Mention powder laundry detergent to anyone in the U.S., and chances are you’ll raise at least one eyebrow. There’s nothing strange about that, given the fact that liquid detergent has all but replaced powder in pretty much all major American stores.

Things are very different in the rest of the world. From South America to Europe, Asia, and Africa, powdered detergent absolutely dominates the household essentials aisle, and not only because it’s cheaper. As it turns out, powder laundry detergent has some specific strengths that its liquid cousin can’t hope to match.

Given that you’re reading this, chances are that you have at least a passing interest in trying out powder laundry detergent. We’ve got you covered. Today we will go over everything you’ll want (and need) to know in order to use powdered detergent as efficiently as possible. Who knows, you may end up deciding that it fits your needs better than the liquid variant.

Liquid or Powder — What’s The Difference

Your run-of-the-mill liquid detergent is of course significantly more convenient to use than powder detergent. If you spill it, you can simply wipe it off — no harm, no foul. It dissolves quicker and better during the washing cycle, meaning that you won’t have to rinse it out again. Additionally, when you’re dealing with greasy stains like those from oil or various foods, liquid detergent will actually be the superior option.

With all that, the deck seems stacked against powder laundry detergent, doesn’t it? Well, not necessarily. Yes, powdered detergent may sometimes be a hassle to deal with, but it’s proven to be far superior at two things:

1. Keeping Your Whites White

When cleaning white laundry, you’ll almost always want to use powder over liquid laundry detergent. The majority of powdered detergents contain a bleaching agent called sodium percarbonate, which can’t be made stable in liquid detergents.

Liquid detergent manufacturers have consistently tried to compensate by putting in various enzymes and optical brighteners, but the results have been less than impressive. Bleach is bleach, and that’s that.

2. Dealing With Hard Stains

When dirt, clay, or a similar substance hardens, it becomes aggravatingly hard to get out with liquid detergent. And as it happens, removing those hard stains is a specialty of powdered laundry detergents. Any good powdered detergent will easily scrape off every last speck of that pesky dirt. If you’ve only ever used liquids before, you’ll certainly be surprised by the results.

Dosing Powder Laundry Detergent

One of the most important — if not the most important thing to consider with any laundry detergent, is the dosage. If you use too little, your laundry won’t wash well. Use too much, on the other hand, and you will not only risk damaging your laundry but also waste a good deal of detergent. Additionally, considering that powdered detergent doesn’t dissolve as easily as liquid, putting in too much may force you to wash your laundry again just to get the detergent out.

Measure is key, and in order to get it right, you’ll want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much laundry are you going to wash?
  • How dirty is said laundry?
  • Do you have a top or front loader washing machine?
  • Is your washer fully- or semi-automatic?
  • What’s the water like in your area? If you live in a place with hard water, you will need to use more detergent in order to get the best results.

When you’re using powdered laundry detergent, getting a measuring cup is pretty much a must. It may seem like a waste of money, but in the long run, it will save you a lot. Again, you don’t want to use too much or too little; you should be precise.

So here’s a quick guide to how much detergent to put in, based on the abovementioned factors, and assuming that you’re using the washer’s full laundry capacity (there’ll be more on that later).

For Moderately Dirty Clothes

If your washer is an automatic front loader, you’ll want to put in one cup of powdered detergent. The same goes for those of you who have a semi-automatic washing machine. If you have an automatic top loader, however, you’ll want to pour in a cup and a half.

Has your washing machine temporarily (or permanently) broken down, while you still need those clothes clean in time for an event? How about washing them by hand? It’ll take you a while, but it works just as well. Use two full cups of detergent for an amount of laundry that would have filled up your washer.

For Very Dirty Clothes

In case you have a front loader, put in a cup and a half of powder. You’ll also want to use a cup and a half if you have a semi-automatic. If you’re using a top load washer, however, you’re going to need two full cups.

Hand washing is less efficient as always but sometimes necessary. When fighting stains that simply refuse to leave your laundry, expect to use up three full cups of detergent.

Using Powder Laundry Detergent

No matter the kind of washer you have, you’ll want the detergent inside before you put your clothes in. After determining how much you’re going to use based on the amount of laundry and how dirty said laundry is, you’ll need to measure it with the cup before pouring it in.

If your washing machine is an automatic front loader, you should unload the detergent into the proper drawer. If the machine is either a semi-automatic or a top-load washer, then you’re going to need to pour the appropriate amount of powder directly into the drum.

Now that you’ve taken care of the touchier part of the process, it’s time to put in the laundry. Just be careful not to go overboard, as an overfilled machine can damage both itself and your laundry as it desperately tries to complete its work.

When determining how much is too much for front loaders, we suggest this rule of thumb — or rather, palm: if, after you’ve put in your laundry, your palm can still fit into the drum, you’re A-OK. If it can’t, you’ll need to take some things out before closing the lid and turning the machine on.

When it comes to top loaders, you should make sure that your laundry doesn’t stick out of the inner tub. If it does, it’s time to — you guessed it — take something out. You’ll have plenty of chances to wash it later, safely and properly.

Finally, it’s important that you remember to check the labels on your clothing. They will always tell you what the fabric will tolerate well, and what it most certainly will not. Like with everything else, just a little bit of prudence will go a long way.

Some Closing Words

Hopefully, by now you’ve realized that powdered laundry detergent is certainly not a relic of the past. Rather, it is simply a different sort of detergent, with its own set of upsides and downsides.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with sticking with your usual brand of liquid detergent, no matter the circumstances. There’s no doubt that most of the time, it will get the job done.

Sometimes, however, the easiest way is simply not the most effective one, and you will want a powder laundry detergent for the best results.

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