HE detergent

kmvinazJuly 10, 2011

I just had to replace my 5 year old washer that needs a rear ball bearing. The repairman said I only need to use one to two tablespoons of the HE detergent even though the container says to use more. He said using too much of the detergent could cause this problem. Does anyone know if this is true and do you always use what the container says to use?

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I can't see how using the manufacturer's recommended amount of detergent is going to cause problems with ball bearings. Ball bearings are in a sealed chamber. If the ball bearings are in trouble, the seal has been compromised. However, I don't know of any detergent that could do that. I love what service people tell their customers. Instead of being real and telling you that it was probably a manufacturing defect that would cause a bearing failure in a young, 5-year old machine, he blames the customer.

If you don't use enough detergent, you will have a moldy, smelly washer. If you use too much detergent, you will increase the chemical load in wastewater and may have sudsing and/or rinsing issues. However, that will not lead to premature bearing failure. You can't cut your detergent use to 1-2 TBS and not expect your machine to smell and your clothes not to get clean. As a user of a large, 4.0 cuft machine in soft water conditions, I can't imagine anyone using less than 3 TBS of detergent for a machine of this size. And that's if you have soft water and minimally soiled clothing. For everything else, add more detergent.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 12:33PM
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Directions on detergent containers should be ignored. They just want you to use as much of the stuff as possible so you'll buy more frequently. How much you should be using depends on load size, amount of soil, and water quality.

Best example I can think of would be my boxes of Cascade Complete powder for my DW. Printed on the box is "For best results, FILL both pre-wash and main-wash cups completely." Following that instruction with my soft water would be about 4x overdose. As I recall, there are similar instructions on the Tide HE powder I use in my FL washer at another location. That instruction, too, would be a gross over-dose with my soft water.

My machine is 3.8cf (nominal) duet. For full "normally soiled" load, I use 1/4 cup which is 4 tablespoons. I've had excellent results and zero problems over six years of regular use. If I had hard water, of course I would increase that dosage.

If you don't know your water quality, I recommend that you find out.

I don't know what kind of machine you have but unless you've seen bunches of suds, I am doubting the repairman's advice. Your first clue with over-dosing would be residue left in your clothes from incomplete rinse. Have you seen that?

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 1:11PM
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It would help to know what kind of detergent you were using, the type of washing machine that failed, and how often you cleaned it out.

I always make sure the detergent I am using has anti-corrosion additives to it and I do a maintenance cycle on my machine once a week.

I do not use less detergent than recommended. The clothes will not come out clean if you cut back. It sounds like your machine had more of a manufacturers defect. By any chance was it a Kenmore?

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 8:39AM
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It's actually in the detergent company's best interest to recommend using less, not more. Detergents are marketed on cost per load. You don't buy a detergent based on how big the scoop is, you buy the detergent based on the price and how many loads is printed on the box. The lower the cost per load, the better the value. So if P&G is representing that a $10 box of Tide detergent will wash 22 loads, that's a cost of 45 cents per load. If P&G felt that you could wash 44 loads with that box instead of 22, don't you think they would want to print 44 on the box instead of 22? It would make them a much better deal. However, if the conspiracy theorists are correct, then Tide is ripping us all off by recommending we use double what is really needed at the expense of their own sales and marketing.

The conspiracy hypothesis makes no sense.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 5:15PM
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I'm looking at the bottle of Tide regular original scent that I use at my mom's place right now. On the back it gives dosage recommendations. "Large loads -- fill cap to line two"; "medium loads -- fill to line one". "Use more for heavily soiled loads."

That's it. No mention of what "large" or "medium" might actually be nor anything at all about water quality. I can tell you that those dosages are too much with mom's old top-loader and her soft water, but those few words all that's given on the package.

I had thought my example of the Cascade Complete DW detergent would have been enough to illustrate my point....which was that package recommendations are often (usually?) poor advice about the actual amount a particular operator should be using for best results. This is particularly true for those who have soft water.

I said nothing about any "conspiracy hypothesis" (nice touch, that!) Simply stating the obvious. And there have been many, many posters here with obvious dosage issues that offer nothing more than "scoops" or "caps" as their base-lines for discussion which I think is a pretty good indication that they're not too sure what they're doing....except for following package instructions.

As I recall, you have soft water. Do you use the dosages suggested on the packages?

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 5:48PM
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My bottle of Tide HE liquid says to fill to line 2 for medium loads. This 2.95 liter bottle will wash 52 loads if filled to line 2. I'm just saying that if Tide was consciously telling you to use double what is really required, they would be much better off telling you to fill to line 1 and then labeling the bottle as able to wash 104 loads. That looks much better on the shelf sitting next to its competitors that only wash half as many loads per bottle.

2.95 liters = 200 tablespoons
200 tablespoons / 52 loads = ~4.0 tbsp/load

If I cut that dosage in half, to 2 tbsp, that is not enough to get clothes clean in my 4.0 cuft machine in soft water. Even Persil Megaperls recommends just over 4 tbsp (65 ml) for a medium sized, normally soiled load in soft water. Tide's recommendations are pretty much in line with what's expected - not more, not less.

I use the recommended amount of detergent (Tide, Persil, Vaska, etc) but reduce by 50% if washing towels. Towels generate a lot of suds when spun out, and reducing dosage for towels does not negatively impact cleaning since they aren't that dirty to begin with. For 80% of my laundry, however, I follow the dosage instructions on the package without any problems.

There is great debate on how much is enough, and certainly water chemistry and load size has a lot to do with this. However, from what I've read, it seems that using too little detergent leads to more problems than if using too much.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 7:15PM
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"....certainly water chemistry and load size has a lot to do with this."

A miracle has occurred. We agree on something. : )

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 7:27PM
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@sshrivastava, I'm sorry but I don't agree with your argument. While it may look better for the box of detergent to say 80 loads than 40 loads, that means that people would buy half as many boxes to do their loads. I still think that by recommending to use more than necessary, the detergent companies in fact make money.

Think about this: Assume I wash 10 loads per week. A 40 load box would last me a month, so presumably I would buy a dozen or so boxes in a year. If that same box was labeled 80 loads and instructed me to use half of the amount of the other box, I would only buy 6 boxes a year. If the detergent in both is the same, surely the manufacturer would make more money with 40 load boxes? Your logic assumes that a consumer can choose between the two and would always choose the cheaper per load option. But that is just not the case. It's not like you have the choice between Tide boxes containing the same amount of the same detergent but labeled differently.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2011 at 9:24AM
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@ izeve

So if the dosage is not based on the amount of surfactants and other ingredients required to properly wash a load of laundry, how do you think the manufacturers determine their recommendations? If your hypothesis is correct, the load numbers and fill lines are determined by the sales and marketing departments, not the R&D departments. The amount of detergent would then seem to be an entirely arbitrary recommendation based on what sales figures they want to hit. I just can't get myself to believe this view, it seems highly unlikely.

In the US, detergent recommendations are a one-size-fits-all thing. "Fill to line 2 for medium loads"... what about water hardness? European detergents like Persil at least contain recommendations for varying water hardness. Are these recommendations also double what is needed? What about companies such as Ecover and Seventh Generation? Are their recommendations more believable because the companies claim to be altruistic?

    Bookmark   July 12, 2011 at 11:05AM
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@sshrivastava, I did not mean to imply that the manufacturers in fact do it - I guess my wording was not as precise as it should have been. I was just arguing with the logic of your proposition. I should have said that they "WOULD make more money if they recommended overdosing".

I actually find that given my particular water chemistry and average load size I can follow the manufacturer's recommendations pretty closely and get good washing and rinsing results in my machine.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2011 at 11:32AM
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sshrivastava, I agree with your conclusion, but not your argument. I don't think Tide wants to be a better deal. They compete on performance, not price.

Instead of looking at price, look at expenses. Obviously they want to minimize their materials costs, to maximize their profits. So it makes sense for them to fill a 22-wash package with enough active ingredients to do 22 average loads for the average consumer, not 44 or 88 loads.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2011 at 2:39PM
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OP, do you know if your water is hard or soft? (Your local wster company can tell you.) Hard water will require more detergent to give good cleaning power. Another factor is the soil level of the laundry. Clothes which really only need freshening won't require much detergent at all, while heavily-soiled or stained laundry usually requires more.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2011 at 9:51PM
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I think P&G's packaging is a bit sneaky. When I was recently at BJ's Club, I noticed that all the Tide Liquid bottles had a yellow circle stating "170 fl oz." That was for Regular Tide, Tide with Downy, and the Tide Complete. But in much smaller type, on the bottom of the label, they listed the number of loads. The Complete version had the least (68 loads), then the Downey version, with the regular version having the most (110 loads). All were priced the same($19.99).

I think a less than careful shopper may just see the bright yellow 170, and compare it against the other detergents in the isle, which all highlighted the number of loads in the container, and think the tide bottle has more loads than it really does.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 2:38PM
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