I sometimes use some essential oil / extracts in my washing machine as they can have some disinfecting effect and give a nice smell to the clothes (e.g. a capful of eucalyptus oil for one load). However, I was wondering if that was counter-productive when it comes to saving detergent and efficiently washing clothes.

Is the detergent wasted on the added essential oil, given that detergent is designed to coat lipid droplets and render them soluble in the waste-water?


If you don't add additional detergent to your wash (nor do additional wash loads because you believe your cloths come out without being cleaned as well) to compensate for any effects (real, imagined, or otherwise) of the added oils then you cannot be wasting detergent.

You are using the same amount of detergent whether you add the essential oils or not. The difference in detergent used is zero. Therefore, the essential oils are not a factor in detergent waste.

If you do add more detergent or run more wash cycles (with detergent) then the result is more detergent used. You could argue that this additional detergent is wasted.

  • 1
    Thank you for your answer. I understand my wording might be confusing, but when I say "Is the detergent wasted on the added essential oil", I mean "will my clothes be washed less efficiently"? However, I do vary my use of detergent if I notice that my clothes are particularly filthy. If the essential oil significantly competes with the lipids in my clothes, it is fair to assume that overtime I might actually waste detergent by intuitively putting some extra in as the recommended amount doesn't seem to do the job.
    – stragu
    Mar 22 '18 at 6:35

From what I've been able to read online, it doesn't look like the addition of a couple drops of an essential oil would be enough to affect the surfactants from doing their job, unless your clothes are soaked in oil and grease. I've just looked here and here and both sites recommend adding a couple drops, though I'm not sure how many drops would go in a capful. Hope this was helpful!

  • 1
    Those two sites just advocate the use of essential oils and do not raise and debate or investigate if this wastes detergent.
    – user2451
    Mar 21 '18 at 7:43
  • That is true, I did not find any sources that specifically looked into whether detergent was being wasted. However, I assume that if adding essential oils are advocated by these sites and if the laundry isn't completely covered in grease, then there would not be any "wasting" of detergent. I'm also assuming wasting detergent would mean using too much, and since the essential oil wouldn't be doing much in terms of wicking away dirt from the clothes, there is no need to worry about wasting detergent. Mar 21 '18 at 7:53

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