This Common Mistake Might Be Costing You Money & Ruining Your Clothes

updated May 3, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: GIC/Stocksy)

Nobody really likes doing laundry, do they? While it’s nice to have clothes that are fresh and clean, the chore itself is a bore. And on top of that, it’s tedious — even more so if you’re doing it right. Oh yes, there is a wrong and a right way to wash laundry, and you’re probably doing it wrong. Even worse, the error could be ruining your clothes and basically sending money down the drain.

You’re using too much laundry detergent

This sounds counterintuitive, sure. More laundry detergent equals a cleaner load of clothes, right? Surprisingly, wrong. You may have experienced the results of this mistake before and not even realized it — like, for example, pulling freshly laundered clothes out of the dryer only to notice they don’t look clean or have spots you didn’t notice before they went into the washing machine. Too much detergent could be to blame. Per CNN, “Excess suds can hold dirt pulled from clothes and get caught in areas that won’t always rinse clean, like under a collar, leading to bacteria buildup.”

Tide offers another reason to more carefully monitor the amount of detergent you use: “Too many suds prevent a good wash by cushioning the clothes from rubbing against one another,” the company explains on their website. “It’s this rubbing that helps the clothes get as clean as possible.”

Blech! So, not only will using extra laundry detergent not get your clothes cleaner, it could be making them dirtier. If you have a high efficiency (HE) washing machine, though, the trouble could extend beyond your clothes.

According to the American Cleaning Institute, extra suds prove problematic. “People have often associated the presence of suds in a wash cycle with how clean a load is getting in the cycle. While surfactants do the bulk of cleaning in a wash cycle, the suds caused by surfactants do not necessarily indicate the level of clean,” says the reference site, adding, “In HE washers today, any suds left behind may be a signal that the inappropriate type or level of detergent was used.”

(Image credit: nhungboon)

So, how much laundry detergent should you use?

Don’t be embarrassed if you’re an overzealous sudser — it’s way more common than you think. Brian Sansoni, spokesman for the American Cleaning Institute, told Consumer Reports that many people use twice the recommended amount of laundry detergent. It’s understandable, considering how hard it can be to see those teeny-tiny, tone-on-tone fill lines on detergent caps.

Since you’re probably pretty fond of your clothes (and not too fond of wasting money and water), you’ll want to pay more attention to precise laundry detergent levels in the future. CNN recommends using half your normal amount and then increasing in small increments until your clothes come out as clean as you’d like them.

Consumer Reports underscores the importance of following label directions, advising, “Use a marker to highlight fill lines, and measure, don’t just pour.” Do you hear that? No more lazy laundering, y’all.