With nine kids and another one the way, Kerri Geree is a slave to her washing machine. And with so many wash loads each week, Kerri is after value for money from her laundry detergent.

Supermarket aisles are chockers for choice of washing detergents -- from powder concentrates to liquids, with enzymes and oxygen bleaches; made for top loaders and popular front loaders, which use less water.

Retailer Chris Koutaris knows all about washing machines and the detergents. He says you need to get bang for your bucks and results from the wash. "Basically look at the environment, phosphate free, biodegtradeable, it needs it to work in most water conditions and look for detergents that don't sud too much - you don't want to see foam", Chris said.

Chris has his own secret formula powder and he says new technologies have improved the quality of washing detergents on the market. "You have to experiment with your products. Try and use different programs and it depends on fabrics -- whites tend to wash in warm to hot. Detergents react with enzymes -- they need warm water starting temp to activate otherwise don't get full effect of the detergents", he added.

So which ones perform best and which ones don't? We asked Larry Cavallaro from Chesser Chemicals, which makes all types of household cleaners, to put many of the leading brands of powders and liquids to a comprehensive test -- along with a laundry ball marketed as being environmentally friendly.

"The tests we are doing are based on internationally recognised cloth with a set of the four hardest stains to remove", Larry said.

Industrial chemist Odi Kehagias carried out the testing procedure. One area is an unsoiled area; then the stains are: carbon black, blood, chocolate and red wine.

An accurately measured dose of each detergent goes into the washer on a regular cycle using cold water; then at the end of the washing cycle, each swatch is closely analaysed with a spectro-photometer. "A spectrophotometer measures light of a fabric", Odi explained.

All the results later. Meanwhile Chris Koutaris has this tip about the ideal temperature for your washing: "Washing darks at 40 deg is good - you are not going to get colour running, shrinkage and activating detergents. 50 top 60 degrees is good for cottons - whites, towels. Don't mix colours. You get better results with oxygen bleach and brighter and whiter results with lighter colours", he said.

Now to our results.

Frstly for front loaders outperforming the rest for a cleaner wash and value for money at 27 cents per load, is the Power of 4 powder made by Chesser Chemicals for Chris Koutaris. "Ours is environmentally friendly -- no phosphates. Enzymes which work well for protein stains like blood, grass and general food stains. Oxygen bleach which is coloUr safe", Chris said.

The best of the others were Cold Power Advanced Liquid; Dynamo with Sard; Omo Powder and Liquid; Radiant's Micro Max Powder and Micro Max Liquid; Omo Small and Mighty Liquid; Ultra Concentrate Powder; Surf Powder and Drive Powder; while the laundry ball washed no better than using clean water. "We've noticed over the last few years liquids have come a long way -- more concentrated and they give you more value for your money", Larry said.

Powders led the way for top loaders with Cold Power Advanced; Power of 4; Omo Small and Mighty; Drive Concentrate; Cold Power Advanced Liquid; Dynamo with Sard; Radiant Micro Max Liquid and Woolies own Select Ultra Concentrate Liquid and Concentrate Powder; and Surf Small and Mighty Powder. "We found in top loaders, powders outperform liquids because they are more active and more alkaline which improves wash performance", Larry and Odi said.

And as for chosing between powders or liquids, Larry says: "You can go for liquids or powders. But if its value for money, powders win."The winner was Power Of 4 (order online - www.mrdishwasher.com)