What's the Optimum FL Suds Level?

rococogurlDecember 22, 2013

The issue of optimal suds level for a front loader came up in another thread on detergents. How much is good? Too little? Too much? I've read opinions from "hardly any visible suds" to "there need to be a good amount of suds for the clothes to get clean."

The clinker is that with the differences in water, following manufacturer's directions (which vary as much as the detergents) isn't very helpful.

So what does "just right" look like?

I have a whole-house water softener so I tend to get relatively high suds levels with very little detergent.

Here's what I think is a good suds level in general. Wondering how that compares? Bring on the pics!

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Front loaders do best with no suds.
(and "HE" type top loaders)

The old adage that the presence of suds means there's the right amount of detergent does not work in the modern world of "HE" type washers.

Suds cushion the clothes that are supposed to tumble into a small pool of water, thus hampering the cleaning effectiveness of water and detergent.

How do you know if there's enough detergent without the visual ques of suds? The water should feel slippery between your fingers.

In front loaders remember with suds less is better.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 9:30AM
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roco, you have more suds than necessary. I have soft water (zero grains, when tested) and we use 2 1/2 oz of liquid detergent such as Tide Free for most loads. for a huge load, we up that to about 3 1/4 oz (roughly). suds are noticeable but not overly so--a bit more than the pic on the right, in georgect's post.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 3:11PM
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oops, lost as line.

everything comes out spotless

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 3:12PM
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@roco- if I had that much suds, I would be freaking out. It would take the rest of the day to flush them out of my Miele FL machine & the load of laundry, in alternating cycles.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 6:43PM
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I usually notice that my washer gets a bit less than the right picture of Georgect's post. I wished that I could get suds just that his right pic, but I rarely do. Though, maybe that is even too much? Several times I got suds as shown in his left pic :0

Great question Rococogurl, I have been wondering the same thing.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2013 at 1:14AM
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I usually have no suds in my Duet - that runs with hard well water. Only time I see suds is when I use Wollite or Perwoll - but even then, the agitation is so gentle that it hardly whips up any bubbles.

Here's a load of darks I did with (too much) Gain HE liquid. You can see how little suds I get when I open the door at 3:45 during the wash cycle. However, the rinses show considerably more suds because of the higher water level. I don't have sensitive skin so it doesn't bother me. Ideally, the water should be pretty clear during the last rinse - which is hard to judge due to the low water level on most front loaders. Adding extra water to the rinse (or selecting a cycle that does it automatically as I did) might show suds that weren't visible during the low-water wash.


Here is a link that might be useful: Gain HE

    Bookmark   December 23, 2013 at 9:00AM
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In a previous thread, Herring_Maven mentioned adding Borax to loads to cut down on suds and boost laundry. Like Rococogurl, I have problems with suds and rinsing anytime I put more than a few tablespoons of detergent into the FL. I've been adding a tablespoon or two of Borax to my loads lately and I'm finding that it does indeed help with this problem. H-M hasn't posted to this thread yet, but when/if he/she does, Thanks!


    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 11:14AM
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cj, what detergent r u using that makes tons of suds with a couple tbls? is it HE?

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 11:57AM
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This thread has been very helpful. What I'm seeing from the responses is that there is a difference between soap and suds.

If the "recommended" amount of Persil (which I use) is 2 tb and I am using a measuring spoon to add 1 tb per load, why worry about suds? Its just the action with my particular water. I'm actually not using too much detergent. To have no suds the most detergent I can use is 1 level teaspoon and I haven't heard anyone say that is enough to clean a load of towels, for example.

I also run a maintenance cycle every ten days or so to clean out the machine which is what Miele recommends.

Borax as I understand it is a salt and an ingredient in detergent. No idea what it does or what the difference it actually makes. Nothing wrong with it but for me, if the concern is using too much detergent then it seems counter intuitive to add more product to reduce suds.

I expect the size of the washer makes a difference. And we all have our own laundry methods. I sort by color and use. For the two of us I do a minimum of 6 loads per week and often more since we tend to have small loads of woolens and elasticized.

I've been focusing on the suds to make sense of how much product to use and perhaps it should be the reverse.

This post was edited by rococogurl on Fri, Dec 27, 13 at 8:31

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 8:02PM
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@rococo - for the first 18 months of owning our Miele FL W4842, I had to use very little detergent. Dosing 1/4 of package directions kept the suds under control in our moderately hard (really it is fairly average, middle-of-the-road) water. And everything came out clean.

The problem was all the detergent residue from our previous TL conventional washer. After getting years of detergent residue out, my detergent dosing varies from 1/2 of package directions in winter, to a full dose in summer when clothes have a lot of perspiration and sunscreen on them.

I find liquids produce more "froth" than powder detergents and are harder to rinse out, in our Miele FL. (Persil liquid is the worst). Charlies Soap, both liquid and powder, seem to rinse out very well.

I recently tried some of the Wisk "free" liquid that is highly rated in a recent CR magazine. What a suds-fest! I'm back to 1/4 package dose with that stuff.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2013 at 6:07PM
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" I've been focusing on the suds to make sense of how much product to use and perhaps it should be the reverse. "

I monitor the suds in the Rinse cycle, as well as the Wash cycle.. I've even been known to set a timer, to remind me to go back and watch the rinse cycle. Our Miele FL rinse cycle can create a lot more suds than the actual wash cycle.

As for suds, if I see any in the final rinse, I shine a flashlight. When I see colors on those bubbles, that is detergent suds and not just aeration bubbles from the tumbling action. This helps me know if I have too much detergent for those smaller loads, and I know to reduce dosing.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2013 at 11:28AM
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@cavimum -- yes, I often see suds in the first rinse cycle. There was some today with a small towel load. However, I used Sensitive for additional rinses. In the second rinse cycle (I happened to be in the laundry room) there were no bubbles and the water was completely clear.

I was down to a teaspoon of megaperls but I think that's simply too little to get anything clean. 1 Tb looks like the sweet spot for the Persil. Thanks to info from Alex it's certain that's not too much.

I agree liquids are more of a problem than the megaperls. I loved the Persil green liquid (pine) which also deodorized. Is that the one that gave you rinse issues or was it the colors? With our soft water liquids can be ok in one load and oddly sudsy in another. It's so odd.

Do you find different suds levels with liquids between cold and warm or very warm loads?

No one else here seems to use it but I've had good luck with Caldrea. I also use a lot of Perwoll black liquid which makes more suds in warm water than cold but is superb for our multiple small black loads. I seem to prefer the Henkels fragrance and performance.

It's great to be able to compare experience with others who have the same machines.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2013 at 12:40PM
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@rococo - Persil's Colors liquid is the one I have. I don't use it very often anyway, because of bad itching from any scented detergent, but the random quilt or fleece throw get Persil Color liquid.

I have not noticed a different suds level between the various temp. settings, but have read here that some folks have seen liquids froth up more on HOT.

"With our soft water liquids can be ok in one load and oddly sudsy in another. It's so odd."

I know what you mean. Dosing sometimes seems to be a moving target. Size of the load of laundry makes a difference, amount of dirt, etc., which I all learned from reading here at GW and found to be very true.

I have also noticed that any type of stain pre-treat on shirt collars, if used on more than one item, will add to the suds level, thus requiring a slightly lower dose of detergent.

With our sensitivities to detergents & residue, I usually run the separate Rinse cycle after the chosen Wash cycle has finished. Avoiding rashes and itching are worth that extra bit of water.

We do not use fabric softener on clothing, so there is no artificial killing of suds by the waxes/oils in that.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 2:33PM
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What suds level is best is an interesting question. Speaking from the equipment side of the question, more is definitely not better when it comes to suds, as excessive suds can cause your washer to work harder than it should to clear the suds during ensuing rinses and spins. "Suds lock" is an industry term for excessive suds that gather between the wash basket and the water containment tub that can restrict the ability for the pump to receive and expel water from the tub. Most manufacturers have software that can detect this suds lock condition, resolved by additional spray rinses in an attempt to clear the suds prior to attempting final spin. This obviously leads to longer wash cycles and less efficient machine operation. The presence of suds caught between the tubs can be very detrimental on the motor and drive system, and high motor currents can contribute to early motor failures.

In the commercial industry you would laugh at how much soap some coin laundry customers put in. Some of these customers don't believe there is enough soap added unless the whole window is white with soap suds, and with one standard rinse most of the time, it surprises me how content these folks are to wear soapy clothes, and the amount of soap wasted is beyond words.

But getting back to your specific question, I think georgect is right, slippery feeling water is what you are really after without suds. I target very few suds and I have fairly soft water, but I also prefer very well rinsed out clothes, so I always opt for an extra 3rd rinse anyhow. Just a personal preference, and i understand this may not be the "greenest" approach to laundry. And before I would add more soap, I would be inclined to add more wash action time and more heat to the wash bath to deal with a dirtier clothes load.

As far as soap goes, I have used them all and had very good luck with Tide HE, Cheer HE, and my current favorite All free/clear oxi. They all work very well, cleaning wonderfully with energy efficient warm water wash setting virtually on every wash. I do spot apply enzymes additives as needed for unique stains, wine, blood, grass, etc.

As always, adjust your soap usage for:
-how many gallons of water per fill for your particular washer
-grain hardness of your water
-water temperature of the wash bath
-rinse temperature of the wash bath
-how dirty the clothes are that are being washed
-the fabric type being laundered
-how large a load you are laundering

There is no "one" soap dosage for all applications.


    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 3:08PM
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rococogurl on Sun, Dec 22, in a previous thread:
"I'm going to start a "dosing" thread. Hope you'll post your normal load look on that one herring maven -- I'm going to post what I've worked out to be normal/optimal sudsing level. Perhaps others will contribute."

To take the image below, I started a normal "dark color" load, waited until the fill part of the cycle completed and the machine was well into the wash part of the cycle, then paused the machine, opened the door, and took the picture with flash.

The washing machine is a Samsung WF419AAW, with wash temperature set at Warm. One scoop (somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 cup) 20 Mule Team borax; detergent is Vaska Lavender liquid, measured from the cap-cup, filled to the bottom of, but not covering, the dosage line. No fabric softener (we have never had any in our household); no bleach. The water here in Portland (Oregon) is extremely soft.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 3:48PM
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cavimum -- ha! the only Persil I haven't tried (colors). Probably best to stick with what I've got. Our DD2 has a highly allergic little one who literally gets a contact rash from detergents. When we visited we had to rewash with Calben which seems to be totally non-allergic (and cheap). They're coming to visit and I have to rewash linens for his pack'n'play and towels she'll use for him in advance.

I had itching when I was testing out the various liquids but no idea which one it was. Since I switched to the megaperls & Caldrea, nada. I do use the Perwoll black & silk without incident. I also sometimes use the Quick Rinse. Yesterday, I had a small white load. There was slightly less than 2 TB (oxi and megaperls) but on hot/white it sudsed way up. The extra rinses almost did the job but I ran it through express after the cycle to get it clear. What you describe sounds like what's happening here. I know I have 0 grains hardness water because I watched the plumber test the softener.

herringmaven -- If I put the amount of product in my machine that you are using in yours, there is no way any laundry could be seen because the tub would be filled completely with suds. You saw the 2 Tb Vaska photo. You have a monster truck washer LOL!!

laundryvet -- all good points. In my FL it is not necessary to pretreat. Stains are routinely removed by running my prewash cycle with some oxiclean and a hot wash with no more than 1 TB Persil. Blood, urine and espresso coffee stains always come out completely.

I've come to the conclusion that my question involves two issues, not one. First: dosing. Second: rinsing. I'm finding a distinction and a difference due to the dosing.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 4:36PM
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@rococo - our water is approx. 4 grains, according to the web site of our local water dept. Knowing one's water quality (hard/soft/moderate) is really important for dosing.
I shudder when I think of all those detergent "pods" sold around here.

Whenever there is an "oops!" overdose situation, I remove the laundry - usually at end of cycle, run the empty machine on Express, then run the laundry thru the Rinse cycle. Repeat as needed.

Running an empty machine on Express flushes out the current crop of suds in the tub & drum without beating the laundry to death. It is the fastest and most efficient way I have found to deal with a sudsing problem.

There have actually been a few times where detergent was under-dosed! The clothes come out smelling not-very-clean, so they get re-washed. It is maddening.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 7:31PM
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Cavimum: "@rococo - our water is approx. 4 grains, according to the web site of our local water dept. Knowing one's water quality (hard/soft/moderate) is really important for dosing."

To put the photo that I posted above in context, here is the official word on our water's hardness. We get our water from the Bull Run Reservoir, near Mt. Hood, created on United States Forest Service land under a federal statute in 1892, and expanded by another federal statute in 2001.

"Is Portland's water soft or hard?

"Portland's water is very soft. Hardness of Bull Run water typically ranges from 1/3 to ý a grain of hardness per gallon. Portland's groundwater hardness is approximately 86 parts per million (about 5 grains per gallon), which is considered moderately hard."


(The water that the machine uses to wash our laundry comes from Bull Run, not groundwater.)

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 8:50PM
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By definition, water of up to 8 grains per US gallon is considered soft in Germany. That's also what the Persil dosage of three tablespoons for soft water refers to. No wonder some of you have problems with suds. Half a grain of hardness? That would be a whole new category of "soft" over here.


    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 11:05PM
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@cavimum -- exactly! Why I posted this.

You probably know this but they told me to do an empty Sanitize cycle which they describe as "maintenance" once a week or so. I can tell that clears out all the residual.

Pods, yikes. Cannot even imagine going there or to commercial liquids as I can't handle the smell. Same with dishwasher detergent.

@Alex, we had 8 grains in NYC which likely explains why I never had these issues there. Wonder how little Persil would say could be used with very soft water and still clean (though there's no difference with Tide HE).

    Bookmark   December 30, 2013 at 9:39AM
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I guess I can throw my 2 cents in here. I have mechanically softened water, too. I also have had issues with detergent dosing and rinsing in my Miele. I'm in the US, but I have the Euro version. I take laundry very seriously, and here are some things I learned along the way. I ONLY measure in tablespoons. Every brand is different, as well as liquid versus powder. Powders suds much less than liquids and rinse easier. You HAVE to carefully judge your soil levels and load sizes, and make your dosing from there. Bath towels, for example, are not heavily soiled. I always wash on 140, but with just a tablespoon of Tide or Persil for a full load. The most detergent I ever use is 2 TBS.....and that is for a huge load with above average soiling. Borax or baking soda will help keep your sudsing down. For loads that are really dirty, I opt to prewash, then wash. I divide what would be the total dose between the two detergent compartments. Sometimes I only prewash with borax, and leave the detergent for main wash. I programmed my Miele to do hi level rinses. I always use Sensitive in all cycles except cottons. Cottons has high interim spins to remove soapy water quicker than the other cycles. Heavy weight or super big loads always get extra rinsing. And finally, I think that some sudsing is normal with soft water, no matter how well you rinse. There is a difference in sudsing. Some suds are thick and soapy looking. Then some are light and fluffy and disappear quickly. Fluffy suds are harmless and, in my opinion, are nothing more than softened water being agitated with what minimal soap that is left in the machine. My judgement in rinsing is based on the clarity of the final rinse water (I rarely use fabric softener). A few puffy suds I can ignore, if the water below the suds is clear. Trust me, it used to drive me nuts.....I would rinse and rinse and rinse because I thought it was detergent. So, I started experimenting with dosing. My dosing is specific to every load. Half loads of light soil might need as little as a teaspoon (yes, teaspoon) of detergent. Hotter water temps will increase sudsing, too. But that depends in on brands, too. Some suds do not bother me in the main wash, I kinda like seeing a few, admittedly. It is a fine line, really. I find that Persil is the best detergent at cleaning and rinsing. For a more affordable solution, powdered Tide with Bleach is also a favorite of mine. And finally powdered Cheer for darks and jeans. I do use the occasional liquid...Woolite, All free and clear, Tide. I dose those VERY carefully. So, to wrap up this novel I just wrote, I think you should experiment with your dosing and only use the minimum amount that you need to get good results. I sure hope this helps you, because I have been there before!

    Bookmark   December 30, 2013 at 10:18AM
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An aspect of the scanty doses of detergent is that it also reduces enzymes and other cleaning agents in the wash solution. The water may be very soft and water softening and sudsing agents are reduced appropriately ... but so are the enzymes and other cleaning and/or brightening agents, potentially below what's effective for the soil level in the load.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2013 at 1:16PM
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For those "oops" occasions when you get a load of suds by mistake, pouring a cap or two of Downy or other fabric softener into the wash load will crush the suds almost immediately.

I keep some handy for when my sister visits. She has a top loader and washes with way to much soap, and when I wash her loads in my front loader without adding any soap to the wash bath, it over suds the machine.

People get set in their ways, no matter what you tell them.

I've never tried Persil, may give it a try just to see how it does. Thanks all for sharing.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2013 at 4:35PM
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Here is the suds level I got today.

First load are some darks witk 100 ml (7 tablespoons) of Ariel Color & Style with ActiLift. This is a non-concentrated version and I'm on well water... so I need detergent. Non-concentrated detergents are actually quite popular in Germany because people tend to think their get a goof deal when buying these large boxes. However, 50% of the content is usually fillers. I bought my box of Ariel 15 months ago and still have some left. Previously, I used to add Calgon to it so I could get away with using less detergent and it worked out cheaper than buying the concentrated stuff from Ariel or Persil. But now, I can't see it anymore - yeah, I'm getting bored - and want to use it up. So I'm using the recommended amount for hard water.

Anyway, the first pic is the main wash at 104F five minutes before the drain cycle. Second one is the second rinse with no softener added (and a miserably low water level I may add).

    Bookmark   December 30, 2013 at 6:42PM
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Large load of whites. 200 ml (13.5 tablespoons) of non-concentrated Ariel. This load got the SkinCare rinse treatment, which is four rinses - I did add bleach, that's why.

First pic: main wash at 140F.
Second pic: third rinse.
Third pic: third rinse with an extra gallon of water added to show how higher rinse water levels can whip up suds.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2013 at 6:48PM
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laundryvet, even a tablespoon of FS will kill suds.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2014 at 12:05PM
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On two small black loads (1 tb & 1 teasp Perwool black) this a.m. with 1 Tb baking soda dissolved and added, the suds looked suppressed.

I will keep using baking soda and update as neither of those loads were hot.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2014 at 2:47PM
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Well, Miele 1966 you nailed it with the suggestion of baking soda.Thanks a million!

Here is the hot wash suds level on a load of king sheets with 1/2 tb Oxyclean and scant 1 Tb megaperls -- the same amounts previously creating too much suds. Difference is 1 Tb plain old household baking soda added with the detergent.

Time will tell but this appears to fall into the "problem solved" category.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2014 at 11:39AM
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Alex, your photos posted on Mon, Dec 30, 13 at 18:42 look like the suds level that is perfect in our water quality and my Miele W4842.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2014 at 10:16AM
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