September 2, 2014

HE Washers Need HE Detergent

When I got my new frontloading, high efficiency(HE) washer, I was told I could use a smaller amount of regular detergent or buy the more expensive high efficiency(HE) detergent.  It was up to me, there would be little difference other than a bit more sudsing with the regular soap.  I decided to start with the HE detergent and discovered that it sudses up too. In fact, I had to cut back to half the amount of HE detergent per load or the washer stopped, flashing an error code.  Now, by using half, the cost was equal too.

It seems that the sudsing is an issue for many people, some feel you need it, others don’t care, but the real concern should be- are the clothes clean?  I’ve been looking around and found that fixitnow.com has some great (although sometimes quirky) answers to the HE vs regular detergent question.

You have to start with the understanding that the tumble action of high-efficiency washers (i.e., front loaders) produce more suds than the agitator action in top loaders. Now most of people think, “Oooo, sudsy, that’s good!” No, not good. Suds do nothing to clean your clothes and are actually an undesirable by-product of the detergent’s chemical interaction with the water.
The main job of detergents is to remove soils and stains. They do this by breaking down the surface tension of water, in effect, making water “wetter.” The water is what actually does the cleaning by slipping in between the [dirt] and the fabric, separating them and suspending the [dirt] in solution.

Detergents are designed to freshen, remove odors, and brighten fabrics as they clean. Another key detergent function is to hold [dirt], and any dyes from colored fabrics, suspended in the wash water so they aren’t re-deposited back onto the cleaned clothes. Traditional detergents are designed to do this in high water volumes used by conventional, top-loading water hog washers.
If you think about it, using HE detergent in your front loader is really common sense. Because of the low-water wash and rinse cycles in HE washers, HE detergents must work differently from traditional laundry detergents in order to be effective. So, a bunch of them pointy-headed scientist types with all kinds of fancy degrees hung on their walls got together to design detergents that would be low-sudsing and quick-dispersing to get the best cleaning performance in front-loading washers.
Excessive sudsing can cause problems in HE washers by “cushioning” — or even preventing — the tumbling action. HE detergents also hold soils and dyes in suspension in low water volumes, so they don’t re-deposit onto cleaned clothes.
Excess suds can cause the washer’s pump to overheat causing premature failure of the pump. These excess suds also cause residue to build up inside the drum and hoses. After a while, your washer will start giving off a moldy funk and infecting your clothes with its faint, musky stink.
Low wash temperatures and/or use of regular detergent (which causes excess suds) may prevent some [dirt] from completely rinsing out of the front-loading washing machines. Oily soils and some dirt-type soils are especially sensitive to lower wash temperatures and medium to high suds levels. Over time, [dirt] will accumulate in the washer and lead to the growth of bacteria and mold, which we professional appliantologists refer to as bio-gookus. This bio-gookus will start stinking and may even impart odors to your clothes. To avoid all this unpleasantness, you should periodically run a maintenance cycle on your front-loader.

The Fix it now folks suggest the following to run a maintenance cycle:

1. Select the hot water setting. If there is no hot water setting, then select a “white” or a “stain” cycle setting. (Note: do not put laundry in the washer.)

2. Select the “extra rinse” option, if offered.

3. Add liquid chlorine bleach to the bleach dispenser. Fill to its maximum level.

4. Run the cycle through its completion.

5. If the washer does not have a second rinse option, manually select an additional rinse cycle to ensure that no chlorine bleach remains in your washer.

6. If your washer still has a funk, repeat steps 1 through 5 as necessary.

BTW, this is good to do periodically on top-loaders, too.

I switched to HE detergent from the start with my front loader, and after reading this, I’m glad I did. These washers are an expensive investment, and I want mine to last a long time.

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Comments

  1. Great information you have here. Many users of front loading washing machines still choose regular detergents. But in addition to all those pointed out in this article, using regular detergent in front loaders might render your washer warranty void. Most appliance companies do not acknowledge warranty if the default of the washer is caused by the use of regular detergent.