When it comes to laundry detergent, sometimes less is more. Adding too much soap to your washing machine can prevent it from working properly, leaving your clothes just as dirty as they were when you tossed them in the hamper. The common advice is to fill the detergent cap up to the line and no higher, but it turns out even that may be excessive.
According to Insider, the correct amount of detergent for most load sizes is often less than the manufacturer’s suggestion. An average load of laundry in the U.S. weighs about 8 pounds, and any loads between 6 to 8 pounds are considered large. At this upper limit, it’s still recommended to use just 2 tablespoons of regular concentration detergent. This amount barely comes up to the first notch in many detergent caps. For medium loads (4 to 6 pounds of laundry), 1.5 to 2 tablespoons of detergent is recommended. One tablespoon is suggested for smaller loads of 2 to 4 pounds.
These numbers are guidelines, and they can change depending on numerous factors. Laundry that’s especially dirty will need more soap than clothes that were worn once, and washing machines hooked up to hard water require a bit more soap as well. The concentration of your detergent is another aspect to consider. Commercial detergents can come in concentrations ranging from 2X to 10X, and the stronger the solution, the less of it you need to use.
If you ignore these recommendations, you’ll be wasting detergent, water, and time the next time you do laundry. Too much soap produces excess bubbles that can block clothes from scrubbing against each other in the spin cycle, which is part of how they get clean. Rather than getting rid of filth, suds can also collect and trap dirt when they grow out of control.
The best way to know if you’re using too much detergent is to examine your laundry when it comes out of the washing machine. If there’s lingering soap on your “clean” clothes, they may not be getting as clean as you’d like. Consider swapping your detergent cap for a tablespoon to prevent over-soaping in the future.