European Washing Machines - Laundry Detergent

My family of 5 will be traveling next summer for 6 weeks staying in several apartments that have a washing machine. I believe that washers are much smaller in Europe compared to washers we have here in the States, and I don't know if the European washers are high efficiency units or not. I was planning to bring laundry detergent with me, but I'm not sure whether to bring high efficiency or regular detergent (powder or the individual pods) or buy detergent there. On a side note my son has excema and somewhat sensitive skin.

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
11073 posts

You'll have no problems finding the correct laundry detergent here. Just buy it at a grocery store when you arrive.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
24193 posts

Pam, I agree with Tom - you should be able to find appropriate laundry detergent in Europe. They have many of the same brands you'll find at home and therefore the chemical formulation should be much the same (and hopefully won't be an irritant for your son). The labels will of course be in the local language, but you should be able to figure out the appropriate quantity to use per wash. Happy travels!

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
9476 posts

Pam the apartment we stayed in this past summer had some dishwasher soap to start, and the owner asked us to use only that kind, we didn't need to buy more but from what I understand those freaky little wash and dry in same drum machines require different soap then we commonly sell here, no way would I bother bringing some from home, pack light and pick it up if and when you need it.

Posted by Andreas
Frankfurt am Main, Germany
2701 posts

pam, if you could specify "Europe" a little further I might be able to provide you with some more detailed information. Generally speaking European washing machines are front loaders that cannot be opened during the entire laundry process. They get much hotter than American ones (although you can adjust temperature yourself, e.g. wash your colors only at 30┬░C). Also they've got more spinning cycles etc. This means: Put American "Tide" in a European washing machine and you have a "foam party" in the room. Detergent, even in smaller sizes, is really cheap at ALDI and LIDL which you'll find in almost every European country. The detergent is of excellent quality. They even sell a big pack of then individually wrapped "taps" which include laundry detergent as well as fabric softener. What is exactly the same as in the States are dryers. But for whatever reason European's aren't too keen on dryer sheets. So if you like them and like to use them, bring your "Bounce" or whatever other brand sheets along.

Posted by HK
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
115 posts

I took pods with me last summer because I had them and it was no trouble to throw them in my luggage. They were marked for use in regular and high efficiency machines. They were small and I only used one in the European machines (would have used two at home). If you and your son would feel more comfortably trying out a brand on laundry at home before heading to Europe, it really isn't much extra weight to carry them. For reference, I used mine in Italy, Slovenia, Austria, and Poland. The machine in Italy was actually a German model.

Posted by Cathy
49 posts

Pam, We have stayed in a number of apartments in Europe with washing machines and all of them have come supplied with the owners' preferred brand of detergent. I don't think we ever had to restock, and with two kids we did a lot of laundry. If the brand supplied seems not mild enough for your son, I would ask the owner or manager for a recommendation that would work for their machine.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
3279 posts

I took Grab Green laundry pods with me last year (not an ad). Sometimes the detergent available in laundromats is very perfumy. I found that one pod per wash was adequate. I use the smaller machines at the laundromat, because my load is fairly small. The apartment washers may be smaller than those in laundromats, so should need no more than one pod. To get rid of all detergent, do a second rinse if you can. If you look for laundry detergent in stores in Europe, it is hard to find a small size container. I think the pods are available some places (Britain), but there may be 100 in the package.

Posted by Pam
SF Bay Area, CA, USA
77 posts

Thanks everyone for the great tips. We'll be traveling in western Europe (Italy, France, Switzerland, and Germany) which I should have specified earlier. I think, to be on the safe side, I'll take some pods with me as some of you recommended. That way I'm guaranteed to have something mild for my son's skin and I don't have to worry about scouting some out at the local store. Thanks!

Posted by Debi
Sherman Oaks, CA, USA
258 posts

I always bring my own detergent to Europe, France, Italy. I have to use fragrance free, for allergy issues. I use a very small amount compared to home and have never had an issue. Happy Travels!!

Posted by James E.
4485 posts

First I would suggest buying it there. Any good apartment managmeent compay will direct you to the nearest grocery store. Second, I own one of those european washing machines, one of the best. If you think you are going to do laundry for a family of 5 you might be disapointed. If you are staying in an older structure there is a good chance that the dryer is a condensing unitl Meaning it has no outside vent. The moisture is pulled away be cooling the hot air to condense the water which is drained away. Works great, takes forever. Most front load washer/dryers will be 2 to 4 cubic feet. In rental apartments I would count on the smaller ones. The apartment managment companies can usually direct you to a nearby commercial service.

Posted by Emily
480 posts

Pam- I have one of those "freaky" European washer/dryer all in one machines in my small condo. I will tell you the type of detergent doesn't matter, it's how much you use. Two teaspoons is plenty for one load. I've never used those pods as they are usually made for much larger machines. The last thing you want is to clog the hose with excess detergent! If your machine has a dryer included, please know that the drying capacity is far smaller than the washing capacity. You cannot dry the same amount of clothes you put in with the wash, so be prepared to hang dry lots of items. AND don't be surprised when the drying time on the machine says 3 hours. Even then, things may not be completely dry. And for the love of all that is holy, do not use dryer sheets or fabric softener unless you like breaking machinery.
Hope these tips help. Have a wonderful time.

Posted by BG
SF Bay Area, USA
1646 posts

I'm another fan of Le Chat Sensitive laundry detergent -- I use it all the time in my washing machine in France.

Posted by Dina
Fontainebleau, France
893 posts

If you need to purchase laundry detergent in France, I would recommend Le Chat Sensitive. I use that and my son - who also has problems with sensitive skin and eczema - doesn't have a problem with it. It is formulated for European washing machines.

Posted by Kathy
Germany, Germany
813 posts

Where do I start about the differences in washers/dryers? There's many. Firstly, mine says to only use powdered detergent, not liquid, it'll muck it up. I recommend waiting to get something when you get here. IF you have to bring something, or FYI for anyone else, there's a dry detergent and dryer sheet in one sold in the States. They're great for travel. Cut it in half length wise (so it still has both the washer and dryer components) and it'll be the right size for our tiny Euro washers.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
6030 posts

I bring the Purex sheets that Kathy referred to with me. I also cut them into strips about 1" wide for sink washing.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
13893 posts

Is Le Chat available at Auchun or Carrefour, or at Casino? It is a brand we have not noticed. We have been buying a lot of bathroom products from MMMigros in Switzerland - we are confirmed users of their toothpaste and suncream - but we also shop quite a lot at the French Hypermarch├ęs and Casino. with all the suggestions we will try it when next in france.

Posted by Susan
Atlanta, Ga, USA
1605 posts

When we rented an apt in Paris the washing machine was a dryer as well. The owner left starter and we bought more of the same brand in a Monoprix. It was not expensive and was measured out in individual tablets. It got clothes and towels cleaner than anything I buy at home. Brought the leftover tabs home and was sorry when it was used up-really great detergent. But I do travel with a small amount from home for hand washing. Had to buy detergent once in Switzerland and it was really expensive.

Posted by Lo
1682 posts

So far I have rented 4 apartments in Europe: Lisbon, Florence, Paris, Aix-en-Provence. None had a washer that was also a dryer. The last had a separate dryer. Like others, I take the Purex sheets and cut them in half for the very small apartment washers. They take up almost no luggage space and weigh practically nothing. I had no problems with them in the one apartment dryer I used. They also worked fine in the commercial laundries I have used. Be aware that the "dryer" listed in some apartment ads is actually a folding rack or outside lines. Since we pack very light, we find that we wash clothes almost daily when we have a machine in the place we stay. We are only 2, so you might need to do that yourself to keep up. Also be aware that if you use a commercial laundry that does the work for you, the clothes will be what we have come to call "European" dry. If you want it really dry, you need to do it yourself. Some of the do-it-yourself laundries have an amazing variety of sizes of washers from lingerie tiny to duvet giant. The dryers are often on the large side. As others have mentioned, that may be your best option for doing laundry for your group all at once. Just pack up the dirty clothes in one or more of your backpacks or roller suitcases and put the clean clothes in them when you are done to go back home. All those people you see on the streets with packs and suitcases aren't tourists. Many are locals doing their laundry.