Excess suds in Front Loaders

Suds are bubbles or froth normally produced during a wash cycle. The main causes of excess suds are inadequate loading, incorrect detergent type for water quality and excess surfactant for the amount of soiling.

Learn how to identify and remove excess suds issues as well as how to quickly stop a suds whiteout.

Having too many suds in a prewash cycle isn’t an issue. Excess suds in the main wash prevent friction, as these cushion the items and in some instances prevent them from getting clean.

Front loader washing machine door showing too much froth or foam, almost covering the entire door
Excess suds

Review your machine loading

A common cause of excess suds is underloading.

Correct machine loading for the main wash is important because the surface area influences the amount of friction that occurs. Sufficient surface area and friction, along with detergent, heat and water remove soiling.

Remember: loading does not matter for prewash and it is normal to see more suds during prewash.


Inadequate loading will cause excess suds. There isn’t enough laundry to provide sufficient friction to remove soiling. As the cycle continues, the laundry in the machine will further compress, and suds will further increase with agitation over time. Excess suds cushion and prevent friction, which further prevents the removal of soiling.

This video is an example of underloading in a front loader washing machine, and what level of suds is excessive.


Overloading prevents items from getting clean because they won’t get that required friction.

Optimal loading

To ensure loading is correct, the laundry in the machine should be loosely full when dry, and 2/3–3/4 full when wet for optimum agitation. Damp prewashed items count as dry.

Check loading approximately a third of the way into the cycle to see if loading is accurate.

This video is an example of what level of laundry loading will provide sufficient friction to remove soiling. As the cycle continues, the laundry in the machine will compress and suds will increase with agitation over time.

Cycle duration

Along with surface area (enough items in the machine), the items need to be in the machine for long enough for the friction to remove the soiling. As the cycle continues, the items compress and more suds are created by the surfactant. This is why it is best to check loading at about a third of the way into the main cycle. A standard Cottons cycle in a front loader is 2.5–3 hours.

Consider your detergent type

Another cause of excess suds is living in a soft water area and using a detergent that contains a lot of water softeners. The amount of dissolved minerals in your water affects your water hardness.

To find out the water hardness in your area, check your water provider’s website, council website, or Google your suburb.

The base of powder detergents is often a water softener, usually sodium carbonate. This is added to bind to the dissolved minerals in the water allowing the detergent surfactants to effectively remove soiling. As a result, if powder detergents are used in soft water, in a front loader, it may result in excess suds. 

Detergent selection

In general, liquid detergents perform better in soft water areas, and powder in hard water areas. We have reviewed 212 different detergents, and make recommendations based on water hardness.

Review your soiling level

A final cause of excess suds is overdosing detergent for the amount of soiling in the machine. This can happen if the prewash is very effective, or if your main wash consists of only prewashed items.

Check if there are excess suds when washing other items such as clothing or linen. If there aren’t excess suds when washing other items, then potentially there is too much detergent for the main nappy wash.

In this situation, you need to add more soiling to the main wash. Bulk the main wash with at least one-quarter (25%) of soiled items (for example, clothing with food or dirt), so that the surfactant is being used up.

Preventing excess suds checklist

  • Check the filter of the machine. Often small items or debris can get stuck in the filter. Blocked filters can often be the cause of excess suds.
  • Ensure your main wash loading is 2/3–3/4 full when wet.
  • Check your water hardness and use a low sudding detergent.
  • Increase the soiling level in your main wash by bulking with at least 25% of soiled items. 

If the above methods aren’t solving the excess suds, reduce your detergent quantity by 1/4–1/2 of a scoop/lid for the main wash. Review our detergent Index for detergent quantities and water hardness recommendations.

Take notice of how clean the nappies are out of the main wash. The graphic below explains why enough detergent and surfactants are necessary.

An infographic explaining why it is important to use enough detergent to remove soiling

How to quickly fix a whiteout or suds lock

Some machines will continue to wash with excess suds, just extending the cycle to rinse them out; others will do a suds lock, waiting for them to subside before the cycle can continue.

To quickly fix excess suds during the main cycle, dilute 1/2–1 lid of fabric softener or hair conditioner with water and pour it down the detergent drawer.

How fabric softener/hair conditioner fixes suds lock

The cationic surfactants in the fabric softener or hair conditioner will bind to the excess anionic surfactants in the detergent, thus reducing the suds. This will allow the cycle to continue, and the fabric softener or hair conditioner will wash out.