Stained clothing can be a bummer, but are there products out there that can remove even the nastiest grime? Consumer Reports recently tested out stain treatments applied before laundering and found a couple that worked well on a variety of stains.
Each stain treatment was evaluated for its effectiveness on coffee, blood, wine, sebum, motor oil and grass. CR Best Buy Resolve Laundry (10 cents per ounce) was the top-scoring treatment and worked well on all the stains. Shout Advanced Action (21 cents per ounce) was almost as good and can be applied up to a week before laundering. It worked well on all stains but wine.
For its tests, CR's technicians took swatches of stained polyester/cotton fabric, applied the same amount of each stain cleaner, let the swatches sit for five minutes, and then washed them in a mediocre detergent. For comparison, they also washed the stained swatches in a highly rated detergent, using no pretreatment.
The lowest-scoring treatment was also a Resolve product: Resolve Foaming Aerosol Laundry (15 cents per ounce). It only worked well on removing motor oil.
Most laundry pretreatments do help somewhat: The top products, including Fels Naptha, which was made into a paste using one part Fels to four parts water, worked better than detergent alone. Scrubbing will probably improve stain removal, but may also damage fabrics.
CR recommends that consumers use caution when considering products labeled "natural," because that word has no standard meaning in cleaning products. Nature's Source Natural (20 cents per ounce) and Green Works Natural (25 cents per ounce) only did a good job on a couple of the stains. Ecover (66 cents per ounce), the priciest choice, claims "plant based ingredients."
Can live microorganisms be tasty? Probiotics, beneficial bacteria that live in your intestines and in yogurt and supplements, can ease digestive woes and may lower cholesterol and strengthen immune systems.
In separate taste tests, CR's trained panelists tried 11 yogurts (four of them Greek-style, generally thicker and higher in protein) and three smoothies: Dannon DanActive, Trader Joe's Organic Lowfat Probiotic and Stonyfield Organic Super.
At an outside lab, testers measured the levels of three types of probiotic bacteria in those products and in four probiotic supplements. To ensure that the probiotics are made available to the body, the pills were also tested for disintegration.
All of the yogurts contained very high levels of living, good-for-you bacteria, measured in colony forming-units (CFUs). More research is needed before recommended levels are established, but some research suggests 1 billion CFUs as a daily minimum for good health.
Culturelle Digestive and Phillips' Colon Health had higher levels than the other two, Enzymatic Acidophilus Pearls Active Cultures and Align Digestive Care. All of the supplements disintegrated except for the Acidophilus Pearls product, which didn't do as well in the tests.
*Taste. Greek yogurts Fage Total 2 percent and Chobani Low-Fat were excellent; the other yogurts and smoothies were very good (including Dannon Fruit on the Bottom, Dannon Activia and Stonyfield Organic Low Fat Fruit on the Bottom) or good (including Yoplait Original and Stonyfield Organic Smooth and Creamy Fat-Free). In general, the Greek yogurts were creamier than the regular ones and had more real fruit flavor.
*Nutrition. Yogurt is a good source of calcium and protein. (The Greek yogurts have 10 to 14 grams of protein per serving compared with 3 to 10 grams in the other yogurts and smoothies.) It's also fairly low in calories and fat.
*Bottom line. The regular yogurts and smoothies cost 66 cents to $1 per serving; the Greek yogurts, $1.15 to $2.10. Supplements are convenient for people who don't like yogurt, but at 53 cents to $1.07 per pill, they're not cheap. Align Digestive Care has fewer beneficial bacteria than the others and costs far more. Ask your doctor what product is best for you.
By the editors of Consumer Reports at www.consumerreports.org.