What causes too much foam in the washing machine?

Foaming washing machine 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 more 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.


Detergent 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.


Limescale

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?)


Won’t drain water – too much foam?

Fabric softener

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


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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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18 thoughts on “What causes too much foam in the washing machine?”

  1. This problem seems to be getting worse!

    There are 2 reasons why it seems to happen, in my experience:

    1. Wash load too small.
    2. Wash load very lightly ‘soiled’ e.g. curtains.

    It could also be that modern detergents don’t have as much anti-foaming agents now or the quality of the anti-foaming agents are not as good as they used to be (or both)?

    If you have to wash small loads or items which are only dusty, like curtains, you will not get foaming if you use LESS than the minimum recommended dosage stated on the pack – provided that you add 1 tablespoon of soda crystals for hard water, unless of course you live in an area with soft water.

    Yes, it goes against the advice of using the recommended amount of detergent, but using less than recommended in these situations is the only way to stop the overfoaming and the soda crystals basically does the same job as calgon – soften water to prevent limescale build-up.

  2. Unfortunately the “recommended” dosage for small loads or washing curtains causes so much foam it rises over the door and if I don’t stop the machine it could come out of the soap drawer! Yes I even tried, a few times, the recommended dosage without soda crystals, but the foaming is just as bad!

    Excess foam never occurs with full “dirty” loads or if you use less than the recommended detergent for washing ‘light soiled’ or small loads. If the detergent makers don’t sort this foaming problem out, people will just use less than recommended in EVERY wash, which we know is NOT good for washing machines or the clothes.

    If you are doing a small load, washing your curtains or doing a load which you suspect will create tons of foam, simply use 1/4 of the minimum dosage and use 1 tablespoon of soda crystals in hard water areas. Things will still come out clean, if not cleaner than they would – without the excessive foam impairing washing performance.

    I nearly posted this before I remembered that this happens when I wash towels on their own. It doesn’t happen if I wash towels with a mixture of other items. The only other suggestion is to try to wash a full load with other items in the same load, if they can be mixed.

  3. I think it is down to the anti foam not activating til it reaches a hot temperature. 60C it works fine but below just keeps foaming unless you have a full or really dirty load.

  4. I just put my friends washing machine on. His cleaner had left a bath mat in it, and as it was a little bit smelly, I put some washing liquid in the drawer and popped it on for a quick wash. When I came back to it, there were some suds on the kitchen floor… It also seemed to have stopped, so I turned the machine off. I then tried to turn it onto a hand wash and it’s not working. Not turning. Not doing anything. It’s all built in. What can I do?

  5. G Lott: I’m assuming you mean laundry detergent liquid and not washing up liquid :) The latter would cause serious over foaming.

    Bath mats are notorious for not spinning in a washer if they are heavy (Why won’t washing machine spin just one item or very small loads?). If it has too much suds inside it may interfre with it’s functioning so try pouring some fabric conditioner in (as described in this article under “How to deal with excessive foam on a wash” but if you can’t see any suds it’s probably nothing to do with it.

  6. The soap suds in my machine are pouring out the drawer when on spin mode. Also when I open the door after the programme stops there is a lot of suds remaining at the door seal. My wife also says there is an eggy smell but I’m going to do a hot wash to see if that problem is solved. Many thanks.

  7. Radhika Pradeep

    Hello,

    My apartment comes with an LG front load washing machine. I usually use the right amount of detergent and I don’t see excessive foaming during the whole program.

    Unfortunately, I see lots of suds during the clean cycle(s) when I run the machine empty with a cup of vinegar/baking soda/none. Last weekend, determined to see a suds-free wash, ran at least 6 empty sanitary cycles with the hottest water setting. And miserably failed! This is bothering me because I feel my clothes have the detergent residue even after that extra-rinse :(

    Please help me on how to achieve a suds-free empty cycle.

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