When you put a load of especially dirty, sweaty, or smelly laundry in your washing machine, you may be tempted to add a little (or a lot) more than the recommended amount of detergent. In theory, this makes sense: Filthier-than-usual laundry could probably use a boost with extra detergent, right?
Nope, not quite. And not only that, but you’re probably using too much detergent in your regular, everyday loads of laundry, too. Here’s what to know.
What happens when you use too much laundry detergent
Believe it or not, using too much laundry detergent can actually leave an additional layer of gunk on your clothing or linens. This is because more soap means more suds — which your washing machine’s rinse cycle wasn’t designed to handle.
Plus, the extra detergent makes your laundry particularly slippery, which, in turn, prevents the items from rubbing up against each other, which is part of what helps to remove their surface-level dirt.
The result? Detergent residue that harm your laundry and your washing machine.
Using too much detergent requires your machine to use more water — something you want to avoid if you pay for water, and also for environmental reasons.
The residue that is left on your clothes is also a problem for your washer as it builds up over time — especially in all the corners, nooks, and crannies, which provide ideal conditions for bacteria and mould to grow, and can eventually lead to stinky “clean” laundry.
How do you know if you’ve used too much detergent?
Some of the signs that you’ve used too much detergent in a load of laundry include:
- When the laundry comes out of the washer, it feels slimy or sticky
- “Clean” and dried laundry feels crunchy or scratchy and is uncomfortable to wear
- Coloured clothes or linens are dull or faded
- White clothes or linens turn off-white or grey
- People with sensitive skin may have reactions to wearing clothing
- Unpleasant, possibly mildewy odour on “clean” laundry
How much detergent should I use?
The amount of detergent you need to wash a load of laundry depends on a variety of factors, including the size of the load, the type of detergent you use, and whether or not you have a high-efficiency washer. However, as a general rule, laundry experts usually recommend using one tablespoon of liquid detergent or ¼ cup of powder detergent for load of laundry in a traditional washing machine.
And, as Sarah Bodgan points out in a video for Wirecutter, take the recommendations on the labels of detergents with a grain of salt: “Some detergent manufacturers are going to lie on the label. But remember, they’re selling a product, and they want you to buy more of it.”