What is this “he” soap that is recommended on my washing machine? When this stuff first came out, I used to get this question all the time, but not so much any more. The “he” stands for “high efficiency” and the soap is specially formulated to not make as many suds as the soaps of yesteryear. You might ask, what’s wrong with suds? I thought suds got the clothes clean! Well, in a front load washer, the action of the clothes dropping into the water makes a lot more suds than the old top loaders with agitators. This caused too many suds. In fact, if there are too many suds in a front load washer, it cannot properly drain the water because the pump is trying to pump sudsy air instead of liquid water.
I have some unsubstantiated myth and conjecture to share about using non-he soap in front load washers. First of all, I think it causes more problems with mold, mildew, and odor. The suds end up transporting all sorts of nasty stuff that is being washed out of the clothes (dirt, dead skin, sweat, etc) onto the sides and top of the outer tub, where it cannot be washed off. This film can end up growing mold and mildew because if the door is kept closed, it never dries out very well in the inside of the washer. The result is a nifty biology experiment growing in all sorts of places than cannot be seen or wiped down.
Now, I’m really going to stretch and give an opinion on which I cannot prove, but have some suspicions… I believe the use of non-he soap in front loaders can cause premature failure of the rear seal, and subsequent failure of the rear bearing.
I have no scientific proof to back up my assertion, but I have a lot of anecdotal evidence that I might be right about this. The way I look at it, why take a chance? He soap is easy to find and is no more expensive than regular soap, so why not follow the recommendation of the manufacturer and your friendly neighborhood appliance repairman?