With the many changes in washing machines and laundry detergent, knowing how much detergent to use on your clothes can be a bit tricky. Newer washing machines like high-efficiency (HE) washers require far less detergent, and if you’re using pods or more potent detergents, you’ll be using far less detergent than you otherwise would. To know if you’re using too much laundry detergent — or not enough — follow these simple guidelines.

Are You Using too Much Detergent?

If you’re wondering if you’re using too much laundry detergent, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do your washed clothes feel sticky or soapy? Or does your washing bin feel slimy?
  • Are there traces of detergent residue on your clothes?
  • Does your HE washer smell bad or musty?
  • Are your clothes scratchy or feel stiff
  • Do your white clothes look grey or your colored clothes look dull?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are probably using too much laundry detergent.

How Much Detergent to Use

To figure out how much detergent you should use, take these things into consideration: your water hardness, the size of the load, and how dirty the clothes are. You should also consider the type of washing machine you use, along with the concentration of the detergent (2X, 4X, or 10X).

It’s incorrect to believe that more soap will help clean your clothes better or get rid of stainers more easily. Too much soap can actually make it harder for your washer to break down the soap. This can also lead to the problems above, like sticky clothes.

Follow this chart for a quick guide on determining how much laundry detergent to use:


Standard WasherHE Washer
2X Liquid Detergent2 tbsp2 tsp
Powder Detergent1/4 – 1/3 cup2 tbsp
Premeasured Pack1 pack1 pack
Soft Water1 1/2 tbsp1 1/2 tsp

For stained clothing: If your clothes are heavily stained (like sports uniforms or athletic wear) and you’re presoaking them, you will use the same amount of detergent for this load as you would for a full load of clothes. If it’s just one garment that you are presoaking, use just one teaspoon of powdered or liquid detergent per gallon of water.

For hard water: If you don’t have soft water or live in an area with hard water, you will need to use slightly more detergent.

How to Fill Your Detergent Drawer

Most newer washing machines have a detergent drawer that you can put the detergent into. Generally, they will have a max fill line that you will use for a full load. The best way to know how to fill your detergent drawer is to follow your machine’s owner’s manual so you don’t have to actually use a measuring cup or measuring spoon. Don’t go by the measuring cup that comes with your liquid detergent. This cup can be about 10 times larger than the actual amount of laundry soap you need (after all, if detergent manufacturers can get you to use more, then they’ll sell more).

Also note that if you have a HE washing machine, it may require high-efficiency laundry soap to get the best results. HE soaps are formulated specially to prevent too many suds from being created. If you don’t use HE soap, you will just need to reduce the amount of detergent you use by about a third.

How to Load a Washing Machine

It’s important to know how to load a washing machine along with knowing how much detergent to use. Overfilling a washing machine can make it harder for your machine to work efficiently and for your clothes to get really clean. Try to fill your machine only about 3/4 full of clothing if you can. If you have a newer washing model, you can generally still run smaller loads without your machine filling up completely. These newer models can detect load sizes and will only use as much water as necessary.

As you load your machine, try to distribute clothes evenly and loosely inside the machine; don’t pack them in. If you don’t have a detergent drawer, load your detergent before loading the clothes. This goes for liquid, powder or detergent pods. Putting them in first allows for the soap to dissolve in the water fully as it fills up with water.

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