Difference between HE and Regular Laundry Detergent

By: | Updated: Apr-3, 2024
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Have you given much thought to the laundry detergent you buy? If you’re like most people, you’ll answer yes! That’s because each of us has our own preferences when it comes to cleaning power, scents, and more. However, it is important to determine whether you’re using the right kind of detergent for your washing machine.

Laundry wouldn’t be complete without some sort of detergent – either high-efficiency (HE) or regular. These two are sometimes used interchangeably, but this is a big mistake! They each have individual features and purposes.

Summary Table

HE Laundry Detergent Regular Laundry Detergent
More concentrated Less concentrated
More efficient Less efficient
Ideally used for HE washers, but can also work on regular washers Can only be used for regular washers


Laundry detergent
Laundry detergent

HE, an abbreviated term for “high efficiency,” is a highly-concentrated, low-sudsing detergent formulated for high-efficiency washers.

Meanwhile, regular laundry detergent, also called normal detergent, is a type of laundry detergent used for traditional washers.

HE vs Regular Laundry Detergent

Before stocking up on detergents, it’s critical for consumers to learn the difference between HE and regular laundry detergent as they were specifically made for different washers.


Both HE and regular laundry detergents are typically made with surfactants that facilitate the removal of soil and dirt from different types of garments. However, between the two, HE detergent is more concentrated.


The difference between HE and regular laundry detergent in terms of concentration greatly impacts utility bills. As the name implies, a HE detergent is more efficient than a regular detergent since it requires less water usage. Typically, HE detergents use 12 gallons of water, while regular soaps need four to five times that amount to finish laundry cycles.

Additionally, since HE detergents are low-sudsing cleaning agents formulated to clean and rinse away quickly, HE washers don’t need to run additional cycles to complete the rinsing process. This is in contrary to regular soaps that necessitate extra rinsing cycles, adding up the water and electricity consumption.

Compatibility to Washers

HE detergent is used for HE washers, which are commonly front-loading devices with a HE logo, while regular detergents are designed for traditional top-loading washers. Although it may seem practical to use regular detergents for HE washers, this can actually lead to costly repairs. Why? Because these washers use completely different systems. Unlike HE washers that use a “tumbling” system, traditional washers use an agitating action that turns and twists clothes during the cleaning cycles. This difference places an importance on using the right detergent.

Since HE washers are built for low-sudsing detergents, the excess suds from regular detergents can cause cushioning, which can prevent the washer’s tumbling system to work. More than triggering error codes, the suds can lead to residue buildups and overheating problems.

HE detergent, on the other hand, can be used for regular washers. However, it may affect fragrance since this specialized formula works best when used in a HE washer.

Can You Use Regular Detergent in an HE Washer?

No, it’s not a good idea to use regular detergent in an HE washing machine. Regular detergent is not meant to work in an HE washer and can cause problems. Here’s what can happen if you use regular laundry detergent in an HE washing machine:

Less effective cleaning: regular detergent produces more suds, which can interfere with the HE washer’s motion. The detergent will not clean or rinse as well.

Residue buildup: another issue is that suds don’t rinse away very well. They can leave behind particles that can cause mold and mildew to develop in the washer.

Washer damage: an HE washer may overflow or overheat, which can happen due to too many suds from the regular laundry detergent.

Decreased efficiency: the washer may require more rinse cycles to eliminate suds. This can lead to longer washing times and increased water and energy use.

What Can You Do If You’ve Used the Wrong Detergent?

Accidents can happen and you may have used the wrong detergent in your washing machine. For example, if you have an HE washer and have used regular detergent, it’s best to stop the wash cycle. This ensures no more suds are created.

Next, restart the washer at the spin cycle setting. Follow this with a rinse/spin cycle with cold water. Finally, you can restart the regular wash cycle with cold water and finish washing as usual.

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