Using a washing machine: how to use detergent in your washing machine

You may think using a washing machine is simple but you could be doing it all wrong! Find out the correct way to use a washing machine & laundry detergent here.


Washing Machine Detergent

No one wants to admit they don’t really know how to use their washing machine, but it’s something that’s shockingly common. While many of us can get by without knowing the ‘rules’, we may not be doing what’s right for our clothes, or for our bank balance. Knowing how to use the washing machine properly – including understanding how, when, and why to use detergent – can keep our clothes looking their best, and also save us money in the long term.

Where to Put the Detergent in a Washing Machine

Powdered detergent can either be put into a detergent drawer, or directly into the washer in a mesh bag – the choice is yours. Many people prefer to put powdered detergent straight into the drum because powder takes a little longer to work than liquid detergent as it needs to dissolve first – the powder has longer to dissolve when it comes into contact with the water earlier on (the drawer may not dispense the powder until later in the wash cycle). Make sure to follow the directions on the label of your washing powder – this way, you will get the best results.

Where to Put Liquid Detergent in a Washing Machine

This depends upon the liquid detergent you’re using. If you use a product like Persil Non-Bio liquid, you should put the detergent into the drum inside the dosing ball, following the instructions on the bottle.

Other liquid detergents may need placing into the detergent drawer, which is usually separated into three compartments labelled like this: I / II / *. You can read our guide to symbols on a washing machine here

How Much Detergent Should I Use?

Most of us have this deeply embedded idea that using more detergent will produce better results. It doesn’t. In fact, using too much detergent is not only a waste of money, but it can leave your clothes feeling rather unpleasant. Using too much detergent means that the soap – whether it be liquid or powder – cannot dissolve or be rinsed properly in the amount of water used for a standard wash cycle. Soap remains on the clothes, eventually drying and leaving the clothing stiff and crisp, almost like cardboard.

Detergent manufacturers have conducted many tests to find the optimal amount of detergent to use in each wash, and this information should be on the back of all detergent packaging. Generally speaking, this will be between two and four ‘scoops’ (a scoop is a measuring device that many boxes of detergent come with) per wash, depending on how dirty your clothes are, and whether you’ve got hard or soft water in your home. You’ll need to use more if you’ve got hard water as soaps do not foam as well when they’re contending with the natural minerals found in hard water.

What Type of Detergent is Best?

There’s actually no set-in-stone answer, as the type of detergent you use should not only be dependent upon your clothing and the level of dirt, but also upon your particular type of washing machine. Here’s a brief rundown of the different detergents you might see at your local supermarket:

Liquid Detergent

Liquid detergent is often considered to be a good all-rounder. Being liquid, it dissolves well in most conditions, and it’s relatively easy to measure the right amount. It’s well worth keeping a liquid detergent in your cupboard at all times, particularly as it’s suitable for cold and quick washes too.

Powdered Detergent

Powdered detergent is a more traditional form of detergent, and it’s therefore often the more cost effective option – certainly a little more budget-friendly than liquid detergent. The issue with powdered detergent is that it struggles to dissolve in cooler temperatures, so may not be the best option if you’re washing delicate fabrics at 30 degrees.

Top Loading Detergent

Top loading detergent is, of course, designed for top loading washing machines. You may also see it called ‘high efficiency’ detergent and is great at getting really deep within the fibres of your clothing for a thorough clean.

Front Loading Detergent

Front loading detergent is specifically designed to minimise soap suds. Excess suds can become caught in the door mechanism, making them difficult to remove during the rinse cycle. This type of detergent cleans well, despite not foaming like other detergents.

Stain Removal Detergent

Stain removal detergent offers built-in stain removal properties, which essentially does the same job as a separate pre-treatment, removing the need to treat stubborn stains prior to washing. Some may contain a bleaching agent, whereas others use more natural products, such as citrus oils.


These give you all the benefits of liquid detergent, in a handy little package. There’s no measuring detergent out and absolutely no mess, making them ideal if you’re in a hurry. Just remember to keep caps away from kids. For more information, read our handy guide on storing cleaning products safely.

Originally published