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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! Learn the best way to use a washing machine and how to use liquid detergent and washing powder.


Reading Time: 5 minutes

By Cleanipedia Team

laundry bottle on top of washing machine

No one wants to admit they don’t really know how to use their washing machine but it’s probably more common than you think. 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.

Why is using your washing machine properly important?

Knowing how to use a washing machine properly - including how to do laundry with liquid detergent and how to use powder detergent - can keep your clothes looking their best and save money because you're using water and energy more efficiently. 

In this handy guide, we'll help to answer any questions you may have about using a washing machine, including where to put detergent in a washing machine, how to use detergent, and how to decide which detergent is best.

Where to put detergent in washing machines

If you’re looking for where to put detergent in washing machines, the answer is usually fairly simple. Your washing machine should have a detergent drawer, and if you’re struggling to locate this, it should be detailed in your instruction manual. The detergent drawer tends to be the biggest one, although this can vary across different models. You may also see a separate compartment for your softener, which is a good way to keep your clothes free of wrinkles while they are being washed, and avoid wear and tear in the future.

How to use washing powder in a washing machine

  • Powdered detergent can either be put into a detergent drawer or directly into the washer in a mesh bag.

  • Look for the II symbol on your washing machine drawer as this is where detergent should go. Read our guide to symbols on a washing machine here to learn more.

  • Powdered detergent needs to dissolve before it starts to work; while the drawer may not dispense the powder until later in the wash cycle, putting it straight in the drum allows it to dissolve earlier in the cycle.

  • For the best results, always follow the directions on the label of your chosen washing powder.

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How to use liquid detergent in a washing machine

  • Knowing where to put liquid detergent in a washing machine will depend on the detergent you're using.

  • Most of the time, you will put the detergent directly in the drum.

  • If you use a product like Persil, make sure you use the handy dosing ball to measure the right dose.

  • You can often use liquid detergent as a pre-treatment by rubbing a small amount into tough stains before washing.

  • Always check the instructions on the packaging before use.

How much detergent should I use?

  • Check the instructions on the back of your detergent packaging to find the optimal dose. 

  • Remember to think about how dirty your clothes are - heavily soiled clothes will need a stronger dose.

  • You also need to consider whether you’ve got hard or soft water. If you have hard water, you may need to use more detergent as soaps do not foam as well when they’re contending with the natural minerals found in hard water. 

  • Many powdered detergents will come with a scoop which will help you to figure out how much washing powder to use; usually 1-2 scoops per wash.

  • Most liquid detergents will come with a measuring device too and are usually designed to need only 1 dose per wash. If you're wondering how much washing machine liquid laundry detergent to use, the dosing ball and is a great way to help you measure the right amount of detergent for your wash. 

It's a common misconception that the more detergent you use, the cleaner your clothes will be. Using too much detergent is not only a waste of money but it can leave your clothes feeling rather unpleasant. This is because the detergent – 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.

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 washing machine and personal preferences.

Here’s a brief rundown of the different detergents you have to choose from:

Liquid detergent

  • Liquid detergent is often considered to be a good all-rounder.

  • It dissolves well in most conditions and is relatively easy to measure the right amount. 

  • It can be easily used as a pre-treatment for difficult stains by applying directly to fabrics.

  • It's a suitable option for cold and quick washes.

  • It is typically cheaper than capsule detergent but maybe a little more expensive than powder.

Powdered detergent

  • Powdered detergent is a more traditional form of detergent.

  • It's often the more cost-effective option – certainly a little more budget-friendly than liquid detergent. 

  • Powdered detergent can struggle to dissolve at cooler temperatures so it may not be the best option if you’re washing delicate fabrics at 30 degrees.


  • Capsules give you all the benefits of liquid detergent in a handy little package. 

  • It contains a pre-measured dose of detergent so you know you're always using the right amount. 

  • There’s no measuring detergent out and absolutely no mess with capsules so they're ideal if you’re in a hurry.

  • Always remember to keep capsules away from kids.

Top loading detergent

  • Top loading detergent is, of course, designed for top-loading washing machines. 

  • You may also see it called ‘high efficiency’ detergent. 

  • It 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.

  • These essentially do the same job as a separate pre-treatment, removing the need for you to treat stubborn stains prior to washing your clothes. 

  • Some stain removal detergents contain a bleaching agent. Others use more natural products, such as citrus oils.

Read other articles from the Clothing Care category

How to get colour run out of clothes

What do the symbols on washing machines mean

How to remove static from clothes

How to stop clothes bobbling

How to make clothes smell good and stay fresh

Originally published