What do you call the stuff you use to wash clothes?

I know washing up liquid is detergent, used in washing dishes, but I don't know the proper name for the stuff used for clothes.

If it's powder, you can say washing powder right? But if it's a liquid? Clothes washing liquid sounds silly, washing liquid is ambiguous, and laundry detergent just sounds so weird and formal to me.

I keep trying different words, but English people (I'm in the UK) never understand what I'm talking about...


3 Answers 3


In the United States, we say "detergent", or "laundry detergent". You can distinguish "liquid detergent" from "powdered detergent".

Technically, "soap" is made from bases while "detergent" is made from acids. (A chemist may be able to give a more precise definition, and my apologies if I muddled the simplification.) In practice, most people use the words interchangeably for products that are used on clothes or dishes. That is, you might call a bottle "laundry soap" or "laundry detergent". Likewise "dishwasher soap" or "dishwasher detergent".

Stuff you use to clean your body is always called "soap", not "detergent".


You are concerned about 'liquid' and not a detergent powder. Okay...

Here, in my house we use Tide Liquid Laundry Detergent. Hover the cursor on the 'tab' of the website and it shows you the 'title -Tide Liquid Laundry Detergent'.

They all are laundry detergent and it depends on what you exactly want. Detergent in a powdered form or liquid. Check the site, they mention 74 formulas — 49 liquids, 19 powders, and six single-use tabs...


I agree with the others mostly. It is called "laundry detergent" but if you wanted to specifically refer to the liquid form it would be "laundry liquid". I hope that helps.

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