Tide laundry detergent is one of the most familiar consumer brands there is: It was launched in 1946 and has been the top-selling detergent in the country ever since. Tide laundry bars are decidedly less familiar. Parent company Proctor & Gamble markets them overseas, especially in India (the world's third-largest detergent market), where fewer consumers have the modern laundry sets that make liquid Tide and Tide Pods so convenient to use. Although they're not officially sold in the United States, you can find Tide bars through online retailers, and they can make a convenient addition to your laundry routine.
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Detergents: Powders, Liquids, and Bars
Soaps have been around for many centuries, and they can be made by anyone with both some type of fat and a reasonably strong alkali (wood ashes were the traditional source for that). Detergents, or artificial soaps, were developed in Germany during the lean years of the First World War, when the Allied blockade meant that animal fats had to be reserved for feeding hungry humans. American manufacturer Proctor & Gamble studied those early attempts and learned from them, launching a detergent called Dreft in 1931 and then Tide in 1946.
The actual detergent itself is only part of the puzzle, which is why Dreft failed where Tide succeeded. Tide added "surfactants," which help the detergent itself remove soil and counter the effects of mineral-heavy hard water. Later formulations included enzymes, bleaching agents, and other whiteners. Those original detergents came in powder form, though over time, Proctor & Gamble and other companies learned how to formulate liquid detergents with similar capabilities. While liquid detergents now account for most of the market in North America, powders are still strong elsewhere (in part because they're still better at whitening).
Laundry bars, which pack the same ingredients into a solid, soaplike cake, are a whole other category — admittedly a smaller one — on their own.
Using a Tide Laundry Bar
Tide laundry bars are primarily meant for handwashing clothes, in much the same way you might use castile soap or any other gentle cleanser. To use them, choose a container that's appropriate for the size of your garment: a sink, a washtub, a plastic tote, or even a large pot will work just fine. Fill it with cool, warm, or hot water, whichever is called for in the garment's washing instructions. Silks, woolens, and other delicates may straight-up require handwashing, but you might also opt to handwash if you don't have a full load ready to go.
Once the garment is thoroughly wet, rub it with the Tide bar, paying special attention to any heavily soiled areas. Let the garment soak for several minutes; then fold it and scrub it against itself repeatedly (use a scrub brush on soiled areas, if needed). Then rinse and either wring the garment dry or let it hang dry. If you're camping or spending time on the road, packing along a Tide bar and washing small items this way can be more practical than carrying liquid or powdered detergent.
You can also use a Tide detergent bar as a laundry pretreatment for stained areas or ground-in soil. In this case, you'll moisten just the area you need to pretreat and rub the bar across the damp portion of the garment. Scrub with a brush if necessary and then launder your garment as usual.
Using a Tide Laundry Bar as a Backup
Though a Tide bar soap's primary role is in handwashing garments, it's also useful as a backup for those occasions when you run out of your regular detergent and the stores are closed (or the weather prohibits going out). The internet is filled with recipes for homemade laundry soaps, but keeping a Tide detergent bar on hand means you don't need to mess around with multiple (sometimes-irritating) ingredients. It's already a complete laundry product, so you just need to grate some on a box grater to help it dissolve and then add it to your wash. You'll need 2 to 4 tablespoons per load.
If you'd prefer a liquid soap, just dissolve the same 2 to 4 tablespoons of grated Tide bar into warm water and add that to the wash.