The One Huge Laundry Mistake You Think Is No Big Deal

detergent overdose

In the past, I’ve been more of a guesser than a measurer when it comes to laundry detergent. And I never really had a reason to change my ways, at least until I learned about all of the drawbacks that come along with “detergent overdose!”

In today’s post, we’ll be exploring exactly what detergent overdose is and why it’s important to avoid. Whether you use a store-bought detergent or a homemade laundry detergent, by the end of this post you’ll understand exactly why it’s so important to use the correct amount!

detergent overdose

What Is Detergent Overdose?

Detergent overdose occurs when you use more than the recommended amount of laundry detergent based on factors like washing machine type, load size, and soil level. It’s a surprisingly common problem, and more people are guilty of it than you might think!

Back in 2010, as part of an ad campaign for its new ultra-concentrated pump-top laundry detergent, Method reported that that 53% of people who used liquid laundry detergent did not use the recommended amount for their wash loads. According to this 2010 article from the Wall Street Journal, Method representatives claimed that the major detergent brands were encouraging detergent overdose to increase sales by deliberately making their dosing lines inside the detergent cap difficult to read.

While representatives from major detergent brands denied such claims, the reason for detergent overdose is ultimately beside the point. Because what matters most is that detergent overdose can have very real consequences!

6 Drawbacks To Using Too Much Detergent

detergent overdose

1. It Wastes Money

When you use more detergent per load than you actually need, you’re going through a bottle of detergent faster than necessary. That means you’re buying more detergent in the long run, and that means you’re wasting your money!

Detergent overdose can also cost you money when it comes to your water bill. If your washer detects there are too many suds in the drum, it will trigger more rinses to compensate, and that increased water usage will show up on your next water bill.

2. Your Laundry Doesn’t Get Rinsed Properly

Using too much detergent can make it impossible for your washing machine to rinse it all out. If your laundry isn’t fully rinsed, it will retain detergent residue that can cause colors to fade and even attract more dirt.

3. Bad Odors In Your Washing Machine

Detergent residue isn’t just an issue that affects your clothes and linens. If your washer itself gets bogged down with detergent residue, it can start to develop an unpleasant odor over time. (If is possible to clean your washing machine to eliminate residues and odors, but you’re better off avoiding the problem in the first place!)

detergent overdose

4. Sopping Wet Clothes

Another thing that can suffer due to an overabundance of suds is your washer’s spin cycle. Too many suds can prevent the spin cycle from reaching full speed, which can easily reduce the amount of water that gets expelled from your clothes. No one wants sopping wet laundry that takes forever to dry!

5. Front Loader Leaks

Those with front load washing machines have more reason than anyone to be vigilant about their detergent use! Using too much detergent can produce such an abundance of thick, foamy suds that it may start to leak out of the door gasket. (I’ve heard of foam parties before, but I doubt anyone wants to discover an impromptu one happening in their laundry room!)

6. Wear And Tear On Your Washer

And last but not least, there’s the added wear and tear that detergent overdose will place on your washing machine. Between the impacts of suds on the spin cycle, the extra rinsing, and the potential for residue buildup, using too much detergent makes your washing machine work harder than it needs to and ultimately shorten its lifespan.

detergent overdose

How To Avoid Detergent Overdose

So now that you know all the bad things that can happen when you use too much detergent, you may be wondering how to avoid it! Luckily, it’s easy to avoid detergent overdose, and all you need to do is follow the dosage instructions on your bottle or package of detergent.

And while I can’t do much to make those nearly invisible lines on the detergent cap any easier to read, I do have a few useful tips to share that can help you get around them! :-)

detergent overdose

Tip #1: Use A Different Measuring Cup

Start by using the cap to measure out how much detergent you should be using per load according to the instructions (even if you need a flashlight and magnifying glass to find the right line!) Then pour the detergent from the cap into a small glass measuring cup, and take note of the actual measured amount.

Then you’ll be able to use the glass measuring cup to measure out your detergent in the future. No more guessing, no more squinting, and most importantly, no more overdosing!

detergent overdose

Tip #2: Use A Soap Dispenser

Another option the makes it easier to use the correct amount of detergent is to put it into a soap dispenser bottle instead. Once you figure out how many pumps it takes to dispense the correct amount of detergent for your machine and load size, you’ll know exactly how much detergent to dispense in the future without having to measure it!

How do you measure your laundry detergent?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Homekeeping Tips

  • We are talking about how much detergent to use from a jug of detergent. What about a medium load of laundry, that load will not be the same size in a 3.4 or a 5.7 washing machine. I’ve been doing laundry for 35 years and have gone through different size washers. I’ve never been positive about the correct amount of detergent. Now a days we can’t depend on the extra water helping to get out the dirt, because sometimes the material doesn’t get wet. I’m sorry I like the old time washers, just not the old, old ones.

  • I also have a hard time reading where the measuring lines end on clear plastic caps. I took a magic marker and placed a dot where each line ends. I can now measure without having to put my reading glasses on.

  • I’ve Known this for quite a while. But..My question is this. If I follow the directions I feel the cloths don’t smell or look clean, so I end up washing them again And doing a second rinse. (My washer is only one year old) I have tried different laundy soaps (best rated)

    • Hi Becky. When I got my first HE front loader, I had to relearn. Perhaps you also have an HE washer? If so I hope this helps. In mine, powdered detergent works much better than liquid. I use a two-tablespoon coffee scoop bought at the dollar store. Over time I found 1/2-2/3 coffee scoop works best for lightly soiled loads and one level scoop for heavily soiled loads. I also found the bulk cycle (on mine, it’s a cycle that doesn’t ‘sense’ water amount but uses highest amount possible) just does a better job for more soiled loads or some that seem to get cleaner with more water, like underwear, socks, and towels. On the occasions when I use fabric softener, I found the liquid kind mixed 1/2 and 1/2 with water and then put in the dispenser is the right amount. Lastly, I always leave the door fully open on the washer, and I have never had that ‘moldy’ ‘sour’ or other ‘bad’ smell many report. It’s always wide open except when in use. I also remove the detergent drawer after the last load, rinse it out, and set it on top to air dry. For me the compromise in ‘looks’ of the laundry room vs. clean smelling washer has been worth it.

  • First I have to say I just can’t believe you come up with a new post every day! Every time I read your posts, I think you have covered every imaginable topic and there couldn’t possibly be anything left for you to post on tomorrow. Then tomorrow you have another great post of wonderful, intelligent, information. You have no idea how many posts I have saved on my computer so I have them to easily refer to. I see now that you have created a way to do that on your blog, which again blows my mind.
    About today’s post, laundry soap. I have believed all my adult life that companies encourage over use of soap by making the cap hard to read, but I believe that even the quantity they recommend is more than what is needed. It is actually possible to get clothes fairly clean without the use of laundry soap – just the action of the washing machine takes out most of the dirt and odors. Of course laundry soap definitely helps, especially if you want any brightening. But I have always used half of what they recommend, and clothes are CLEAN. I feel the same about how much toothpaste is shown on TV, I use half of a dryer sheet where they even recommend sometimes using two sheets, I use half as much dishwasher detergent as “they” recommend, shampoo, conditioner, and on and on. They are in the business to get you to use more so they can sell more. But I believe less works just as good and most times, even better. Right now I’m using Tide Pods, and I even cut those in half!
    Obviously there are things I don’t scrimp on – hand soap, bleach, etc.,
    Anyway, great post! thank you every day!

    • You are spot on that soap makers want you to use up their product so you will buy more, IF your job makes you get really dirty or sweaty, then more soap is needed. Most people change clothes daily, so clothes don’t get dirty like in a manual job or decades ago. I’ve experimented to see how much surface suds different amounts of soap generate. I was taught that a small amount of suds on the water surface tells you the soap is working. Different size loads make a difference too. You have to learn what works for you, remembering that soap makers purpose is to sell soap!

  • The detergent I am using starts with the amount to use for a medium load. What if I have a small load and even a hand-wash load? How much should I use?

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