How Much Laundry Detergent Do You Need? (Way Less Than You’re Using)

Man pouring laundry detergent into a measuring cupZivica Kerkez / Shutterstock

You waste a lot of money every year (and you also get bad results with your washing machine) because you put too much detergent. You may be shocked to see how much you really need.

We all use too much detergent

Virtually everyone puts too much detergent into their washing machine, whether it's an old top-loading model or a newer high efficiency front-loading model. This is partly the fault of the manufacturers of detergents (which encourage you to use more than necessary) and partly the fault of our brain (which has a stronger bias).

But too much detergent is not a waste of money; it's also bad for your washer and clothes. An excess of detergent ends up being sent to the sewers, but not before leaving residue on your clothes. This residue may appear as chalky marks on your clothes and give a crisp or sticky feeling to clothes and towels. An excess of detergent also encourages the accumulation of soap scum and biofilm in your washer, which leads to stinky clothes and towels. In fact, using less detergent is one of our tips our guide to dealing with smelly towels.

Despite our general tendency to use too much detergent, if you have accidentally run a cycle without adding detergent, be aware that the detergent is actually not so important that your clothes are seriously soiled.

I remember walking in the laundry room to change clothes and, along the way, remembering that I never put detergent on. To my surprise, my clothes were clean and odorless (no smell of dirt or smell of fresh linen). The hot water itself is a very good cleaning agent, and only one hour of scrambling and rinsing with hot water made it possible to clean the clothes very well. We certainly will not recommend that we do not use detergent at all, but this underscores how much we insist on the role that detergent plays.

With this in mind, let's look at the amount of detergent you need for your high-efficiency, traditional washing machine.

How much detergent do you need for a high-efficiency washer?

We'll talk about it in a moment, but if you want a direct answer: use two teaspoons of liquid detergent or two tablespoons of powdered detergent. It's hardly a splash of detergent into the dispenser (or if you use a large bottle with a valve, press the button for about a second).

We do not laugh. High-efficiency washers require virtually no detergent to function extremely efficiently. Whether you use liquid or powdered detergent, you hardly need anything. In fact, if you have very soft water, you can even use even less. Whether your water is naturally soft or you use a softener, you can settle for 1 to 1.5 teaspoons or soup, for the liquid and the powder, instead.

high efficiency washer and dryer in a nice laundry roomArtazum / Shutterstock

Even if your clothes are really dirty, you hardly need to increase the amount of detergent used. For heavily soiled clothes (especially clothes soiled with oil or grease), you can increase the amount by about 50% (so you should use three teaspoons of liquid detergent instead of two). In general, soiled clothing benefits more from a longer wash time with more water than detergent. It is therefore more useful to use the pre-soak or pre-wash function of your washing machine than to pour more detergent.

Regardless of the amount of powdered detergent you use, skip the dispenser and add the powder directly into the load by pouring it into the washer drum. Dispensers are well suited for liquid detergents but do a poor job with powders.

How much detergent do you need for a top loading washer?

Top-loading washers are a little more infallible when it comes to detergents, because they use a lot more water than high-efficiency washers (unless, of course, you have a high-efficiency loader ). Your overly detrimental sins are washed by dilution. Nevertheless, you still do not want to waste money by pouring more detergent than necessary.

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, adjust for the softness of the water (but avoid increasing the amount depending on the level of dirt, between the already increased volume of detergent and twice the amount of water you do not usually need it). If you have very soft water, you can recommend it to 1-1.5 tablespoons of liquid detergent or 2-3 tablespoons of powder.

And again, we are talking about a regular load of clothes here. If you wash fewer items, use less detergent. If you wash a heavy load or very dirty items, use more.

In the end, you are the judge and use as little as you need

The guidelines above are just suggestions. The reality is that you need a minimum of detergent to do the job. Modern washers, even those with top loading, are much better than older washers. Most of the washing is done by water and mechanical movement in the washer.

In light of this, you can try to reduce the amount of laundry detergent you use until you find the perfect place, depending on your needs. If, for example, you rarely wash workout clothes and almost all your laundry is made of work clothes, you may find that you only need a little detergent to do the job. On the other hand, if you or someone from your home is working outside all day in very hot and dirty conditions, adjust your dose accordingly. Keep in mind, however, that overall pre-soak and extra rinse functions are almost always more effective than simply accumulating more detergent.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.