Liquid Vs. Powder HE Detergent for Front-Loading Washing Machines

HE (high-efficiency) detergents are designed to work with the newer, high-efficiency front-loading washing machines.

Powdered Detergents

Front-load HE washers require HE detergents.Front-load HE washers require HE detergents.
HE front-loading washers use anywhere from 20 to 60 percent less water than non-HE machines. As a result, these high-efficiency machines require detergents that are specially formulated. HE detergents disperse quickly to remove soil and dirt and prevent it from redepositing on the items you wash. HE detergents are necessary to decrease the amount of sudsing in the water so the HE washer does not flood and overflow with suds.

HE powdered detergents are specially formulated to work with HE washing machines. Some detergent manufacturers, such as Tide, provide consumers with concentrated powder detergent choices. These detergents often come in a smaller box than what you may be used to seeing. However, this is because HE detergents are used in smaller quantities than non-HE detergents. What this means is that while the box may appear smaller, the number of loads you can wash balances out. You can wash the same number of loads with one box of HE detergent as you can with a non-HE detergent, as long as you follow the manufacturer's quantity and usage recommendations.

Liquid Detergents

HE liquid detergents make the transition to operating an HE washer easy. Simply follow the detergent manufacturer's recommendations for the amount of liquid to add to the washer. In most cases, the cap on the bottle is used as a measuring instrument. Liquid HE detergents are just as efficacious at removing soil and dirt as their powdered counterparts. And, just as with powders, liquid detergents are specially formulated for use in HE washers only, so suds production is decreased without reducing cleaning effectiveness and performance.


Both powder and liquid HE detergents are specifically designed for use in HE washers. They will not perform well in non-HE washers and dryers. This is because the sudsing level will be off. On the other hand, if you use a non-HE detergent in an HE washer, whether it is liquid or powder, you will overload the machine with suds. Non-HE detergents "cushion" the fabrics inside the washer with suds. This means that if a non-HE detergent is used in an HE machine, the detergent will not be effective at removing soil, stains and dirt. Manufacturers make every attempt to provide consumers with all of the formulations they are accustomed to using, including products with fragrances, formulas designed for diapers, delicate care fabrics, color-safe formulas and products that include bleach and whiteners.


The formulations and packaging are the only major differences between HE liquids and powders. Liquid HE detergents are formulated with a combination of dry and liquid ingredients, and the majority of the elements in powdered detergents are made with dry ingredients or liquids that have been dried and crystallized. Liquid HE detergents include more alcohol-based cleaning agents and ingredients, and powders contain more sodium-based cleaning agents and ingredients. You can identify whether a detergent is appropriate for use with a high-efficiency washer by looking for the "HE" symbol or logo on the package.

About the Author

Cheryl Munson has been writing since 1990, with experience as a writer and creative director in the advertising industry. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism with a focus on advertising from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.