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March 19, 2007

Tide 32 Load Bottles: Are They On The Level?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:42 am

Tide cup smallFor years, laundry detergent has been sold by the number of uses or loads. One hundred ounce bottles of regular liquid detergent are typically good for 32 loads, for example.

Have you noticed, though, that it seems to run out way before you have done that many washes? The secret is in the cup, and how laundry manufacturers come up with that usage figure of 32 loads. See that little diamond to right of the word “uses”?  That leads you to a fine print disclosure on the back of the bottle.


Tide lines

You only get the promised number of washes if you do “medium loads” and fill the cap up to line number one — which is less than half a capful. That will use about three ounces of detergent.

If you fill the cap to line number two for “large” loads, you will use a hair over four ounces of detergent and only get 24 washes per bottle — 25% less than the front of the bottle promised.

Many people, no doubt, are used to filling detergent caps to the top line if they are doing a full load. In this case, that is line three — a fill line number not even explained on the bottle. Doing so will use up about five and a half ounces of detergent and get only about 18 loads out a 32-use bottle.

Most name brand detergent manufacturers play the same game. Since they are not required to use realistic “serving” sizes the way food makers are, you most likely will get less than you bargained for.

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  1. This is tricky one. The manufactorers have a good argument that if consumers ‘overdose’ they obviously will get less loads out of their detergent than recommended. In fact, they might be able to agrue that using more than necesary can even be bad for your laundry.

    On the other hand, they shouldn’t be messing with the ‘load size’. However, that’s a similar problem to the problem of what ‘a serving’ constitutes in the food industry. A 16 ounce bottle is one serving for me, but the soda sellers do not agree there.

    Comment by Jasper — March 19, 2007 @ 7:35 am
  2. How much laundry is a “medium” load, according to the soap manufacturers? There are different size washing machines, so a “medium” for one might be a “large” for another. Different machine designs use different amounts of water (tub style vs drum style), and also require different amounts of soap.

    Soap manufacturers are in the business of selling soap. They’re not going to recommend you use less of their product. You can save a lot of money by reducing the amount of soap you’re using — try running a load in the washer with half of what you might normally use. If you’re like me, you won’t be able to tell the difference, everything will be just as clean. Of course, if you’re the sort of person who gets featured on the “Dirty Jobs” TV show, YMMV.

    Comment by Chuck — March 19, 2007 @ 9:53 am
  3. They also don’t tell you if you have soft water, you only
    need half the amount of soap they recommend.

    Comment by allen sherman — March 19, 2007 @ 10:30 am
  4. Agreed that the numbering system is sneaky.

    A few years ago we saw on TV somewhere that the amount of detergent we actually NEEDED to clean our clothes was far less than we were actually using. We started using the line marked 1 (or less) and have noticed clothes that are just as clean in the end. Detergent now goes way further for us than it used to, and clothes seem to hold up better as well.


    Comment by Chris — March 19, 2007 @ 12:00 pm
  5. I recently purchased the really large (96 loads I think) bottle of All Free & Clear. This was to replace a smaller bottle of this same brand which was running low. After reading an article about this somewhere else, I took it upon myself to do my own measurements. To make a long story short, the different bottles had different cap sizes! When measuring up to the “1” level, the cap of the smaller bottle actually holds less.
    I will go as far as to recommend you conduct your own experiments. Instead of relying on the marks the manufacturers put on their caps, get a sharpie and make your own. Don’t pay attention to the manufacturer’s suggestions and instead find out for yourself how much is the minimum amount of detergent which will get your clothes clean.
    Another hint: most liquid detergents work just as well in cold water as they do hot.

    Comment by Brad — March 19, 2007 @ 1:06 pm
  6. I stopped counting after three loads.

    Comment by shawn — March 19, 2007 @ 1:57 pm
  7. I have a front load washer that only uses a third the water,
    hence a third the detergent, but even then, I only put in about half
    the third so only about a table spoon of detergent and my cloths come
    out prefectly clean. If fact, I’ve tried not using detergent at all and
    they come out prefectly fine suggesting that its the water and the movent
    that really does the cleaning, not the detergent. Try it some day. Maybe
    I’ll start using skiping the deturgent everyother week. Anyways,
    deturgent is more or less a scam.

    Comment by Ken — March 19, 2007 @ 2:41 pm
  8. @ Brad & Ken: Sure, and brushing your teeth without tooth paste also does 80% of the job. All true, but the point is that last 20%. It’s not unexpected that manufactorers are trying you to use as mouch as possible, but you notice that using the wrong amount or a cheap brand of laundry detergent will get your stuff seemingly clean, but your clothes with deteriorate faster too. at least, that’s what I found playing around with amounts and brands while in college (and hence poor).

    My conclusion: it is worth the extra money to buy a ‘better/higher brand’ laundry detergent and use decent amounts of laundry detergent. Your clothes will last longer.

    Comment by Jasper — March 21, 2007 @ 5:05 am
  9. To Ken:

    I’m sorry, but when I read your post, I got the heebie jeebies. You don’t use
    detergent? I’m wondering if you use soap in the shower too? I’m sure you save
    a ton of money by not using soap in the shower.


    Comment by Heather — March 21, 2007 @ 7:58 am
  10. I’m so used to lies until I really don’t even go by what containers claim. I just buy it and use it until the container is empty. I don’t even attempt to keep up with, or count how many loads I get from any of the products I use. I use them and when the container is empty, I just open another container and go from there.. I never even considered relying upon a manufacturer knowing how many loads I might get from one of their bottles or boxes so it doesn’t even bother me to know the trickery and BS they take time to add into their claims. If the product gets my clothes clean, doesn’t cause any kind of irritation from wearing the clothing after using their products, when it’s on sale again, I’ll purchase it once more and use it until the container is empty.

    Comment by BagLady — March 21, 2007 @ 9:34 am
  11. It’s one of those things that if all the companies are
    doing it, it’s not as big a deal. Like every gas station
    adding 9/10 to the price on the sign because that 1/10 penny
    makes such a difference.

    Comment by GNecastro — March 21, 2007 @ 12:33 pm
  12. Me and my have have started to make our own laundry detergent and it works better than the store brand and last much longer. We came across the recipe on some of the frugal sites through Google. All the materials are still sold in most grocery stores and it really saves on the money per load ratio when comparing it to national brands.

    Comment by Martin — March 21, 2007 @ 12:40 pm
  13. something that isn’t being taken into account is that laundry detergent have things like enzymes that help with cleaning, anti corrosion chemicals and other things that help with the wash.

    yeah, saving money is good and not losing it to getting flimflammed is even better, but don’t get too excited about this news since your clothes, washing machine, septic system, water bill, energy bill and personal time might get to be more expensive than the cost of the not terribly expensive laundry detergent in question.

    if you’re looking to save money then use powdered detergent. if you have a sam’s or costco membership then they have a big bucket that’s a good price for the volume.

    Comment by Daniel — April 9, 2007 @ 8:59 pm
  14. I just saw a story about this website on my local news. I’ve known this for years. I use an environmentally safe concentrated laundry detergent that washes the number of loads it says it does (also less packaging in the landfills). I may have to order it, but I feel better knowing I’m not polluting our world anymore by using “the other stuff”. It’s also better for your clothes. So, it’s a win-win situation. I try to be a wise consumer and keep the earth in mind at the same time. Find a reputable company. Ordering online also keeps me from running to the store and using gas that costs $3.00 a gallon! Besides laundry and cleaning products, you can get personal care products that don’t have soap in them. It’s out there, just look. Think “Green”, for the earth and extra money in our pockets!

    Comment by Claire — May 4, 2007 @ 11:39 pm
  15. How did this “Number of Loads” method of measuring container size come about anyway? Manufactures are screwing around with our minds hoping to prevent us from making direct size comparisons and therefor cost differences between products. Anyone know the phone number of a Consumer Advocate Agency?

    Comment by Joe Blow — August 22, 2007 @ 1:26 pm

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