Many people wonder how much detergent to use on laundry day. Liquid detergent has notches in the cap, and the powder comes with a convenient scoop—but most of us are guilty of throwing a bit more in the load just for good measure. When it comes to getting your clothes fresh, more soap is better, right?

Not necessarily. Using too much laundry detergent can cost you more money and may make it more difficult to get your clothes clean. It could even damage your washing machine. 

When it comes to how much laundry detergent to use, less is more. Let’s cover how to use laundry detergent correctly to protect your budget and your appliance.

Signs you’re using too much laundry detergent

If you experience any of the following problems with your washing machine, it could be because you’re using too much soap:

  • The washer basin feels slimy. Too much laundry soap means your machine may have a hard time breaking it down, which leaves residual soap in the machine basin. To help clear out the slimy residue, run your washer with water only—no clothes or additional soap.
  • The washing machine has a foul odor. Using too much laundry detergent or liquid fabric softener can cause soap scum buildup and create an environment for mold and mildew to grow. If your washer has a foul odor or leaves your clothes smelling sour, it’s likely due to mold and soap scum inside the washing machine. Before running the next load, clean your washer and dryer with these tips.
  • The washer doesn’t drain or stops mid-cycle. If you guesstimate how much detergent to use in the washing machine, it can do more than make your clothes smell funky. Too much laundry detergent may prevent water from draining properly or cause the machine to stop running. 
  • Too many soap suds can get into the machine’s hose and potentially damage the water-level pressure switch. Another potential problem is your washing machine springing a leak. Learn about how a drain pan can prevent that from happening.
  • The washer leaves dark spots or rust on clothing. This problem is often a sign of soap scum, mold, or mildew inside the washing machine boot (the rubber seal between the door and the drum that prevents leaks). If the boot is moldy, it will need to be replaced.

How much detergent should I use?

As a general rule of thumb, you should only use about a tablespoon of laundry detergent per regular load size. (The measuring cup that comes with your liquid laundry detergent is about 10 times larger than the actual amount of laundry soap needed.) This rule applies to both liquid and powder detergent—and even homemade laundry detergent. 

When it comes to the laundry pods, one will usually suffice. 

Check your washer’s use and care manual for the manufacturer’s recommendations on which types of soap are best for your machine and how much laundry detergent to use per load. Never pour liquid detergent into your machine without measuring first.

If you have a newer washing machine, it may require high-efficiency (HE) laundry soap, which is specially formulated to prevent too many suds. If you do not use HE laundry detergent in your newer washer, reduce the amount you use by about one-third of the detergent’s recommendation.

Use washer cleaner tablets monthly to help dissolve and remove any remaining odor-causing soap residue in your washing machine.

How to load a washing machine

Learning how to do laundry better is also a great way to save your appliance from wear and tear. It's important to avoid overloading your washing machine with clothes. Fill it about 75 percent full of clothing and avoid packing clothes in too tightly. Distribute clothes evenly and loosely inside to prevent damage to your machine.

Unless your washer machine’s use and care manual instructs otherwise, add detergent before loading laundry. If your washer has an automatic dispenser for liquid laundry detergent, add detergent to the dispenser. 

Now when you’re wondering how much laundry detergent to use, just follow these tips. Frontdoor® offers a variety of ways to get things done. Whether you prefer connecting via video chat with trade industry Experts, receiving a list of vetted Pros for repairs, or utilizing our how-to library to DIY, we've got you covered.

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