Front Loaders and Detergent Issues


Jan 1, 2004


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About a year ago I moved into a dwelling that came equipped with a Kenmore Elite HE3t front-loading washing machine. I had previously used older front-loaders at a Laundromat, but had no experience with an "HE" type machine. One of the great advantages of these machines is that they use far less water per load. They are also gentler on clothes, and get them much cleaner than conventional top-loading washing machines.

Being a creature of habit, I proceeded to add a capful of my favorite liquid detergent to the soap dispenser tray. Next I pushed the "normal" wash button, held the "start" button for a few seconds, and was informed by the digital display that my load of laundry would be done in 45 minutes.

Lies! Nearly three hours later, my load finally finished. During the time, I noticed that the digital display was showing the letters "SUD." Finding the operating manual for said machine; I finally located a reference to this message. I quoth: "To avoid excessive sudsing, reduce detergent amounts or use HE detergents."

Another article in this forum exposes the HE Detergent Scam, and the author makes many excellent points, which I suggest you, read before using a HE front-loader.

I have found a few little tricks that works quite well, and do not require you to switch to HE detergent OR reduce the amount of detergent you would normally use. Simply add an equal amount of liquid fabric softener to your detergent.
Fabric softener virtually eliminates suds from occurring.

A fellow I sat next to one day on a commercial flight related another trick to me. It turned out he was a laundry detergent salesman who called on hotels and other large institutions. He said that the effectiveness of any detergent increases by 50% when the wash water is increased in temperature by 15 degrees Fahrenheit. So by simply feeding your wash with hot water, 120 degrees as opposed to 60 degrees, for instance, you'll get a 237% increased effectiveness of your detergent (in other words the detergent will work 337.5% of the capacity that it would if you use cold water.) Therefore, you can decrease the amount of detergent that you use by 70%. Add an equal amount of fabric softener and sudsing will no longer be a problem.

By the way, I live in Hawaii, where "cold" water is about 57 degrees, and usually closer to 70 degrees. For people in harsher climates, especially during cold winter months, water temperature may be substantially colder, so the difference between using hot and cold water may allow you to reduce the detergent used even more. Also, I keep my water heater set at the lowest possible temperature, but your water heater may well generate 140-degree hot water.

One last point, by reducing the sudsing problem, the wash cycle comes closer to the 45 minutes suggested by the digital display. I have yet to see this machine ever finish a load in less than 55 or 60 minutes, however! One day I'll run an experiment and was a load of clothes without any detergent, and see if the load is completed in 45 minutes.

Other interesting points... if you wash three loads of laundry per week in a HE frontloader as opposed to a standard top-loading machine, you will save about 15 gallons of water per load. That amounts to 45 gallons per week, 2,340 gallons per year, and if you estimate the life of the machine to be 10 years minimum, a total of 23,400 gallons of water.

If you always wash in hot or warm water, you will make a substantial savings in water heating costs.


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Member: Glenn Ordell
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