Laundry detergent: Are you doing it right?

Jul 03, 2018
sfolsland's picture

Laundry detergent: Are you doing it right?

by Sarah

Some things in life are complicated. Deciding whether or not it’s safe to eat sushi at a mall in the Midwest. Complicated. Deciding what ride to use for your Fastpass at Disneyland AND keep everyone in the family happy. Even more complicated.

But doing your laundry shouldn’t take a lot of brain power, right?

We don’t think so either. That’s why we put together this quick Q&A to help you keep your machine running well and avoid pouring money down the drain.

Which detergent should I use?

The first thing you need to consider when choosing your detergent is if you have a high-efficiency washer. If so, you have to use high-efficiency (HE) detergent. These HE detergents are designed to make fewer suds so your HE washer, which uses less water, can get all the soap rinsed off. Using the wrong detergent in your washer can also cause soapy build-up that could make your machine malfunction and smell bad.

If you don’t have an HE washer, then the laundry detergent aisle is all yours. You can even use HE detergent in your non-HE washer and it will work just fine.

Once you’ve moved beyond the HE fork in the road, you can consider other things, like if you have someone in your household with sensitive skin who would benefit from a fragrance or dye-free option.

You should also take into account important safety precautions when choosing what type of detergent to use. Consumer Reports recommends that households with children ages six and under, or with cognitively impaired adults present, not use the ever popular laundry pods. The pods are convenient but also very poisonous. Manufacturers are making positive changes to the product, like childproof packaging, a bitter taste to the outer film of the packets, and making them tougher to burst and slower to dissolve, but they still pose a risk.

As with all cleaning products, make sure to keep any kind of detergent out of reach of children.

How much should I use?

Chances are you’re using way too much soap in your washing machine. Washers are getting more efficient all the time, and the less water they use, the less soap they need. Plus, detergents are getting more concentrated, so you don’t need to pour as much in anyway.

According to Tide, it is important to dose correctly, since under- or overdosing can result in poor cleaning and stain removal. There are three key factors to consider when figuring out how much soap to use:

Dirt levels: The more heavily soiled your clothes are, the more detergent you will need to use in a load. This helps to remove dirt and prevent it from going back onto your clothes.


Drum size: Detergent dosage directions are based on the drum size of a conventional washing machine, but with machines getting bigger, you may have a bigger drum if your washer is newer. Larger wash loads bring in more dirt, so to get great results on every wash you need more detergent.


Water hardness: Water hardness varies throughout the country. To get the best results, people in hard water areas need to use more detergent. 

Do homemade detergents work?

Homemade detergent is becoming more popular as households aim to save money and avoid unnecessary chemicals. There are lots of recipes out there, but this recipe from the HappyMoneySaver blog will wash 504 loads for about $20. That’s $0.04 per load compared to $0.12 per load for Tide. It even works in HE machines, just make sure to decrease the amount you use.  

You can also try homemade fabric softener crystals to save even more on your total laundry costs.

What should you do if your machine isn’t working because someone was using too much detergent (asking for a friend)?

If your washer or other appliance is acting up, call Service Guard at 800-504-2000 to schedule a time for one of our techs to come out and take a look. They are all really nice, and would never, ever judge you for past detergent mistakes. Or for eating mall sushi.

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