Detergents contain enzymes to assist in removing food stains - amylase for starch, protease for proteins and lipase for fats. Formulated to perform well in a broad range of water hardness levels, they have replaced soap as the cleaning agent of choice in the laundry.
Most detergents today contain few or no phosphates. Although phosphates can boost cleaning, they are detrimental to the environment and have been banned in the United States.
Detergents are available in both granule and liquid forms and are classified in ranges of use from delicate to heavy duty. Liquid forms work well in all water temperatures while granules are better used in warm to hot water. For general laundry with food, oil or grease stains, a heavy duty formula should be used. Light duty works well for hand-washing or delicate, lightly soiled laundry loads.