Top 5 High-efficiency (HE) Detergents

You must use HE detergent for an HE machine. See more green living pictures.

You've probably seen commercials or read about the next wave in laundry machines -- the high-efficiency washer (also called "HE"). You may even have one of your own. Here's why they're so special:

A typical washing machine accounts for more than 20 percent of your water bill. It uses 50 gallons of water or more per cycle, which really adds up, especially if you have a big family and run lots of cycles per week. On the other hand, high-efficiency washing machines use only 18 to 25 gallons of water per load. That's half the amount of the regular washer, which can mean considerable savings in your monthly family budget.

How do these washers do it? Most of them are front-loading machines, which require less water and detergent. And instead of using a big water-filled tub with an agitator like traditional machines, with an HE washer, the clothes go in a "tumbler" and gently tumble around in a shallow pool of water. HE washers also tend to spin faster, which means your clothes have less water in them when they go into the dryer, resulting in shorter dryer times. Bonus!

Because of the way the HE washer tumbling system works, though, you have to use a special HE-branded detergent when you wash your clothes. Otherwise you'll end up with way too many suds, which can make a mess and shorten the life of your HE washer.

Let's take a look at some of the top-ranked detergents available for high-efficiency washers, as well as some more information about HE machines.