Are You Using Too Much Detergent?

Time: 5 minutes

Got suds? Using too much soap is one of the leading causes of washing machine breakdowns. Front load machines only require 1-2 tablespoons of detergent per load, even less if you have soft water. Excess detergent can cause your machine to fail prematurely, and provide extra food for mold, allowing it to grow in your piping.

Most front-load machines consume 3-5 gallons of water per load, but only use the soap during the first cycle. Every cycle after the first is to rinse the clothes and clear the soap from the machine. If you notice dark spots on your door seal, staining on your clothing, drainage problems, or a strong odor, there’s a good chance you’re using too much detergent.

Take 5 minutes this weekend to do a little experiment to find out if you should cut back on the bubbles (bonus: you’ll also spend less on detergent).

What’s in it for you?

  • Fewer repairs
  • Longer machine life
  • Mold prevention
  • More time with your favorite jeans

Here are a couple of ways to find out if you’re using too much soap:

Test #1

  1. Start the washer on a normal cycle without adding any detergent or clothes.
  2. Once it fills with water and begins to agitate, pause it and look inside.
  3. If you notice any suds, soap has built up inside the washer. Finish the cycle to clean out the tub, and cut back on your detergent.

Test #2

  1. Grab 4-6 clean towels (1 towel for top loaders), and begin a medium cycle on hot without adding any detergent or fabric softener.
  2. After about 5 minutes, pause the cycle and look for signs of suds or soapy residue.
  3. If you notice any bubbles, soap is coming out of your towels from their last wash. Fabrics deteriorate quicker when soap isn’t completely washed out, and can irritate your skin.
  4. Finish the cycle and cut back on your detergent.
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