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Ask Marilyn: The Right Amount of Laundry Detergent
David Kaffenberger of Spring Valley, Ohio, writes:
Marilyn: My wife doubles or triples the recommended laundry detergent amounts to get more suds. How can I rationally argue that she should use the indicated amount per load?
Ask her this question: Why would any manufacturer direct consumers to use less than the optimal amount? Their laundry might not get clean, and the company would sell less product. That doesn’t make sense!
Consider a bubble bath. Do you get any cleaner? No. And your dishes get clean in the dishwasher with few suds, don’t they? Yes. But Americans love suds so much that manufacturers use high-foaming formulas whenever they can. Shampoo is a good example. The froth does nothing but make a mess in the sink that takes time and effort to wash down the drain. These cleansing agents all work differently, of course, but they do have something in common: The suds they produce do not reflect their cleaning action.
In fact, using too much detergent can make laundry a bit dingy and stiff. Also, the suds can cause problems with the machine long-term. Some washing machines even have software designed to overcome our tendency to use too much detergent. They sense the excess suds and add extra rinses!
Lavinia Washington of Los Angeles, California, writes:
Marilyn: Are raccoons especially smart? I’ve watched them disable a trap and unscrew the cap from a bottle that was in my garbage can.
Raccoons are smart, all right, but it is the nearly opposable “thumbs” on their front paws that allow them to do all sorts of things that opossums can only dream about.
Opossums, by the way, do have opposable toes on their hind paws, which is great for climbing but not a reason for envy. Imagine having to answer the phone with your feet.