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These Are the Best Smelling Laundry Detergents

Nothing smells quite as nice as freshly cleaned laundry.

best smelling detergent

There are very few fun things about doing laundry: It’s a hassle. Once the hamper is full, it’s a game of chicken between partners to see who will just do it. There’s the separating of light garments and darker ones. Then, there’s the balancing act of keeping the balled wet clothes intact long enough to reach the dryer. After drying the mass, there’s folding, pairing balled socks, and the uncurling of the fitted sheet into an ambiguous shape (somewhere between a rhombus and an armadillo). And, finally, the dreaded hangers come out. All in all, it’s a pretty unglamorous chore.

But, there is one thing I love about laundry: the smell of it. God, do I love that just-washed scent. I love it so much, in fact, that when I worked at a resort one summer, I used to take a specific route to the cafeteria just so I could pass the housecleaning quarters, sneaking a whiff of just-pressed linens when I passed.

But it's not just me: scented detergents have been around for more than 200 years, and now account for a $7.91 billion industry in the U.S. alone. It appears I’m not the only one who loves that smell every time I pull on a T-shirt fresh from the dryer.

Why the Scent Matters

Most detergents on the market offer perfumes added to their formula. We’ve grown accustomed to having laundry smell a certain way. That’s because fibers, even when clean, tend to hang onto the smells around them: your hard water, your gym shoes in the closet, your cigarette smoke. Scents help to mask the everyday odors we come in contact with, without being irritating or competitive against our natural scent or preferred cologne.

Innovations in the Industry

While scented detergents have been around for generations, it’s only recently that new innovations have been made in the detergent space. Brands are taking a closer look at naturally-derived ingredients, focusing on hypoallergenic formulas, and employing new technologies within the detergents themselves to keep clothes smelling better for longer. (There are even scent boosters that enhance fresh laundry's signature scent.)

The Best Smelling Laundry Detergents

With that, here is a round-up of the best detergents that will make this almost worth the hassle... almost. From new and intriguing to trusted and traditional, you're sure to find one that works for you.

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        The Best Smelling Overall Laundry Detergent
        Essential Oils Liquid Laundry Detergent (The Zen Scent)

        • Incredibly fresh and unique scent
        • Better on stains and heavy scents compared to other brands

        • Dosage cap not on this bottle
        • Bottle design does not have handle
        • Not hypoallergenic

        In my opinion, this is the best smelling detergent on the list. If you’ve ever been to a spa or sauna and wondered, “What’s that amazing smell?” it was more than likely eucalyptus. Lightly sharp, even a bit medicinal, eucalyptus has a unique smell that is not often replicated well in other laundry detergents. The addition of mint makes this as soothing as it is fragrant, perfect for the next time you wash your bedding.

        The Best Smelling Upgrade Laundry Detergent
        Dedtergent 01 "Taunt"

        • Hypoallergenic
        • Comes as a convenient subscription offering for an additional 10% off
        • Reviewers comment on long-lasting scent

        • Container can be hard to handle
        • Price is notably higher compared to others

        Achingly chic brand DedCool sells its formula in one of the best damn detergent containers out there, but it's what's inside that we're here to review. Their Dedtergent 01 Taunt is a mixture of bergamot, vanilla, and rose, which is the perfect blend of sweet and spicy for anyone's clothing. Floral without being perfumey, citrusy without being sour, Dedcool balances a fine line between its fragrances — and does it well.

        The Best Smelling Affordable Laundry Detergent
        Liquid Laundry Detergent (Original Scent)
        Now 19% off

        • Long-lasting fragrance
        • Easy to find IRL
        • Multiple size options for households

        • Not hypoallergenic
        • Made with chemicals versus naturally derived options on the list
        • Bottle can be unwieldy and even heavy

        Tide is what laundry should smell like. It’s got that fresh scent that simply can’t be replicated by other detergents. Strong smelling with a decidedly “clean” perfume, no one can mistake this multi-generational favorite that comes in its signature orange bottle. Plus. it's super effective.

        Plant-Based Laundry Detergent (Orange Blossom and Citrus)
        Botanical Origin

        • All around pleasant floral smell
        • Easy to use bottle and dosage cap
        • Hypoallergenic

        • Scent fades fairly easily
        • Not as tough on heavy stains or odors as other detergents

        Very few smells signal cleanliness like citrus. Botanical Origin’s Orange Blossom Citrus Leaves scent has the natural bite of fresh oranges without the antiseptic quality many other competitors have. It’s also a touch floral to counterbalance the natural sweetness of citrus scents. Plus, like the name implies, it’s plant-derived, so it's a great choice for eco-conscious launderers out there.

        The Detergent

        • Coconut-derived formula with no parabens, sulfates, or dyes
        • Frey's company initiative includes a charitable arm
        • Convenient 16-ounce bottle size

        • Will have to order online
        • Load per cost is higher than some alternatives on the list
        • Hard to get dosage correct with pump-style bottle

        Frey gets marks on this list for being a veritable disruptor within the otherwise sleepy laundry space. First, they give 10-percent of sales back to their Wash for Wash charity. Second, Frey's detergent is obtained through coconuts, a first on this list. And finally, the scents themselves are unique enough they had to be included this. From sandalwood/bergamot/clove to jasmine/rose/white cedar, these natural perfumes aren't common; but, boy, they should be. Frey gives us hope for a new future in detergents, and we can't wait to see what's next.

        Liquid Laundry Detergent (Lavender)
        Seventh Generation

        • Easy-to-handle dosage cap and bottle
        • Hypoallergenic
        • 97% naturally-derived

        • Scent can fade easily
        • Scent has a perfume quality not favored by all

        Seventh Generation is known as a leader in the natural cleaning industry and has some amazing products in their line. Their detergent is a favorite of mine — especially lavender. Reviewers agree that, while lavender can sometimes be overpowering, Seventh Generation balances it well to have a subtle freshness versus your clothes smelling like grandma’s house.

        Yuzu Perfumed Delicate Detergent
        Tangent GC

        • Complex scent
        • Great for delicates
        • Naturally derived

        • Expensive
        • Rarely available IRL
        • Bottle and dosage cap are awkward to hold and use

        Inside this pretty packaging from Tangent GC is one of the most unique scents on this list: yuzu. The East Asian citrus isn’t well-known in the U.S. market, and that’s a shame. It’s a bit like an orange, lemon and a grapefruit mixed together, but less acidic than the latter. Tangent GC’s detergent is subtle, but deserves a spot on this list for being one of the few scents left to explore in detergents — everything else seems to have been done already.

        Clean Laundry Soap (Patchouli)

        • Great scent, almost like a cologne
        • Ultra-concentrated
        • Easy-to-use dosage cap and easy to handle bottle

        • Scent can fade easily
        • Hard to find IRL

        Patchouli, as a scent, is a bit divisive. But for me, it’s one of the best smells: both woodsy and masculine, but not pungent. All of Zum’s scents in their Laundry Soap line-up are fantastic, but this one has that balance of being a unique offering that leaves others saying, “What is that cologne you’re wearing?”

        Downy Liquid Laundry Detergent

        • Long lasting scent
        • Great as a stain remover
        • Easy to follow dosage bottle

        • Non-natural ingredients
        • Smell can be overpowering
        • Not hypoallergenic

        You can’t beat the classics, so it’s impossible to ignore Tide as one of the all-around best scents. But when you add Downy’s April Fresh scent, it's a whole new ballgame. Simple and clean, the addition of Downy gives the detergent a subtlety that's missing in the original Tide, but doesn’t take away from it’s all-around “laundry” smell. And an added bonus: Downy helps with color-fasting versus traditional Tide, meaning clothes last longer and look more vibrant with continued use.

        Liquid Laundry Detergent (Honeysuckle)
        Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day

        • Plant-derived
        • Common in IRL
        • Very concentrated

        • Made with essential oils, so may irritate very sensitive skin
        • Scent fades easily
        • Not as good as others on list as stain remover or for masking heavy smells

        Described online as a “tempting, sweet scent," who are we to disagree? Honeysuckle is one of those scents that reminds me of open windows and daffodils and bees buzzing. (And now clean laundry.) It’s got a mellow, herbal scent that isn’t easily copied. But, given that this is Mrs. Meyer’s, they did it perfectly.

        Laundry Detergent Pour

        • Spicy scent more akin to a cologne
        • Nice ergonomic bottle and easy dosage cap
        • Great for stain treatment too

        • Not as economical (price per load) as other brands
        • Scent fades quicker than others on list

        Ginger and mango may sound like ingredients to a dish, but they work equally well in a detergent, too. Method’s Ginger Mango Laundry Detergent balances the spiciness of ginger against the brightness of mango in a subtle dance between the two. Neither is competing, and neither gets overpowering.

        Performance Odor Removing Laundry Detergent (Zen Fresh)

        • The fresh scent is calming even for the most sensitive noses out there
        • Biodegradable, no phosphates

        • With regular use, you’ll go through the 32 ounce bottle quickly
        • Pricier than other options

        If you’re the type to get as many wears as you can out of an article of clothing before condemning it to the rinse cycle, or if you’re involved in any kind of high-intensity sport that has you sweating through your shirts, pick up a bottle of Nonaste’s (pronounced no-nasty) odor-fighting detergent. I use the Zen Fresh scent on my jiu jitsu gi, as well as my more delicate vintage tees, and Nonaste’s detergent eliminated stank, gently cleansed my clothes and removed sweat residue, all without any harsh or nasty chemicals. -Hayley Helms, outdoors and fitness staff writer.

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