How Much Washing Detergent Should You Be Using?

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How Much Washing Detergent Should You Be Using?

In the mid-1990s, several companies started marketing laundry balls or discs claiming them to be a brilliant substitute for laundry detergent. Marketed as cheaper and environmentally friendly, many rushed out and bought one. For a while, laundry balls seemed the solution for reducing costs and environmental impact when washing your clothes.

Today, these laundry balls or discs are mostly defunct. Why? Because what was discovered is that the reason they were working so effectively is that most clothes still had excess laundry detergent having been washed with too much detergent during previous washes. Once the laundry detergent had completely disappeared, the balls and discs were less effective at their job.

While these ‘substitutes to laundry detergent’ weren’t all they were cracked up to be, they did teach us a valuable lesson about washing our clothes. We tend to use too much laundry detergent for our needs. But why is too much detergent a problem?

Demystifying laundry beliefs

If you’re thinking that the more laundry detergent you use the cleaner your clothes will be, you’re not alone. A common myth is that adding more detergent results in a deeper clean. The reality, however, is that the more detergent you add, the harder it is to rinse out and the dirtier your clothes could end up being. The detergent residue left on your clothes will then be transferred to your skin when you wear the clothes, which can cause a number of irritations.

When rinsing fails to remove detergent from clothing your clothes can end up smelling or attracting more dirt. Clothes can be left stained by residue and colour can be dulled over time. Not only can too much detergent ruin clothes, it can ruin your washing machine too as the leftover detergent can react with fabric softener residue and cause moulding.

How does this happen? Fabric softener itself is a cationic surfactant that has antibacterial properties. The mould may be caused when the liquid detergent solution mixes with fabric softener residues leftover in the pumping system. When both mix together, the antibacterial property of fabric softener will be gone and it can grow mould easily due to the fatty composition in fabric softener.

Most appliance repair businesses will tell you that one of the biggest reasons why washing machines go wrong is the improper use of laundry detergent. Over the last decade or so, regulations require washing machine manufacturers to reduce the amount of water needed to complete a wash. If you’re still using the same amount of soap as you did using an older machine, it’s likely your new machine isn’t breaking your laundry detergent down.

Your clothes and washer will also suffer if you’re using the wrong amount of concentrated laundry detergent. There is a common myth that “ultra-concentrated” and “high-efficiency” (HE) laundry detergents are less effective, as you add less to your wash. The fact is that these detergents still perform the same when washing, while using less packaging and water. To get the best out of these detergents it is important to measure the correct amount, don’t over pour, and read the instructions on the bottle.

How much is too much?

While it’s important not to add too much laundry detergent to your wash, it’s equally important that you add enough. Unfortunately, there’s no right or wrong amount and each individual’s washing needs are different.

As a general rule, the amount of detergent you need to use depends on your clothes usage. If you’ve been gardening or working outdoors all day, your clothes may require quite a bit. If you’ve been repairing your bike, rebuilding an engine or working as a fry cook, you may need even more. If your days are spent at the office sitting at a desk, you probably need very little.

There are other factors too that change your required detergent usage:

  • The amount of water you’re using
  • The hardness of the water in your area
  • Whether you hand or machine wash.

For the best advice, read the instructions on your chosen laundry detergent. Those guidelines are there for a reason, so use them wisely.

Environmental impact

Knowing how much laundry detergent to use isn’t just about protecting your clothes and washing machine. Correct detergent usage also means protecting the environment.

The less detergent you use, the fewer raw materials, packaging and transport is required. The less rinsing your machine needs to do, the less water and power you’ll use. Add to that a 100% plant-based laundry detergent such as the Natural laundry detergent offered by bio-home and you can do your bit to save the planet one wash at a time.

To find out more about laundry detergent and how to use it properly, read our Laundry Guide here.