Stop Using So Much Dish Soap (And Other Portion Size Advice)

Stop Using So Much Dish Soap (And Other Portion Size Advice)

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A capful of laundry detergent. A squeeze of dish soap. A dollop of sunscreen. It’s easy to portion out these measurements almost mindlessly, rarely stopping to wonder if it’s the right amount of these everyday essentials. Although many times this may not be a big deal, in some scenarios using too much or too little of a product can yield lousy results. That’s why we dove into the deep end of various Wirecutter guides to find out which of our guesstimates were wildly off the mark. Here are the suggested “serving” sizes of common household supplies that surprised us the most.

One turn of the bowl with toilet cleaner will do

A selection of cleaning supplies used for cleaning toilets, including a toilet brush, Clorox wipes, and Lysol toilet bowl cleaner.
Photo: James Austin

The amount of toilet bowl cleaner recommended on the back of the bottle varies depending on the brand, but Wirecutter updates writer James Austin says around 4 to 6 ounces is enough to effectively clean your toilet bowl. Measuring out a specific amount of cleaner, however, can be a little difficult since most toilet bowl cleaners come in a funny-looking bottle designed to more easily apply the cleaner under the rim of the bowl. To save yourself the trouble of measuring it out, James says one squeeze of the bottle all the way around the bowl usually provides more than you need.

Measure your sunscreen by the shot glass

A person's outstretched, palm-up hand, with an ounce of white sunscreen sitting in their palm.
Photo: Casey Johnston

Chances are, you’re not wearing enough sunscreen—and if that’s the case, you’re not alone. A 2014 study showed that most folks typically use a quarter to half as much sunscreen as they should be using to meet the advertised sun protection factor (SPF). To get the full protection of the SPF listed on the bottle, you need to use 2 milligrams per square centimeter of skin. This amounts to about a shot glass’s worth, or 1 ounce, of sunscreen for the average-size adult’s near-naked body. It’s harder to judge how much sunscreen you’re using if you get it from a spray bottle, especially if you’re applying it on a windy day. Spray sunscreen manufacturers typically recommend holding the bottle 4 to 6 inches from your skin, but Wirecutter found that you need to spray the sunscreen much closer to your body to apply it effectively (and even then, you still need to rub it into your skin). You also need to spray for two minutes in a windless (but well-ventilated) area to get the SPF advertised.

The cap on that detergent bottle is way too big

A laundry detergent bottle cap, shown overflowing with blue laundry detergent.
Photo: Michael Hession

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Stop using so much laundry detergent. Though the back of almost every detergent bottle suggests using a capful of detergent, staff writer Sarah Bogdan and senior staff writer Liam McCabe say that’s way too much. Detergent residue builds up in your clothes over time, turning your soft wardrobe stiff if you use too much detergent. You need only 2 tablespoons per load to effectively clean your clothes, and that’s for large loads weighing 12 pounds or more. An average load of laundry weighs around 8 pounds and requires even less detergent—1 tablespoon is enough to thoroughly clean your clothes. “When it comes to laundry detergent, a little will go a long way,” Sarah says.

A little dish soap goes a long way, too

A person holding two plates over a bucket of soapy water.
Photo: Alex Farris

You might be using too much dish soap if you continuously squeeze dollops of the cleaner onto your sponge while hand-washing your dishes. A more effective way to get the chore done is to fill the sink with soapy water. We’ve found that sometimes you need only as little as a teaspoon of dish detergent in a sinkful of water to produce a healthy layer of foam on top. Wirecutter staff writer Anna Perling suggests starting with the least-dirty dishes to preserve the soapy water for as long as possible. Once the water turns brown or loses suds, drain it and replenish it with another teaspoon of soap.

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