Using Homemade Laundry Detergent in an HE Washing Machine

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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Comments

  1. Marie says

    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…

  2. says

    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!!!

    • Peggy says

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

  3. Kimberly says

    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.

  4. kristie says

    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.

    • andrea says

      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.

  5. Jennie says

    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!

  6. says

    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.

    • Stephanie says

      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.

  7. says

    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.

    • Jenn @ Frugal Upstate says

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

  8. says

    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

    • tammy says

      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

      • Paula Hughes says

        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.

    • Deanie says

      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.

      • Jenn @ Frugal Upstate says

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

        • Deanie says

          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!!

          • Jenn @ Frugal Upstate says

            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 says

      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.

  9. Dave Triplett says

    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

    • Jenn @ Frugal Upstate says

      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 :)

    • Linda says

      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.

    • Samantha says

      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?

  10. Deanna B says

    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.

  11. Lora Smith says

    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.

  12. lexi bond says

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

  13. greg says

    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

    • mindy says

      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.)

    • Kristin marr says

      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!!!!!!!

      • rb says

        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.

  14. Roxanne Williams says

    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. :)

  15. Alisha says

    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?

    • Deanie says

      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.

  16. Jamie says

    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?

  17. aimee says

    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???

  18. Hannah says

    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.

  19. Miranda G. says

    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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