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Why Doesn't Washing Powder Dissolve in My Washing Machine?

Christie Gross
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If powder-based detergent isn't dissolving well in a washing machine, add the powder before the water, dissolve the powder in hot water first or reduce the amount of powdered detergent used.

Why Doesn't Washing Powder Dissolve in My Washing Machine

Powder detergents that fail to entirely dissolve in a washing machine can collect inside and damage the appliance over time. Although they’re generally safe and effective, incorrect use of this form of detergent can leave a powdery residue on laundry that might prompt you to wash items a second time to get them clean. In some cases, liquid detergent might be a better alternative when powder detergents don’t fully combine dissolve in the washing machine.

Water Temperature is Too Low

Powdered detergents don’t always dissolve well in low water temperatures. Although product manufacturers might claim that powder is suitable for cold and hot water wash loads, certain products take longer to dissolve in cold water. If running a short wash cycle with cold water and a powder detergent, some of the powder might not completely dissolve during the wash cycle. Reduce the amount of powder if washing a small load at a low temperature to ensure the detergent dispels in the water. Otherwise, mix the detergent in with some hot water and allow it to dissolve, then add it to the cold water filling the washing machine.

Detergent was Added at the Wrong Time

Adding the powdered detergent once the water is already in the machine could also prevent some of the detergent from dissolving. For best results, add the powder first, then allow the machine to fill with at least several inches of water. The same applies to other powdered materials such as Borax, washing soda or oxygen-based powdered cleaners. Add the laundry last.

Water Quality

The water itself can impact how well powdered laundry detergents and additives dissolve or even create suds. Soft water generally requires less detergent than hard water for the same load size, so a slight adjustment in the amount of powder used might improve residue issues. Minerals in the water may also hinder the powder's ability to completely dissolve. In this case, forgo powdered detergent altogether or at least scale back on the amount in each load.

Collects Inside Laundry

Powdered detergent can sometimes get trapped inside rolled pant legs, pockets, pillow cases or even in socks when poured it into the washing machine after the laundry is already inside. If any amount of powder gets caught inside laundry items, it might not have access to the water to dissolve. This is yet another reason why adding the powder first is a good idea.

Consider Liquids

Liquid detergents provide the same cleaning power as most powder detergents. Consider switching to liquid detergent if you’re having problems with powder not fully dissolving in your machine. Liquid detergent comes pre-dissolved, so there's no chance of powdery residue getting on laundry or collecting inside the washing machine.