Washing Machine Detergents: 15 Things You Must Know

Detergents not only play a crucial role in cleaning clothes but it is also responsible to keep your washing machine in good condition.

Poor quality detergents, apart from ruining your washing machine also damages your clothes in long run.

Washing detergents are available in both liquid and powdered forms. Amongst all the detergent types available, powdered ones are widely used and hold the highest market share (1).

This also means the problem of choice.

Hence, it becomes equally important, that you choose the right one to get the desired results without compromising the safety of your washer.

Without a decent detergent, your washing machine may not be able to clean your clothes as you would like.

Here are the 15 most important things that you must know when using detergents in the washing machine.

Where do you put detergent in washing machine?

Detergents should always be placed in the main wash compartment. Having said that, you can place the detergent in the pre-wash compartment if you want that extra wash before the main wash cycle runs.

Most washing machines have 3 compartments:

  • Pre-Wash
  • Main Wash
  • Fabric Softener

Pre-wash: This compartment is used when the clothes are extremely soiled. It gives an extra wash before the main wash.

Main Wash: This is where the main washing cycle takes place and almost every time you will need to place the detergents in this compartment.

Fabric Softener: You will have to use this compartment to soften the fabric. Fabric softeners are easily available on Amazon or any offline market. The compartment size of fabric softeners is usually the smallest among all the compartments.

For prolonging the life of your washing machine, make sure you put the detergents and softeners in the right compartments. This will not only prolong your washer’s life but also enhance the cleaning quality and keep your clothes safe from damage.

If you are confused or unable to find the 3 trays, chances are your washer may be little different to the standard one’s. In this case, it’s always better to take a quick look at the user manual.

READ: 15 Things you must know about High-Efficiency Washing Detergents

Does washing machine need special detergent?

It’s recommended to use high-efficiency, low sud detergents in your washer. This will not only help to prolong the life of your washer but also keep your clothes in good condition.

These days you can easily get High Efficiency & Low sud formula laundry detergents in offline as well as online market.

Make sure you have these two criteria in mind while choosing detergents for the washing machine.

  • The Detergent should clearly state it’s designed for high-efficiency washers.
  • It should also have low sud formula.

If you keep these two criteria in mind, most likely you will never go wrong.

So, the bottom line is to try to go with detergents made for washers only, trust me it will help a lot.

READ: Can Vinegar Damage Washing Machine?

Can you put detergent directly in washer?

It’s not recommended to pour detergents directly into the washing machine.

There are different compartments given in most washers these days.

Even if you are using liquid detergents, try not to pour them directly. Instead, the correct way to use the detergent is to pour it in the main compartment, usually, it’s the largest compartment amongst all the three compartments (Pre-wash, Main Wash & small compartment for softener).

If your washer, does not have a dedicated compartment for detergents, ensure you mix the detergent with water thoroughly before running a wash cycle.

READ: 20 Important questions you must ask before using Fabric Softeners

Can you put liquid detergent in the drum?

No, use the main detergent compartment instead. It’s not recommended to put liquid or powdered detergents directly in the drum.

If you want to give a thorough wash, you can manually rinse the stained area of your clothes with liquid detergent before putting them in the washer for the actual wash.

Which is better detergent powder or liquid?

Liquid detergents are better when compared to powdered one’s, especially when your priority is to prolong the lifespan of your washing machine.

Liquid detergents do not leave chunks of undissolved detergents like the powdered ones, therefore it does not cause unnecessary blockage.

Since it does not cause blockage, the drainage system is also happy.

Liquid detergents do not cause added stress to the washing machine as it’s easier on the drainage system, thereby increasing the lifespan in long run.

As far as quality of the wash is considered, both powder & liquid tend to perform the same.

READ: 14 Things that you Shouldn’t wash in your washer

What is the difference between normal detergent and washing machine detergent?

Normal detergents are not designed to work with High-Efficiency washers and also not all normal detergents contain low sud formula. It tends to leave some amount of powdered fillers behind as they don’t mix well, therefore it puts strain on your washer’s drainage system.

From your washing machine’s safety standpoint, normal detergents may do more harm than it benefits.

These days, almost all washing machine detergents are designed specifically for washing machines.

So, stick to detergents designed for washing machines, this will not only enhance the lifespan of your washer but also give you optimum cleaning.

Do I add detergent first or clothes?

If you are using a HE (High Efficiency) washer along with high-efficiency detergents designed for washing machines, you can follow this order:

  • Put your clothes
  • Pour Water
  • Add liquid OR high-efficiency powdered detergents

The reason we add water after putting on the clothes is that clothes tend to float and do not soak properly.

Always fill the water first and then pour the detergents in dedicated detergent compartment, this is the recommended practice.

Most High efficient detergents are phosphate-free hence it does not leave the residue behind.

With this order you are pouring the detergent after adding water.

If you are using a regular top load washer that does not have a dedicated compartment for detergents, then it’s best to follow the below order:

  • Add water
  • Pour detergents mix it well
  • Add clothes

How do you put liquid detergent in washing machine?

Detergents should always be placed in a dedicated detergent compartment after pouring the water into the drum.

Always follow the below order for optimizing the results:

  • Add clothes
  • Pour water
  • Add detergents

Most, high efficiency washers have dedicated compartment for Liquid detergents, Powdered detergents, Softener & for Pre-wash cycles.

Some washers have cups in which you can pour liquid detergents and the same cups can be removed so that you can place the powdered detergents in that compartment (Always read the instructions manual carefully).

READ: How to use portable washing machine effectively

Do you pour detergent directly on clothes?

No, it’s not recommended to pour detergents directly on clothes. It’s always a good practice to pour detergents into a dedicated detergent compartment. If there are stubborn stains, you can simply pour some liquid detergent on stains, rub it gently, and then put the clothes in the washer for a regular wash.

If your washer does not have a dedicated compartment for detergents, follow this order:

  • Pour water
  • Add detergents & Mix well
  • Add clothes

What is the difference between Matic liquid and detergent liquid?

Matic liquid is specially designed to work with High Efficiency washer’s whereas as a regular detergent liquid is generally used in top-loaders. Regular liquid detergent that does not contain low sud formula usually produces more lather and due to the working mechanism of top-loaders, it can easily rinse the lather.

Front-Loaders, on the other hand, have a different working mechanism due to which it uses less amount of water and has a shorter washing cycle, therefore it’s important to use low sud formula such as Matic liquid for efficient cleaning. High lather content makes washing difficult for front-loaders as it works on tumble action, unlike the top-loader that uses an agitator in the drum.

Having said that, these days most of the Top-Loaders as well as Front-Loaders use Matic liquid, hence it’s important to read the instruction manual carefully before deciding on detergents.

Does detergent go in the agitator?

No, Detergents should always go into the dedicated detergent compartment.

Most modern washers these days have 3 compartments mainly Pre-Wash, Main, and Softener. Almost, every time you will need to place the detergent in the main detergent compartment.

If your washer does not have a dedicated compartment for detergents, you can follow the below steps:

  • Pour Water in the Drum
  • Add detergent and mix it well
  • Add clothes
  • Run the wash cycle

But most washers do have a dedicated compartment for detergents, always read the instruction manual before using the washer.

How much detergent should I use in a top loader and front loader?

There are different factors that decide the ideal quantity of detergents to be used.

  1. Severity of dirt: If your clothes are soiled heavily, then it surely demands more quantity of detergents.
  2. Type of water used: If the water that you are using is hard, simply use more detergents. Adjust the dose if the water is soft.
  3. Type of washer: Different types of washers need different types of detergents as not all washers are the same, For example, Front-Loaders use a tumbler mechanism whereas top loaders use an agitator. Therefore, Front-Loaders use less water and detergents, like-wise top loaders use more water and have a longer washing cycle. So it makes sense to use different detergents for different types of washers.

On a higher level we can figure out the ideal dose of detergents by referring to the below chart:

Dirt LevelFront-LoadTop-LoadSemi-Automatic
Normal1 Scoop (2.5 Ounce)2 Scoop (5 Ounce)1 Scoop (2.5 Ounce)
Extremely Dirty2 Scoop (5 Ounce)3 Scoop (7.5 Ounce)1 ½ Scoop (3.5 Ounce)
For Hard WaterAdd 0.5 OunceAdd 1 OunceAdd 0.5 Ounce

Note: The above chart is only for standard average size washers and only considers High-Efficiency detergents. If you are not using high-efficiency detergents, the above chart may not be applicable. We strongly recommend you review the instruction manual once.

What happens if you use too much detergent?

Putting too much detergents in washing machine will surely make your washing machine inefficient as excess detergents means, excess lather and increased residue build-up.

The buildup of residue that already exists from previous wash cycle, along with excess sud will affect your soft clothes by making it hard, scratchy and uncomfortable to wear.

READ: How to clean portable washers?

How do you know if you use too much detergent?

Putting excess detergents can make your washing machine inefficient and may present any of the below symptoms.

  • Foul Smell
  • Excess Suds
  • Clothes Appear Dull
  • Sometime Noise

Foul Smell: This is the most common symptom that most of us see. Instead of a pleasant fragrance, a foul smell is all that we get. This usually happens due to the build-up of residue in areas that can’t be seen. The buildup of residue in unseen areas further gives rise to bacteria and molds to thrive, thereby producing a foul smell.

Excess Suds: Too much detergents can cause excess lather, thereby making it difficult for the washer to run the rinse cycle. Adding excess detergents can make your washing machine inefficient and also affect the lifespan in long run.

Clothes appear dull: Since your washer becomes inefficient due to excess sud and build of blockages the effect can be seen in form of dull clothes and poor cleaning.

Choking of drainage system: Excess detergents especially the powdered one’s can leave residue behind no matter how expensive they are. These residues just build up over time and affects the drainage system of your washer. Furthermore, it also helps bacteria and mold to not only survive but thrive, thereby causing a foul smell.

Sometime Noise: The tries hard but simply can’t function smoothly due to blockages and excess suds, therefore it’s not at all surprising to hear noise from your overworked washer.

READ: How to Troubleshoot Portable Washer

Can too much laundry detergent ruin clothes?

Anything excess is bad for your washer, pouring in excess detergent and expecting magical benefit may not be a sensible idea as it will affect your soft clothes in a negative way.

Pouring excess Laundry detergents into the washer can affect your clothes in the following ways:

  • Excess lather makes it harder for your washer to run the cycles smoothly, thereby making your clothes appear dull, and also the stains are not removed effectively.
  • The residue that remains after you are done washing, will affect your clothes by making it hard and rough as its keeps circulating in your washer.
  • Due to buildup of residue, bacteria can thrive as a result your clothes may smell.


Selecting a good detergent can really prolong the lifespan of your washing machine. Furthermore, it also helps to optimize the cleaning quality.

Always select detergents based on the below criteria:

  • It should be designed specifically for washing machine
  • It should have low sud formula
  • Avoid normal detergents as it tends to leave residue behind, which ends up choking the drainage system

Happy Washing!!

If you have any other queries related to washing machines OR Portable washers, we may have already answered them in our dedicated FAQ section here.

Hemant Sarkar is a seasoned techie with a diploma in computer science and an impressive track record of over 15 years in dealing with speakers, kitchen appliances, and various home appliance-related issues. He is widely recognized for his exceptional expertise in repairing dryers and washing machines from all major brands. In addition to his appliance repair prowess, Hemant maintains engaging blogs on topics related to music and speakers. For any inquiries or assistance regarding appliances or tech-related matters, you can reach out to him at: hemant (at) theportablelaundry.com.