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What Is HE Laundry Detergent? (+How To Use It)

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HE detergents and washers are a recent alternative to efficiently cleaning your clothes. The HE washer technology works differently from the traditional one. Consequently, HE detergents need to work differently. 

High Efficiency (HE) Laundry Detergent is used to wash clothes in HE washers. It works with smaller amounts of water and produces fewer studs. It is used by applying the amount instructed in the manual (approx. 2 tablespoons/30 ml of detergent) in the washer’s container. 

The rest of this article will provide answers to some of the frequently asked questions concerning HE detergents and a handy guide on how to properly use them. 

What Is HE Laundry Detergent?

If you find this logo on your detergent, that means you can use it in both HE washers and traditional ones.

HE laundry detergent is an acronym for High-Efficiency laundry detergent. It is used to wash clothes in high-efficiency washing machines. 

As you will learn from this video, these washing machines are programmed to use less water and do shorter cycles to clean the clothes: 

What Makes a Washer High Efficiency (HE)?

According to the American Cleaning Institute, these washers are estimated to use up to 20% of the water and energy used by a traditional washer. By introducing a new washing concept, HE washing machines are very efficient in saving water and electricity. 

The HE detergents are used to wash clothes in the HE washers. The HE detergent formula differs from the classic, regular laundry detergents. It is designed to produce less sudsing. However, it provides the same level of cleaning as regular detergents. 

The idea behind a HE detergent is that the washing agents should be strong enough to remove stains, release soil and disperse dirt. The stains and dirt are suspended in the water.

Then the water is drained out of the machine, leaving the clothes clean. On the other hand, HE detergents need to produce fewer suds that can be rinsed with much less water. 

High-Efficiency Laundry Detergent: The FAQs

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about HE laundry detergents and their answers: 

How To Tell if a Laundry Detergent Is High-Efficiency?

While in Thailand, I saw that they generally display that it is HE-detergent with an illustration of a front loader. I have found this in other countries as well.

HE laundry detergents can be recognized by the ‘he‘ (in small letters) enclosed in a circle, which appears on the detergent packaging. Any other product that does not contain the ‘he’ label is a regular detergent that is not recommended for HE washing machines, as will be explained below.  

Usually, the HE washing machines provide a guide about the detergents you can use to wash your clothes. They can even recommend different brands, as they work best with specific cleaning agents found in particular HE detergents. 

How Does HE Laundry Detergent Differ From Regular Laundry Detergent?

HE laundry detergents differ from regular ones, as follows:

  • The packaging in HE laundry detergents includes the ‘he’ sign. This sign is not present in other detergents.
  • HE laundry detergents are designed to work with less water. They are designed to work with HE washing machines, which use less water for washing and especially rinsing compared to other washing machines. They can provide the same (or better) level of cleaning with less water and a smaller amount of detergent.
  • Regular laundry detergents produce more sudsing as compared to HE ones. The latter are designed to give results using smaller amounts of water, which is why their formula makes the cleaning agents easier to rinse. 
  • HE laundry detergents are designed to remove stains and dirt in a shorter amount of time. HE machines’ washing cycles are shorter in time than regular ones. Consequently, their cleaning agents need to work faster to clean the clothes and remove stains. 
  • HE laundry detergent is more expensive than the regular one. However, given that you will have to use a smaller amount of detergent per washing cycle, they will last longer. 
  • HE laundry detergents and regular ones use similar ingredients to clean your clothes. To provide the same cleaning results, a large part of the HE ingredients is similar to the traditional detergents’. The elements that differ are the ones responsible for producing sudsing. 

Can You Use Regular Laundry Detergent Instead of the HE One?

The answer to this question depends on what washer you are using. 

If you have a traditional washer, you can use both regular and HE laundry detergent (in different dosages, as recommended in the washer and detergent’s instructions). It is a matter of personal preference. If you prefer a HE detergent, you should use more than instructed for the HE washers, as traditional machines use more water. 

The traditional non-HE washer in the condo I am living in.

On the other hand, if you have a HE washer, you should not replace a HE detergent with a regular one. The latter is designed to use much more water for washing and rinsing your clothes. It produces more suds that cannot be rinsed in a HE washer. The consequences could be the following:

  • Your clothes would not be cleaned and rinsed properly.
  • The unrinsed suds can affect the proper working of the HE washer.
  • The unrinsed and dried suds can create a foul odor in the washer drum.

Using smaller amounts of regular detergents to reduce suds in a HE washer is also not advised, as your clothes would not be properly cleaned. 

Is HE Laundry Detergent Effective in Cold Water? 

Turning down the temperature on a HE-washing machine.

Yes. HE laundry detergents can be used at every temperature your HE washer provides. Starting from even below 70°F (20°C) temperatures, they are designed to clean your clothes properly and remove possible stains. 

Read your washer’s instructions regarding which cycle best suits your specific laundry. 

Is the HE Laundry Detergent Gentle on Clothes?

HE laundry detergents are not harsher on clothes compared to traditional detergents. However, how gentle a detergent will be, depends on the specific product. Some HE detergents are designed to deal with delicate fabrics and are milder. Some other detergents are created to handle difficult stains and can be harsher. 

Read the instructions for use in the product’s packaging, and take some other steps to preserve clothes when washing. 

How To Choose The Best HE Detergent?

There are many different brands of HE laundry detergents you can choose between. It is a matter of personal preference. However, you should consider the following:

  • Whether your HE washer manufacturer’s guide recommends a specific laundry detergent. In some cases, some HE washers may work better with certain detergents, given that you follow the instructions regarding the dosage. 
  • Whether a HE laundry detergent has good reviews by users. A HE detergent is not necessarily qualitative. As with every product, there are different qualities available in the market. Make sure you read some reviews before opting for a new detergent. 
  • Whether a HE laundry detergent uses dye and fragrance. These elements are used only for attracting customers and do not impact the cleaning of clothes. If you are prone to allergies or have a baby, it is advisable to use dye-free and fragrance-free detergents.

For more information, check out this list of the best HE detergents that I made.

How To Use the High-Efficiency Laundry Detergent?

To properly use a HE laundry detergent, you must follow the instructions in its packaging and the ones in your HE washer’s manual. However, here are some of the main principles you need to know: 

The Recommended Dosage of HE Laundry Detergent for One Cycle

HE laundry detergents are designed to work correctly in small amounts when used in HE washers. You will probably need about 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of detergent for a complete cycle of a medium workload. 

Add the detergent to the washing machine compartment and put your laundry in the drum. Then you can choose the program that fits your laundry best. 

On the other hand, if you use a HE detergent in your traditional washer, you will need to use a higher dosage. Varying on the washer, you will need 4-5 tablespoons (120 -150 ml) of HE detergent for the same workload. A similar ratio applies to liquid or tablet detergents. 

The above are approximate dosages. You should use the proper amounts of detergent as instructed. Using less and even more detergent will leave your clothes not appropriately cleaned. You will need to take into consideration various factors, as follows:

  • Take a close look at the HE detergent’s guide to dose correctly. Some detergents are more concentrated than others, meaning that you need to use a smaller amount compared to others. Every brand, like Tide, Persil, Woolite, etc., has its own guides. Usually, the more expensive detergents are also the more concentrated ones. However, there may be exceptions.
  • The amount of detergent used varies according to the load. If you have half a load, you will need less detergent than if you have a full one in your washer. 
  • The amount of detergent used depends on how dirty your clothes are. If you are including heavy-stained outdoor garments, you will need to use more detergent, following the product’s instructions. 

Powder, Liquid, and Capsule HE Laundry Detergents: Which To Use?

While less cost-effective, pods are generally very easy to use, and can very often be used for both traditional and HE washers.

HE detergents come in various formats, like powder, liquid, or capsules. Each format comes with specific instructions for use. 

Choosing between them is a matter of personal choice:

  • Some people prefer powder HE detergent. It may be stronger and can remove harder stains. It is also efficient and has a long shelf life. However, some powder detergents contain whiteners that can be harsh on delicate fabrics.
  • Others may prefer liquid formats. They may be gentler for your clothes and more efficient for specific stains. Some liquid detergents also contain fabric softeners, so you do not have to add additional ones. However, some liquid products are milder to hard stains. 
  • Others may opt for Capsule or Pod formats. They are easier to dose and less messy to use. They are practical, and sometimes you don’t need to add fabric softener. However, you should not use them if you have small children, as the pods are very easy to open. 

Find more information on which format you should use by reading more about the best options for you. 

You should not mix different formats, as they are not designed to work together. Once you pick the suitable detergent format, use it separately. Mixing different formats of detergents may result in the clogging of your dispenser. 

It is not recommended to mix even detergents of the same format. Even though they may be both, for instance, powder detergents, they may have different formulas and cleaning agents. The latter may interact and neutralize each other, leaving your clothes uncleaned. 

HE Laundry Detergent and Fabric Softeners

Fabric softener and a HE washing machine.

Similarly to regular detergents, HE detergents can be used with fabric softeners. For HE washers, you should use HE fabric softeners, along with the HE laundry detergent. For the same reasons mentioned above, you will need to use less HE softener than the traditional ones. 

Apply an amount of fabric softener according to the washer’s manual and the product’s instructions. Similarly to laundry detergents, fabric softeners dosage depends on many factors, including:

  • Laundry load
  • The concentration of the fabric softener
  • Water hardness scale, etc.

Add the correct amount of the softener in the HE washing machine, keeping in mind that certain fabrics like microfiber, wool, towels etc., should be cleaned only using a detergent, without a fabric softener

In addition, if you are using a liquid detergent, make sure to read whether it includes the fabric softener (in many cases, they do). In case it does, you don’t have to add other softeners. This way you save money on the fabric softener and avoid mixing the perfumes of the two softeners. 

Similarly, other laundry products, like stain removers, should have the ‘he’ label in order to properly function in a HE washing machine. 


HE laundry detergents apply a different formula to fit the technology of the HE washers. They are used in smaller doses and produce less sudsing. 

HE and traditional laundry detergents differ in many ways. The easier way to tell them apart is by looking at the ‘he’ label on the packaging. You can use a HE detergent in a traditional washer, but you should not use a regular detergent in a HE washer.

Before usage, read the manual and instructions. The proper use of these detergents depends on the wash load, the detergent’s formula, the nature of the stains, etc.


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