Stain-Fighting Ability: 15/20
Essential oils have been beyond buzzy these past few years—just think about all of the Young Living and Doterra virtual “party” invitations from high-school-acquaintances-turned-salespeople you politely ignore on Facebook in any given week. So, admittedly, I was a bit skeptical when I heard Gain had just launched its Essential Oils laundry detergent line. Would my clothes smell like the nature store every mall had in the ‘90s? Would it be at all distinguishable from any other Rainfall Mist Gently Resting on Birds of Paradise™ scent on the market today? Curiosity got the best of me…and I’m glad it did.
In the name of science (and indecision), I tried all three scents: Lavender & Calm Chamomile, Eucalyptus & Mindful Mint, Orange & Energetic Grapefruit. All three sounded far from the typical tropical breeze, dew drop and linen scents you find on the detergent aisle, with descriptors meant to evoke how the scents might make you feel. Who doesn’t want to feel more focused, calm or energized, depending on the day? Though I also wondered: What happens if you’re drowsy and you accidentally wear your shirt, freshly washed in Lavender and Calm Chamomile, to a big meeting, instead of one laundered in Orange & Energetic Grapefruit?! The horror!
The Scents Are Delightfully Different.
Thankfully, the scents are bold but not jarring—and definitely not so powerful that you’ll be dozing during your quarterly review (blame Netflix binges for that). Orange & Energetic Grapefruit wound up being my favorite—it’s like a yellow Starburst, only dialed back to 30 percent, so it isn’t cloyingly sweet. (And yes, I genuinely mean that in a good way.) It’s such a citrusy, bright scent that I actually did feel more alert as I tossed in a load of laundry. Once washed, the scent is far subtler. Sniff your clothes and it’s there, but it’s not so strong that people will smell you from six feet away.
If you prefer more of a clean, fresh scent, Eucalyptus & Mindful Mint is it. You won’t smell like a stick of gum, promise; it’s like if you could wash your clothes in Diptyque’s Eucalyptus Candle, rinsed with cucumber water from a five-star spa.
The only scent I wasn’t as crazy about was Lavender & Calming Chamomile, but that’s just because lavender reminds me of my grandma’s potpourri, and it’s the dominant note in this scent.
It’s Small, But Mighty.
At first, I balked at how diminutive the bottle was, but that’s because the detergent is concentrated, so you don’t need as much per load. And at $10 for the 42-ounce bottle, it comes out to about 24 cents per load—not the cheapest stuff on the market, but given the quality of the scents, it’s much cheaper than some of the comparable, luxe detergents out there. (For context, The Laundress will set you back about 62 cents per load.)
But Can It Stand Up to an Ice Cream-Wielding Toddler?
Macaroni and cheese smears and stray Magic Marker were no match for Gain with Essential Oils, and it mostly got out three-day-old chocolate ice cream stains from my daughter’s T-shirt. Mostly, as in after one wash, they were 90 percent gone (see for yourself in the photo above)—without any spot-treating. That’s pretty impressive in my book.
Oh, and it’s free of dyes and phosphates (the latter part of a larger commitment its parent company, Proctor & Gamble, made back in 2014, to ensure phosphates don’t end up in our water). Phosphate-free has often been equated with “doesn’t clean as well,” but that’s clearly not the case here. It won’t work miracles, but it’s pretty legit.