Some people have problems with excessive foam (soap suds) in the washing machine and 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. Apart from the nuisance of foam leaking out of the dispenser drawer, too much foam can prevent the clothes from getting properly clean. Excessive suds can also stop the washing machine from pumping out the water because the impeller just whips up more bubbles and cannot pump bubbles.
Foam hinders good wash results because it cushions the clothes from rubbing against each other, which is part of the essential process for cleaning laundry. I keep getting reports that some people experience so much foam during a wash that it fills the door glass, and sometimes even starts to come out of the soap dispenser drawer. A common reaction to this is to reduce the amount of detergent in the wash, but bizarrely, and counter-intuitively, washing machine detergent contains anti foaming agents so using too little can ironically cause too much 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 described above, too little can also cause some excess foaming so the important thing is to use the right amount as suggested by the detergent manufacturer, which 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.
Finally, 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 either stop using them and use the amount of detergent for hard water, or make sure you reduce the amount of detergent to levels advised for soft water if you are adding anti lime-scale products to the wash.
How to deal with excessive foam on a wash
If your washing machine is mid cycle and excessively foaming you can get rid of excessive foaming by pouring a cap full of fabric conditioner into the dispenser drawer on the side which takes in water for rinses (usually on the left). Preferably do this when it next takes water in for a rinse, or at least when you are sure water is still in the machine to prevent concentrated fabric conditioner getting directly onto laundry. This should react with the foam and help suppress it after a while. This shouldn’t really be something you need to do on each wash though, it’s just a tip on how to respond to excess foam that may happen on a wash. If you are getting the problem every time you wash you need to try and work out what’s causing it to prevent it happening (hopefully from the information in this article).
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 my Forum threads –
Excessive foaming only on rinse & spin
This article is about lots of foam in the drum when washing. If you only notice the problem 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 sap suds from the main wash are never properly removed and get whipped up during spins. This is relatively rare because it needs the 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 this article to troubleshoot a partial pump blockage Washing Machine Won’t Drain Water
It’s also worth double checking you are putting the detergent in the right side of the soap drawer. If it’s placed in the wrong side then the detergent will not get flushed down until the rinses. That would result in poor wash results and potentially soapy water during rinsing.
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