Detergent - the dos and don'ts

There has never been a greater choice of detergents available for your washing machine; not just in terms of brands, but in the type: powders, liquids, capsules, tablets. Even the way in which you use them can be bewildering: in the detergent drawer, directly in the drum, in a wash ball or bag in the drum. The reality is that they all broadly do a similar job and the main difference is price! In the UK, the majority of products on the supermarket shelves are made by one of two multi-national corporations. By offering more 'brands' and more formulations of those brands, the greater share of the market they hope to gain.

All major supermarkets offer their own versions of these products which will be just as effective and usually at a lower price. That's because all the adverts and frequently changing packaging have to be paid by someone ie you the shopper!

Many of the big brands often have their products on promotion, so it's usually sensible to simply buy the one on offer. As a general rule though, traditional powdered products usually work out the cheapest as they are cheaper to produce.

No matter what detergent you choose, they tend to have common ingredients - most of which you won't be able to pronounce. Here are the ingredients of a typical laundry detergent.

The need to soften water

Before any washing detergent can start to work on remove dirt, oil and stains from your clothes, it needs to soften the water as most of the UK has some element of hardness. It therefore makes financial sense in most circumstances to soften the water with a cheaper product, so that you can use less of your standard detergent.

Options for laundry water softening products include:


Saving money on detergent

As an example If you live in a hard water area and using Surf washing powder, 44g (70ml) of the powder is being used for softening. If you add 40g of a water softening powder to the detergent drawer, you can use 44g less of your usual powder. We estimate that amounts to savings of around £23 per year! Twice that if you wash daily like many families do.

If you use liquid detergent, put the detergent in a wash ball in the main wash and your water softening powder in the detergent drawer. Of course, the savings can be even greater against liquid and especially so against capsules (you pay for convenience). There are also Limescale Preventer Tablets, so if you're using a liquid, put that in the drawer and the tablet directly in the drum.