Fortunately, it's not that type of ODing. Rather, we're talking about people using too much laundry detergent, an issue perhaps caused by user mistakes or by poor design of the caps on some containers and bottles—or maybe a combination of the two.
"If the lines aren't clear or are hard to see, it's easy to overdose and use too much detergent," says Pat Slaven, a program leader in our Technical department who conducted the detergent testing. "Plus, for all the products we tested, the line for a medium load—the most commonly done load—is less than a full cap, which makes it easier to use too much detergent." The line for a maximum load is also typically less than a full cap.
Since some of the tested detergents cost as much as 65 cents per load, using too much cleaner could become expensive. Overdosing can also cause soap deposits and lint to form inside your washing machine, which, say some manufacturers, might contribute to mold and odors. It could also plug or restrict ports or filters, says Chris Zeisler, an appliance-repair expert at RepairClinic.com, who adds that those deposits could result in mechanical failure. And for some high-efficiency washers, overdosing can produce excessive suds and lead to extended wash cycles as the machine tries to remove the soap.
"I've been in a lot of focus groups with consumers who say they're ruined high-efficiency machines because they used too much detergent," says Michele Hall, Pod director at Method Products, a maker of detergents. "With the growth in high-efficiency washing machines that are so sensitive to overdosing, it's important that people learn how to dose properly."
Even a textiles expert can face issues with detergent caps. "The salesman who sold us our energy-efficient washer emphasized that we should follow directions to the letter—or fill line, in this case. Of course, I have to stand under a floodlight in the garage to see the fill line," says Margaret Rucker, Ph.D., a professor of textiles and clothing at the University of California at Davis. "If a study on cap design hasn't been done, then it should be," she adds.
Some manufacturers have tried to address overdosing. "The way we thought about cap design was to expose the dirty little secrets of the [laundry-detergent] category, and one of them is overdosing," says Hall. "It's consumers' natural behavior to overdose. People want to add in a little more for cleaner clothes, or they're used to dosing at a certain level, or the lines are pretty hard to read so that consumers either don't look for them or aren't able to read them."
Another manufacturer has taken a different approach to solving the problem. "We feel the best practice is to include a picture of the cap on the directions, where we call out exactly where the dosage lines are on the cap," says Bill Littlefield, executive vice president and general manager of branded products of the Sun Products Corporation, which makes All and Wisk detergents. Littlefield admits, "It's a struggle to find proper dosage."
Procter & Gamble, whose detergents include Cheer, Era, Gain, and Tide, also shows images of the actual caps and fill lines on its labels. "We have specific fill caps that are clearly marked, and we feel people understand the product," says Lauren Thaman, a chemist and head of U.S. external relations at P&G.
But many consumers don't read the label on their detergents. A 2003 survey out of the Soap and Detergent Association showed that only 49 percent of Americans never read the directions on a laundry-detergent package. As such, says SDA spokesman Brian Sansoni, "More attention is being paid to the labels and grocery-store aisle displays; some manufacturers are adding external tags that clearly state the amount that should be used."
Some examples from our tests:
The clear cap on from Tide 2X Ultra With Color Clean Bleach Alternative (far right in top photo) has well-marked and numbered lines, but the markings on the All Small & Mighty 3X Concentrated Stainlifter's yellow cap (far left in top photo and above) are hard to read; the cap does have a rim around the outside that could catch overfill. Manufacturers may also vary the color or clarity of the cap based on the size of the container or even the detergent fragrance.
Method's approach for detergents like its Squeaky Green 3X Concentrated HE (center in top photo and right) is to limit the size of the cap to about 1 ounce, the right amount for a medium-size load in an HE washer. "It's actually a little over an ounce to avoid runoff," Hall says. "If we had chosen a larger cap, we would need to be really explicit." That cap also has a rim to catch spills. Note that its instructions indicate that heavily soiled loads require one and a half capfuls, and the half-cap line is a bit tricky to discern from another similar mark about a lower on the cap.
To be sure you and other family members use the right amount, carefully read the label directions on your detergent container and then clearly mark the cap, as one savvy blogger did. Also consider placing a note in an obvious spot telling people how much detergent to use.—Gian Trotta | e-mail | Twitter | Forums | Facebook
While I agree that the caps need to be clearly marked, there is another issue that I find frustrating when using detergents: the recommended amount of detergent is often too much, and requires multiple rinse-only cycles to remove it fully from my clothes.
Has anyone else noticed this problem, or is the problem more about my washing machine than my detergent?
What about when the instructions say "use more for hard water or heavily soiled loads?" How much more do I use? And what do they consider "heavily soiled?" It's pretty hard to follow instructions exactly when variables like that are introduced.
I have two issues here. The detergent cap load level lines and the machine load level lines (on an LG).
Even with my glasses on I can't see the lines inside the detergent cup well enough to know how much detergent to put in the cup before putting it in the machine so I have to guess. I also can't see the lines on the machine well enough to know how large the load is (one, two or three bars (LG)) so I know how much detergent to put in for the load size...so I have to guess....and liquid fabric softner...forget it...I just fill the container in the machine as I have no idea how much to put in for the load size. It would help immensely if the cap of these bottles had raised lines on the outside of the cap as well as the inside so I could feel where the small, medium and large load level is on the outside of the cap and therefore be more accurate in how much detergent I am putting in the cap for the load size before putting it in the machine. This would also be very helpful for those who are blind or have serious sight problems.
As for the machine's method of telling me the load size I guess I just have to remember to wear my reading glasses to see the tiny bars that say how large or small the load is or continue to give it my best guess. As I am deaf, beeping or sounds to tell the size wouldn't be helpful to me. Perhaps larger indication lines in future models would be helpful or displaying a number instead of little bars. This might be better not only to someone with minor sight problems like myself but also to those who have more serious sight issues. It's important to keep in mind that not all consumers have perfect sight and hearing. However most blind people have some vision and most deaf people have some hearing so perhaps this could be kept in mind when designing products like detergent caps and load line levels on washing machines.
This has bothered me for a long while now so I am very glad that Consumer Reports is bringing it to light. I've always thought the manufacturers don't make nearly enough of an effort to create a well-designed cap. Of course they are only interested in consumers using their product more quickly so we have to buy more.
The best one is the Gain HE detergent. The cap has lines 1,2 and 3 with instructions to use line 1 or line 2 for a medium to large load respectively. I have been using line 3 for months thinking it is for large loads. Little did I know that it's only for DECORATION!
Has anyone noticed the directions for HE machines on the powdered seventh generation detergent? The box says to use the amount the washer manufacturer recommends. Then if you look in your washer manual, the manual says to use the amount the detergent manufacturer recommends. Is seventh generation trying to trick people, or have those people never bought a HE washer?
In most cases, the recommended amount of detergent on the cup is TOO MUCH! Using a 2X solution of detergent (I use Tide), you should NEVER EXCEED 2 TBSP. Most manufacturers are training their repair crews to advise customers whom call for the "mold/stench" calls coming in. Consumer Reports needs to test these detergents to determine not only which detergents clean the best, but also the amount that should be used.
Let's not forget that all that detergent is bad for our environment as well.
I have a question on a lawn trimmer. I saw a Poulan Pro. model PPb330 with interchangable parts and I am interested in any feed-back on this model. I didn't see this brand in the comparison list. Thanks
Your article on detergent overdosing bring up an issue that I’ve been curious about regarding the labeling on some laundry products that claim to be compatible with HE machines. I use three products for most wash loads, and their instructions differ on the proper amounts to be used in an HE front loader.
The cap for Kirkland Free & Clear Ultra has five lines on the cap, line 1 is the smallest amount and line 5 the largest. Here are the instructions on the jug: “Fill cup to the 4th line for medium duty loads [for a standard top loader]. Use more for large or heavily soiled loads. For HE use fill to line 5 for regular sized loads.”
Ultra Downy Free & Sensitive fabric softener is similar; the instructions there say to use a larger amount for HE machines than for similar loads in a standard top loader.
However, the instruction on Clorox2 Stain Fighter and Color Booster are the opposite: “Fill cap to line 2 [the largest dose] for extra-dirty or large loads, or fill to line 1 for HE machines or regular loads.”
The Kirkland and Downy instructions seem counter-intuitive. Isn’t an HE machine supposed to be more frugal with regard to detergent and other laundry products? I’ve been using smaller amounts of the Kirkland and Downy than recommended, and the laundry seems to come out just fine.
Surprise, accidental overdosing uses up the soap faster and makes them more money. But there is a brand of dry powder detergent, ECOVER, that provides a clearly labeled measuring cup (made of cardboard) and states exactly how much to use. Nevermind the green pitch, the labeled cup is enough reason for me to use them.
Here's a tip on liquid laundry detergents. For several years, we fill the cup to about 1/2 to 3/4 the recommended dose and throw the measuring cup directly into the wash rather than use the filling tray (we use a top loader). Works great.
Why not have solid cubes like in dish washers - one cube for small, two for medium, and three for large.
I like this article. I like to think that I am an informed consumer and never even thought to read the instructions on my detergent. I just figured if the water didn't get a little "sudsy" on the top then it needed more detrgent. If it got too "sudsy" I figured I had added too much. I guess I need to do some more reading... Thanks again CR!
When they calculate the amounts do they take into account the viscosity of the detergent?
You can easily have half an ounce of detergent stuck to the walls of the cap.
And what exactly is medium? Medium on a large capacity washer is likely the same as large on a regular capacity washer.
And what if you add clorox2? should you decrease the amount of detergent.
And how do you tell if you did use too much? you clothes smell like detergent? Of course they do, the perfumes are not meant to get fully rinsed out!
We were having some problems with our HE front loader and was told by a tech that were were using WAY too much detergent (what was on instructions). We cut it down by 3/4 and everything worked fine and the clothes came out better.
I have used half the recommended detergent and half the recommended fabric softener per load for years and have had no problems with unclean clothes. I look at it this way, the manufacturers are in the business to sell detergent. Should I use all that they tell me to?
I have known for years the detergent companies deliberate miss lead the consumer to how much soap to use. The more you use the sooner you have to buy more. I always check the suds level in my washer when I change detergents. All you need is a slight sign of soap bubbles when the wash is about half way done. I talk note of how much soap I used. It is often only about 1/4 of what the company recommends. More is not always better.
CR should report about FOUL SMELL of today's scented laundry detergents. MOST smell like baby poop. It's unreal. NOW to hear, users are also using too much. We really are making the world a less fun place to live in... In the 70's and 80's we did not have these super-invasive, clinging odor molecules that are in wide use today with synthetic scents. It's like manufacturers studied male cat pee and put its effect into their laundry products.
I laugh every time I see 'more and more allergy suffers' in print. And more autistic children. More alzheimers. The problem is probably these super-invasive synthetics that people live in - clothes, sheets, towels, etc. The odors make me dizzy just smelling the people sitting next to me. Can't imagine what it does to their minds 24 hours a day, every day, for years and years on end and putting that crude next to your babies - ouch. I have always thought - mothers are the least protective people in the world - if you study the water, foods and chemicals they willingly put their "most precious item" in....
I think H L's comment" Why not have solid cubes like in dish washers - one cube for small, two for medium, and three for large." is a great suggestion, I would definitely buy that product!
I have started taking a permanent black marker and marking the lines on the cap to see how much detergent to add for the size of the load I am washing. It has helped me a lot.
As a mother of four children I have spent countless hours doing laundry. I also discovered years ago that using half as much detergent as the manufacturer reccomended worked just fine. This makes you wonder why they suggest using so much.
I use my own measuring cup>
They're a buck for a ring at the dollar store.
I found the amount of detergent that worked for my by using the manufacture's scoop. I poured the amount into a measuring cup. It was 1/4 cup. I went to the store and bought a set of measuring cups for a dollar, tore off the 1/4 cup and put it in the box.
The dollar paid it's self back within a box or two. I use the others for camping.
Back in the days, there were no lines on the caps. Maybe one near the top. You just filled it up and dumped it. Now they advertise 90 loads on the product and add 3 lines on the cap. If you fill the cap like you used to, you will use 3x the product needed and need to buy more than needed. I am sure the manufacturer would hate that to happen.
If manufacturers want to make sure we don't overdose, then they need to make the caps taller and skinnier, so it's easy to distinguish between one level and another.
Cubes would be convenient but how would we know how many cubes to use since the capacity of the machines varies?
I got an HE front loader in Jan. 2009. Since the lines in the cup were impossible to see unless I used a flashlight, I just filled it to the line once and then poured it into a 1/4 cup plastic measure with a handle. It didn't go all the way to the top so I marked where it did go. Now I just pour the detergent into the measure up to the line then into the washer dispenser. It is amazing how little detergent I use now. The front loader uses so little water that I was skeptical but it gets my clothes cleaner with about 1/4 the water and detergent that my top loader used!
After too much suds was causing my Bosch front-loader to not drain properly, I called Bosch. They said to use ONE TABLESPOON of HE detergent. So, I took a table spoon and a black Sharpie and marked the cap with a black line at one tablespoon. Since then, no problem--except that the detergent lasts forever.
I am convinced they do this on purpose. The lines inside the cup became noticeably more difficult to see when all these ultra concentrated detergents came out.
I am one of those who actually read the label on the detergents; it's just when I look inside the tops, I can't see the lines! I am looking for the middle line --- I just can't see where it is.
If they really cared, they would put a colored ring around the inside of the tops so customers could clearly distinguish the lines. They should stop their fake empathy you quoted in your article! It just makes me angrier at them.
I have an easier solution for the caps and scoops. I purchase powdered detergent and I look to see what the line is for a medium load. I then measure that in a measuring cup. From that I know to use exactly 1/2 that amount in my top loading machine. That equals 1/4 cup of washing powder as their measurement on line 2 is 1/2 of a cup. I went down to the dollar store and purchased a cheap set of measuring cups. I now throw out the scoop that comes with laundry washing powder and just continue to use the 1/4 measuring cup and viola, perfect laundry every time. By using half the recommended amount per load of laundry my clothing comes out clean and I am not overdosing. I have found that with the liquid detergents on average 1/8 cup of detergent is sufficient to get my clothing clean in my top loader. Of course you could probably half that amount that I use again if you use a front loading machine.
The moral of the story..... Throw away those measuring cups and scoops from manufacturers and use cheap measuring cups for exact amounts. You will never overdose again.
Our family has switched to using GrabGreen. It comes in pre-measured squares that dissolve in water and it works with HE machines too. This has been a great find for us! We no longer OD on detergent and also don't have to deal with the sticky mess from liquid detergents, or the heavy (and wasteful) detergent bottles/boxes.
I also read that most liquid detergents add water, which explains why their jugs are so heavy! Not to mention that it's a waste of resources. And, I don't like the idea that I'm paying for them to add water to detergent...
Anyways, hope this solves your problems as well as it did for my family! I bought it here: http://www.grabgreenhome.com/
Now that most laundry detergent manufacturers have gone to very concentrated detergents, and I can't find the regular concentrates I prefer, I'm thinking the product managers and stores like WalMart have forgotten about those who prefer lower concentration detergents, Normal concentration detergents are better and preferable in some ways because they are less caustic to the skin, easier to apply in small doses for small loads, are easier to rinse out without requiring an extra rinse cycle. I have tried the higher concentration detergents. They resulting in skin rash, particularly around the ankle with cotton socks in the ankle area, and I've found it difficult to use just a small amount for very small and hand wash loads. Even a few drops of the concentrate is too much for my hand wash loads. My dermatologist and I decided it is better to stay away from the higher concentration detergents. Why waste an extra rinse cycle when I don't need to with regular concentrations? I did call both Dial and Procter & Gamble and told their consumer advocate that I was switching brands due to the lack of product offerings in regular concentration strength. I hope product managers don't forget that concentrates are not for everyone.
there are "pre-measured" products. i sometimes use dropps and/or nellie's laundry nuggets. both have worked well for me and end up as cost effective. i'd done a little test as to how many loads i was actually getting out of the bottle. its very easy to use and carry to the launderette (for big loads of linens).
I own a front-loading large capacity machine…having great results using the gentlest product for the target load of laundry. I ‘under-dose’ as low as I can go while pre-treating all stains. Using even less detergent with hot water and an x-tra rinse cycle for my towels (think soap residue on washcloths) does wonders. If I detect any foam at all (usually found around the lower seal of the door opening) I rinse again, and use less detergent the next time. I use a stain remover to boost the detergent when I need it. Trying to buy one product doesn’t work for me. I own products for delicates (using a mesh laundry bag for sweaters, etc.), a powder for hot-wash (as it does not break down well with cooler temps.), and a liquid for general wash. I do not use fabric softener—when you don’t use too much detergent, and your load is rinsed well, your clothes should be soft and your towels absorbent (as they should be!). (One exception for fabric softener would be on synthetic fabric or knits especially in the winter—think static cling.)
Line me up with those who believe the manufacturers deliberately make the caps very hard to read and add extra lines at the top to encourage us to use too much detergent. Come to think of it, it's probably not a coincidence that it usually takes me a while to find the directions for dosing on the package. They're hoping I'll just fill the cap to the top or a line near the top -- which is always much too much -- and not find that spot faintly marked deep inside the cup which is supposedly the recommended dose.
laundry detergents now a days has greatly improved, but sometimes they suggest that too much for the recommeded in order them to sell more. wastech
It's amazing how difficult it has been to figure out how much detergent to use in a front-loading machine!
I've tried reading all of the instructions on several brands (Tide, Gain, Kirkland) and still do not understand how much to use. Why would you need more detergent for a "medium" vs. "large" load if you are using a front-loading washer that does NOT have water-level choices? The amount of water is the same no matter how many clothes are put in. Therefore, the amount of detergent should not change (if you can actually figure out the optimal amount to put in). I have never seen such deliberately confusing markings and instructions on products. I guess I may have to put my chemical engineering degree to use and try to find out from Whirlpool how much water my machine uses vs. the concentration of detergents in the brands I use. Can't get a sample of the water mid-wash because it locks the door & has to drain before opening so all you can go by is what the suds look like on the glass window...
I definitely do not understand why some brands like Kirkland tell you to use MORE detergent in a front-loading machine even though front-loading machines supposedly use LESS water than top loading machines!
Such a ridiculous setup and a huge waste! It is not "green" to use a front-loading machine if in reality you are using more detergents than you would have with a top-loader -- all because the instructions are not clear and you can't tell how sudsy the water is.
I contacted Kirkland over a year ago and was told the label would be changing. I guess that never happened. I figured if I couldn't trust the the label or the company, I'd better not trust the detergent. I don't use the brand anymore.
I use one of the products by P&G and out of the 30 years I have been doing laundry, I've never been confused on how much detergent to use. The product I use is Tide. I find if you use this product, you really only need to use up to the "2" marked on cap.
I also find that if Ì`m doing a small load, up to the "1" on the cap is good and in this case, your not over dosing. It says on the back of the jug, for "heavy soild clothing" you need to use to the "3" on the cap, well... thats something you don`t want to do if your not wanting to over dose. The only reason I've only used this product for so many years, is because it has a CLEAR mark on the cap instead on a blury one or even no mark at all. Since 2x consentrated products have been developed, I think its good for your washer because in the tide case, you use barley use any at all. You have to use some. Another thing I would be careful with is SOFTENER. I find you should only use a half centimeter of ANY BRAND by ANY COMPANY.
What happens when you lose or break the measuring cup? I divided the number of ounces by the number of loads to come up with 1.5 oz. Wouldn't it have been easier just to list that on the container?
I recommend using your measuring cup of your detergent at first and then transfer the detergent to a better measuring cup where you can see the measurements clearly. If you are worried that you might have overdosed, you can an empty hot water cycle and add a cup of white vinegar. This will dissolve the excess detergent.
We have a Fischer-Paykel top-loader washer. It can use far less water than a conventional top-loader, so of course, we have to use far less detergent. But try to figure out how much to use -- it's not the modern high-efficiency front-loader, nor is it the traditional top-loader. Talk about guessing ...... I've recently begun to use a very tiny amount of detergent, and we have very clean clothes. Like an earlier poster, don't use liquid fabric softener at all. I will use a dryer sheet for static-y things in the winter only, and not for the whole dryer time, plus I reuse the dryer sheet until there is absolutely NO fab softener in it at all. One sheet really lasts for a long, long time! To those of you who use fabric softener all the time, every time: The rest of the world can smell you coming a mile away -- it stinks. It is like the difference between fresh air and flowers, and icky air freshener. Fabric softener = icky air freshener, plus it ruins the absorbency of towels and other cotton fabrics. (My mom only taught me all these things about 40 years ago.)
We make our own laundry detergent. We use about 2 Tablespoons of dry detergent per large load. When we used to use commercial detergent it was ALOT more. Of course a lot of what you pay for in commercial laundry detergent is perfume and fillers.
Get one of those cough syrup measuring cups that usually hold one ounce of liquid and keep it under the detergent cap. In a high effiency washer that's about all that's needed for a medium load. A little experimenting will reveal how much is needed for larger or dirtier loads.
Why was Wisk omitted from the laundry detergent report?
This is so stupid. In the eleventh paragraph of the article it says, "But many consumers don't read the label on their detergents. A 2003 survey out of the Soap and Detergent Association showed that only 49 percent of Americans never read the directions on a laundry-detergent package.." WELL WHOSE FAULT IS THAT? It's not the detergent manufacturer's fault that people are dense and illiterate.
It reminds me of people who don't read the instructions to many appliances and then complain because it breaks. :\