After we bought our new high-efficiency washing machine
, I was warned by a few different people not to use too much detergent. High-efficiency washers use less water and require less detergent to do their job (hence, the efficiency.) I didn't give it too much thought, though. What's the worst that could happen?
Then one day I was caught in a torrential rainstorm. When I got home my jeans were drenched, and I noticed something curious: a row of white suds had formed above each knee. I realized that my walking action had agitated the denim and brought trapped, excess detergent to the surface. I had to wash my clothes with no detergent just to get rid of the embedded soap.
A recent report in the Wall Street Journal
confirms I'm not alone in my detergent overkill tendencies. Loads of Americans are overdosing their high-efficiency machines, either because the measuring lines in detergent caps are too hard to read or because they're simply used to traditional washers. And the consequences go beyond sudsy jeans. According to Consumer Reports
, detergent build-up can lead to mold, odors, and bacteria in the machine, which is exactly what you don't
want. Too much soap can clog filters and ports, causing the machine to break down eventually. Plus, some detergents cost 65 cents per load; using too much adds up.
According to Jeffrey Hollender, the co-founder of an environmentally sensitive household product maker called Seventh Generation -- I may have been onto something when I washed my jeans with water alone. Hollender told a Wall Street Journal
reporter: "You don't even need soap to wash most loads," implying that agitation of washing machines will clean your clothes just fine.
To combat this detergent epidemic, reports the Wall Street Journal, some detergent manufacturers are designing caps with more defined measuring lines to ensure proper dosing. I'll admit that I'm not someone who measures detergent. I just pour it in. Why? I don't want to take the time to read the back of the detergent container and then figure out which of the lines on the inside of the cap apply to this load. Those lines inside the cap are hard to see in a dim laundry room. And I don't really trust manufacturers. I mean, look at how much toothpaste the commercials show people using on a toothbrush. I use about one-quarter that amount. With detergent, I guess I go the opposite route and use too much.
Plus, you almost have to be a scientist to figure it all out. Whirlpool
says the correct dosage depends on the hardness of your water (softened water needs less) and how soiled the clothes are.
In my opinion, much of our detergent overdosing is simply a bad habit. It just feels right to pour in a certain amount. But bad habits can be turned into good habits. That would mean reading the label on the high-efficiency container, and using the cap -- however difficult it is to read -- to measure out the correct amount. Within time, the new amount will seem normal. Whirlpool offers this tip: If soap remains at the end of the cycle, you're probably using too much.
Ok, time to come clean: Do you use too much detergent in your laundry?
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