How to Use a Front Load Washer Correctly

An illustration of a front-load washer with laundry detergent, basket and stain remover next to it

The Spruce / Ran Zheng

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So you've opted to buy a front load washer, but what detergent do you use, and just how do you use this machine? You want to make sure you're using it correctly, as this appliance is an investment that will last for at least ten years.

Front-load washers have long been the standard washing machine in Europe and Asia. They've been around in the United States for years in the commercial washer market, but the recent emphasis on water and energy conservation has put the washers at the forefront of the home consumer washer production.

As more homes give these machines a try, there is a learning curve both in how to use a front load washer correctly and in how it works to clean clothes. The four lessons below will have you set in no time.

Lesson One: Water Usage

One of the advantages of a front load washer is energy efficiency. The washer uses significantly less water-only around 13 gallons-than a standard top load washer that uses about twice as much. It is also able to spin clothes at a rapid rate to extract more water and lessen time in the dryer. But for many first time users, the very low level of water is disturbing. Quite often you can barely see any water in the washer.

After clothes are loaded into a front load washer, the machine adds a small amount of water usually below the level of the door and begins to tumble. As the water is absorbed by the clothing, the machine sprays in more water to maintain the water level. For washers with automatic water level selection, this step is how the washer figures out how big a load of laundry is and how much water that load needs. Some washers allow you to select the water level and load size. But if you use too much water, you'll be defeating the entire benefit of energy savings.

Lesson Two: Detergent Usage

Because there is so much less water used than in a standard washer, you should use much less laundry detergent. It is also very important to use a detergent that is formulated for a high-efficiency machine. These are labeled with the HE logo and are formulated to produce very few suds. Seeing lots of bubbles or foam is an easy way to ruin your front load washer. The bubbles will overflow the washer and can destroy electronic systems and void warranties. Plus with lower water levels in the rinse cycle, the detergent will be left in your clothes.

Some washers have dispenser drawers that will slowly release the correct amount of detergent from the reservoir for each load. If you are adding the detergent yourself for each load, use no more than one tablespoon of HE detergent. If the product is 2x concentrate use two teaspoons or 3x concentrate use one teaspoon.

The same rule applies to fabric softener and bleach. One teaspoon of fabric softener will soften a full load. For chlorine bleach, two tablespoons should be used in the dispenser or one tablespoon if it is concentrated.

For single-dose detergent pacs, always place them in the bottom of the washer while it is empty before loading clothes. This will give the pac longer exposure to water so it will dissolve correctly. Never place pacs in a dispenser drawer.

high efficiency laundry detergent
The Spruce / Fiona Campbell

Lesson Three: Loading the Washer

A front load washer should be loaded not by the pound of dirty laundry but by the amount of space they take up in the drum. Bulk is more important than weight. Load items into the drum loosely. Overfilling can result in clothes that are not cleaned correctly.

Large and small items should be included in each load to ensure balance. A load of small items will not tumble correctly and can even cause the washer to become unbalanced. Unbalanced loads cause noise, movement, vibration, and needless wear and tear on the machine. Washing one item is never a good idea.

Even though the tumbling action is more gentle than a center agitator, it is still important to follow all of the rules about getting clothes ready for the washer including checking pockets, closing zippers, and fastening hooks.

loading a front-loading washer
The Spruce / Fiona Campbell

Lesson Four: Defeating Washer Odor

Many front load washer owners complain of a musty odor after a few months. Proper maintenance is key to keeping a front load washer odor-free. Failure to keep the washer clean is going to result in odors that transfer to your laundry. Clean your front load washer properly and regularly.

cleaning a front-loading washer
The Spruce / Fiona Campbell