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November 2003 SDA National Cleaning Survey

Survey Shows Half Have Never, Ever Read Laundry Instructions

During the Busiest Shopping Days of the Year, SDA Provides Advice for Keeping New Clothes Clean and in Good Condition

Washington, DC - November 4, 2003 - Nearly half of U.S. consumers say they have never read the directions on a package of laundry detergent, according to a new survey from The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA).

And, with the days after Thanksgiving ranking as some of the busiest shopping days of the year, SDA ( is reminding consumers that new clothes can last longer and outlast holiday stains by using the right laundry techniques.

"First and foremost, proper detergent dosage leads to cleaner and longer-lasting clothing," said Nancy Bock, SDA Vice President of Education. "This advice applies to shoppers who find great bargains on new clothes, as well as for the millions of college students who show up on mom's doorstep with bags of laundry on the holiday weekend."

Survey Results

In the nationwide survey conducted for SDA by International Communications Research, 49% of respondents reported that they have never read the directions on a laundry detergent package. SDA regularly tracks the nation's cleaning attitudes and behaviors in its National Cleaning Surveys.

Other results from the latest survey include:

  • 35 % of adults sometimes read the directions and 16% always read them.
  • 60 % of women have read instructions at least once, versus only 42% of men.
  • 43 % of total respondents feel they simply don't need directions on doing laundry.
  • Parents rank grass stains (31%), food (17%) and mud (17%) among the toughest stains their kids (k-12) bring home from school.

"When it comes to doing the laundry, read the package label and follow the directions on the care tags of the clothes," added Bock. "It's the way to get the best possible results - wash after wash."

Tracking Trends

A few of the laundry-product trends that help make laundering faster, more effective and pleasant include:

  • Detergents and fabric softeners with color protection - these products work best if you use them from the start with new garments. They help keep the original color from pulling a disappearing act.
  • Pre-measured detergent tablets, which take the measuring factor completely out of the equation! These handy, solid tablets are portable, light, and dribble-free - if you can toss, you can wash.
  • Detergents specially formulated to keep dark clothes dark.
  • Bleach pens that target stains with a fine point applicator for effective treatment.
  • "Spa-treatment" laundry detergents that pamper clothes with aromatherapy scents.
  • Wrinkle-releasing sprays relax and smooth fabrics without the use of an iron.

Battling those Thanksgiving stains

To tackle those cranberry sauce and gravy stains, check out SDA's expert stain advice:

  • With stains, act quickly to increase chances of removal. Pre-treat stains by rinsing or soaking in cold water, then apply a stain remover and launder. Check freshly washed wet clothes for stains that don't wash away. Instead of drying them, which can permanently set the stains, pre-treat the stains and wash them again.
  • All-purpose laundry detergents are especially effective on food, and greasy and oily soils. Since they are liquids, they are good for pretreating spots and stains.
  • Most liquid and powder detergents are now concentrated; so follow the label instructions and use the measuring cap or scoop to ensure the correct amount.

"Most importantly, read and follow laundry package directions," said SDA's Bock. "And you can have clothes that will outlast the stains."

For more laundry tips and techniques, visit SDA's website at, and click on "Laundry."


The independent consumer research was completed for SDA by International Communications Research (ICR). ICR questioned approximately 1,000 American parents, women and men regarding their cleaning attitudes. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus five percent.