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What is HE Detergent?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
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HE, or high efficiency, detergent is a specially formulated detergent suitable for use in the newer high efficiency washing machine models on the market today. HE detergent is different from conventional detergent products in that a high efficiency laundry detergent product produces fewer suds and makes rinsing of washed clothing an easier task. Detergent of this type is not available in most major supermarkets.

A front loading high efficiency washing machine is designed to make optimum use of a small amount of water while still cleaning the laundry thoroughly. Because of the lower water level used during the wash and rinse cycles, conventional laundry detergents are will not work as well in these newer machines. In fact, use of older types of laundry detergent can actually through the cycles off sequence, resulting in delays between the cycles and interfering with the ability of the machine to rinse the clothing thoroughly during the rinse cycle.

By using HE detergent, all this issues can be avoided. The lower sudsing action of the high efficiency detergents means there is no residue to cling to the clothing as the washing process progresses from one cycle to the next. This is especially important to the rinse cycle, as the detergent will not leave behind traces after the laundry is thoroughly rinsed.

It is important to note that HE detergent is not a good option for a conventional washing machine. Just as dishwashing products formulated for an automatic dishwasher will not work well when washing dishes by hand, the same is true for high energy detergent. Consumers would do well to make sure any detergent used with a given washing machine meets the standards of the manufacturer of the washer.

In most cases, HE detergent is no more expensive than other types of washing powders and liquids. Each container of the detergent will wash the same number of loads as the traditional formulas. Most supermarkets display HE versions of detergent alongside other detergent products. Manufacturers include a designation of “HE” on the packaging, making it easy for consumers to locate HE detergent products.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including HomeQuestionsAnswered, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon139796 — On Jan 05, 2011

to answer rockstars question. Yes! I just closed the door on my Sears Repair man who spent three hours ($800) on my washing machine (thank god for home ins) and the reason? My wife was using regular detergent in an HE machine. the suds from the non HE soap clog the inner machinery and over the last three years eventually broke it down. the HE soap is on sale like other soaps, just have to pay attention to those coupons. it's worth it.

By anon114718 — On Sep 29, 2010

Though its best not to use standard detergents in a 'HE' machine, you can do so, just don't use as much. The reason being is the sudsing problem.

There's several problems the sudsing will create.

1. It won't let the clothes slosh around in the water, and that's how it cleans.

2. 'HE' machines use a LOT less water, so your detergent to water ratio is greatly different, and you won't get all the detergent rinsed out if you use the normal amount.

You're going to get the same cleaning results by reducing the detergent amount, just not the sudsing issue. And if you're always having to do an extra rinse, it's not being all that efficient, is it?

By anon96134 — On Jul 14, 2010

Does anyone know the answer to rockstar's question? Because, that's the question I need to know.

By rockstar0886 — On Feb 03, 2010

Are there any ill effects to an H/E washer by using non-H/E detergent in it? I have a step daughter with four kids and a boyfriend who live with us and she refuses to use H/E detergent in our H/E washer, because she says it costs too much. Will this hurt our washer at all?

By anon34949 — On Jul 01, 2009

The article says "not" to use "HE" detergent in traditional washers....but I remember reading on one bottle of either Tide, or Purex, or something (sorry, can't remember exactly) that HE detergent can be used in "traditional" wash machines....but I'm not too sure of the effect it would cause.

From what I've read, when the washer "agitates" the clothes, the dirt is supposed to get "trapped" in the suds, which is why on a front loading, or "HE" machine, you will hear water rinsing/draining more than a regular washer, it does this to "remove" the dirt from the suds..so your clothes aren't just being agitated in dirty/sudsy water.

Now, I'm curious, is there any reliable "recipe" to make "HE" detergent? My local grocer generally is always short of it, I don't know if it's just because it's that big of a seller...? Or if they just don't get that much supply in...due to the "new" swing into HE washers. Thus far, the only regime I've done, is using less detergent (half the cap, rather than the full cap) and the clothes still seem to come out great.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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