How Much Laundry Detergent Should You Use, Actually?

Use this laundry detergent measuring hack to save your clothes—and your washing machine.

Using laundry detergent is a no-brainer—throw a load of clothes in the washer, use the lines on the side of the detergent cap to figure out how much soap to use and pour it in, right? Wrong. There are several avoidable mistakes when it comes to washing laundry, and using too much detergent is a common one.

Even using the lowest measurement provided by the laundry detergent cap probably means you’re using too much! A little detergent goes a long way. Here’s why you should be using less.

How Much Laundry Detergent Should You Use?

If you’re wondering just how much detergent to use, don’t go by the lines on the cap. Instead, grab a tablespoon.

This TikTok from The New York Times@wirecutter account busts the laundry detergent myth that the more soap used, the cleaner the clothes will come out. Too much detergent is actually harmful to your garments, but we’ll get to that in a second.

Per the usual 8 pound load of laundry, the amount of detergent needed to clean clothes is only one tablespoon. Double that for loads weighing in at 12 pounds or more. Reduce it for the days when you’re hand washing.

@wirecutterHere’s why less is more when it comes to detergent. #laundry #cleantok #clean #learnontiktok #fypシ #science #savemoney

Here are some ways to use laundry detergent around the house.

How Can I Tell If I’m Using Too Much Laundry Detergent?

According to various laundry experts, including Mary Gagliardi, aka Dr. Laundry, a scientist at The Clorox Company, too much detergent can result in ruined clothes and even hamper your washing machine.

The first sign that you’re using too much detergent will show up in your clothes. Stiff, starchy, scratchy clothes—instead of the expected soft and fresh results—mean that there were too many soap suds in your washing machine during the cycle. This traps detergent residue in your clothes, since the ever-present suds prevent items in the washer from rubbing against each other to effectively release soap from their threads.

A surplus of detergent can also cause mechanical problems in your washer—not good. Overpouring the soap can create an increase of wear and tear on the washing machine’s pump and motor from the suds acting like a brake, and greater energy is required to wash clothes, since the machine automatically adds extra rinses and pauses to break down excess suds.

How to Remove Excess Detergent from Your Laundry

There are a few methods that can help remove detergent from your clothes, but laundry stripping is #trending for a reason.

Laundry stripping is a deep cleaning process that’s meant to remove a buildup of grime, dirt and detergent residue from clean clothes. Using too much detergent can trap particles unseen in your clothes, but you can soak them out using this method. Soak your clothes in a large tub, with a solution of Borax, washing soda and a tad of detergent. You’ll never use too much detergent again after seeing the satisfying, slightly gross results of what’s lifted from your clothes.

For more dirty-to-clean laundry satisfaction, check out these before and after laundry photos.

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Hannah Twietmeyer
Hannah is a writer and content creator based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a passion for all things food, health, community and lifestyle. She is a journalism graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a previous dining and drink contributor for Madison Magazine.