My Detergent Diet

sshrivastavaNovember 12, 2011

Hello everyone,

Those of who you have followed my posts in this forum have seen me go from using 1 TBSP of detergent in my Asko to 3-4 TBSP in my new Miele W4842. I've even gone so far as to use up to 7 TBSP as recommended on the Persil package for soft water conditions.

I recently had Miele replace my dryer due to what they claim was "detergent residue in the dryer", or as I like to call it - DUST! I don't know whether Miele's claim has any basis in truth or fact, however, I decided to put myself on a detergent diet nonetheless just to make sure I really wasn't using too much. Not just for the sake of the washer and dryer, but also for the sake of my pocketbook, the environment, and my health. And who knows, maybe Miele was right?

Before I disclose my findings, I want to first "come clean" by saying that I have been on a bit of a detergent see-saw. In 2002 when I purchased my Asko pair in Seattle, I used 1 TBSP of detergent according to the instructions and achieved great results. Then I moved to Phoenix, where the water is up to 30 GdH in hardness, and that totally threw me off. I found myself increasing the dose of detergent, then adding a water softening agent, etc. My entire understanding of detergent dosing was thrown upside-down due to the hardness. So for the two years I lived in very hard water conditions, I used a lot more detergent with a softening agent.

In 2006, I moved into my new house where I installed a whole house softener. After doing so, I had to re-calibrate my thinking due to the mechanical water softener. I went back to using 1 TBSP in the Asko and it seemed fine. I also started experimenting with green and natural detergent products. After a while, I noticed some of my clothes (especially dark clothes washed at lower temps) started smelling "funky". The smell came on the heels of using various different natural/green detergents, so I attributed the problem to those products. Switching back to non-green products resolved the issue somewhat, but not completely, until I raised the detergent dosage in the Asko. Obviously I wasn't using enough detergent, right?

Fast forward three to four years. I've replaced my Asko with the 50% larger W4842. In the beginning, I used about 2 TBSP and over time increased that to 3-4 TBSP. Over the last year, I've found myself increasing the amount of fabric softener to compensate for clothes coming out of the dryer not feeling as soft as they used to. The changes are subtle over time and you find yourself changing dosages slightly over such a long period of time that before you know it, you're using either too much or too little and aren't even consciously aware of the increased or decreased usage. I have also advocated in other threads that using such small quantities of detergent is ridiculous and people should adhere to manufacturer's recommendations as much as possible.

It's time to eat my words. After the Miele dryer incident, despite my being offended by Miele's claim that I have been using too much detergent, I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and re-calibrate my dosage. Here's what I did. I referred back to the user manual from my Asko W6761, which I bought in 2002 and before there were any 2x or 3x products on the market. The manual recommends a 1 - 1 1/2 TBSP dose of either powdered or liquid HE detergent in SOFT WATER. My W4842's drum volume is approximately 50% larger, so scaling the dosage to the volume of the W4842 (Miele's manual was not helpful in this regard) would yield a 1 1/2 - 2 1/4 TBSP dose for a 4.0 cuft machine. If using a 2x product, cut the dose in half to 3/4 - 1 1/8 TBSP. If using a 3x product, cut the dose by 2/3 to 1 1/2 - 2 1/4 tsp (teaspoons!).

The above numbers made absolutely no sense to me and ran contrary to common sense. How could so little detergent clean such a large drum volume of clothes? Regardless of my reaction, I forced myself to use the reduced quantities to at least prove to myself that they were as ridiculous as I initially thought. To my amazement, after cutting my detergent usage to the above levels, my clothes started coming out soft again and with need for very little fabric softener. My clothes were just as clean as they were when I used a lot more detergent, and I also noticed another bonus - clothes no longer felt tight or slightly shrunken like they did before. Fabrics seem much more relaxed and less stressed than when washed with more detergent. My formerly smelly dark clothes no longer smell. Looking back, I realize that increasing the detergent dose only masked the odor and actually made it worse. After cutting my detergent usage, the odors completely disappeared. I can only attribute the odor to detergent residue or something similar trapping the smell or whatever was causing the smell.

I AM A CONVERTED PERSON! I never thought I would become a believer of this "detergent residue" concept that I have always felt was more of an urban legend and a bogus advertising claim to sell more detergent. I WAS WRONG. I am now on a healthy detergent diet and using very little compared to what I was using before. After a couple of weeks and many loads later, I can confirm that my whites are just as bright and not fading. I compared whites washed with reduced detergent quantities to those washed in previous, higher dosage loads. No difference. In fact, those whites washed in Tide HE Powder w/ Bleach Alternative were actually whiter and brighter when using less detergent compared with more.

I hope some people find this information useful. Keep in mind that this is all coming from someone who swore up and down for a long time that manufacturer recommendations were accurate. After all, who are we to second guess multi-billion dollar companies who spend millions on research? Think again. If I can cut my detergent use from 3-4 TBSP to 3/4 TBSP - that is a 75% reduction - and get better wash results, that says something.

I encourage everyone with an HE machine to examine their detergent usage and, if you think you can get by with less, to go on a detergent diet like I did. You may be surprised with the results! :)

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@sshrivastava - Wow, what an interesting experiment. Thank you for sharing this with us. Think of the positive impact you'll have on the environment, and the detergent money you're saving can be used for fun stuff. WooHooo!

    Bookmark   November 12, 2011 at 2:17PM
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What a remarkable post! I am so glad you have taken the trouble to experiment and find what truly works for your water, product and machines. And I am also pleased you are now getting the benefit of great feeling, fresh-smelling laundry.

You may be amused to know that I found your earlier posts on detergent quantities both thoughtful and thought-provoking enough to prompt me to reassess my own detergent regimen. So I have been doing experiments recently, too, but in the opposite direction.

My results so far, while not as dramatic as yours, have prompted me to increase my previously slightly-less than 1 tablespoon of regular Cheer to one tbsp plus one half teaspoon. (I tried doubling it initially and had major suds problems and actually poorer cleaning, so I backed down considerably.) I am happier with the cleaning I get at the slightly higher dosage so I, for one, am grateful for your earlier position.

But I completely agree with you that the most important thing is careful on-site assessment for each product with accurately, and consistently, measured quantities. One thing I think we can all agree on is that the random scoop and dump (or pour) practice is a sure route to laundry problems of all kinds.

My main snag now is finding a single scoop thingy of the right size so I can capture the ease of scooping, but with the right size quantity.

I really appreciate, too, that there other people here on the Laundry Forum who are as obssessed with laundry-perfection enough to be interested in, relish the discussion of and are just plain quirky enough to really care about detergent dosing, cycle parameters and washing machine electrical consumption stats as I am.

Thanks for adding your data and experience to our collective knowledge base.


    Bookmark   November 13, 2011 at 1:46AM
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you might try this too. I tried the suggestion of using vinegar in the softener compartment and while it did seem like the clothes were softer I missed the smell. I don't like an overpowering smell but I do like a light smell. So I started diluting fabric softener with vinegar and I think I have the best of both worlds now. I'm still playing around with it but so far I like the results.

Also I have hard water and I've been using 2 TBSP or persil megaperls with good results. 2 TBSP is 1/8 cup or as its commonly called 1 coffee scoop. So I just bought a coffee scoop for the laundry room, makes measuring a breeze.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2011 at 1:28PM
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Thanks for all of the positive feedback. The one thing that surprised me was how effective and powerful a whole house water softener can be. Companies like P&G (Tide) recommend using "a little less" for soft water, but in my case "a little less" equals 75% less! For anyone who truly wants to get the detergent dose right, trial and error is really the only way given all of the variables.

I was also surprised that cutting back on detergent alleviated the funky odors in my dark fabric loads. These are the funky odors that started with the Asko and after moving into my new house with a water softener. I realize now that using 1 TBSP of 2x detergent in the Asko may have been too much, so whatever residue I had in the clothes was trapping this funkiness. This is also a good example of false equivalency. I equated an increase in detergent dose as a solution to the funky smell, when in reality it was just the detergent scent masking the odor. Not until I drastically cut back on detergent did the funky smell truly go away. I needed to use less detergent, not more, but the symptoms led me to believe the opposite.

Laundry dosage can be a confusing issue because the symptoms of using too little - clothes not soft, stains not removed, soiling residue on clothes and machine - are almost identical to symptoms of overuse. I encounter this a lot here in Airzona when it comes to desert plants. Quite often, the symptoms of overwatering are difficult to discern from those of underwatering. The same effect is true with detergent dosage.

The other thing I learned is that what seems to "make the most sense" doesn't always. I simply refused to believe: a) that so little detergent can have an effect, and b) surely detergent companies wouldn't overstate the need for detergent by a factor of 3x. Wrong on both accounts!

The final dosage I've settled on is 2 1/2 tsp (teaspoons) for a full, lightly soiled load and 1 1/2 TBSP (tablespoons) for a full, more heavily soiled load. This is presuming a 2x concentrated detergent. This includes the latest batch of Tide HE (liquid and powder) in all its varieties as well as Persil Megaperls.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2011 at 8:50AM
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"I needed to use less detergent, not more, but the symptoms led me to believe the opposite."

This is so true. We tend to do all the wrong things, and for the right reasons.

In my FL learning curve, I've learned that just because I don't see suds at the end of a cycle does NOT mean I have not used too much detergent in a load of laundry. I run an extra Quick Rinse cycle and watch the water, and I make notes on how much I used of which brand/type detergent, the size of the load, etc. This method has been my best learning tool for correct dosing.

The detergent residue that was a "pre-existing condition" from years of my old TL water hog made the initial dosing very difficult. I'm still running across stuff that is loaded with detergent from the old conventional TL days. I recently washed a matelasse bedspread for one of my sisters, and it took 11 hours and umpteen cycles to get *most* of her detergent residue out of that thing. She only washes COLD in her old conventional TL washer, and doses by the powdered detergent label suggestions, like I did for decades.

The link @livebetter provided has some really great articles.

Here is a link that might be useful: This one in particular sounds like a page from my FL learning curve.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2011 at 9:49AM
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What I've done for quite some time, especially the clothes for my 5 year old in I use the Beach Cycle before I wash. It uses a very small amount of No heat water. It removes sand/dust/dirt...and if there is any residual detergent or softener, it removes that.

In my opinion, I feel that when I use Beach Cycle before a main wash...I am rinsing anything residual away. So it is not just detergent, softener on top of detergent softener. I LOVE the Beach Cycle program. It's quick and seems very stringent with water and energy!

    Bookmark   November 18, 2011 at 9:59AM
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@ larsi

I very much doubt that running your laundry through a Beach Towel cycle is doing anything to remove fabric softener residue. Fabric softener is fat-based, and as such is not something that easily rinses away with plain water. Some detergency will be needed to remove fabric softener residue. It's fat, after all. Rub some butter on your hands and try to clean them in plain water...

Now that I'm thinking of it, Beach Towels may be a great cycle to help get rid of pet hair and dander inside my pet bedding and towels. I enable Heavy Duty on those items to give it a pre-wash, but I still end up with lots of pet hair in the machine. This is AFTER I thoroughly shake out all the blankets and towels outside. Something new to try!

    Bookmark   November 18, 2011 at 10:04PM
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@Cavimum, that was a good read (I hadn't seen that one yet). Some interesting points:

"Light soiled means a garment lightly worn not next to the skin.
Medium soiled is something that has been worn next to the skin, in other words, most things.
Heavy soil is something that is really mucky or has been worn under physical duress and will be full of sweat etc., like sportswear, tea towels and the likes.
This also affects the likes of the "quick wash" programs as they are not geared to clean anything other than lightly soiled clothing, a kind of refresher program. So your clothes may not be as clean as you would like, or think that they are in reality."

I never thought those "quick" wash cycles do much. I only use mine for rinsing swim suits.

@sshrivastava, I've always erred on the less is more side but you have me really scrutizing now ... lol.

Are you saying you completely ignore the detergent recommendations?

I was rereading the Persil pack tonight and for a normal soiled load in medium hardness water (mine is approx 8-9 gr/gal) I would need 85 ml (approx 5-1/2 tbsp). I've never been able to bring myself to use that much.

I typically use 2 - 3 (maybe 3-1/2 once in awhile).

I did a medium load tonight of dark kids' clothes (when wet the load was barely half way up the drum). I washed on warm and used 1-1/2 tbsp of Persil Megaperls Color. Everything seemed clean and the detergent smell was much more tolerable for me. I don't know??

You once mentioned when you cut back the qty that you noticed film or something on your glass door (which you attributed to not enough detergent). Do you not have that now?

How do you really know when the manufacturers don't tell you how much to use and the detergent manufacturers tell you so much??

And what if your drum is only 1/3 full vs. 3/4 full? How do you adjust?

It's like chemistry for heaven sake :)

    Bookmark   November 18, 2011 at 11:26PM
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@ livebetter

There is a lot of conflicting information out there. The only manufacturer whose detergent dosing recommendation I found reasonable was Asko. Asko devotes several pages in their user manuals to educating consumers about detergent use, water hardness, and how much or little to use under different conditions. Compare this with manufacturers like Miele, who basically tell you to use what the detergent box recommends. Then when you have a problem, Miele says "oh no, use just 1 tablespoon!" Well, then, which is it? I tend not to trust Miele's recommendations in this area due to the mixed messages. They seem more concerned with unburdening themselves of liability versus telling us what we need to know.

I decided to start dosing according to the Asko manual. I had to pick a starting point, so I picked the one that made the most sense to me and seemed logical. That led me down the road to the dosages I ended up using and mentioned in my original post. The doses seem ridiculously low, but guess what? It works. Residual detergent scent is now completely gone or very, very slight after two rinses. You once mentioned when you cut back the qty that you noticed film or something on your glass door (which you attributed to not enough detergent). Do you not have that now?I don't see that powdery film any more on my glass door. The Miele service tech said it was residual detergent, which of course I didn't believe. However, after washing with reduced detergent quantities a few times I no longer see this white residue. Who knows? Maybe it was detergent. It's so hard to tell because the symptoms of over-dosing are very often the same as for under-dosing. And what if your drum is only 1/3 full vs. 3/4 full? How do you adjust?If I have less than a full load, I reduce the dose proportionally. To keep things simple, I use a full dose for a 3/4 full drum and 1/2 dose for anything less than half full. Even a 1/3 full drum gets 1/2 dose. When dealing with such small doses, it can get difficult to measure!

    Bookmark   November 19, 2011 at 10:36AM
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@livebetter - yes, it is chemistry, for those of us who have very low water use washers and are concerned about too much detergent use. I dumped detergent, per product labels, in my old conventional TL for decades and am still getting detergent residue out of the older bedspreads, towels and garments.

Local water quality plays a big factor in this, too, because of the lower amount of water usage. Washer repair guys warn about detergent residue (and fabric softener) left in the tub and causing mold problems, and I take no chances. I'm horribly sensitive and allergic to mold and cannot afford to toss this wa$her if it goes manky and smelly. I do not use fabric softener, at all, so that factor is eliminated in my concerns.

I use one-fourth of whatever the detergent company suggests, and that is working for us. Because we have to use "free and clear" formulas and there is no perfume to mask odors, my nose tells me if the garment is clean. I do the math re: size of load and label dose instructions, and then I write it on a post-it note and tape it to the detergent container. If I'm feeling queasy about the dose or the "dirtiness" of the laundry load, I engage the Extended Cycle feature. That usually happened in summer, but with winter here there is not much sweaty yard work or golf in 80-100F/80% humidity outdoors. I also figure (perhaps incorrectly) that by NOT overdosing, less residue might mean the life of the spider and other internal organs of the machine are extended. What do I know(?) but it can't hurt, at all.

My "acid test" is to run a Quick Rinse after a wash cycle completes and, with flashlight in hand, I look for any sort of suds border around the wash. Sometimes the first fill won't yield suds but the second one will. The high spin can literally blow suds off the gasket, giving us a false reading. I've watched it happen.

With our water quality (moderate) and our W4842, a small load on Delicate cycle- only needs one-half teaspoon of detergent. It equates to one-tenth of the detergent's recommended dose for a medium load. That dose leaves no suds in the final rinse. Same with Express cycle.

HERE is the only way I've been able to wrap my brain around the detergent/dirt/load size learning curve: Shampooing hair. The amount of shampoo we need depends on 1.) length of hair and 2.) how dirty the hair is. More hair needs more shampoo. Dirty/sweaty/oily hair needs more shampoo, and warmer water. Cleaner hair with no 'product' in it needs less shampoo. If you are a guy and bathe a medium to long-haired cat or dog, you'll understand. Bathe that pet once a day, and you'll need less shampoo than if you bathe that pet once a month.

And, I am still learning . . .

@'stava - Our dog's hair is too long to go down any of those Miele drum holes. I have to count on the dryer to get it all out of the laundry, post-wash. This is the only reason I sometimes wish the holes were larger.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2011 at 11:01AM
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I'm curious what quantity of detergent the self dosing Miele would use?

"a small load on Delicate cycle- only needs one-half teaspoon of detergent"

Wow ... that just seems like ... why bother?

I was just reading the lable on the Miele Delicate Wash and it recommends 1-1/2 - 2-1/2 caps for the larger machine (> 3.0 cu ft) (1 - 2 caps for the smaller units).

I measured one cap is 2 tbsp (approx).

I read a quote from Jeffrey Hollander once (founder of Seventh Generation) - part of a WSJ article on using too much detergent:

"Seventh Generation's co-founder, Jeffrey Hollender, wonders why more people haven't stumbled upon laundry's big, dirty secret: "You don't even need soap to wash most loads," he says. The agitation of washing machines often does the job on its own."

I will continue to experiment. I may even email Miele Canada and see what they say on dosing. I'm sure a tech told me to use 1 tbsp too.

The article @cavimum linked had this to say re: quality of machines and cleaning. Makes sense.

"On some machines however the need for detergent is hugely reduced, essentially the better performing ones ... can save you a fortune in detergent costs which is way, way higher than the cost of electricity per wash. The choice of machine and how well it performs is important in all this as well.

In the trade it never ceases to amaze us how so many people go out and buy a cheap washing machine then expect it to outlast a few pairs of designer jeans that cost more than the washer did! That's just insane.

What's also a bit nuts is that a lot of people also expect a £200 washing machine to perform the same as a washing machine cost over £800. By that analogy a milk float should perform like a Ferrari, but we all accept that isn't the case."

Here is a link that might be useful: The Great American Soap Overdose

    Bookmark   November 19, 2011 at 11:57AM
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"a small load on Delicate cycle- only needs one-half teaspoon of detergent"

Wow ... that just seems like ... why bother?

I know, but seriously, that's all I need. What I toss into a Delicates cycle would be maybe a few golf visors and some hats, or several delicate placemats, or the equivalent of two or three tee shirts, for an example of the volume. Any more than that creates a lot of suds and multiple extra rinses. If I was washing that load by hand in a small sink, 1/2 tsp. of detergent is all that would be needed. The stuff comes out clean, too.

When I wash two or three of my DH's size XL wool sweaters on the Woolens cycle (I luuurrrve that cycle!), I use 1/4 dose of suggested amount of PerWoll and still have a little too much sudsing in our water & rinse. A "scant" 1/4 dose seems to work.

Miele USA 1-800 tech support has told me to use one-fourth (1/4) whatever the detergent package suggests and adjust up, as needed. YMMV

    Bookmark   November 19, 2011 at 1:11PM
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I wonder how much detergent I'd need to use according to what sshrivastava says. For now, I double the amount of detergent I use when I wash a full load in my Bauknecht big (aka Duet). The box of Ariel usually says to add 44 ml for light soil and soft water, so I'll dose about 90 ml for a full load, 44 ml for a regular load and maybe 30 ml for a small load.. Haven't had a problem yet. I also got some Tide ColdWater when I was in L.A. recently. Again, line three on the cap for full loads and no sign of sudsing. But I WILL say that Tide liquid smells stronger than German Ariel powder - even they're both P&G products.

OTOH, I can't possibly use the recommended amount of Perwoll liquid or it'll suds like crazy.

This is what I consider a full load, by the way.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2011 at 10:53PM
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@whirlpool_trainee, I find most liquids smell stronger than the powders. I find that to be true for Persil as well.

Do you use Ariel Complete 7? Do you find Ariel as good / or better than Persil? How does it smell compared to Persil?

There are a few local German shops where I can purchase both. I've always gone with Persil but I'm tempted to try the Ariel.

I watched a video on Youtube (I think was German) showing someone doing laundry. They seemed to be using a fair amount of detergent. It sure wasn't 1 or 2 tablespoons.

This dosing thing is brutal ...

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 1:00AM
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Please keep in mind that I have a whole house water softener, so my detergent use ends up being about 1/4 what is recommended by detergent manufacturers. Without a water softener, and in moderate or hard water conditions, the dosages would certainly need to be increased.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 5:15PM
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I'm using "Ariel Compact with Actilift". Comes in two versions: universal and for colors.

There are basically two types of powdered detergents out here. Concentrated powders, which usually state approx. 45 ml as the lowest dosage, and non-concentrated ones that recommend 75 ml and up. So if one uses non-concentrated powder and has hard water... that means a lot of detergent. I was in the UK for some months (studying) and bough washing powder for my laundry. Boy, I used those boxes up like nothing! I had to use like 3/4 of a cup because of load size and water hardness. Still, there were no suds in the Speed Queen FL at all.

RE: Persil vs. Ariel. Both are excellent detergents, though the Megaperls like to stick in the detergent drawers. Maybe it due to the cold-only fill on European washers. Both Ariel and Persil usually rank equally in tests and usually come out as the #1 detergents to buy.

Example: for this load, I used 100 ml Ariel and got zero suds.


Here is a link that might be useful: Load of Towels

    Bookmark   November 23, 2011 at 7:42PM
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@whirlpool trainee - the video I linked below just amazes me, because of the amount of suds in the wash. If I had that much suds in a load of laundry, it would take my Miele W4842 at least six or seven separate rinse cycles to get it out of my laundry *and* the machine. Ask me how I know! With that amount sudsing, I would have to run an empty Express cycle just to clean out the residual suds in the tub, before I rinsed the clothes again or ran them through another wash cycle without detergent. And we do not have "soft" water.

Maybe the European machines rinse better?

Here is a link that might be useful: Washing Jeans with Ariel Gel

    Bookmark   November 24, 2011 at 6:24PM
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Yeah, that was a load of jeans on Permanent Press: higher water level, stiff denim fabric and normal speed tumbling will whip up quite a bit of suds. But they always disappear by the end of the wash or beginning of the rinses. Our water hardness is at 6 grains.

And no: Euro washers certainly don't rinse all that well - endless tests over the years have proven that! However, the usual number of rinses on a regular wash cycle is three, not two like on US front loaders. I suppose I'd always use Extra Rinse on a US machine.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2011 at 7:29PM
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@ Cavimum

I believe my Miele tech would blow a gasket if he saw suds like that in my machine! But not before telling me that Miele does not warrant issues caused by overuse of detergent. LOL!

    Bookmark   November 26, 2011 at 1:57PM
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@sshrivastava, how goes the diet?? LOL ....

@whirlpool_trainee, thanks for the info. Do you have any knowledge about the Miele Care detergents? I have some money vouchers from Miele Canada to use up so decided to order a few of their detergents to try. I got the down, sportswear and delicates. I would like to try their color powder to see how I like fragrance compared with Persil (they say it's Fresh fragrance of citrus fruits and lavender).

I want to check with Miele because I read one description where it sounds like the color version contains special "brighteners" ... hmmm ... I prefer my color not have brighteners (like Persil).

Couldn't find much info on line about them review wise. Seemed like mixed reviews on this forum.

I do use my third rinse always. I don't like too much residual smell from the detergents so want as rinsed as possible. Although, even with three rinses the smell is pretty strong.

I think the most Persil Megaperls I've used in one load is 3-1/2 tablespoons. I'm doing a load of white towels now (drum is 1/3 full when wet) and I used 1 tbsp of oxygen bleach plus 1-1/2 tablespoons Persil Universal Megaperls. I see some suds (see image). Everything seems to be clean with this level of sudsing. Sometimes I have slightly more suds than this but never to the degree in those videos.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2011 at 12:16PM
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