I Reduced Laundry and It Saved My Clothes |

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While laundry isn’t my least favorite chore, I’m definitely guilty of trying to make it easier by tossing everything in with a splash of detergent and turning on my machine. What I didn’t realize, however, was how badly it damaged my clothes.

I had always heard that clothes and sheets should be super soft after every wash, so I was a bit confused as to why my clothes were always stiff or scratchy when they came out of the wash. I had been adding more and more detergent and fabric softener each time to try to soften my clothes – little did I know this only made the problem worse and my laundry room smelled damp. And it certainly took some trial and error to finally strike the right balance.

I finally reduced how I use my laundry detergent and it solved my itchy clothes dilemma, and here’s why you should too.

White laundry room with washing machine

(Image credit: Paul Raeside)

1. I listened to my grandmother

It was my grandmother’s five laundry lessons that finally stopped me from overloading laundry detergent with every wash, and I’ll be forever grateful for her advice.

Although detergent removes dirt and grime from your clothes and displaces odors, using too much of it created an awful soap scum buildup that I couldn’t move – probably because I was trying to fix the problem with the very thing who was causing this. The detergent just wasn’t rinsed out properly, making my clothes crispy and far from chic.

I even found myself blaming my machine, cursing it for being old – it’s easier to blame the tools than the user after all.

Turns out the more detergent I used, the dirtier my clothes (and machine!) got.

2. I started measuring my laundry by my load

Figuring out exactly how much detergent I should have used was tricky. I even considered making laundry detergent myself or using white vinegar in laundry to help get rid of my excess sweat. With time and patience (sort of), however, I finally made it.

After some research, I found that for most commercial detergents, a single tablespoon was enough for an eight-pound load, with about two tablespoons helping to clean and deodorize larger loads. Turns out, a little really goes a long way.

I had to unlearn the general rule of listening to the package. After all, companies want you to buy more detergent and, having already fallen into this trap of using more and more each time, cutting back saved not only my clothes but also my money.

3. I learned how to remove years of soap buildup

Unfortunately, just changing the dosage of my laundry detergent didn’t solve my problem right away. With how long I had oversaturated my clothes with detergent, I had to take a few extra steps to finally free my clothes and my machine of its horrible soap buildup for good.

This is where I learned to restore my laundry. Unsurprisingly at this point, scratched clothes are yet another thing you can clean with vinegar. I mixed a cup of vinegar in a liter of water in my bathtub before throwing away my ruined clothes. I left them on for over an hour before washing the clothes again (with the right amount of detergent this time) to get rid of the vinegar smell.

Knowing how to clean a washing machine also helped me when I adopted more efficient washing habits. The detergent had coated the hoses and drum of my machine, which meant it needed a thorough cleaning to completely fix my problem. I made sure to rinse my machine before rewashing my newly restored clothes, of course.

4. I finally found the difference between detergent and fabric softener

When I went to the store in the past, I would choose any bottle of liquid laundry detergent that looked good smelling and didn’t cost me a small fortune. I didn’t realize that laundry detergent and fabric softener are often placed next to each other and practically look the same.

Loading myself up with laundry detergent, thinking it would also soften my clothes, I did the opposite and didn’t add any form of fabric softener, period.

Now that I’m saving money by not adding almost-full caps of detergent, I can easily add a dedicated fabric softener to my shopping list to give my clothes extra protection against frequent washing.

How much detergent do you really need to use?

How much detergent to use depends on your washing machine and the type and size of your laundry load. As a general rule, though, use about one to two tablespoons of detergent per load, reducing this if you’re only washing a few things or something that isn’t heavily soiled and just needs a refresh.

Can you use too little detergent?

Just as using too much detergent can cause problems with your laundry, too little can lead to lingering odors or stains. There is a delicate balance between how much detergent to use depending on your washing machine and your load of laundry, making it a difficult measurement to get every time.

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