Tide vs. Gain Laundry Detergent: What’s the Difference?

Tide vs. Gain

When you think about laundry detergent, two brands that likely come to mind are Tide and Gain.

Tide, who is owned by Procter & Gamble (P&G), is the best selling laundry detergent in the U.S. and they’ve been dominating the category for decades. Gain, who is also owned by Procter & Gamble, is the number two selling laundry detergent in the US.

Tide makes premium detergents that are specially formulated to remove the toughest stains and odors. Tide’s formulas, that they’ve been perfecting for decades, are so effective at removing stains that you rarely need to pre-treat or using laundry boosters. The main downside of Tide is that it’s generally more expensive than other brands, including Gain (compare the current prices of Tide and Gain on Amazon).

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If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option and appreciate the fresh smell that scented detergents infuse into your clothes, you might want to consider Gain. Like Tide, Gain is known for their ability to remove stains and odors, but they’re even better known for their unique variety of fragrances. Gain offers 11 different detergents to choose from, each with a unique fragrance including top sellers like Tropical Sunrise, Orange Blossom Vanilla, and Moonlight Breeze.

Determining which brand of laundry detergent to buy isn’t the biggest decision you have to make for your household, but since it impacts the clothes you wear every day, it’s an important one to get right.

If you’re thinking about making a switch and trying to decide between Tide and Gain, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, I provide an in-depth comparison of Tide vs. Gain laundry detergent and dive deep into each brand’s cleaning power, scent, product offerings, and price. By the end, you’ll have all the facts you need to make the best decision for your household.

Let’s get right into it!

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Tide vs. Gain: Quick Summary

If you only have a minute, here’s a quick rundown of the most important differences between Tide and Gain.

  • Primary Benefit: Tide is known for its superior cleaning ability while Gain is known for its wide selection of fresh smelling and long lasting fragrances.
  • Cleaning Power: In recent independent studies, Tide ranked higher than Gain in terms of cleaning ability, however, Gain also ranks near the top.
  • Fragrance Options: Gain offers 11 difference fragrances while Tide only offers 6.
  • Product Offerings: Tide is completely focused on laundry detergents while Gain makes fabric softener, dryer sheets, and dish detergent. Gain’s fragrances are featured in several other household items such as Glad Trash Bags and Swiffer Dry Cloth Refills.
  • Price: In general, Tide is more expensive than Gain, but the actual difference in price depends on which product you buy and where you buy it.

Tide and Gain are available in almost every supermarket and online on Amazon.

Overview of Tide

The story of Tide began in 1946 when Procter & Gamble scientist David “Dick” Bryerly came up with the formula for the first heavy-duty laundry detergent designed for household use. To get the word out, Tide sponsored “soap operas” and other daytime and primetime TV programs.

Tide original detergent from 1946
Tide original detergent from 1946

Fast forward to today and Tide is the best-selling laundry detergent brand in the U.S. and can be found in over 40 million homes in America. They are one of P&G’s top brands and are the leader in the laundry detergent category despite the fact that their prices are significantly higher than most competitors.

Tide’s success stems from their ability to evolve and innovate as customer needs change. Over the years, Tide has constantly evolved their formulas adding stain-fighting enzymes and color-safe bleach to their detergents to boost its cleaning power.

They’ve also expanded their product portfolio in order to satisfy a wide range of customer needs.

Here are a few examples of their innovations:

  • In 2005, they launched Tide Cold Water Detergent which is designed to be used with cold water while providing the same powerful clean as a hot water cycle.
  • Also in 2005, they launched the Tide to Go Pen which is an instant stain remover that fits in your pocket so you can use it on the go.
  • In 2012, they launched Tide PODS which are single-dose detergent packs that make the process of doing laundry even easier.
  • In 2014, they launched Tide Simply Clean & Fresh which is a lower priced detergent designed for budget-conscious shoppers.
Tide laundry detergent innovations
Left to right: Tide Cold Water Detergent, Tide to Go Pen, Tide PODS, Tide Simply Clean & Fresh.

In addition to product innovation, they’ve built one of the most recognizable brands through extremely effective advertising campaigns and sponsorships. Recently, they won awards for their “It’s a Tide Ad” spots that ran during Super Bowl LII in 2018.

With their unwavering commitment to innovation and over 70 years of history building one of the most trusted brands in the world, there’s no signs of Tide slowing down any time soon.

Overview of Gain

Procter & Gamble launched Gain in 1969 as a powerful stain-fighting detergent. After about a decade in business, Gain introduced their first scented detergent. Since then, they’ve become known for their incredibly fresh smelling fragrances. Focusing on fragrance has proven to be a smart and lucrative decision as Gain is currently the second best-selling laundry detergent in the US; only behind Tide.

Original Gain Detergent
Original Gain Detergent. Source: Pintrest.

Although Gain sells the same products as Tide, they don’t compete per se because they serve different customer segments. While Tide is popular among households that require extra cleaning power for children’s clothes and smelly workout gear, Gain serves those who value a fresh scent at an affordable price.

Like most of Procter & Gamble’s top brands, the key to Gain’s success is their ability to understand what their customers want. The team at Gain realized that, besides cleaning power, people really want their clothes to smell clean and fresh when they come out of the wash. They also learned that the type of scents associated with freshness varies by culture.

Based on these insights, Gain has expanded their product line and developed unique fragrances to appeal to each market around the world.

In addition to developing appealing fragrances, they’ve also dedicated most of their advertising to promote their how amazingly fresh your laundry will smell if you use Gain.

Check out one of their recent commercials below.

Cleaning Power

The primary purpose of laundry detergent is to effectively remove stains and odors from dirty clothes and very few detergents do it better than Tide and Gain.

Tide’s reputation is that they are the toughest detergent on stains, however, Gain is also well-known for their strong cleaning power.

So how do you know for sure which brand cleans clothes more effectively?

Well, first of all, “cleaning power” is somewhat subjective and there is no official rating system that you can use to simply compare the strength of each detergent.

However, there are several independent companies that have run tests comparing the effectiveness of Tide, Gain and other detergents on dirt and stains.

According to a recent test conducted by Reviewed.com, a website owned by USA Today, Tide out-cleaned a group of 7 other detergents, including Gain, by about 14%. Although Tide outperformed Gain, Gain came in 4th beating out Purex, Arm & Hammer, and All.

Reviewed.com Laundry Detergent Study
Reviewed.com Laundry Detergent Study

The Wirecutter.com, owned by the New York Times, tested 42 different detergents on over 700 swatches of fabrics and used UV light to analyze the results.

Based on their tests, they declared Tide Ultra Stain Release FREE the best overall detergent due to its combination of stain-fighting and odor-eliminating power along with the fact that it’s safe for sensitive skin since its free of fragrance and dyes. Their runner-up was another Tide detergent, Tide Plus Bleach Alternative HE Liquid. They also tested three Gain detergents but didn’t rank any of them among the top options.

Wirecutter Laundry Detergent Study
Wirecutter Laundry Detergent Study

Tide Plus Ultra Stain Release scored top marks for liquid laundry detergent in a recent study conducted by ConsumerReports.org. In that same study, Tide PODS and Gain Flings scored similarly in the single-dose pod category.

ConsumerReports Laundry Detergent Study

Besides their consistent top ranking in several independent studies, Tide has also won recent awards for their excellence in the category. Tide Ultra Stain Release Liquid was voted Product of the Year in 2015 by TNS and Tide Original HE Turbo Clean Liquid won Product of the Year in 2016.

In 2018, Tide PODS Plus Downey took TNS’s Product of the Year in the Laundry Pac category while Gain Botanicals took the award in the liquid laundry category.

Bottom line—both Tide and Gain rank near the top for almost every independent test due to their ability to fight against stains and odor. If you’re counting, Tide earns more accolades than Gain which makes sense since their formula is designed to be tougher on stains. Based on their well-deserved recognition, it’s fair to assume that Tide’s has greater cleaning power, however, Gain isn’t too far behind.

Scent

Judging the appeal of laundry detergent scents is a highly subjective matter. Tide and Gain both offer several different scented detergents that smell wonderful and leave your clothes smelling incredibly fresh.

As I mentioned when I introduced each brand, Tide is focused on innovation and is known for their ability to fight the toughest stains and odors without the need to pre-treat or use laundry boosters.

Gain, on the other hand, has been successful due to their ability to understand their customers’ preferences when it comes to fragrance. They have built their product lines based on these preferences and specially formulate each fragrance to appeal to consumers in each market around the world.

In the US, Gain offers 11 difference fragrances. Their detergent not only smells great, but they also claim its fresh scent will last for two weeks.

Here’s a full list of Gain’s different scented detergents:

  • White Tea Lavender
  • Thai Dragon Fruit
  • Moonlight Breeze
  • Tropical Sunrise
  • Orange Blossom Vanilla
  • Original Liquid
  • Icy Fresh Fizz with Oxi Boost
  • Apple Mango Tango
  • Hawaiian Aloha with Febreze Freshness
  • Island Fresh
  • Lavender
  • Thai Dragon Fruit
Gain Liquid Detergent Product Line
Gain Liquid Detergent Product Line

Fragrances aren’t Tide’s main focus, however, millions of customers across the world love the smell of Tide Original. If you’re not a fan of the Tide Original, they offer a handful of other scents to choose from. 

Here are the different options you get with Tide:

  • Original Scent
  • Tide Plus A Touch of Downy
  • Tide Plus Febreze Freshness
  • Tide Plus Febreze Sport Odor Defense™
  • Tide Plus Febreze Botanical Rain
  • Tide purclean™ Honey Lavender

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Options

In this article, I’ve talked mainly about liquid laundry detergent, but both Tide and Gain offer several other types of detergent plus a few other products.

Tide is mainly focused on laundry detergents but they also make laundry boosters, machine cleaner, fabric spray, and their popular Tide to Go Instant Stain Remover Pen.

When it comes to detergent products, Tide has you completely covered. They offer detergent in the form of a liquid, powder, and single dose pods and have a completely separate product line specially formulated for standard and high-efficiency washers.

Tide detergents are designed for specific cleaning needs. To give you a few examples:

Here’s a quick break down of the number of products Tide offers in each category:

  • Liquid Laundry Detergent: 30 (14 for standard machines, 16 for high-efficiency machines)
  • Laundry Packs/Pods: 10
  • Powder Detergent: 5
  • Stain Removers: 1
  • Laundry Boosters: 2
  • Machine Care: 1
  • Fabric Care: 1

Although Gain is best known for cleaning clothes, their product offering goes a bit beyond detergent. In addition to detergent, Gain makes fabric softener, scent boosters, dryer sheets, and dish detergent.

Here’s a quick break down of the number of products Gain offers in each category:

  • Liquid Laundry Detergent: 11
  • Laundry Packs/Pods: 5
  • Powder Detergent: 8
  • Fabric Softeners: 6
  • Scent Boosters: 4
  • Dryer Sheets: 6
  • Dish Detergent: 10

In addition to their core products, Procter & Gamble takes advantage of Gain’s reputation for their wonderful fragrance by infusing it into products by other brands in their portfolio. For example, Gain is infused in several Febreze, Swiffer, Mr. Clean, Cascade, and Glad products.

While walking the supermarket aisles you may have seen Glad Trash Bags with the scent of Gain or Swiffer Dry Cloth Refills With Gain Original. It’s a creative way for P&G to leverage their portfolio to enhance their products and promote two brands within a single product.

Price

Laundry detergent is never going to break the bank but since its a product you’ll need to buy over and over again, the price is important.

Tide is more expensive than almost every brand on the shelf, including Gain. Tide is considered a premium detergent and it’s superior cleaning power warrants a higher price.

The exact price depends on which product you buy, the quantity you buy, where you buy it, and when you buy it.

To compare the current prices of Tide and Gain detergent, check out the links below to Amazon.

Bottom Line: Which Brand Should You Choose, Tide or Gain?

If you don’t mind paying a little extra for an award-winning brand and one of the top performing detergents on the market, Tide is the way to go.

If you want a wonderfully fresh scent left behind on your clothes, Gain gives you more fragrance options. In addition, you’ll save a little extra by choosing Gain.

At the end of the day, the detergent you choose is a personal decision. Some people actually prefer the smell of Tide while others swear that Gain provides a better clean.

My best advice is to try them both for a few months and see for yourself.

Tide and Gain are both available in almost every supermarket, pharmacy, home improvement store and online at Amazon. If you want to read reviews and check the current prices below:

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I had a blood stained sheet and it never got cleaned, even pre treatment. I grew up with my mom using Tide. But I was looking for a cheaper alternative detergent and I purchased Gain. Wouldn’t you know it, those “old” stains came out! So, I’ll never go back to Tide again! Lesson learned, more expense doesn’t necessarily mean better!!

    • Thanks for sharing Bonnie! Although most tests show that Tide is better at removing stains, I’ve heard plenty of stories like yours. It’s a good reminder to keep trying different options until you find one that works for you.

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