Do I Really Need a Special Laundry Detergent for a Front-Loading Washing Machine?

Front-load washing machines are renowned for their ability to reduce water and energy consumption because of their efficient design. Tufts University states that front-load washing machines utilize 40 to 60 percent less water and 30 to 50 percent less energy to wash a single load of laundry than their top-load counterparts. Because of the reduction in water, front-load washers must use specialized detergent made for low water levels, resulting in up to 70 percent less detergent use than other washers.


Front-load washers require special detergent because of their washing techniques..

When a front-load washing machine begins its wash cycle, it uses significantly less water than its traditional counterpart because of the tumbling action of the washing drum. Top-load washing machines utilize nearly 40 gallons of water for a full load, so detergents for these machines are manufactured to break down and clean clothing fibers within high moisture levels. Because front-load washers use only 20 to 25 gallons of water per full load, standard detergent is unable to fully break down and clean clothing, which results in detergent accumulation within clothing fibers.

Recommended Detergent

Laundry detergent designed for front-load washers is called high-efficiency detergent or simply HE detergent. The owner’s manual for all front-load washing machines instructs users to use only HE detergent to protect the integrity of the washer and to prolong the life of clothing. This type of detergent is manufactured to deeply clean clothing fibers within low water levels, which ensures your clothing is properly cleaned without the negative effects of using traditional laundry detergent. All major laundry detergent brands make an HE detergent, so you will most likely be able to stay within the brand you prefer.


At the time of publication, the average cost for high-efficiency laundry detergent is from $10 to more than $20 per container; however, the Laundry Alternative Inc. states HE detergent is typically $13 per 100 ounces. The exact cost of this detergent is based on the manufacturer, additional cleaning features within the detergent and its size. When compared to top-load detergent, the price is slightly higher; however, HE detergent is cheaper than replacing ruined clothing or fixing a broken washer after using detergent that is not recommended.


While a front-load washing machine will operate with non-HE detergent, the results of doing so far outweigh the slightly higher price of HE detergent. If you use regular laundry detergent, you run the risk of excess suds production, which is caused by air being mixed with the water while clothing is tumbling. Standard laundry detergent is not manufactured for tumbling, thus creating excessive bubbles. These suds could overflow within the washer, damaging internal parts and possibly leaking into your laundry room.

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