My Detergent Diet

10 years ago

Hello everyone,

Those of who you have followed my posts in this forum have seen me go from using 1 TBSP of detergent in my Asko to 3-4 TBSP in my new Miele W4842. I've even gone so far as to use up to 7 TBSP as recommended on the Persil package for soft water conditions.

I recently had Miele replace my dryer due to what they claim was "detergent residue in the dryer", or as I like to call it - DUST! I don't know whether Miele's claim has any basis in truth or fact, however, I decided to put myself on a detergent diet nonetheless just to make sure I really wasn't using too much. Not just for the sake of the washer and dryer, but also for the sake of my pocketbook, the environment, and my health. And who knows, maybe Miele was right?

Before I disclose my findings, I want to first "come clean" by saying that I have been on a bit of a detergent see-saw. In 2002 when I purchased my Asko pair in Seattle, I used 1 TBSP of detergent according to the instructions and achieved great results. Then I moved to Phoenix, where the water is up to 30 GdH in hardness, and that totally threw me off. I found myself increasing the dose of detergent, then adding a water softening agent, etc. My entire understanding of detergent dosing was thrown upside-down due to the hardness. So for the two years I lived in very hard water conditions, I used a lot more detergent with a softening agent.

In 2006, I moved into my new house where I installed a whole house softener. After doing so, I had to re-calibrate my thinking due to the mechanical water softener. I went back to using 1 TBSP in the Asko and it seemed fine. I also started experimenting with green and natural detergent products. After a while, I noticed some of my clothes (especially dark clothes washed at lower temps) started smelling "funky". The smell came on the heels of using various different natural/green detergents, so I attributed the problem to those products. Switching back to non-green products resolved the issue somewhat, but not completely, until I raised the detergent dosage in the Asko. Obviously I wasn't using enough detergent, right?

Fast forward three to four years. I've replaced my Asko with the 50% larger W4842. In the beginning, I used about 2 TBSP and over time increased that to 3-4 TBSP. Over the last year, I've found myself increasing the amount of fabric softener to compensate for clothes coming out of the dryer not feeling as soft as they used to. The changes are subtle over time and you find yourself changing dosages slightly over such a long period of time that before you know it, you're using either too much or too little and aren't even consciously aware of the increased or decreased usage. I have also advocated in other threads that using such small quantities of detergent is ridiculous and people should adhere to manufacturer's recommendations as much as possible.

It's time to eat my words. After the Miele dryer incident, despite my being offended by Miele's claim that I have been using too much detergent, I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and re-calibrate my dosage. Here's what I did. I referred back to the user manual from my Asko W6761, which I bought in 2002 and before there were any 2x or 3x products on the market. The manual recommends a 1 - 1 1/2 TBSP dose of either powdered or liquid HE detergent in SOFT WATER. My W4842's drum volume is approximately 50% larger, so scaling the dosage to the volume of the W4842 (Miele's manual was not helpful in this regard) would yield a 1 1/2 - 2 1/4 TBSP dose for a 4.0 cuft machine. If using a 2x product, cut the dose in half to 3/4 - 1 1/8 TBSP. If using a 3x product, cut the dose by 2/3 to 1 1/2 - 2 1/4 tsp (teaspoons!).

The above numbers made absolutely no sense to me and ran contrary to common sense. How could so little detergent clean such a large drum volume of clothes? Regardless of my reaction, I forced myself to use the reduced quantities to at least prove to myself that they were as ridiculous as I initially thought. To my amazement, after cutting my detergent usage to the above levels, my clothes started coming out soft again and with need for very little fabric softener. My clothes were just as clean as they were when I used a lot more detergent, and I also noticed another bonus - clothes no longer felt tight or slightly shrunken like they did before. Fabrics seem much more relaxed and less stressed than when washed with more detergent. My formerly smelly dark clothes no longer smell. Looking back, I realize that increasing the detergent dose only masked the odor and actually made it worse. After cutting my detergent usage, the odors completely disappeared. I can only attribute the odor to detergent residue or something similar trapping the smell or whatever was causing the smell.

I AM A CONVERTED PERSON! I never thought I would become a believer of this "detergent residue" concept that I have always felt was more of an urban legend and a bogus advertising claim to sell more detergent. I WAS WRONG. I am now on a healthy detergent diet and using very little compared to what I was using before. After a couple of weeks and many loads later, I can confirm that my whites are just as bright and not fading. I compared whites washed with reduced detergent quantities to those washed in previous, higher dosage loads. No difference. In fact, those whites washed in Tide HE Powder w/ Bleach Alternative were actually whiter and brighter when using less detergent compared with more.

I hope some people find this information useful. Keep in mind that this is all coming from someone who swore up and down for a long time that manufacturer recommendations were accurate. After all, who are we to second guess multi-billion dollar companies who spend millions on research? Think again. If I can cut my detergent use from 3-4 TBSP to 3/4 TBSP - that is a 75% reduction - and get better wash results, that says something.

I encourage everyone with an HE machine to examine their detergent usage and, if you think you can get by with less, to go on a detergent diet like I did. You may be surprised with the results! :)

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