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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 subjects 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.

 

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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, it must be completely rinsed away for the results to be beautifully clean, whiter-than-white, brighter-than-bright colors; soft clothes and linens.

Variables

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?”

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My fondness for TV game shows’ lighting rounds—the duration of the round is a pre-determined length of time, and the goal is to accomplish as much as possible within that period—may have something to do with my attention span. Lightning round questions are short, the answers quick and concise.

I see we have lots of questions in the audience, so let’s set the clock. Ready? Set … Go!

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Q: Do I HAVE to use HE labeled laundry detergent only in my new Whirlpool washer? Why? Pegg

A: Yes. If the owner manual recommends HE detergent, that means it is a high-efficiency washer. HE washers use considerably less water and have sophisticated computer-like electronics. They’re very smart!

HE detergent creates no suds or bubbles. The presence of too many suds can confuse washing cycles, cause delays and make proper rinsing of clothes difficult if not impossible.

By the way, you can make your own detergent is HE because it creates no suds or bubbles. Recipe and tutorial HERE. Make sure you measure the detergent in every load. I use 2 tablespoons in my HE machine, which seems like not nearly enough,  but it is! Using too much detergent can cause all kinds of problems. Read your manual.

Q: Do you have a favorite makeup primer? I’m wondering if using a primer will help hide some of those tiny lines. Jeannine

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If you’ve ever wondered what’s the difference between regular laundry detergents and those designated as “High Efficiency” or HE, if they’re interchangeable and if you could possibly make your own to cut the cost, you are not the only one! Those are questions that frequently show up in my mailbox.

Washing machine and 3 bottles laundry detergent

Dear Mary:  First, thank you for your column, I love it! I just inherited several bottles of regular laundry detergent. I have a HE front-loader washer. Is there a way to use or modify regular laundry detergent for HE use? Christin

Dear Christin: Standard washing machines that use traditional laundry detergent (the type of detergent you’ve inherited) use up to 35 gallons of water per load. Full-sized energy efficient top-loaders like my beloved LG High-Efficiency Top Load Washer (which I loved and gifted it to my son when we moved and our new laundry room configuration could not accommodate it), use about 13 gallons of water per load—a savings of more than 3,000 gallons of water per year—operate much differently than a standard machine. This is one of the reasons that HE detergent is quite different than the standard type of detergent.

So, can you use standard detergent in your HE machine? I must advise you that your owner manual is not likely to support such an idea, potentially putting your warranty at risk. That being said, I will admit that I did use standard detergent from time to time in my LG top-loader that required HE detergent. But I used MUCH less per load because it uses so much less water.

Too much detergent will clog up the machine because the amount of water it uses is not sufficient to rinse it out. That build up can cause the machine to malfunction and to eventually create an offensive odor.

When I say “less” I mean a lot less. Like one-fourth the amount you might normally use. I measured it in tablespoons, not capfuls. And I diluted it in a large container of water before pouring it into the machine.

Would I do that again? Yes, but not on a regular basis. I want you and all of my readers to know that to do so would be, according to the manufacturer’s guidelines, taking a potential risk should the machine require service under its warranty.

Given the potential harm you could do to your machine, you might want to consider re-gifting the detergent to friends, family or a shelter in your area that uses traditional washers. Then make a big batch of my new and improved liquid homemade HE detergent (read on to learn more about that). That way others win and you win, too. Hope that helps. And thanks for loving EC.

Dear Mary: I made up the laundry soap recipe that you published back in 2012. It seems like there is way too much Fels-Naptha soap for the recipe. I bought a similar jar of laundry soap mixture at the local Farmer’s Market and the vender did not have nearly as much soap in it. It did quite well in my HE washer. I just want to make sure there wasn’t a misprint in your article.

I look forward to your articles each time they are in my local newspaper. Thank you for your diligence and pithy advice. Cheryle

Dear Cheryle: The recipe for powdered laundry detergent you refer to (1 cup grated Fels-Naptha soap, 1/2 cup Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda and 1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Borax) is correct. It may seem like a lot of Fels-Naptha but keep in mind, you use only 2 tablespoons of the final product per washer load.

This recipe is suitable to be used in any clothes washer including those designated “high efficiency” or HE, as this detergent does not create suds. You would want to use a bit more in a standard washing machine, however.

Since that column ran more than three years ago, I’ve discovered what I believe is a much improved  recipe for homemade liquid laundry detergent; one that does not require Fels-Naptha soap (somewhat difficult to find these days plus all that grating!) and is also HE compliant. I find it performs better, too.

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