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Quick Tips

Are You Using Your Laundry Detergent Correctly?

Most people use far more detergent than they actually need to. Learn how much you should use to extend the life of your clothes and washing machine.
Someone Adding Liquid Laundry Detergent to Top-Loading Washer

Liquid, pods, powders—given the proliferation of detergent products out there, it's no wonder there’s so much confusion about how to use laundry detergent correctly. In fact, it’s been found that Americans generally use far more detergent than they need to, resulting in dingy clothes and worn-out machines. It's just one of the many common mistakes that are easy to make that keep you from being even more efficient in the laundry room. In truth, there are four factors to consider when it comes to using laundry detergent properly.

First, determine what kind of detergent is best for you. Liquid detergents are easy to pour and work great for spot-cleaning grease stains and ground-in dirt. While powder detergents are good for consistent cleaning overall, too much powder can leave a milky residue on your clothes if not measured properly. Finally, pods take the guesswork out of measuring out your detergent. A warning: while pods can make doing laundry simple, they can also be dangerous. Accidental poisonings from the small, colorful pods—often mistaken by children as toys or candy—are on the rise. If you do decide to use detergent pods, store them on a high shelf out of reach from little hands or family pets. Finally, be sure to never use regular detergent in high-efficiency (HE) washers. This will create far too many suds and can damage the washer's mechanics over time.

Next, consider load size. Most detergent measuring caps or instructions should state the ideal amount of detergent to use for certain load sizes. Here’s a quick way to determine your load size: if the machine’s drum looks one-quarter full once all the clothes are inside, then that's a small load. If it looks about half-full, it’s a medium load, and if it’s close to full, it’s a full load. Do not overload your washer—cramming in too many clothes won’t allow the detergent to distribute evenly, which can cause wrinkled, less-than-clean clothes.

Be careful when measuring out your laundry detergent. Using too much detergent won’t make your clothes cleaner—in fact, it will leave a residue on your clothes that can make them break down that much faster. Also, detergents today tend to be much more concentrated than they were in the past, so be sure to carefully check the recommended amounts on the detergent packaging and double-check the cap’s measuring lines before you pour. Again: if you’ve got an HE machine, it’s important to use detergent specially formulated for an HE washer and to closely follow the measuring directions on the package.

Finally, which goes first: the detergent or the clothes? It all depends. If you have an HE front-loading washer, it should have a special compartment in which to pour the detergent. If you have a regular top-loading machine, it’s best to fill your washer with water first, then add your detergent, then add your clothes. This helps evenly distribute the detergent in the water before it hits your clothes.

Remember that the nicer you are to your washer and dryer the longer they'll last. See how a home warranty can also help you take care of your appliances while keeping your budget in tact.

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