5 Things You Shouldn’t Be Doing When You Use Laundry Detergent

updated Mar 5, 2020
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A woman adding detergent to a washing machine
(Image credit: TanyaRozhnovskaya)

For as often as we use laundry detergent to keep our washables clean, we might be making mistakes with it we aren’t aware of. We called on Laura Goodman, Senior Scientist at Procter & Gamble Fabric Care to help us figure out what not to do with our laundry detergent. Here are six warnings you want to watch out for the next time you reach for the laundry soap.

1. Don’t forget to check the bottle for dosage

According to Goodman, the amount of detergent you add to your load of laundry can make or break how clean it actually gets. “Always check the detergent packaging for the recommended dosage because too much or too little can result in poor cleaning results,” she says. “Also take into consideration how dirty the clothes are, the size of the load, and how hard your water is when determining the right amount of detergent to add.”

2. Don’t under-dose in a high-efficiency machine

Believe it or not, Goodman says that 40 percent of laundry loads in high-efficiency washing machines are under-dosed with detergent. “High-efficiency washing machines are double or more in size than conventional machines,” she explains, “and this increase in drum size has led to a misconception of load size by many users. If laundry loads are under-dosed and clothes don’t come clean it can lead to rewashing, which wastes water, energy, time, and money.”

3. Don’t always reach for the bargain brands

For as tempting as their price tags may be, Goodman says low-priced detergents might not clean your clothes as thoroughly as a premium detergent could. “Low-tier detergents usually don’t have all the important ingredients necessary to tackle the increasing challenges of real life laundry,” she says. “And disappointing results with economy detergents only leads to having to rewash them.”

(Image credit: Bethany Nauert)

4. Don’t overlook suds reducers

“Have you ever checked to see if your laundry detergent contains a suds reducer? If you have an HE machine, using a detergent with suds suppressors avoids the need for a second rinse which not only saves you time, but also up to 10 gallons of water per load!”

5. Don’t expect it to work alone; always pre-treat your stains

Goodman says it’s essential to know how to properly pretreat different types of stains to ensure their full removal. Here’s a breakdown of what she says to do:

  • Enzymatic stains: “Pour liquid detergent directly onto the stain. Gently rub the fabric together, or use a soft-bristled toothbrush to help work the detergent into the garment’s fibers in a circular motion. “
  • Greasy or oily stains: “Rinse with warm water and treat with liquid dish or hand soap to loosen the oils or fats. Pre-treat with a high quality detergent with fat-busting surfactants (like Tide purclean) before laundering by pouring it directly onto the stain and gently rubbing the fabric together.”
  • Body-soil stains: “Rinse the garments affected by body-soil stains under cold water to pretreat the stain.”
  • Clay or dirt stains: “Brush the excess debris off the surface of the fabric and then rinse in warm water to dilute the stain.”