Are You Using Too Much Soap?

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Not exactly a hard-hitting topic, but still applicable to those trying to live efficiently. This NY Times article talks about how most people use way too much soap in their washing machines and dishwashers, which is both wasteful and can shorten the lifespan of the appliances. How do you tell if you’re using too much soap?

Take four to six clean bath towels, put them in your front-loading washing machine (one towel for a top loader). Don’t add any detergent or fabric softener. Switch to the hot water setting and medium wash and run it for about five minutes.

Check for soap suds. If you don’t see any suds right away, turn off the machine and see if there is any soapy residue. If you see suds or residue, it is soap coming out of your clothes from the last wash.

“I’ve had customers that had to run their towels through as many as eight times to get the soap out,” Mr. Schmidt said, who lives in Indiana

I’m pretty sure I’m guilty of this. I would imagine too much soap also makes clothes more irritating to the skin.

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  1. Hey man, so what if its not a hard-hitting topic–I love it.

    I’ll be doing that test later on today.


  2. Money Beagle says

    I wrote an article a few weeks ago after discovering that I had been using too much soap in mopping our basement floors, as I decided one time not to add soap to the bucket, and the floors and rinse water were as sudsy as ever! I’ve mopped two more times since and only the last time did I notice a considerable reduction in suds. So, this lesson can apply to pretty much any area in your life where you use soap.

  3. Look carefully at the detergent caps. The “serving size” line on them is usually only a small fraction of the whole cap. If you just blindly fill the cap up, you’re using several times the amount you need to. Not to go al conspiracy theory on soap, but I’m sure this is done on purpose by the manufacturers.

  4. cube drone says

    While not disputing the “using too much soap” argument, I think testing method is flawed.

    Some of the left over soap is probably from the machine itself. A better way would be to run the wash machine with NO towels, check for soap/scum (repeat as necessary), THEN wash the towels. (picky-picky-picky)

    Anyway a great post.

  5. Too much soap and unrinsed soap also wears down the cloth fibers and makes your clothes wear out more quickly.

  6. BTW – Side loading washing machines, which are more common in Europe, use less water, much less soap (suds up quickly), are more energy efficient, are gentler with your clothes and help your clothes last longer (i.e. using a rolling motion rather than the top loader jerking motion) … as opposed to the top loaders with big tubs that need to be filled with water which are more common in the US.

  7. Ayurveda, the ancient life science of India, would say the same overuse of soap in our personal hygiene is true. Although bathing every day is essential, it is taught that we should be sensitive to which parts of our bodies require soap every day.
    Much of the stripping of the dermis is because commercial soaps are made from chemicals such as sodium palmate. These detergent soaps are different than thousands of years of making soaps from fat.
    The ancient practice of abhyanga not only cleans the skin, it also serves to sooth the dhatus, or 7 layers of tissue.
    For more info visit my webpage on how to do abhyanga.

  8. I always add more soap to the washer than is recommended, and the clothes still stink (sorry to say). I think the problem people are mentioning is the rinse cycle isn’t long enough.

    I must be using some crappy detergent.

  9. Marie,

    I totally agree the front loading washers in europe are way more effective. In england my clothes always got so clean, and you don’t need to use so much soap (it gets foamy quickly). The combination washer/dryers were horrible on drying clothes (they just steam them!)

    Plus the european detergents & fabric softeners are great too, very long-lasting in fragrance.

  10. I religiously use about 1/2 the recommended amount of clothes detergent and the stuff still comes out clean and smells good. Go figure. There’s a 50% savings on detergent for LIFE! 🙂

  11. I hardly use any soap (lowest line on those little cups that are provided). Plus using cold water saves a ton of money. But it goes beyond just laundry soap, most dish washers only need a tablespoon of soap, not the whole unit being filled. And body soap (a little gross I know) doesn’t need to be POURed onto a loofah to do a good job.

  12. I routinely use plain, white vinegar in my fabric softener dispenser to gently encourage soap to leave the fabrics. My clothes come out as soft as if I had used a commercial softener, whites are whiter, and no soap residue!

  13. JoetheBankgeek says

    If there are less than 10 items it’s best to do it by hand. Just put some water in the laundry tub and scrub them. Use cold water and put in some detergent. Hang them up on a line. Saves a lot of money.

  14. I use home made washing detergent (costs about .05 a load) and you use 1 tablespoon for a front loading washing machine. Works GREAT!

  15. Toni,

    what’s the recipe?

  16. We now use soap nuts, our next step will be to stop buying them and using ones from a tree on our property. Planting it next season.

  17. Moneyedup says

    Thanks for the tip on how to see if you are using too much soap. It is especially easy to do this if you are using the highly concentrated varieties of laundry detergent out there these days. The bottle recommends such a small amount that it hardly looks like enough, so I always add a little more. The cost of detergent can really add up, so I will be sure to pay more attention to how much I am using.

  18. My wife and I don’t use any detergent at all. We attended a local Green Expo back in May and found a product called the Bio Wash Ball. It is a replacement for your detergent and fabric softener. We were skeptical about if it would work or not, but we bought one anyway. My wife has allergy problems with certain detergents, so we thought we would give it a try. We are glad we did, because it works great! We just put our clothes in the washer, drop the ball in, and start the cycle. Our clothes come out clean and soft. The ball is supposed to last for up to 1000 loads, so it will not only save the enviroment by not putting harsh chemicals into our waterways, but it will save us tons of money! We liked it so much, we found and purchased another one off of eBay for about $25 bucks! I highly recommend you check it out!

  19. Pogo,

    I’ve learned this recently from learning to wash cloth diapers. the reason your clothes still smell isn’t because of the quality of your detergent its from soap build up. in cloth diapering its a term called stripping. when they start to smell you turn the hot water up as far as it will go then put the diapers through a couple cycles without detergent to get excess soap off. weird but true I never thought that using less soap would make my clothes cleaner.

  20. Ohh my! Thanks for the information about using too much soaps. Now I am curious on what kind of soaps are best to use.

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