravy, if you let it soak in overnight (though a longer soak didn't help this detergent get rid of stains from black coffee, cherry juice, or used motor oil). And when it's time to wash your clothes, know that Persil is one of only two detergents that earn a Very Good rating in removing tougher stains such as red wine, chocolate, blood, and tea.

    Kimberly Janeway