Some people have problems with excessive foam (soap suds) in the washing machine. They may think the washing machine is at fault. However, the cause is likely to be due to the detergent – or how the detergent is being used.
Why excess foam is bad
Obviously if it’s really bad, foam can leak out of the washing machine. It can also prevent the washer from pumping out the water. Maybe it’s not that bad but you can clearly see there’s too much foam inside the drum? Too much foam hinders good wash results because it cushions the clothes from rubbing against each other. Rubbing is part of the essential process for cleaning laundry.
A common reaction to this is to reduce the amount of detergent in the wash, but bizarrely, and counter-intuitively, front-loader washing machine detergent contains anti foaming agents. So using too little can ironically cause some extra foam due to a lack of these agents.
What causes too much foam?
The most common cause of excess foam is using too much detergent, but as I said, too little can also cause some excess foaming. The important thing is to use the right amount as suggested by the detergent manufacturer. This is determined by the hardness of your water and the level of soiling.
If you are sure you are using the right amount of detergent, but still getting over-foaming, then make sure your water isn’t softer than you think it is. To make sure your water is as hard or soft as you think it is check with your your local water authority – UK Water companies contact details. Also, make sure it isn’t being softened by a water softener system or some other device.
Using anti limescale tablets?
If you know you have hard water make sure you aren’t over softening the water inside the washing machine by using anti-lime-scale tablets such as Calgon or similar.
Anti lime-scale products soften the water. So if you use them you need to use the amount of detergent that’s instructed on the box for soft water – not hard. If you use the correct amount of detergent, even with hard water, the detergent alone should protect against limescale (Do you need Calgon or limescale tablets?)
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Won’t drain water – too much foam?
If there is so much foam inside your washing machine that it will not pump out the water you might get help from fabric softener. Try pouring a cap full of fabric softener into the dispenser drawer and flush it down with cold water. This should react with the foam and help suppress it after a while.
Alternatively you will have to keep flushing cold water through to dilute the soap suds. This can take quite a long time. It is the action of the drum turning and the pump running that is whipping up the foam and making it worse.
If it’s really bad try doing it without the machine running. Pour copious amounts of cold water into the machine. Then lower the drain hose to drain it. Raise the drain hose and repeat. Eventually you should be able to get it working again.
Excessive foaming only on rinse & spin
If you only notice the excess soap suds during rinses and spin it could be caused by a partial blockage in the system preventing the water from being pumped out at a proper rate. That could mean soap suds from the main wash are never properly removed and get whipped up during spins.
This is relatively rare. It needs a blockage to be just the right size, or to cause just the right restriction in water flow to allow enough water out to trigger a spin, but not enough to cope with all the water. If this is the case soap suds may be present but they shouldn’t be too excessive. Try cleaning the pump filter. If that doesn’t work check out this article to troubleshoot a partial pump blockage washing machine won’t pump out the water
Finally don’t overload the washing machine
Overloading the washing machine will restrict how well it can rinse the laundry and remove the soap suds. It can also cause problems during spins related to air pressure not been able to escape with some designs of washing machine. Make sure you leave plenty of space for laundry to fall into during wash and rinse Loading a washing machine
If you still have too much foam (oversudsing)
Some people report that despite doing everything right they still get too much foam in the washing machine. For more information see these washing machine forum threads –
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