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  Save Cash On Detergents

Most people waste lots of money on dtergents, here's how to be smart and save big


There are two main schools of thought on detergent use, both seem completely contradictory to each other, one from detergent manufacturers and the other from washing machine manufacturers and we want to explain both to people. You can make your own mind up on what to believe from what the motives are for both and, what we see in the field.

After you understand that we'll show you how you can save more on detergent than you could ever hope to save on electricity.

  Washing Machine Manufacturers

Since the early 1990’s the focus for washing machine manufacturers has been to increase capacities and to decrease energy use.

As a by-product of this, wash times have been extended and water level reduced. You can find out all about that in other articles but, in essence, it means that the washing machine that you buy today will not operate in exactly the same way as your old one did as the technologies advance.

As a result, users are forced to change their habits given that governments and markets demand that the technologies move forward and that less resources are used.

In an effort to get an AAA rating, A class energy use, A class wash results and A class spin results certain sacrifices have had to be made. But beyond this we are now at A++++ energy use meaning that even more has changed as the lowest possible energy use is chased and, people want that.

Given that a number of manufacturers seem to work out the energy efficiency based on the energy use per kilo of wash load it is in their interest, to get a lower rating and therefore higher sales by being the most efficient, to get the energy down and capacity up. Even if it isn't always the whole truth.

Less water however, you would think logically, means that less detergent or soap powder is needed but, the detergent manufacturers will tell you that this isn’t the case. 

Meanwhile, many washing machine manufacturers will tell that this is indeed the case, you need to use less detergent. 

The motivation to do so, if you were cynical, would be to enhance the “green credentials” but, beyond that there is little to be gained by a washing machine manufacturer in telling you to use less detergent as they don’t make it and, don’t profit by the sale of it.

  Laundry Detergent Manufacturers

As we said, almost all laundry detergent manufacturers will tell you to continue to use the same amount of detergent or soap powder that you always have done. In fact, on large capacity washing machines (7kg and above) they recommend that more detergent is used.

If we were to again take a cynical view you would have to say, well they would say that wouldn't they as they make money from selling you detergent, if they sell you more than you actually need they only stand to gain by that.

But, is that really true?

In part it probably is but it also is not. As with many things in life, the answer is often more complicated than a sound bite allows.


Soap powder shelf in a supermarketMost detergents and conditioners are sold in supermarkets in the UK or through their online stores.

They make money when they sell detergents and conditioners. Same when they sell you a whole bunch of add ons that you really don't need, which is why we have conditioner.

Do you really think that these retailers who's job it is to sell you stuff to make money want you to use less?

  One Detergent Cannot Do It All

When using detergents you have to consider the volume of clothing being washed, the type of clothing you are washing and how dirty it is before you begin.

Then you have to work around the performance of your particular washing machine as, whilst they all work with the same basic principles, they do so in slightly different ways.

It is of note though that whilst a washing machine maker only has to consider the appliance and how it performs in isolation in test conditions with scant regard for much else, the detergent manufacturer has to make a product that works in all machines spanning back decades. In other words, from the most poorly performing energy and water guzzling machines right up to the newest and most efficient ones.

And, that's not even thinking about special programs, different water loads, different drum capacities and a myriad of other factors.

It would be reasonable to logically conclude then that, this isn't possible. One size cannot fit all.

The only way around that would be to produce a specific detergent for each washing machine type or, person's needs. That wouldn't be financially viable and likely not possible.

Although, detergent manufacturers have looked at personalised solutions, probably due to the problems around this stuff that people have.

When people get problems around detergent use they seem to simply switch brands or, blame their washing machine for doing it wrong. Neither address the actual issues.

  Zero Communication

Would it come as a shock to learn that all too often that the manufacturers of washing machines, the detergent manufacturers and supermarkets have virtually zero communication with each other?

You see the odd deal done where a manufacturer will endorse a certain detergent, Reckitt are good at this with dishwashers using Finish and it earns a good bit of money for some brands but, in the main, they never talk.

Supermarkets. Well, they don't even give any advice to people on this at all, they just sell the detergent and conditioner, what do they care? They don't even display all the stuff in a sensible way normally which only adds to the confusion.

As for garment manufacturers, forget it. There's no benefit to them in recommending either.

Now you know where the vested interests lie to some degree and that users are left to their own devices to work it all out.

  Instructions For Soap Powder

If you look on the packs and, even on the websites that you can find you will normally find very generic instructions for using detergent, powders and conditioner from the makers. If you find any at all as many of the cheaper brands have virtually no instructions.

Washing machine soap powderThen you have your washing machine where the instructions on using detergents and conditioners are, well, not very good at best normally.

The reason for this is fairly simple after you know what's above.

The washing machine manufacturer hasn't a clue what detergents or conditioners you're going to use, how much, washing what and on which program. Because, lots of people do different things and we don't all buy the same stuff that's put in the machine therefore, you cannot determine what will be required.

The best you can do is give generic guidelines on use and assume that the people that buy your washing machines are smart enough and apply common sense to work it out. So all you get is a scoop or measuiring bowl and a few notes, that's it.

The detergent manufacturer has the same problem but, still more, their products are being used in untold numbers of different brands, models, capacities as well as all the user stuff.

Neither can give decent instructions given the huge number of variables.

  How You Can Save Money

With all of that knowledge imparted you can now get onto the serious business of saving your valuable cash as, we're quite sure that you have no burning desire to give the supermarkets and detergent makers any more money than you absolutely have to right?

You get now that these guys want you to use more than you have to because, that's how they make their money.

You get that, really, the washing machine makers have no vested interest in you using more than you have to and it suits them if you don't as their machines are then seen, by you, as being more efficient and cheaper to run.

By dosing smart, for a four person household, you can save nearly £100 a year in some cases on detergent alone, never mind conditioner. That is way, way more than you can hope to save on electricity over the same period even with almost any hugely efficient washing machine.

Detergent and conditioners are the most expensive part of the wash process and, the one that's ripe for making savings on.

So here's a chart (it's the easiest way to show you) how much you can save on reduced doses of detergent alone.


  1 Person  2 Person  3 Person  4 Person 
Average No. Washes  117  234 351  468 
Average Annual Cost   £33.14  £66.27  £99.41  £132.54 
Savings Using 50% Dose  £16.57 £33.14  £49.70  £66.27 
Savings Using 25% Dose   £24.85 £49.70  £74.56  £99.41 


Although a simplified version, this chart is based on the average cost of detergent across the leading brands taking into account liquids and powders to give a mean cost per wash then we do some maths and get to the level of saving that you get by reducing the dose.

The average washing machine use is as shown equating to 117 washes per year, per person and the average cost per load for detergent circa mid-2013 is 28 pence.

Whilst we would probably spend the savings on beer, because we're like that and we like beer, we're sure that you can find better things to spend the savings on than soap powder.

  Experimentation Is Key

Most detergent packing has a recommended dose on it for soft, medium and hard water and, just as they say, you have to adjust the dose depending on your water hardness.

Here in Central Scotland, we have very soft water and we can easily live with a 25% dose and sometimes even less for clothing that isn't truly dirty. We found that using more caused issues with excessive foaming when we were testing on a Beko machine and an ISE 1606 and W256. The W256 used less, about 20% dose because it was still more efficient than the other two.

For heavily soiled or hot cotton washes for towels and bedding we increased the dose to a little under 50% and the results were absolutely fine. We think we could have gotten away with less but felt it better to get improved wash results given the higher wash temperature and that the laundry would be more dirty.

Importantly however, we didn't test on quick washes as they are not real washes!

A map showing the water hardness across the UKIn some areas, notably some parts around Manchester, where the water is incredibly soft many users have found that they have to use about 10% of the recommended dose or they can have issues with overfoaming.

In high water hardness areas like London the reverse is true and the saving that you can make is lessened as you need the component in the detergent called builders in greater quantity to combat the chalk in the water that causes limescale and to still retain the cleaning performance.

The dose that you need to use will vary depending on the hardness of the water in your area, the type of laundry that you are cleaning and the level of soiling in them. So, you need to experiment to get the balance right just for you. Refer to the map for a rough guide but even within these broad strokes water hardness can alter, it is only a guide.

On most modern high efficiency washing machines though, the stock advice from the engineers is to dial back the dose to at least 50% of recommendation and take it from there on a trial and error basis.

Try it and see what you get as a result, the worst that can happen is that you need to rewash the load but it could save you a considerable amount of cash. Can you afford to ignore the possibility?

  Problems We See

As field engineers we see loads of problems that are user generated and, we do mean loads.

Sure we could come out and charge you to give you advice and tell you this but, really, that's not our way of doing things. We repair problems with the machines themselves and we can repair faults with no problem normally. Something breaks, we fix it.

What we cannot repair are use issues, all we can do is advise people as best we can. Whether people want to believe us or not is not our call.

Overfoaming in washing machines are two that we see on a fairly regular basis and can cause a myriad of issues from leaks to direct damage to your washing machine. 

We would rather see our customers not wasting money where there is no need to do so and, that includes paying us to come to your home and tell you this stuff. We would much prefer to be repairing broken machines.

There is loads of advice on this site about how to get the best from your washing machine and detergents, you just need to take a little time to learn a bit about them. 

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