How Much Laundry Detergent to Use

It was your first time using the high-efficiency (HE) washer you just bought. You were excited, as the machine promises effective and efficient cleaning. But as you check your laundered clothes, you observe that they still have detergent residue. Moreover, your favorite red shirt also looked old! Your old washer tub has the same load capacity as the new one, so you used the same amount of laundry detergent. Besides, the more soap, the cleaner the clothes, right?  It turns out… this belief is wrong.

If you ever wondered if you’re putting enough soap in your laundry, this would be your perfect guide on the right amount of laundry detergent to use for each type of washer.

Wondering if You’re Using Too Much Detergent?

Your washing machine, as well as your clothes, will tell you that you have gone overboard with the laundry detergent. Some of the classic signs of using too much laundry detergent are as follows:

  • Stiff clothes
  • Your laundry feels very sticky and even soapy
  • There is detergent residue in your clothing
  • Colored garments look dull, and the color is faded
  • Your whites look gray
  • The washing machine is musty and smells bad

How Much Laundry Detergent Should You Use

Americans get over-excited in the laundry room and are guilty of using too much detergent. For generations, we got used to the idea that using more soap leads to fresher and cleaner laundry. However, loading your tub with too much laundry detergent may cause more trouble for your clothes.

We summarized the factors that can affect the amount of laundry soap you need. Make sure you read on before you pour that bottle of unmeasured liquid detergent into your washing machine and start the laundry.

A regular load-sized washer has a capacity of around 12 pounds. It can fit up to 15 to 20 pieces of shirts or seven medium-sized jeans in the tub. Meanwhile, a machine that has an extra-large tub can fit up to 20 pounds of laundry.

If you are like me, who just recently converted to a high-efficiency (HE) washing machine with a regular load size, then you need fewer detergents. HE washers use less water and require less soap. These types only use 20%-66% of the water used by traditional washing machines.

There are high-efficiency (HE) laundry detergents that are used explicitly for HE washers. HE soaps prevent the production of excess suds during the washing cycle. But don’t worry, you can still use regular detergent for your high-efficiency (HE) washer. You need to reduce the amount of detergent you use by about 1/3 of the detergent recommendation.

For clothing soiled with hard-to-remove stains or grease, increase the detergent you use by 50%. It is also better to pre-soak your heavily soiled clothing and wash it for a longer time.

Water differs per area. The hardness of the water in your home affects the way your clothes come out of the washer too! If you are using hard water, you can get away with more detergent. The mineral deposits found in hard water can cause soiling and buildup in your clothes. Soft water, on the other hand, lets you clean your clothes using less detergent.

For areas that have soft water and you have a conventional washing machine at home, you only need 1 1/2 tablespoons of ordinary liquid detergent for your regular laundry load. If you are using a HE washer, then you only need 1 1/2 teaspoons of standard detergent.

You may be confused with detergent labels that say 2x or 4x or even 10x cleaning power. This cleaning power refers to the concentration of laundry detergent. The higher the stated concentration, the lesser detergent you need to use in your washing machine.

How Much Detergent Do You Need for a High-Efficiency Washer?

High-efficiency (HE) washers use far less amount of water and energy per washing cycle. Below are some practical guidelines you can follow when you are using an HE washing machine with regular load capacity:

  • For regular liquid detergent, you need four teaspoons.
  • For liquid laundry detergent that promises concentrated formulation, the optimum amount of 2X liquid laundry detergent is two teaspoons.
  • For 4X liquid laundry detergent, you need one teaspoon.
  • If the label says 10X liquid laundry detergent, you can add 1/4 teaspoon.
  • For pre-measured packets or laundry pods, you only use one pack. You may check out our guide here on how to properly use laundry pods.

You can double the amount of detergent stated above if your washer has a large tub filled with soiled clothes.

How Much Detergent Do You Need for a Standard Top-Load Washer?

A standard top-loading washer uses around 40 gallons of water. That may sound like a lot, but this is necessary for this type of washing machine. Since it requires more water, using too much laundry detergent may cause fewer problems than high-efficiency (HE) washing machines. You can use more detergent if you have a conventional washing machine. To make sure the amount of detergent you are using is enough for the size of the load you are about to wash, check our guidelines below:

  • You only need about a tablespoon of regular liquid laundry detergent for this type of washer.
  • If you prefer powder detergent, use 1/4 to 1/3 cup for one cycle.
  • For premeasured or laundry detergent pods, one pack is enough to clean your soiled clothes.
  • If the label says it contains 2X liquid detergent, the usual amount is two tablespoons or one-eighth cup.
  • You can use a standard measuring cup to avoid overestimating.

Double the amount of detergent if the washing machine has an extra-large tub or if you have heavily soiled clothes to wash.

Useful Laundry Detergent Guides

The following table can be your guide when doing a full load of laundering:

Washing Machine TypeLiquid DetergentPowder DetergentPremeasured Pacs (pods)
Standard Washer2 Tbsp1/4 – 1/3 cup1 pac
HE Washer2 tsp2 Tbsp1 pac

The following table can be useful when you have an HE washer and you’re wondering about the amount of detergent to use:

Detergent ConcentrationLiquid Detergent
2x concentration2 tsp
4x concentration1 tsp
10X concentration1/4 tsp

The following table can be useful if you’re concerned about soiled clothes and the amount of detergent to use:

Amount of Sweat and StainLaundry Detergent
Normalnormal amount per load
Heavy50% more per load

The following table can be useful regarding water hardness and the amount of detergent to use:

Water HardnessLaundry Detergent
Soft Waterequal or less amount per load
Hard Wateradd 25% more per load

What About The Label?

Laundry detergent soap manufacturers suggest you follow their label and want you to get the best results from using their product. But it is also a good idea to consider other factors that contribute to the washing process to save you money and resources. Besides, you know your washer better than anyone else. So don’t be hesitant to make a few adjustments based on what you think your washer and your clothes need.


It is vital to use the right amount of laundry detergent to achieve optimal results for your laundry. However, too much laundry detergent does not always guarantee better results. The next time you pour the bottle of liquid, powdered, or packet of laundry detergent, consider the tips stated above. That way, you save more money spent on detergent, and you are sure to have fresher and cleaner clothes after washing.

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