5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic

Royalty-free stock photo ID: 228756514 Woman choosing laundry detergent in grocery store
Dmitri Ma / Shutterstock.com

What’s in a name? Well, in the case of many brand-name products like bleach, mostly marketing costs.

We consumers are easily swayed by ads that portray their products as somehow more effective, more prestigious or of higher quality, when in fact some store-brand or no-name products are essentially identical and cheaper. We identify plenty of them in “32 Products You Should Always Buy Generic.”

But there are exceptions — times when going upmarket or with a known brand does make sense, even if it costs a little extra.

Take the following products for example. In these cases, spending a little more means better flavor, higher quality, less hassle or less risk.

1. Laundry detergent

We’re not saying you need to use laundry detergent. Some say you’ll get decent results omitting soap entirely, as we report in “3 Easy Ways to Get Laundry Soap for Nearly Nothing.” The article includes a budget-friendly recipe for making your own laundry soap.

If you’re not convinced that you can forgo detergent, or prefer to buy your laundry soap off the shelf, it’s good to stick with the top brand names.

The Spruce compared laundry detergents recently. Every one of the home publication’s top 10 recommendations is a brand-name product.

One more benefit of a premium laundry soap: It can double as a stain remover.

A recent Consumer Reports test pitted two brand-name detergents — Tide Plus Ultra Stain Release and Persil ProClean Stain Fighter — against six spray-on laundry stain removers (all of which happened to be brand-name products as well).

Pretreating stains with the detergents was more effective than five of the stain removers and came close to matching the other stain remover, OxiClean MaxForce.

In fact, Consumer Reports notes that the detergents “came close enough to the cleaning power of the OxiClean MaxForce that some people might want to use these detergents to pretreat stains and wash your laundry.”

2. Electric toothbrush head replacements

Should you pay more to buy brand-name replacements for your electric toothbrush heads? The Wirecutter reports:

“In short: Yes.”

What’s at stake? In many ways, the generics that The Wirecutter tested were just as good. They fit nicely on the toothbrushes and had the same colored rings that help you identify your brush head from another family member’s. The difference was in the feel.

The heads — as you know if you use an electric toothbrush — should be soft enough to avoid irritating your gum tissue. The Wirecutter, a product comparison site owned by The New York Times, concluded, after spending six months testing generic and brand-name heads that Oral-B and Philips Sonicare heads are best, especially because they are gentler on the gums than generics.

Marcelo Araujo, vice president of the Science Institute at the American Dental Association, told The Wirecutter:

“Soft is a layman term we use to say that [the toothbrush is] safe.”

3. Liquid dish soap

If you’ve washed many dishes, you know that suds matter and that wimpy, watery dish soaps may be cheap, but they don’t do the job.

Good Housekeeping, long an arbiter of household product quality, recently named Dawn Platinum Dishwashing Soap as overall best after testing dish detergents.

GH says Dawn Platinum is so concentrated that it cleans twice as many dishes, concluding:

“Dawn cuts grease and cleans so well that it’s the gold standard we hold others to in GH Cleaning Lab tests.”

4. House paint

“You get what you pay for” with house paint, professional painters told The Wirecutter.

The best paints require fewer coats to cover, last longer and simply look better than cheaper paints, the site found. Half of its panel of eight professional painters named Benjamin Moore Regal Select as their top choice.

Lower-quality paints contain a lower percentage of essential pigments and binders, The Spruce learned in its testing of interior house paints. Its conclusion: The best-quality paints are from Benjamin Moore, Sherwin-Williams, Valspar and Behr.

5. Ice cream

Store brand ice cream? Good for saving money. Often good for reducing calories.

If you’re in pursuit of the best flavor, though, don’t veer from premium brands, whether big ones like Häagen-Dazs, Ben & Jerry’s, Talenti or Blue Bell (to name a few) or your local creamery’s finest products.

A peek at the label should reveal just a few ingredients: milk, cream, sugar and maybe eggs, plus the natural flavorings and the crunchies and crumbles you love.

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