"'If the lines aren't clear or are hard to see, it's easy to overdose and use too much detergent,' says Pat Slaven, a program leader in our Technical department who conducted the detergent testing. 'Plus, for all the products we tested, the line for a medium load—the most commonly done load—is less than a full cap, which makes it easier to use too much detergent.' The line for a maximum load is also typically less than a full cap."Not only does using too much laundry detergent mean you have to buy detergent more often, but according to CR, it can cause lint and soap deposits to develop inside the washing machine - which might cause mold and could restrict filters, resulting in mechanical failure. With high-efficiency washing machines, CR reports, using too much detergent can lead to over-long wash cycles and mechanical failure.
But is laundry detergent even necessary? According to MSN, the answer is usually no. In one reporter's unscientific tests, all her clothes came out just as clean without detergent as they did with detergent.
"Minor stains that I thought would come through unscathed actually washed out. A pair of fluffy cotton socks, which I wear around the house and patio as slippers, was pretty grimy when I put them in the washer. They came out looking exactly the same as they do when they’re washed with detergent.How can this work? Because modern washing machines clean primarily through their agitators, not through detergent.
The socks, which are three or four years old, always have a little gray on the bottom -- no amount of detergent or bleach gets it out. If anything, they actually look a little better than the last time I ran them through the washer.
Peeking into the machine during the wash cycle, I found that the water looked exactly as dirty as it does when I’ve added detergent, only without the suds. The rinse cycle ran clear as tap water."
I'm not quite ready to give up detergent for really dirty clothes (baby poop and caked on mud, for example), but I was already using only a few tablespoons of laundry detergent for most loads. So I tried this experiment myself and had similar results to the MSN reporter. Wow! Imagine the cost savings! And since laundry detergent is to blame for many rashes, eczema, and dry skin, there could be additional savings from using lotion and Cortizone-10.