Using Homemade Laundry Detergent in an HE Washing Machine

by Jenn @ Frugal Upstate on March 10, 2010

The most frequent question I get about my homemade laundry soap recipe-both here on the blog and over on my YouTube video for making laundry soap is “Can I use homemade laundry soap/ laundry detergent  in an HE washing machine?”

HE Washing Machine

Photo by r4n

The next most common question is “Really? Only one TBS for a load?”. . . but I digress.

HE stands for “High Efficiency” -HE washers are typically front loading washers specifically created to use less water than a standard washing machine.  Because less water is used, laundry detergent must be low sudsing and disperse quickly.  About.com has a great article explaining HE Clothes Washers that you can read for more information.

Unfortunately I do not have an HE washer, and I can not offer solid advice or personal experience on this question.  What I can say is this.  Homemade laundry soap has almost no suds-that is actually one of the complaints you hear from first time users.  “There were no suds and the water looked gray? Is that right?”*

If I were the person with an HE washer, I would personally feel comfortable trying the homemade laundry detergent in the machine.  However I am not an expert-each of you faced with this decision will have to make your own choice based on the facts you have available.

I did look around to see what some of my favorite sources had to say about using homemade laundry detergent/soap in an HE machine.  The fabulous Tipnut addresses this about 2 pages down in her “Homemade Laundry Detergent FAQ“, and Thrifty Fun had this exact question about HE washers & soap asked-you can go read all the answers from their readers.

Do any of you use homemade detergent in an HE machine? What are your feelings on the matter?

*note: Yes, it is normal for there to be little or no suds.  Yes, it is normal for the water to look gray-that’s the dirt coming out of the clothes.  You just don’t notice it with your store bought detergent because the suds keep you from seeing the water.


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{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

Marie March 10, 2010 at 11:22 am

I use the Duggar family’s recipe for homemade detergent. It calls for 1/4c for HE washers. That’s what I use! It’s been working great for us, for one year now…

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Marie March 10, 2010 at 11:23 am

That’s 1/4c of a liquid recipe, so it does include some water.

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Dawn March 10, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Yes!!!! I’ve used my powder recipe in my HE machine from the get go. I got the machines almost 3 years ago and haven’t had one problem. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it!!!

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Peggy November 1, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Do you put the powdered homemade detergent into the washer before the clothes or do you put it in the detergent dispenser?

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Jenn @ Frugal Upstate November 6, 2013 at 9:41 am

I don’t have an HE machine myself, so I put the dry powder in with my clothes. From the others in the comments it seems that folks put it in wherever they would usually put powdered detergent.

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Kimberly March 10, 2010 at 2:28 pm

I have an HE front loader and I use homemade powdered. I use about 1.5 tbsp a load, and it works great! Not a problem here. I’ve never had a problem with it not disolving or clothes not coming out clean. I love it. I also use Vinegar as my fabric softener.

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Miranda L March 15, 2012 at 4:27 pm

When using vinegar as a fabric softner, do you put it in the fabric softener dispenser?

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Jenn @ Frugal Upstate March 16, 2012 at 9:19 am

Miranda-Honestly, I”m not sure since I don’t have an HE machine myself. I would think that putting it in the fabric softener dispenser would work. Maybe someone who knows will chime in :)

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Mandy C. March 18, 2012 at 10:49 pm

Yes, just add it to the fabric softener dispenser. :) I do and it works great.

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Jenn @ Frugal Upstate March 19, 2012 at 7:38 am

Thanks Mandy!

kristie March 10, 2010 at 6:19 pm

I too use this in my HE front loader after I saw you on YouTube making it. I do 1 Tbsp./load… LOVE IT!!! I was using Kirkland (from Costco) and all of my clothes were smelling musty and it was gunking up my dispenser as well. I will use nothing but this and it is so cheap and easy to make.

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andrea August 3, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Thanks for that tip, I have been wondering if I could use my Kirkland detergent in my HE washer, and now I know. I am going to switch to homemade detergent once my HE detergent is gone.

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Jennie March 11, 2010 at 8:55 am

I have been using your recipe for homemade laundry detergent for several months in my HE frontloader (GE, bought last year). I use anywhere from 1 to 2 tablespoons for load, depending on how many clothes and how dirty they are. Usually just 1 tablespoon, though. I could not be more pleased with the results. The clothes get as clean as with Tide liquid and there is no residue or smell in the clothes. An awful lot of commerical laundry detergents have a smell that gives me allergy problems but now it is such a relief to not have to fight that. Thanks for the recipe!

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Surviving and thriving on pennies March 11, 2010 at 12:47 pm

I bought a HE washer about 5 years ago and have used my homemade laundry soap in it the whole time. No suds was one of the weird things but it always gets my clothing clean and smelling great.
I myself use about 1/3 cup per load.

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Brandi @ Frugal Farmhouse March 12, 2010 at 11:25 pm

I always wondered how it worked or even if it did with HE Thanks!

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Zach Smith April 13, 2010 at 12:06 am

Actually, when you are using home made detergent or regular detergent in your HE washing machine, you can no longer use your warranty claim. Many manufacturing companies do not help their clients who experience washer failures because the clients did not strictly use HE detergent. I suppose you have to wait for the warranty to expire before using any other detergent for your washer.

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Stephanie April 19, 2012 at 4:00 pm

I had a 5 year extended warrantly from lowes for my HE washer, and they had to service it several times, they never asked me what soap I used, they just came out and fixed it. — LOVE my homemade soap, I use 2tbps for each load.

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Condo Blues May 18, 2010 at 1:52 pm

I have an HE washer and I switched to making my own powdered laundry detergent because I couldn’t find a powdered HE laundry detergent that I liked. I have to use powdered detergent because I like to use powdered oxygen bleach for my whites.

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Jenn @ Frugal Upstate May 19, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Thanks for sharing! It’s good to hear from folks who are really using the recipe in an HE washer.

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Phil McDonnell March 19, 2011 at 10:08 pm

I know this is about a year old post but I just came across it and would like to know how everyone is using power in their front loading HE machines?

Are you putting it in with the wash or putting it in the dispenser? I thought the dispenser was for liquid only?

Also what type of bleach do you use for whites?

Thanks,
Phil

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tammy May 31, 2011 at 8:35 am

I was wondering the same thing. My machine is a top load but I still have to have liquid HE. Maybe someone will answer soon.
Tammy

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Paula Hughes October 29, 2012 at 8:42 pm

I have a HE machine, and have used powder detergent. I just pour it in the dispenser and then rinse it down with a large cup of water. works like a charm. I have a problem at my home that everyone uses too much liquid detergent so I will be trying the homemade kind this month and see how that does.

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Deanie July 23, 2011 at 5:56 pm

I was wondering the same thing, so I mixed up a powdered batch with one bar of Ivory soap, grated; 1 cup borax, and 1 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda..mixed very well until soap flakes are blended well…a recipe I found several days ago. I used 1 Tablespoon of it in a load of white towels and washcloths. I put it in the detergent dispenser (wondering if I would find a gooey mess at the end of the cycle), put regular fabric softner in it’s dispenser and washed with hot water. I was pretty impressed. My son uses a dark blue body wash that stains the washcloths. I could NOT tell which ones he had used! They were that clean! And the Ivory soap just smells clean, not overpowering. This was just my first load, but I’m pleased enough to continue it.

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Jenn @ Frugal Upstate July 24, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Deanie-thanks so much for sharing your real world experience! Glad that the laundry soap worked well for you.

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Deanie August 23, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Just as an update… I just finished using up my first batch. It lasted about a month and I got about 42 loads out of it. I figured it cost about $1.97 per batch, making it less than .05 per load! No problems in the machine! Clothes came out as clean, if not better, than purchased detergent. I just did this on a whim, because a friend of mine told me about it. But now I’m hooked!!

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Jenn @ Frugal Upstate August 23, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Awesome! Thanks for coming back to let us know :) I’ll probably pull your comment out and put it as a reader’s letter so other folks can hear about your great experience.

K May 7, 2012 at 2:27 pm

To use powder in your HE machine you just take out the liquid soap dispenser cup and put the powder where the liquid soap dispenser was.

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Dave Triplett May 27, 2011 at 11:42 pm

I’m going to make my first batch of laundry detergent in the next few days. Has anyone experimented with using a pleasantly scented soap like Coast or Irish Spring as the bar soap? I was thinking of grating that instead of the unscented stuff – It seems like a good idea to me, but I’ve never done this before. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
Thanks, Dave

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Jenn @ Frugal Upstate May 30, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Dave-I have heard about folks doing that-but if you use scented soap just remember you will be adding whatever is in it-detergents, moisturizers/lotions, color etc into your wash water. Whether that matters or not is up to you :)

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Linda September 7, 2012 at 9:20 pm

If you want scented, try adding a few drops of a favorite essential oil (from health food stores or online) to your entire batch of soap or your can do some with and some without. Different oils give scents and most give added cleaning or disinfection power to your soap.

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Jenny September 13, 2011 at 2:22 pm

How much home made liquid detergent should I use per load in HE washing machine?

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Jenn @ Frugal Upstate September 13, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Jenny-I’m sorry, I don’t know! I have never made the liquid version.

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Samantha October 27, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Jenny,

That is what I was out to find as well. When I bought my front load washer and dryer the Sales Lady went on and on about “only uses one tablespoon per load!” but one tablespoon doesn’t fill to the MIN line, so I always have had to add more to make sure that the MIN line is reached. I am wanting to switch to homemade but am kind of lost as to what the amount needed will be? Any suggestions, anyone?

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Deanna B November 9, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Hello to all!

After finding a recipe online, I have been making powdered laundry soap for a little over a year now. I have to say that I absolutely love it! The “no suds” at first almost threw me off but when I realized my clothes came out clean, I was hooked. I also use 1/2 c vinegar in my towels and blankets and could not be happier. I am getting ready to buy my first HE washer and have been researching whether or not I can still use the homemade laundry soap and it looks like a resounding YES! I will try the 1 TBSP per load and bump it up if I need to. I am excited about this and will let everyone know how it turns out. I am currently using 2 TBSP of detergent per load with my regular washer and that seems to do the trick.

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Lora Smith November 10, 2011 at 5:00 pm

I am going to make my first batch of homemade detergent tomorrow and have been searching online for the best recipe. I have been reading thru the comments, and on every site I went to, the no suds thing was pretty unanimous. If detergent is anything like shampoo, which I’m pretty sure it is, the soaps used are lacking sulfate (usually sodium laurel or sodium laureth sulfate). * With shampoo, the sulfate free has very little to no lather. It is really wierd at first, and almost makes you want to use more because of the lack of lather. Once you realize that adding more isn’t going to make it lather, and just use it anyway, you notice that it cleans just as good as the other stuff…and its actually better for your hair especially if you have any chemical treatments because it is much gentler on the hair.* The sulfate is what makes the lather or suds, so as long as the detergent has a base surfactant (aka cleansing agent) it is going to clean.

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lexi bond December 4, 2011 at 7:23 pm

WILL THIS HOMEMADE WASHER DETERGENT WORKS WELL IN COLD WATER WASH? PLEASE LET ME KNOW BEFORE I MAKE THIS DETERGENT. THANKS, LEXI

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Jenn @ Frugal Upstate December 5, 2011 at 8:12 am

Lexi-I always use my powdered laundry soap in cold water-however I use a regular top load not an HE. . . but from the comments folks have made I would guess that it would work fine in an HE as well.

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greg March 6, 2012 at 12:17 am

Can someone respond with reference to any warranty being denied, due to the fact they “somehow” knew that homemade detergent was used? I would think that would be nearly impossible to determine, especially if this stuff (especially liquid) cleans up so well after use. I just bought a brand new Sammy front loader with a 5 yr extended warr. and would hang myself if i did something to void that warranty. Please, only to those who this applies and not speculation. G

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Jenn @ Frugal Upstate March 6, 2012 at 7:42 am

Greg-I’ve never heard of an actual case.

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mindy May 16, 2012 at 1:52 am

greg- I have had my HE front loader for 6 years. Recently I had a technician come out for an error code. One of the first questions he asked was if I only used HE detergent and looked over my Tide HE bottle carefully. Since my container was 1/2 full he trusted my answer. I thought that to be a weird question….now I understand. However, my washer is not under it’s original warranty, but is covered under a complete home warranty. and btw, my error code had nothing to do with my detergent, it was a problem with my control panel. (I am only in the research stage of homemade detergents and have never used it.)

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Kristin marr July 11, 2012 at 11:39 pm

Soap scum will build up and affect your seal. If you don’t keep it clean it ill leak. Reg he det will not leave soap scum. Ivory and dove will leave scum i. Seal, wash bin and accessory drawer. Speaking from experience. Use AFRESH tabs monthly!!!! sears serviced appliances, butni quit using since I only had 2 yr warranty!!!!!!!

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Jenn @ Frugal Upstate July 12, 2012 at 8:06 am

Kristin-thanks for your input.

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rb November 13, 2012 at 12:12 pm

My repairman told me the same thing. My new front loader does not specify HE detergent, he told me that old fashioned soaps and detergents float the scum to the top of the water which deposits scum up high inside of places that fail because of it. He said he has seen it time and time again. He told me NO bleach either that eats something I think he called the spider which is made out of a very thin metal. He also said bleach substitutes, borax, and vinegar were very safe in the modern washers.

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Roxanne Williams March 28, 2012 at 3:09 am

In response to the question about using nice scented soaps, like Irish Spring and Coast…Yes, yes, yes and they are awesome to use. I’ve been making homemade powdered detergent for several years now and have experimented a lot. Coast and Irish Spring are most requested by family and friends because they do leave a lovely, lingering scent on clothes. Use just about any fragrant soap, except for moisturizing soaps like Dove. I’ll end my post with a couple of great tips. I usually grate about 12 bars at a time and place the soap flakes in an open container in my home. I allow the flakes to dry out for a couple of weeks, which makes the room it’s in – smell glorious! Then I pulse flakes in my Magic Bullet to a fine powder This process makes the detergent dissolve well in the wash. Last tip and then I’ll hush: I put leftover soap slivers in a ball jar filled with hot water and a few tablespoons of baking soda. Give it a shake from time to time until soap is dissolved. I use this mixture for dark/cold water loads. I’d say 1/2 cup for large loads. :)

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Alisha April 12, 2012 at 12:02 am

I didn’t see a response to the questions about the HE washers… do you add the powder to the dispenser or directly in the machine when washing a load?

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Roxanne April 13, 2012 at 3:40 am

I find it works better to add directly in the machine.

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Jenn @ Frugal Upstate April 13, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Thanks for your input Roxanne

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Deanie June 11, 2012 at 7:54 pm

I have a front load HE so I put it in the dispenser where I had previously put the liquid. I’ve never had a problem with it not emptying completely, or making a mess in the dispenser. Someone said take the liquid dispenser cup out but if I did that on mine, the detergent, fabric softner and bleach (if used) would all run together.

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Jamie April 23, 2012 at 10:29 am

The smell of vinegar really turns my stomach. Does it leave your clothes with a strong scent when you use it as fabric softener? Are they soft?

Where can I find this receipe for the laundry detergent?

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Jenn @ Frugal Upstate April 23, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Jamie-there is no vinegar smell at all once the clothing is dried-while they are still wet you can smell it a bit.

The recipe for the laundry soap can be found here: http://www.frugalupstate.com/recipes/recipe-homemade-powdered-laundry-soap/

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aimee July 16, 2012 at 10:18 pm

So what are these wonderful recipes :)
There was reference to the Duggars recipe back in 2010 here – and an August 2011 comment about making it with shavings of Ivory bar soap – I’ve heard of that but don’t have the recipe.

Also, using vinegar as a fabric softner? Doesn’t that make the clothes smell eh???

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Jenn @ Frugal Upstate July 18, 2012 at 7:43 am

Aimee-the recipe for the powdered laundry soap is here: http://www.frugalupstate.com/recipes/recipe-homemade-powdered-laundry-soap/ The vinegar has no scent when it dry-so even if there is a slight vinegar smell when you take it out of the washer it will be gone by the time it dries.

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Hannah October 25, 2012 at 12:01 pm

I have an HE front loader washing machine and I’ve made my own liquid laundry detergent. I Personally think it’s best to use liquid in HE front loader. I use Kirk’s Castile soap instead of the other more recommended. It’s not harsh.

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Miranda G. November 2, 2012 at 9:38 pm

I too have started making my own dry laundry detergent and have been using it in my HE machine. The recipe I use is 2 cups grated ivory soap, 2 cups washing soda, 2 cups baking soda, 1 cup borax and 1/4 cup purex crystals (island splash scent). With the addition of the purex comes a little price increase, but it is still averaging to 5 1/2 cents a load. This soap has gotten my clothes cleaner and brighter than any commercially produced detergent! I use 2 TB in each load if they’re heavily soiled or not. The clothes do not come out heavily scented, but they just smell clean!

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