Dear Mary: Today a Sears repairman came to put a new part in my washing machine. He saw soap residue on the inside and told me I was using way too much detergent. Also, he didn’t like that I was using a homemade detergent that contains Dawn liquid.
He said borax should never be used for laundry in modern washing machines. Mine is 10 years old. He also said dish detergents, especially Dawn, should never be used because they don’t rinse out completely. That leaves soap residue which becomes a medium for mold and microbial growth.
Modern detergents, he said, should be used at the rate of one tablespoon per load. Water level should be medium, large at the highest, and never the super or plus level I often used. That leads to spill over which results in soap residue in various unreachable parts of the machine (unreachable unless you take the machine apart, as he did).
He showed me all the mostly dried residue, which he cleaned and vacuumed out before putting the machine back together.
He also recommended a second rinse to get rid of soap residue. I had been using only one rinse on most loads.
And he recommended a product called Affresh, which is supposed to clean out residue.
He says you can tell if you’re using too much detergent or the wrong kind of detergent by filling the tub with water, adding nothing to suds and noticing if there are suds in the water.
Now I’m flummoxed as to whether or not I should continue to use your washing machine detergent recipe.
Thanks for any advice you can give on the subject. Jean, MN
Dear Jean: Using too much of any product in a washing machine is not good for it. So whatever product you use, you need to measure carefully, erring on the side of too little, not too much. I am curious to why a manufacturer would create a super or plus level if doing so is bad for the machine. But I’ll leave that part up to you. I guess I would stop using it for the reasons he mentioned.
I do take issue with some of the information he gave you. Dawn is a safe product for clothes washing provided you are not using too much. So is borax (I get letters from readers saying that borax will ruin your machine, but I can find no credible evidence for this statement, nor for using Dawn). As for his recommendation for Affresh, there are many commercial products out there for washing cleaning. Curiously, many manufacturers, such as General Electric (I currently have GE stackable washer and steam dryer and love them to bits), recommend chlorine bleach for the cleaning cycle, together with exact instructions for how to perform this clean once every couple of months.
I regularly use the second rinse option along with a bit of white vinegar to make sure all detergent is getting removed, leaving clothes soft and fluffy without any softening products.
So there you go. Who can you believe? I guess in the end you must go with your heart. As for me, I’m sticking with the homemade recipe. It’s better than anything I’ve ever purchased and I’ve been using some version of homemade for many years. I haven’t seen a washing machine repairman in more than 30 years. Thanks for writing, it was great to hear from you.