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Quick Tips

Am I Using Too Much Laundry Detergent or Cleaner?

It’s time to come clean about how much laundry detergent you use to do your laundry. When it comes to getting your clothes fresh and clean, more soap is better, right?

Overflowing washing machine

Not necessarily. Using too much laundry detergent can cost you money and may actually make it more difficult to get your clothes clean. What’s worse, using too much laundry soap could damage your washing machine.

Many homeowners are surprised to learn that their problems with their washing machine are caused by too much laundry detergent. In newer washing machines, less is more. Federal regulations have required washing machine manufacturers to reduce the amount of water needed per load. Less water and too much laundry soap means your machine may have a hard time breaking down the soap, which leaves residual soap in the machine basin and causes problems for the machine. 

Signs you’re using too much laundry detergent

If you experience any of these problems with your washing machine, it could be because you’re using too much laundry soap.

1. Washer basin feels slimy

This is a common sign that your washer isn’t breaking down the laundry detergent. To help clear out the slimy residue, run your washer with water only, no clothes or additional soap.

2. Washing machine has foul odor

Using too much laundry detergent or liquid fabric softener can cause soap scum buildup and create an environment for mold and mildew to grow. If your washer has a foul odor or leaves your clothes smelling sour, it’s likely due to mold and soap scum inside the washing machine.

3. Washer doesn’t drain or stops mid-cycle

Too much laundry detergent may prevent water from draining properly, or it may simply cause the machine to stop running. Too many soapsuds can damage the machine by getting into the hose and potentially damaging the water level pressure switch. Another potential problem is your washing machine springing a leak. Learn about how a drain pan can prevent that from happening.

Related: 10 Steps to Drain Water from Washing Machine

4. Washer leaves dark spots or rust on clothing:

This problem is often a sign of soap scum, mold or mildew inside the washing machine boot (the rubber seal between the door and the drum that prevents leaks). If the boot is moldy, it will need to be replaced.

How much laundry detergent should I use?

Check your washer’s use and care manual for the manufacturer’s recommendations on which types of soap are best for your machine and how much laundry soap to use per load. As a general rule of thumb, you should only use about a tablespoon of laundry detergent per regular load size. (The measuring cup that comes with your liquid laundry detergent is about 10 times larger than the actual amount of laundry soap needed.) Never pour liquid detergent into your machine without measuring first.

If you have a newer washing machine, it may require high-efficiency laundry soap. High-efficiency (HE) soaps are specially formulated to prevent too many suds. If you do not use a high-efficiency laundry detergent in your newer washer, reduce the amount of detergent you use by about 1/3 of the detergent recommendation.

Use washer cleaner tablets monthly to help dissolve and remove any remaining odor-causing soap residue in your washing machine.

How to load a washing machine

It's important to never overload your washing machine with clothes. Fill the machine about 3/4 full of clothing, but avoid packing clothes in tightly. Distribute clothes evenly and loosely inside the machine to prevent damage to your machine.

Unless your washer’s use and care manual instructs otherwise, add detergent before loading laundry. If your washer has an automatic dispenser for liquid laundry detergent, add detergent to the dispenser. If your washer does not have an automatic dispenser or you are using single-use detergent pods that must dissolve in the water, add detergent to the bottom of the washer before adding clothes and water.

Follow these tips for laundry detergent usage and proper loading to help prevent costly washing machine repairs.

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