10 May 2005, 03:41:44 PM

Reporter: Chris Simond

Staying clean is a costly business. Each year Australians spend $450 million to keep their clothes spotless.

And with words like enzymes, phosphates and optical brighteners it's no wonder, a simple load of washing sounds more like a science experiment.

So how on earth are we to choose the right product? Thankfully Choice Magazine has done the work for us. The results of their washing powder tests a little later.

"I do about three loads a day which works out to be 21 loads a week, what with a husband working in a bakery he gets pretty dirty in his whites and two children, a three and a five year old its a pretty messy business." Annette Gonzles knows her way around a washing machine, like most Australians she chooses a powder to clean her families clothes. "To tell you the truth I've never tried a liquid, I've stuck to powders like the old fashioned days."

And it seems Annette's made the right decision. Choice Magazine have discovered powders clean better than their liquid counterparts simply because they contain more chemical cleaning ingredients.

"Powders do clean better than a liquid but liquids do come with other benefits, liquids are probably more convenient because of their cap and the way they dose its very convenient for consumers." OMO's Martin Drinkroe has seen the washing powder market change drastically in recent years with front loading machines now accounting for 20 per cent of the market, powder manufacturers have had to follow suit. "If you use a top loader powder in a front loader washing machine it could actually make too much foam and end up flooding out of your washing machine and give you a worse wash result as well as damage the washing machine."

"I think they're rather bombarded with all these technical words and if people have got no idea what they mean I'm not quite sure what they make of them." Being the Head of Chemistry at the University of Technology Sydney, Dr John Callum has the advantage of at least knowing what he is buying. So what exactly do enzymes do? "Enzymes speed up the rate in which water breaks down the stain on your trousers, on your shirts Enzymes indeed aren't just a marketing ploy, they actually do help clean your clothes and remove stains from them."

And when it comes to Optical or fabric brighteners, be warned, it's an illusion, they don't actually make your clothes any cleaner. They make your clothes look white, and the way they work is they absorb ultra violet light, they're whats called fluorescents."

So just what are the best washing powders on the market and how much do they cost each wash?

For front loader use Choice Magazine recommends:

  • Omo Matic at 59 cents per wash.

  • Dynamo Matic at 51 cents per wash

  • Duo Matic Concentrate at 35 cents per wash.

These products rated over 91% for performance and all contain stain lifting enzymes.

For those with top loaders:

  • Omo High Performance concentrate at 51 cents per wash is the best performer.

  • Omo Aloe Vera at 66 cents per wash does a good job

  • Duo Concentrate at 32 cents per wash round out the best performers.

All of these products rated above 92% in terms of performance and all contain enzymes.

"To be saving any kind of money, especially with a family would be worth while looking into and I'm sure it would be cheaper than the $18 I'm already spending" says Annette.

Now the best buys for front loaders users on a budget:

  • Bi-Lo Laundry powder is hard to beat at only 8 cents per wash.

  • No Frills Premium Laundry at 21 cents per wash is a good purchase

  • Radiant Ultra Concentrate Cold will also get your clothes clean for 21 cents per wash.

All these products scored over 91 per cent for performance.

And the best buys for top loaders suers for a budget;

  • Bi-Lo Laundry Powder tops the list, a little more expensive at 17 cents per wash

  • Next Duo Concentrate at 32 cents per wash

  • Surf Ocean Fresh at 33 cents per wash.

"I would try a lesser known brand if it was cheaper, I mean if it does the same job as a brand name because there's thousands of dollars going through the wash every year" adds Annette.