Even the most cash-strapped among us still need clean clothes, which could explain why Tide laundry detergent has become the go-to item for shoplifters all over the country.

A Minnesota man was recently busted for swiping some $25,000 of Tide over a 15-month period. And while he may be the most notorious soap-thief, he’s certainly not the only one.

Law enforcement officials report the detergent, which retails for $10 to $20, is being sold on the black market for half that, and is often traded for drugs. “There’s no serial numbers and it’s impossible to track,” said Detective Larry Patterson of the Somerset, Ky., Police Department, where authorities have seen a huge spike in Tide theft. “It’s the item to steal.”

Thieves load up carts with dozens of bottles and dash out the door to waiting get-away cars. The problem has gotten so bad that some stores are putting Tide — now dubbed “liquid gold” by many cops — under lock and key or assigning special security to watch the shelves.

Oddly enough, the problem only affects Tide and none of its competitors, which include the Wisk and All brands. Police say that’s probably because Tide’s label is instantly-recognizable and thus the most easily resold.

Sarah Pasquinucci, a spokeswoman for Tide manufacturer Procter & Gamble, said, “We don’t have any insight as to why the phenomenon is happening, but it is certainly unfortunate.”

[The Daily]