Should I buy a front-loading washer if the only detergent I trust is Cheer Free?
August 8, 2007 6:34 AM   Subscribe

Detergent for front-loading washing machine - is there some available that's as innocuous as Cheer Free?

Even Tide Free or Arm & Hammer seems to make me sneeze & break out more. I like the idea of buying a front-loading washer, but I'd be sad if I did so and then couldn't find detergent that worked for my apparently-oh-so-sensitive skin.

A search found this interesting detergent, but it seems to work for front-loaders by simply adjusting the amount of detergent used. Is this a reasonable method? Wouldn't I really want a low-sudsing detergent, but still need about the same amount to get the clothes completely clean? Also, I realize that I'd want to try the detergent first to make sure I didn't react to it, but if anyone's actually tried "Country Save Laundry Powder" I'd love to hear about it.
posted by amtho to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
ok - just an ovservation but here it goes. I live in the UK and have only ever owned front loading washing machines.

However when in halls of residence at uni and also on a recent holiday in the US I found myself using top loading washing machines and I used the same detergent I would have used at home - mainly liquid detergent but on sometimes just normal soap powder.

I was using the same amount of detergent irrespective of machine used but I found that the front loader normally got rid of stains the top loader wouldn't. However I have always attributed that to the length of the washing cycle rather than machine design...the standard cycle on the front loader seems to take a fair bit longer than the top loader. Of course it could just be that they try to make cycles on commercial washers as short as possible...
posted by koahiatamadl at 6:45 AM on August 8, 2007

Like koahiatamadl I'm slightly baffled by this and the previous washing machine question as I've hardly ever seen a non-front loading washing machine. However, I did have a toploader in rented accomadation once and treated it exactly the same as a frontloader. I can't imagine why you would need a different washing powder.
posted by ninebelow at 6:58 AM on August 8, 2007

I use a Sunlight liquid detergent for frontloaders (Click the Liquids choice at the far left and look at Sunlight HE Sensitive Skin in the white bottle.) It cleans well and doesn't make me sneeze or bother my skin at all.

Note that this is a Canadian brand and I don't know where you're located, so it may not be available to you.
posted by maudlin at 7:23 AM on August 8, 2007

You use exactly the same detergents in a front-loader as in a top-loader.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:30 AM on August 8, 2007

Best answer: A low-sudsing detergent is preferable for a front loader, although you *can* get away with using regular stuff, but only 1/4-1/3 of the full amount recommended.

All Clear and Free detergent is available for HE machines (front loaders). I used their All Baby Care (basically the same stuff) for both of my kids' clothes. I've heard amazing things about Charlie's Soap, but have not tried it myself.

Have you tried using plain white vinegar as a rinse to get rid of any soap residue? Just use it instead of where the fabric softener would go in your machine. The clothes don't smell like Easter eggs once they're dry. Promise. :)
posted by dancinglamb at 7:32 AM on August 8, 2007

Best answer: I like the Method products, and they make a free + clear that I favor over Cheer Free. You can find Method at Target.
posted by seymour.skinner at 7:35 AM on August 8, 2007

My former laundromat has frontloaders. No-one uses special detergent there. They posted friendly signs reminding us that a full machine was a happy machine and to use less detergent than one might think, but not a whisper of "special low-sudsing" detergent.
posted by desuetude at 7:38 AM on August 8, 2007

You use exactly the same detergents in a front-loader as in a top-loader.

My front-loader came with strict warnings to use only "HE" detergents. What the difference is exactly, I don't know. I do buy only perfume and bleach-free detergents, and always have lots of choices in "HE"-labeled detergents, so there are some options. But I don't have the sensitivity you describe, so can't be sure that the brands I am using will work for you.

However, I do find that it takes a smaller volume of detergent in the front-loader to clean the same pile of clothes than did my old crummy top-loader, and the rinsing seems more thorough, as well. So you may find yourself able to use less pure detergents simply because the smaller quantity of detergent is more completely removed from your clothes.
posted by Forktine at 7:47 AM on August 8, 2007

My former laundromat has frontloaders. No-one uses special detergent there.

There's a difference between industrial front loaders (like the ones at laundromats) and High Efficiency machines. Using the wrong kind of detergent at full strength produces too many bubbles. Best case scenario = not so clean clothes. Worst case scenario = something out of I Love Lucy.
posted by dancinglamb at 7:51 AM on August 8, 2007

Response by poster: In case anyone's interested, here's what Consumer Reports says about using the special detergent:
With front-loaders and high-efficiency top-loaders, you'll get the cleanest clothes with special low-sudsing detergent; that's what we used for these machines. In fact, using regular detergent can cause excessive sudsing in HE washers. Not only is it hard to rinse clothing, but the foam can cause problems with the washer.
"HE" stand for "High Efficiency", I believe.

dancinglamb - Thanks for the tip about vinegar! I currently do a second rinse on almost all loads (yes, I feel guilty about wasting the water). If I don't, I really notice a difference. And I'm careful to use a minimal amount of detergent anyway.

I know that vinegar is good to take care of underarm odor on shirts... guess I'll go buy another gallon.
posted by amtho at 7:54 AM on August 8, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the recommendations - this is very reassuring.

Follow up - is there some kind of central listing of available HE detergents? How are you guys finding these detergents in the first place (I know you didn't ask Metafilter... I did search before asking)?

I believe I tried All Free and Clear once... either it or Tide [free|clear|whatever they called it] didn't work out so well. Argh. Maybe I just forgot to do a second rinse. I wish I were just being a hypochondriac about this; every once in a while I pretend I'm normal and just buy what's available, and then things start going not so well and I resign myself to being "special" and having to only get the "special" stuff (or having disgusting skin - I choose the other). Hey, all you normal people out in the world, your sensitive friends aren't just making this stuff up, unfortunately.

By the way, I'm in the SE United States - North Carolina, triangle area.
posted by amtho at 8:05 AM on August 8, 2007

Best answer: what about making your own detergent?

what I've been using for a couple years now:
(keep all ingredients separate until actual wash time)
baking soda + simple green + peroxide

does a great job, all ingredients very biodegradable, not expensive, no strong odor (the simple green smell almost disappears after rinse cycle, and is gone after drying) and I imagine it should not irritate skin.
posted by dorian at 8:20 AM on August 8, 2007

We use Tide HE Free in our front-loading HE machine and it works great.
posted by briank at 9:02 AM on August 8, 2007

Best answer: I've had great luck with powdered (so I can't speak to the liquid) Charlie Soap (often cheapest from their website) in my HE front loader. It leaves noticeably less residue than All Free and Clear, which I used to use. Charlie is the only detergent I've used where you utterly cannot detect the detergent on the clothes once washed. (So now when I'm forced to wear/wash clothes with other products, it seems really weird.)
posted by skynxnex at 9:20 AM on August 8, 2007

Best answer: Less than a nickel a load, and keepin' the lakes clean and clear:

1 grated bar Fels Naptha
1/3 cup Arm & Hammer washing soda
1/3 cup Borax
(store in container with lid)

2 tablespoons for regular loads, 3 for the really dirty stuff.

Where do you get the first two ingredients? I got a dozen bars of Fels and three boxes of A&H via and grate the soap while indulging in some TV. (Takes five minutes.)

Six months after switching, I've only used five bars of the soap and not quite one box of powder, and my husband is a fencing coach (in terms of sweat... ew!) three nights a week, so as a family we're doing a load a day. Also, NO SUDS and our clothes are visibly clean and softer.
posted by Arch1 at 10:11 AM on August 8, 2007

Response by poster: Very helpful answers. I'd still love that centralized list...
posted by amtho at 12:08 PM on August 8, 2007

Here is a list of HE detergents, focused on how good they are for cleaning baby diapers, with an emphasis on sensitive skin issues.
posted by Forktine at 7:28 PM on August 9, 2007

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