In the case of laundry detergent, more is not better. In fact, more detergent can actually be much worse on your clothes, your washer, and your budget.
An article in the New York Times, For the Dishwasher’s Sake, Go Easy on the Detergent, states that our number one problem with appliances is that we use too much soap. Up to 15 times more than is needed. You heard it right. 15 times.
Mold, Mildew and Breakdowns
Too much detergent not only sends your money down the drain, but the excess detergent builds up in the washer, causing mold and mildew (according to Jill Notini, a spokeswoman for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers).
In fact, as stated in a Consumer Reports article, Some Laundry-Detergent Caps Can Result in Overdosing (June 2009), too much detergent can lead to a washing machine breakdown: According to Chris Zeisler, an appliance-repair expert at RepairClinic.com, too much detergent can plug or restrict ports or filters and those deposits could result in mechanical failure.
In the same Consumer Reports article, the researchers found that many of the laundry caps are poorly marked and that the proper measurement for a large load of laundry was often not a full cap. A medium load – the most common size of laundry – was always less than a full cap. Therefore, if you always use a full cap of laundry detergent, you likely are using too much detergent.
Too much detergent also leaves resides in your clothing, making them stiff and prone to attract more dirt. It may also weaken the fabrics in your clothing, making them wear much faster and tear more easily.
Vernon Schmidt, author of Appliance Handbook for Women: Simple Enough Even a Man Can Understand, believes that most people use 10 to 15 times the amount of soap they need! He is discussing not only laundry detergent, but also dishwasher detergent. He suggests using 1/2 to 1/8 of the amount recommended by the detergent manufacturer.
Test to See if You Are Using Too Much Laundry Detergent
Mr Schmidt recommends a test that we can easily try to see if we are, in fact using too much laundry detergent. He says to set your washing machine on hot, with a medium load setting. Put one or two clean towels (four to six if your machine is a front-loader) in the washer and allow it to agitate for about five minutes. If the water is sudsy or has a soap residue, then you are probably using too much detergent when you do laundry.
If you cut your use of commercial laundry detergent use in half, the savings are nice: according to Consumer Reports laundry detergent ratings*, the top rated brand of detergent laundry detergent (Wisk Deep Clean) costs $.17 per load. Assuming that this is the cost for the correct amount of detergent to use, then if you were using double the amount needed, you would be spending an extra $.17 on every load. If you washed six loads of laundry a week, and cut back your use of detergent by half, you would be saving $1.02 in detergent every single week.
Try using less detergent for a few loads of laundry and see if your clothes still come out clean and bright. Experiment to see how much less you can use and still have your laundry come out perfectly clean. Once you find an optimum amount, take a permanent marker and mark a line on your detergent’s cap (or whatever you use for measuring) to show how much detergent to use.
This is one of my favorite types of cost savings because it is very easy to do and it is better for your washing machine and for your clothes – which saves even more money in the long run. Now that’s The Fat Dollar way.
* Consumer Reports Laundry Detergents and Ratings http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/laundry-detergents.htm