Different Detergents on Stain Removal from Cotton Cloth


The purpose of this experiment was to compare the effectiveness of different brands of detergent in removing stains from cotton cloth. 

I became interested in this idea when I got stains on my white cotton t-shirts. My mom washed them but the detergent she used didn’t always get the stain out.   T-shirts are expensive to replace and I wondered if I could find a better detergent.  

The information gained from this experiment would help homemakers, laundry services, hotels, hospitals, and others make better choices on which detergent to buy.


My hypothesis was that Tide would remove the test stains most effectively.

I based my hypothesis on the recent studies in “Consumer Reports” (October 2005, page 6) that showed Tide was the most reliable detergent/stain remover.

I also based my hypothesis on a study by Carrie Jo Nevue, a former 7th grade student.  She also tested detergents and concluded that Tide detergent worked the best.  Terri Bauman, a homemaker for 21 years, also believes that Tide Detergent works the best in stain removal.

The constants in this study were:

•    The amount of detergent used (100 ml.) 

•    The temperature of water used 

•    The ingredients in the stain: Chocolate syrup, black coffee, purple grape juice, ravioli sauce, ketchup and mustard. 

•    The method of washing in-a washing machine.

•    The method of drying-in a drying machine.

The manipulated variable was the type of detergent.

The responding variable was whiteness of cloth.  

To measure the responding variable, I used a Hunter Reflectance Spectrophotometer (Colorimeter) to determine the “L” value (brightness.) 
Washing Machine
Drying Machine
100 ml
100 ml
100 ml
Purple Grape Juice
100 ml
Ravioli Sauce
Plastic Spatula
Large Mixing Bowl
100 ml
100 ml
100 ml
Arm & Hammer
10 x 10 cm squares of 100% White Cotton
Pair of Scissors
100 ml
Black Coffee
100 ml
Chocolate syrup

1.     Buy white 100% cotton fabric from a fabric store 

2.     Wash fabric three times in washing machine to remove factory treatment

3.    Lay out the material and cut the cotton into 49  10 cm X 10 cm squares
4.    Leave one 10 X 10 cm square of 100% white cotton fabric out from getting stained

5.    Label the squares 

a.    A.1-A.12 

b.    H.1-H.12 

c.    T.1-T.12 

d.    W.1-W.12

e.    White control (no stain)

6.     Prepare stain, mix well for five minutes:

a.     100 ml. of ketchup 

b.     100 ml. of mustard 

c.    100 ml. of purple grape juice 

d.    100 ml. of ravioli sauce 

e.    100 ml. of chocolate syrup 

f.    100 ml. of black coffee
7.    Stain the 48  10 cm X 10 cm squares 

a.     Let fabric soak for two days (wait for 48 hours before performing the next step)

b.    Let the stained fabric dry after taking out of the bowl

8.    Set the Washing machine to Permanent Press with cold water wash

9.    Wash cotton squares as followed: 

a.    T.1-T.12 with 100 ml. of Tide

b.    A.1-A.12 with 100 ml. of All 

c.    H.1-H.12 with 100 ml. of Arm and Hammer

d.    W.1-W.12 with Water (no detergent at all)

10.    When cycle is done carefully place in the drying machine (keep
the drying machine on the same cycle as the washing machine)

11.    Repeat step #8 and #9 with a different detergent for other three groups

12.    After all washing and drying is done take the material to Tree Top’s Colorimeter. 

13.    Carefully measure the “L” level of each piece of fabric under the Colorimeter

14.    Record results.


The original purpose of this experiment was to compare the effectiveness of different brands of detergent in removing stains from cotton cloth. 

The results of the experiment were that Tide’s “L” value was 81.49, Water Control’s “L” value was 79.40, All’s “L” value was 78.33, and Arm and Hammer’s “L” value was 78.98.  Tide with 81.49 was clearly the best.


My hypothesis was that Tide would remove the test stains most effectively. 

My hypothesis should be accepted, Tide worked the best as shown by the Colorimeter.

After thinking about the results of this experiment, I wonder if any if the affect results:

•    Different type of cloth (silk, linen, and wool)

•    Washing temperature (cold vs. warm)

•    Amount of detergent used (would 1/2 work as well)

If I were to conduct this project again I would use more cloth samples.  I would only use one stain at a time.  One group would be stained with only one thing and be washed with one specific detergent.  

I would test more detergents, including Tide, All, Cheer, Arm and Hammer, and Kirkland Signature detergent.  

I would use the stains: butter, ketchup, mustard, purple grape juice, and black coffee.  I wouldn’t do the ravioli sauce and the chocolate sauce because they aren’t really things you eat on an everyday basis.  

I would also have one more control group, a stained cloth with no washing to show how much the stain had actually been removed.

Researched by ----- Michelle B 


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