Using Regular Soap in an HE Washer

detergent made specifically for HE washers

The Spruce / Michele Lee

Many people wonder if they can use regular detergent in a high-efficiency washer. Are there alternative detergents for an HE washer or do you always have to use HE detergents in this washing machine?

HE (High Efficiency) Detergents

The short answer is very simple. No, you should not use regular detergents in a high-efficiency washer. Only HE (high efficiency) detergents should be used in these newer washers. High-efficiency front or top-loading washers are designed with low water levels and a tumbling washing action. HE detergents are low sudsing and specially formulated to provide clean washloads in these energy-saving washers.

Use of any other kind of detergent in a high-efficiency washer, not only can confuse your washer cycle and stop the machine but can prevent it from washing properly or rinsing thoroughly. HE detergents are comparable in price to regular laundry detergents, so look for the (HE) symbol and ensure that you are using the correct detergent for your high-efficiency washer.

HE laundry detergents are now readily available in most popular brands and in various convenient container sizes. In many cases, two tablespoons of laundry detergent are sufficient to produce a clean wash. For heavily soiled garments, it may be necessary to experiment with soap levels.

When buying HE laundry detergents, watch for the symbol but also ensure that all the soap bottles you pick up from the shelf each carry the HE logo. Retailers will often mix different types of detergents on the shelf or consumers will rearrange the product while shopping, and it's very easy to buy the wrong kind.

The Soap and Detergent Association has compiled an excellent High-Efficiency Washers and Detergents Guide that fully explains why you should only use HE detergents in these washers. They also caution that HE-compatible detergents may not meet the standards of HE Detergents. I highly recommend this guide - it is extremely informative.

How to Control Suds When the Wrong Detergent is Used

Trouble controlling all those suds when you've used the wrong laundry detergent in an HE washer? Non-he laundry detergents create tons of bubbles in these newer high-efficiency washing machines. Only HE laundry detergent should be used in an HE washer because it is a low-sudsing specially formulated detergent.

However, it can happen that a regular detergent is mistakenly used, or that there is no choice of detergent available. Using a non-he laundry detergent in an HE washer can create a sudsing problem that can cause detergent bubbles to fill the washer tub and start to overflow from the detergent drawer. Allowing the washing cycle to continue will only create more bubbles, which can confuse an HE washer and the clothing will not likely rinse properly either.

When you see a mass of bubbles or realize that you've used the wrong detergent, cancel the washing cycle, and restart the HE washer and select the spin cycle. Then follow with another cycle that is a rinse/spin only with cold water, to remove the suds from the wash load. Proceed with a regular washing cycle and cold water would be recommended, in case there is sudsing detergent remaining in the wash.

If you must use a non-he detergent in an HE washer, use only a minute amount - a fraction of what you would normally use. In most cases, only 1 to 2 tablespoons of HE detergent is needed in a high-efficiency washer and use even less (a drop or two) if the laundry formula used is not an HE detergent if you want to avoid a sudsing problem.

On the other hand, using an HE detergent in a traditional washer will not harm your laundry or the machine. However, avoid using an over-abundance, just because you don't see any suds. That's why it's important to follow the manufacturer's recommendation for detergent use. The correct laundry soap to use should be confirmed in your washer manual.

If you need some advice on getting a clean wash, sorting the load properly can help tremendously. Check out these laundry related articles for tips on doing laundry: