Top Load Washer

Each dreaded laundry day drains your energy just thinking about it.

You’re convinced your washer is a piece of junk because the clothes never come out clean.

You sold your old front-load washer because it smelled bad. Now, your newer top-load washer stinks, too.

As if that’s not bad enough, the washer makes a noise that’s getting worse by the day, making you wonder if it’s ready to fall apart.

But there are simple reasons for all of this. Reasons you can control if you only knew how.

If it’s still running reasonably well, it’s not too late to return your washer to its once-pristine, odor-free condition.

Read these 7 things you should know about HE soap and prepare to look forward to clean clothes once again! (and stop dreading laundry day). 

1. The HE Process Defined (it’s not what you think)

In 1997, Whirlpool introduced the first front-load washer using the HE process they created. Later versions gradually reduced the amount of water used, evolving into the machines we see today.

Compared to modern machines, the first front-load washers used far too much water, comparable to existing conventional washers of that time. 

As the HE process caught on worldwide, the water used during a typical wash cycle decreased dramatically, leading to the water savings we now see. Whirlpool tweaked their machines until they found the perfect balance of water and soap.  

High-efficiency washers (HE) work with soap to wash clothes gently in a low-water, low-soap environment. Inside the washers without an agitator, the concept of cleaning involves damp clothes rubbing against each other to provide cleaning. 

Dirt particles become suspended in the soap and water solution and drained from the machine during the rinse and spin cycle. The final high-speed spin is an essential requirement of the HE process.

Using less water and soap allows the high-speed spin to remove more water effectively from the clothes to produce slightly damp fabrics, allowing the drying process to be more efficient.

During the years before HE soap and HE washing became the norm worldwide, the general approach to washing involved adding a cup or more of soap to a large basket full, or should we say, stuffed, with clothes. 

For all those years, washers held up well to the abuse given to them, with over-soaping and overloading the standard operating procedure. That’s not to say anything was wrong with that, but the resulting damaged fabric, yellowed whites, and smelly clothes and washers were never the fault of a careless user. 

Instead, it was not knowing if anything was wrong because clothes were clean, but HE soap brought about brighter colors, whiter whites, and fresher-smelling clothes. 

It took at least ten years before people understood the difference between the soap and washing processes. Today, most of the mystery is gone, and we all know that the HE process is here to stay, along with the HE soap. 

2. How to Use HE Detergent in Your HE Washer 

Fortunately, using HE soap is easier than in the days of conventional washing. You may wonder why or even disagree. The HE washing process requires only two tablespoons of soap added before the clothes for an average load. That’s assuming the soap is “real” HE. More on that is below. 

If you’re using convenient pods because they’re pre-measured and don’t spill, they do a good job, but the amount of soap borders on breaching the 2-tablespoon limit.  

HE soap is critical to cleaning and never use too much. Read the bottle label carefully and look for the cursive HE symbol. If it’s there, you’re good to go. If it’s not there, you may be looking at conventional soap, which will not work in your HE machine 

One Sure Way to Tell if It’s Real HE


In the early years of HE soap, fakes were everywhere. Many companies tried to sell their conventional soap as HE. One can only presume the manufacturers didn’t understand the requirements of the soap. 

An essential requirement is low sudsing. Also, the quality of the soap is subjective, but it still must do a good job without damaging the fabric. 

If you wonder if your soap is, or isn’t, HE, try this unscientific test. Place two tablespoons of the suspect soap into a clean bottle and mix it with a cup of clean water. Shake the bottle for about 15 seconds, then look for suds. Real HE will have little to none. But typical conventional soap masquerading as HE will almost fill the bottle with suds.  

If your soap bottle says, “HE – For All Machines.” At best, this is a play on words. Remember, you can use HE soap in HE machines and conventional washing machines. But never use conventional soap in an HE machine.  

If you’re wondering, do yourself and your curiosity a favor and perform the test mentioned here. 

3. Why It’s Not OK To Use Regular Detergent in Your HE Washer

Front load washer with too much soap


Most people that use HE soap understand they should use very little, but do they? 

The short answer is no because they trust their experience with conventional washing machines and tend not to use HE soap every time, opting for less expensive conventional soap. 

It’s not their fault because the industry did little to educate consumers about HE washers and the process requirements. Proven repeatedly over the years is the damage to the machines caused by oversoaping. 


Oversoaping causes mechanical problems because of excess soap depositing in tight spaces around and behind critical bearings, eventually causing severe breakdowns.

The design of an HE washer uses much less water and soap to produce clean, fresh-smelling clothes. HE soap performs very well when a max of 2 tablespoons of HE soap, and reasonably sized loads are the norm for all cycles.

When using regular, non-HE soap in a machine designed for minimal soap and reasonable loads, too many suds created by the soap cause malfunctions. 

A common complaint is that the washer cannot spin all the excess suds and soap from the clothes, leaving them with random soap deposits. They are hard to see, but they are there. The result is smelly fabric because it can’t breathe, trapping sweat and body odor.

The main reason for these problems is the washer cannot provide the needed water to rinse away non-HE soap. Chemically, it’s different, with no limitations on the amount of suds it produces. 

4. How HE Detergent Works to Clean Your Clothes

There is still talk and questions about the mysterious way HE soap can clean clothes when you don’t use over two tablespoons, and there are few suds. 

Really, it’s no mystery when you consider the makeup of the soap. HE soap contains all the normal cleaners and softeners found in conventional types. Manufacturers formulate the soap for specific use in HE machines designed for less water and a ramped-up spin speed. 

In an agitator-less HE machine, the clothes get cleaned by constant contact with each other inside a low-sudsing, low-soap environment. Also, assuming proper water levels, load size, and soap, it’s not uncommon for wash cycles to last about an hour from start to final rinse and spin. 

In contrast, clothes suffer a different fate with an HE machine with a stick agitator. With the constant back and forth of the agitator, the clothes push and rub relentlessly on the sides for the entire cycle. 

Conventional wisdom might consider this an excellent way to clean clothes, but the garments can’t take that treatment indefinitely. They wear out quicker and look older than they should. 

The HE treatment of clothes is much gentler and likely extends their life. 


5. It’s Time to Address Your Stinky Washer


It's time to address your stinky washer

You’re probably all too familiar with your washing machine’s musty, gross, stinky smell. 

The worst part is nothing you’ve tried comes close to cleaning it and removing that awful smell. 

You know it’s time to do something about it because your clothes have a smell, too.

What Is the Best Way to Clean My Washer?

Let’s talk about the reasons behind the issue of your stinky washer. The number one cause is too much soap. The excess soap attaches to the tub’s walls, with the basket following close behind. 

After some time, the unrinsed soap from your clothes found a new home. It’s now on the outside wall of the basket and under the agitator in your top-load washer. Front loaders have a similar problem with the addition of soap and scum buildup on the wall of the tub, mainly near the rear bearings. 

All this buildup is the perfect breeding ground for mold, bacteria, and that horrific smell emanating from the inside.  

The type of cleaner you should use is purely subjective, of course. However, look for cleaners that use citric acid as their main ingredient. The citric acid does a complete job of removing all the gunk mentioned above from your washer.  

Other cleaners that use a form of baking soda don’t work as well as you might expect. Most of those cleaners work best on new machines as a preventative measure to ward off the smell. But if you have an existing problem, use citric acid based cleaners for the best results. Note that it works just as well in your dishwasher, too. 

6. Should You Use Liquid or Powder HE Detergent?

In most cases, liquid soap does a good job overall. However, there are times when powder performs better. Liquid soap is an effective pre-treater for stains for grease or oil, and powder outperforms liquid for standing stains like ground-in mud or other dirt. 

Keep in mind that powder will, over time, create a whitish haze on the surfaces of your washer. That’s usually a sign of oversoaping, so just cut back on the amount.  

The same is true for liquid, except you will find a buildup around the dispenser or on the bottom of the basket. Again, lowering the amount will take care of that issue.  

The benefit of using HE soap, powder, or liquid, is your machine will run cleaner and more efficiently. Just keep the usage within the guidelines mentioned here, and just as important, keep the load sizes to reasonable levels. 

As a general rule for front loaders, you should see about 8″ of clearance above the clothes from the ceiling of the basket for a proper, full load. For top loaders, only about 60% full represents a full load. 

Always consider the weight of the load and adjust accordingly from these suggestions.  

7. Take Steps Now to Prevent Early Failure of Your Washer

One of the biggest enemies of any washer is oversoaping. One of the critical mechanical components of your washer is the main bearings. In a top loader, the bearing is usually part of the gearcase. 

A front loader tub houses the bearings. While the manufacturers go to great lengths to seal them from moisture and excess soap, too much soap always finds its way into the sealed-off area. 

That said, it’s up to you to prevent that from happening as much as possible. If soap builds up near the bearings, excess moisture causes the bearings to weaken, causing oil leaks and an eventual very loud final spin. 

To prevent or forestall this most unfortunate event, only wash reasonably sized loads and never add too much soap. 


Your New Normal! Wash Day is Fun Again

Wash day is fun againFinally, thanks to your new knowledge about wash day, you can look forward to all your effort paying off big-time. 

Never again will you suspect your machine of double-crossing you when you need it most. 

But now, you know all the reasons for your despair previously and realize the whole thing is easily within your control. 

You’re the boss of wash day because you know every trick in the book to not only get clean, fresh clothes, you know how to prevent your washer from dying too early.  

Isn’t it fun knowing all that you do now?  

So, go on and master wash day like a boss!

Need help with washer repair? Are you a DIY enthusiast? You’ve come to the right place! One click here and your worries about appliance repair are officially over! 



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