Chances are you're using way, way too much detergent in your laundry machine, according to an article in last week's New York Times, which quotes appliance expert Vernon Schmidt saying, "Most people use 10 to 15 times the amount of soap they need, and they're pouring money down the drain." Yikes.
Modern machines are designed to use less water, and don't need nearly as much soap as they used to. And with detergents getting increasingly concentrated, it's important to remember a little goes a long way. Overdosing on laundry detergent can lead to stiff clothes, or a buildup of mold and mildew inside your machine. Schmidt says that using half to one eighth the recommended amount of detergent is adequate, depending on how hard or soft your water is. And though it's a bit counterintuitive, if you see suds, don't think you're cleaning-you're just using too much detergent.
To figure out if you're oversoaping, take Schmidt's towel test, reprinted here from the New York Times article:
"Take four to six clean bath towels, put them in your front-loading washing machine (one towel for a top loader). Don't add any detergent or fabric softener. Switch to the hot water setting and medium wash and run it for about five minutes.
Check for soap suds. If you don't see any suds right away, turn off the machine and see if there is any soapy residue. If you see suds or residue, it is soap coming out of your clothes from the last wash."
Find more household tricks and inspiration at Make Home A Haven.