How to read detergent information (UK)


Detergents in the UK come with very specific dose amounts. This is because water hardness varies all over the United Kingdom.

In the UK detergent is dosed by metric volume- in millilitres (mL) to ensure accurate dosage each time, and maintain dosing consistency. Any appropriate container with mL measurements can be used (eg a measuring jug or even an unused baby bottle). Both Unilever and Proctor & Gamble send out free dosing devices on request.

Select a detergent

The full UK index contains 40 different detergents and is available exclusively to Clean Cloth Nappies website members with a current quarterly or annual subscription. We have colllated our favourite UK detergents together, find one that suits your family.


Dosing accurately relies on three things:

  1. Amount of soiling (light, medium or heavy)
  2. Water hardness (soft, moderate or hard)
  3. Drum size

To calculate how much detergent is needed for both pre-wash and main wash first work out the total amount needed for the main wash. Once this amount is calculated, the pre-wash amount will be exactly half required for the main wash.

Calculate your main wash dose

PLEASE NOTE: the dosages in the graphics below are specific to the detergent used in this example. Please check your detergent label carefully.

Turn to the dose instructions on the side/back of the detergent label (both powders and liquids).

1. Establish the water hardness

Water hardness varies all over the United Kingdom. Most people know their water hardness, especially if they live in a hard water area. If unsure, visit your local water authority’s website or search online for your area + water hardness.

2. Always treat nappies as heavily soiled laundry.

Nappies are very dirty laundry, for this reason, always refer to the appropriate dosing for heavy soiling.

3. Find the appropriate amount for heavy soiling in relation to water hardness.

Follow the guide for the heavily soiling column for the appropriate water hardness, see the corresponding dose.

In this example, the amount needed to wash nappies in hard water is 190 mL

4. Add the additional amount specified for larger machines.

All mainstream detergents will recommend adding extra detergent for machines larger than 5kg. This will be specified somewhere on the pack.

In this example, if you are washing nappies in an 8 kg machine in a hard water area, you would add an additional 40mL to the 190mL specified. This means a total of 230mL will be used for the main wash.

If the machine is very large, 10kg or bigger, add twice the additional amount.

Calculate your pre wash dose

Divide the dose amount for the main wash BY HALF. Eg. If the main wash needs 230 mL, a pre-wash will require 115 mL.

No two brands are the same, quality can vary. If nappies don’t appear to be cleaning very well (and other troubleshooting methods have been ruled out), consider increasing/ decreasing dosage, do this in 30-40 mL increments.

For more information on what is in detergents and the function of the raw materials see our information on surfactants, enzymes, optical brighteners and fragrances and the WashWise information sheet on Laundry Detergent Ingredients .

Liked it? Take a second to support Clean Cloth Nappies on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!