How Much Laundry Detergent Do You Really Need?

As you hover over a loaded washing machine with laundry detergent poised ready to pour, you might struggle to answer this simple question. It’s not simple. It depends…

Washing machines have come a long way since the days of hand-washing clothes in big tubs and wringing them out by hand.

Modern washing machines, or ‘laundry machines’, make it so you don’t even have to touch your clothes after they’re done washing.  

However, even with all these technological advances, laundry washing machines seem still use the same amount of detergent you might have used 30 years ago – or is that due to the operator ?

Front Loader vs Top Loaders

The type of laundry detergent and amount per wash you use really depends on whether you’re using a top-loading machine or a front-loading high-efficiency machine.

Front Loaders use less detergent, water and power

Front-loaders use considerably less detergent than top loaders. On average, front loaders use about half as much as a standard size (1.5 cup) top-loading washing machine.

In most cases, one-third of a cup is sufficient for a fully-loaded front loader and about 1/2 that for a half-load. Still not sure how much laundry detergent to use? Check your machine’s instruction manual or contact your manufacturer.

While front loaders are more expensive to purchase, they are cheaper to run. It’s also generally accepted that front-loader watching machines provide better washing performance and also have reduced wear and tear of the washed fabrics.

Front-loaders generally take longer to wash a load of clothes compared to the typical 20-35 minute cycle of a top loader.

Top Loader Convenience 

Front-loaders are not completely without advantages though, and the main one is convenience. Doing the washing with a top loader means you can pop additional clothes into it while a cycle is running. No such luck with a front loader, as the door stays locked from the beginning to the end of the cycle.

The other convenience factor for a front loader is they are faster to wash a typical load compared to a front loader.   

For the budget-conscious family, a top loading washing machine is significantly cheaper than a front loader, which can be the defining purchase decision for many.


Laundry Powder vs Liquid Detergent

Getting back to the discussion about how much laundry detergent should you use, we need to also consider if you intend to use powder or liquid detergent.

Powder is Cheaper

Powder detergents tend to be slightly cheaper than liquids. and generally perform better in top loader washing machines. 

Liquid detergents are better suited for front loaders, as they contain surfactants that are critical to getting tough stains out. 

Powders usually perform best for soiled and stained clothes. In fact, some powders can offer an eco-friendly option to traditional powders or liquids.

Powders can sometimes leave a white, powdery residue on clothes. While it may be unsightly, it will not harm your clothing. Liquids don’t leave residue, although read our section below on Sensitive Skin about extra rinses to remove residual detergent.     

Powders can be ‘made into a liquid’ by dissolving some in a little warm water, which will give them more cleaning power than straight from their box. Simply mix with water and pour directly into your wash.

Liquid laundry detergents tend to perform better in front loader washing machines. 

Liquid detergent is more eco-friendly and ideal for cold water washes. Liquid detergent has less impact on our ecosystem, as they are often made with renewable energy sources such as ethanol, making them a slightly more environmentally-friendly choice.

Liquid detergent is usually phosphate-free and gentler on fabrics, clothing and colours than powder.

Are you using too much Detergent?

Whether you’re using a top-loading machine or a front-loading high-efficiency machine, you’re most likely using too much detergent. It might sound trivial but in fact overuse of detergent has a series of negative impacts:

Increases Your laundry Costs

If you are using twice as much detergent as you need then your laundry costs are effectively doubled.

Reduced Washing Machine Effectiveness & Life

Using too much of any type of detergent can cause your machine to foam and froth. This causes residues and build-up in your machine. If there’s too much soap residue or build-up in your machine, it will affect how efficiently it operates and can potentially lead to clogs within pumps or hoses.

A clogged washing machine will not operate as well, and it is more likely to fail.

Doesn’t Clean Your Clothes As Well

It sounds counter-intuitive doesn’t it, but it’s true. Too much detergent in your washing machine stops it from operating as effectively as it can, and the end result is that your clothes aren’t cleaned as well as they could be.

Negative Impact On Our Environment

Most laundry detergents use phosphates, which contain phosphorus. This helps keep the extracted dirt in suspension for effective cleaning. But this chemical can lead to blue-green algae in our streams and waterways.
When you use too much laundry detergent, even more pollution is added into our environment.

Use an eco-friendly detergent 

Consider a low-phosphate detergent for an eco-friendly laundry. Not only will your eco-footprint be reduced, but you can safely use your laundry ‘grey-water’ in your garden. Check the GreySmart rating of the laundry detergent you are considering using to ensure you are helping our environment.