You waste a lot of money every year (and get worse results from your washing machine too) because you put too much detergent in. You may be shocked over how little you actually need.
We all use too much detergent
Practically everyone puts too much detergent in the washing machine, whether it is an old top-loading model or a newer front loading high efficiency. This is partly the fault of the detergent manufacturers (who encourage you to use more than you need) and partly the fault of our brain (which has a more-is-better bias).
But too much detergent is not just a waste of money; it's also bad for your washing machine and clothes. Excess detergent ends up sending down the drain, but not until you leave residue on your clothes. The scraps can appear as critical marks on your clothes and give your clothes and towels a crunchy or sticky feeling. Excess detergent also encourages the build-up of soap foam and biofilm in your washing machine, resulting in smelly clothes and towels. In fact, using less detergent is one of our tips in our guide to dealing with smelly towels.
Despite our general propensity to use too much detergent, if you have ever run a cycle without adding detergent, you know that detergent is actually not that important unless your clothes are dirty soiled.
I remember going down to the laundry room to replace a lot of laundry, and while I'm on route, I remember never putting the detergent in. Much to my surprise, my clothes were clean and odorless (neither smelled dirty or smelled like new laundry). Hot water in itself is a pretty good cleanser, and just an hour of rubbing and rinsing in warm water had done a good job of cleaning your clothes. We would certainly not recommend not using detergent at all, but it does highlight how we over emphasize the role the detergent plays.
Let's consider how much detergent you need for your high efficiency and traditional washing machine.
How much detergent do you need for a high-efficiency washing machine?
We'll split it for you in a moment, but if you want the right answer: use two teaspoons liquid detergent or two tablespoons of powdered detergent . There is hardly a splash of detergent in the dispenser (or if you use a large bottle with a valve, about a second press the button).
We're not kidding. Washers with high efficiency need almost no detergent to operate super efficiently. Whether you use liquid detergent or powder, you hardly need anything. If you have really soft water, you can even use even less. Whether your water is naturally soft or you use a softener, you can handle 1
Even though your clothes are dirty, you hardly need to increase the amount of detergent used. For super-dirty clothes (especially clothes that are soiled with oils or grease) you can increase the amount by about 50% (so you want to use three teaspoons of liquid detergent instead of two). Generally speaking, clothing has the more benefit of a longer wash time with more water than more detergent, so it is more useful to use the suction or pre-wash feature of the washing machine than to have more detergent.
No matter how much powdered detergent you use, skip the dispenser and add the powder directly to the load by pouring it into the washing drum. The dispensers are good for liquid detergent, but do a poor job with powder.
How much detergent do you need for a regular top load washer?
Top washers are a bit more foolproof when it comes to detergent because they use so much more water than high-efficiency washers (unless of course you have a high-efficiency top loader). Your too much detergent sins are washed away via dilution. Nevertheless, you still don't want to waste money dumping more detergent than you need.
When dosing for a top-loading washing machine use two tablespoons of liquid detergent or four tablespoons (1/4 cup) of powder .
As with high-efficiency washers, you can adjust based on water softening (but skip increasing the soil-based portion, between the already increased volume of detergent and double the amount of water you don't typically need). If you have really soft water, call it back to 1-1.5 tablespoons of liquid detergent or 2-3 tablespoons of powder.
And again we talk about a normal amount of clothes here. If you wash fewer items, use less detergent. If you wash a large amount or heavily soiled items, you can use more.
Ultimately, you are a judge and spend as little as you need
The above guidelines are just suggestions. The reality is that you need minimal detergent to get the job done. Modern disks, including top loaders, are much better at work than older disks. Most of the washing is done by the water and the mechanical movement of the washing machine.
In light of that, you can experiment with calling back how much detergent you use until you hit the sweet spot based on your needs. If you rarely wash workout clothes and almost all your clothes are work clothes from your job in a climate-controlled office, for example, you may find that you only need a small amount of detergent to get the job done. On the other hand, if you or someone in your home is working out all day in the heat and really dirty working conditions, you need to adjust your dose accordingly. Keep in mind, however, that the functions of pre-cooking and extra rinsing are almost always more effective than simply collecting more detergent.