Luxury laundry products are flying off the shelves. So… Would YOU pay £42 for a bottle of ‘posh wash’?
- An increasing number of people are prepared to pay a premium for a posh wash
- Higher-end washes are scented with essential oils or luxury fragrances
- Claire Coleman put some of the more heaven-scented detergents to the test
- UK-based writer used 4-5kg washing machine load in hard water at 40 degrees
Back from holidays with a mountain of washing? Before you stock up on Bold or Ariel, you might want to upgrade your laundry detergent.
More of us than ever are turning to higher-end washes scented with essential oils such as neroli or luxury fragrances like amber and cedarwood.
Even mainstream brands are getting in on the action with Comfort launching a limited edition Frosted Pine & Apple, and Lenor a Rose Wonderland scent. According to The Grocer magazine, the laundry sector saw prices rise by an average of just under 5 per cent last year, indicating people are prepared to pay a premium for a posh wash.
Last month, swanky fragrance company Aromatherapy Associates announced it was releasing a line of detergents with exclusive New York brand The Laundress, the only brand Park Avenue princesses allow their housekeepers to use on their smalls. The cleaning company, which commands a dedicated following of posh-wash enthusiasts and was bought by Unilever in 2019 for $100 million, is also behind the cult Le Labo laundry detergent.
Claire Coleman puts a selection of heaven-scented detergents to the test as the popularity of posh washes increases – including Laundress X Aromatherapy Associates Signature Detergent in Forest Therapy (pictured)
So why has laundry powder suddenly gone posh? ‘There’s been a rise in interest in wellness and self-care, and the idea of making the things we do every day into more of a ritual,’ says retail analyst Wizz Selvey. There’s also a trend for consuming less, so people are buying fewer clothes, and instead turning to luxurious versions of staples. ‘People are spending more on fragrance and they’re looking for individual and niche scents,’ says Wizz. ‘It’s not surprising that you would want your clothes, or your bed linen, to be part of that.’
But are these pricey iterations of Persil worth the extra cash? We put some of the more heaven-scented detergents to the test, adding them to a full 4-5kg washing machine load in hard water at 40 degrees, then tumble drying…
Laundress X Aromatherapy Associates Signature Detergent in Forest Therapy, £35 for 475ml, aromatherapyassociates.com
WHAT IS IT? A green, earthy detergent that promises to take your senses on a woodsy walk. While it also comes in Deep Relax, I decided on the enlivening Forest Therapy.
SMELLS LIKE? When I opened the washing machine I was hit by a wave of forest fragrance and while, as with most I tried, tumble drying lost some of it — most brands recommend hanging to dry to preserve fragrance — it was still noticeable and I’d be more than happy stepping out in my scented clothes without wearing perfume. However, the cost was sobering. While it boasts an impressive 32 hand washes from one small bottle, in my hard water area, I’ll only get eight machine washes.
Number of washes: 8
Cost per wash: £4.38
Scent score: 4/5
Kair Wild Juniper & Bergamot Signature Clothing Wash, £18 for 500ml, kair.care
Claire said she had to bury her nose in the dry clothes to get the faintest whiff of Kair Wild Juniper & Bergamot Signature Clothing Wash (pictured)
WHAT IS IT? Kair promises to look after your clothes with more care and attention than regular laundry detergent. It claims to be ‘free from bleaching agents and optical brighteners’, which means your clothes should last longer. They also boast ‘bespoke premium scents that stay’ and its detergents range from Wild Juniper & Bergamot, a fresh, green scent, to the more mellow Cedarwood, Amber & Iris.
SMELLS LIKE? It was hard not to compare this green and earthy scent to the Aromatherapy Associates one, but even when neat, it didn’t pack as much of a punch. The wet laundry had a vague sniff of juniper and bergamot, but I had to bury my nose in the dry stuff to get even the faintest whiff.
Number of washes: 14
Cost per wash: £1.29
Scent score: 1/5
ECO ESSENTIAL OILS
Kinn Neroli Eco Laundry Detergent, £8.95 for 1l, kinn-living.com
Claire said Kinn Neroli Eco Laundry Detergent (pictured) wasn’t as fragrant as some of the other ‘posh’ washes
WHAT IS IT? One of the early independent brands to offer green homeware products, Kinn launched its neroli-fragranced laundry range in 2018.
As well as a regular detergent, it also stocks a fabric conditioner and a delicates detergent too. Claiming to be ‘non toxic, biodegradable’ and based on ‘natural plant power’, making it ‘kind to you and the environment’, I was sceptical.
Maybe the liquid itself is more environmentally friendly, but when I can get Ariel in a 4.5l bottle made from 50 per cent recycled plastic, and this only comes in a 1l bottle, it’s hard not to think it’s using more plastic.
SMELLS LIKE? Maybe if I’d used the matching fabric conditioner in the same scent, I’d have got a more powerful perfume, but even in the bottle this wasn’t as fragrant as some of the others. As a result, even when wet, I couldn’t detect any neroli, let alone after a spin in the dryer.
Number of washes: 16
Cost per wash: £0.56p
Scent score: 0/5
Wilton Jasmine Laundry Liquid, £8.95 for 1l, wiltonlondon.co.uk
Claire said Wilton Jasmine Laundry Liquid (pictured) retained a noticeable scent after drying, but it wasn’t strong enough for others to pick up when out and about
WHAT IS IT? This is another eco-homeware brand that has a laundry range including detergent and fabric softener — all in one-litre bottles, but at least they’re made with recycled plastic. I tried the jasmine fragrance, but they also sell a cedarwood version.
The packaging gets my vote because, unlike every other liquid detergent I tried, it had a proper-sized dosing cap. All the others had tiddly little lids that meant you have to have your own, or use a measuring spoon.
SMELLS LIKE? With a punchy and instantly recognisable floral fragrance, this essential oil-based perfume was very much in evidence after the wash and still retained a noticeable scent after drying, too. However, it’s not strong enough for others to pick up when you’re out and about.
Number of washes: 16
Cost per wash: £0.56
Scent score: 3/5
Distinctive Opulence of Amber Superior Washing Powder, £16.99 for 1.2kg, distinctivewash.co.uk
Claire said Distinctive Opulence of Amber Superior Washing Powder (pictured) is a fantastic alternative to her usual Prada scent
WHAT IS IT? This was the only non-liquid product I tried. Helpfully it came with a scoop so I knew how much to use. The aromatic amber scent seemed to share the same notes as my much-loved Prada Amber perfume. It claims to use special technology to anchor the fragrance to your laundry and says your body heat, or heat from the sun, helps to re-activate the molecules and release fragrance.
SMELLS LIKE? Their fragrance-locking technology seemed to be effective, but it took a bit of trial and error. The first wash I tried, the powder clogged the washing machine drawer so only about half of it got into the wash. Second time around, I scattered the powder directly on the washing in the drum and even after tumble drying it was deliciously pungent. A fantastic alternative to my usual Prada scent.
Number of washes: 15
Cost per wash: £1.13
Scent score: 4/5
COMING UP ROSES
The Laundress & Le Labo Rose 31 Eau de Parfum Detergent, £42 for 475ml, net-a-porter.com
Clare said The Laundress & Le Labo Rose 31 Eau de Parfum Detergent (pictured) could still be smelled a few days after wash day
WHAT IS IT? Le Labo’s designer fragrances of Rose 31 and Santal 33 can now be layered via your washing too. Created in collaboration with the same brand behind the Aromatherapy Associates detergents, the bottles and the ingredients seem very similar, although Le Labo is even more expensive per wash than Aromatherapy Associates.
SMELLS LIKE? Maybe it’s because the fragrances are a fraction subtler than Aromatherapy Associates, but my laundry load scented with Rose 31 was not nearly as aromatic as the one I’d washed with Forest Therapy. That said, I could still smell it on my boyfriend’s T-shirt when I hugged him a few days after wash day.
Number of washes: 8
Cost per wash: £5.25
Scent score: 3/5
Conclusion: For really fragrant laundry, you need a lot of (often very pricey) detergent, so save your posh wash for hand-washing delicates (and maybe your pillowcases with Deep Relax). To get the most scent from them, use in association with the matching fabric conditioner where available, and hang to dry rather than tumble.
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