Is Powder or Liquid Detergent Better for My HE Washing Machine?

Owners of high-efficiency (HE) washing machines may wonder which detergent is best to use: powder or liquid.

Powder Detergent

The  detergent's packaging should clearly display the HE label.The detergent's packaging should clearly display the HE label.
Although both detergent types will effectively clean clothes, one generally works better for different wash settings than the other. No matter the detergent type you ultimately use, verify that the detergent is formulated for a HE washing machine, or your washer could produce too many suds.

A powder detergent is generally more economical than a liquid detergent. Despite a powder detergent's relatively lower price, powder's cleaning power is normally comparable to most liquid detergent brands. A disadvantage to powder is that it dissolves better in hot water than it disperses in cold water. A powder detergent needs a water temperature of at least 86 degrees F to completely mix with water. Consequently, you may find powder residue in the washtub and on clothing after a cold wash setting finishes.

Liquid Detergent

A liquid detergent is a pre-dissolved soap formula, so you don't have to worry about whether the detergent will fully dissolve in the washing machine for different wash settings. Liquid readily combines with both cold and hot water to create suds. However, liquid detergents tend to cost more than powder detergents, which can be a factor if you're a budget-conscious consumer. Consider purchasing both powder and liquid detergents and selecting which one to use depending on the wash setting the HE washing machine is set to run on.

Wash Setting

In addition to water temperature, the length of the wash setting also is a determining factor in which detergent type to use. Use slightly less powder detergent for a shorter wash cycle to ensure that the detergent has time to completely integrate with water and suds properly. The same rule applies to liquid detergents. Scale back the amount of powder or liquid detergent by about 1/4 if you open the HE washing machine and see suds lingering on the drum, or change to a different detergent brand.

Use the Proper Detergent Amount

Regardless of whether you're using powder or liquid detergent, never put in more than what the detergent's packaging recommends for a certain wash load. HE washing machines use less water than conventional washing machines and require less detergent to make suds. If you put in too much detergent, the washing machine can overflow with suds, and the detergent can stain clothing.

About the Author

Christie Gross has been writing since 1998. Her work writing public policy platforms for elected officials nationwide has been featured in national and local newspapers under various client pen names. Gross has a Bachelor of Arts in English and political science, as well as a Master of Public Administration from the University of Delaware.