How to Make Sure You are Using the Right Amount Laundry Detergent

As you know, and only because I do mention it from time to time, I get a lot of email. If I were to respond to each and every message, that is all I’d ever do, and still not get through the piles that replenish daily. So, I use the subject line method of quick elimination to winnow the pile to something I can deal with. Negative subject lines are the first to go—instant delete. Subsequent passes from there get my messages down to something manageable, with the most interesting and useful rising to the top of the pile.

Laundry and Detergent


Dear Mary: I love all of your washing machine tips, but can you guide us on using the correct amount of detergent? I know you say small amounts, but I hate to do a load with too little or too much. It feels like a guessing game. I tried googling this, but the information I found was not helpful.

You are such an expert on these things that I thought you might have some additional tips—if you can bear the thought of another post about laundry, that is! Hugs to you for such fantastic work. Your Anonymous Fan

Dear A.F.: Great question. And yes, flattery did get your letter to the top of the pile so good job on that!

Most of us use way too much laundry detergent, which can present all kinds of problems like skin irritation, grayish looking whites, and stiff scratchy clothes and linens.

Whatever amount of detergent you use must be completely rinsed away for the results to be beautifully clean, whiter-than-white, brighter-than-bright colors; soft clothes and linens.


Generally, (there are variables, which I’ll touch on shortly) if you have soft water use 1 tablespoon (1/16 cup) of HE (high-efficiency) detergent per wash load in a front-loading machine; for top-loading refer to your owner manual, or about 1/4 cup if you can’t find it. If you have hard water use 2 tablespoons (1/8 cup), which begs the question “How do I know if my water is hard or soft?”

Know your gpg

Call your water company or go to its website, to learn the grains of hardness per gallon (expressed as “gpg”) in your local water supply. According to the Water Quality Association,

  • Soft: 0 – 3.5 grains per gallon (gpg)
  • Moderate: 3.5-7.0 gpg;
  • Hard: 7.0-10.5 gpg
  • Very Hard: over 10.5 gpg

If your water is moderately hard and you want to be very precise, use 1.5 tablespoons of HE detergent per load.

Weigh variables

Another variable will be washing machine capacity. If it’s a super-duper-jumbo size machine, you need to adjust the amount of detergent accordingly. Check the owner manual.

Also, you may need to use more or less detergent if you’re running a heavily soiled load (more) or a very small load (less).

Get it out!

Above all, the most important thing to consider when it comes to laundry detergent is whether or not the detergent gets completely rinsed away before that load of laundry is finished.

I always add 1/2 cup white vinegar to the last rinse (I pour it into the liquid softener compartment so it gets released at the proper time). Vinegar helps to get rid of all of the detergent, leaving items soft and fluffy without the need of any softening products, which can present allergic-like rashes, skin irritations and even respiratory reactions in some people.

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Conduct a test

The next time that you do a load of wash, take a washcloth out of the dryer when finished and put it in a warm dish of water. If the water remains clean, you have not used too much detergent. If the water turns even slightly cloudy, it means that all of the detergent has not been removed. You’re using too much detergent.

If your whites have turned gray, that’s a good indication that your washing method has resulted in a build-up of left-in laundry detergent. If your towels come out stiff and scratchy—you guessed it—too much detergent.


Finding the exact amount of laundry detergent you need given the hardness of your water, the style (front-loading vs. top-loading) size of your washing machine and the size of the laundry load, may take experimentation. But once you discover what’s right for you—and you are getting all of that detergent out of the clothes, too—I think you’re going to be pleasantly surprised by the fantastic results.

Make it yourself

I don’t think you’ll find a better (or cheaper!) HE laundry detergent than our homemade HE laundry detergent. It is concentrated and 2 tablespoons (or less) per load produces fantastic results!

Thanks for your kind words. You made my day.


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5 replies
  1. Anita Esser says:

    Do you have a homemade for deicing the sidewalks? Everything is slick ice right now, and I guess I have to go to the store and buy some deicing stuff now. Thank you.

  2. Marla says:

    I think she meant front-loader when she first said “top-loading” because she goes on to say that you should check your owner’s manual for top-loading. It confused me too as I have a top loading machine. I love my top loader and don’t envision ever getting a front-loader as long as my Speed Queen top-loader is being made.

    • Kim Domingue says:

      Speed Queen is the bomb diggity! I am so glad to have stumbled over the information that a gentleman left in the comment section of a Consumer Reports article on washing machines. I was about to lose my mind trying to decide on a new washer when my old machine died on me. No matter the brand of machine, if 50 people said they loved it another 50 said they hated it with each side offering the reasons that informed their opinions. Then I read a comment about a Speed Queen machine. Consumer Reports didn’t have anything in any of their reviews about Speed Queen products. So, I did my due diligence and researched. Out of the hundreds of reviews I found on Speed Queen washing machines, the only complaints were things like “I’m short and have trouble reaching to the bottom of the tub” and “I can’t believe they only offer white machines and I want a red one”. No complaints about performance. I bought my Speed Queen about ten years ago. My appliance repair friend told me it should last just about forever, lol! Love my machine!


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