Regular detergent is used in regular washing machines. High efficiency, or HE, detergent is used in HE washers. It's not a good idea to use regular detergent in an HE washer.
In regular washers, clothes are submerged in water in order to clean them. Regular detergents are made to produce a lot of suds. They also hold on to dyes and soil so they don't redeposit on clothes. Regular detergents are formulated to work with a high volume of water.
All front-loading washers are high efficiency. They use a tumbler like dryers. There are also some top-loading HE washers. HE washers use 20 percent to 66 percent less water and 50 percent to 80 percent less energy than regular washers.
Since HE washers use less water, HE detergents are made to work well with less water. They hold on to soil and dyes. They also produce fewer suds. You don't want to use too much HE detergent or you'll have the same problems as using a regular detergent.
Regular Detergent in HE Washers
If you use a regular detergent in an HE washer, it will cause problems with the machine. Too many suds can cause it to overflow. You shouldn't use less regular detergent because the clothes won't get as clean and you'll still have problems with suds. Regular detergent can interfere with the washer's sensor and can cause delays in the cycles. Plus soap residue can build up.
If you have a traditional washer use regular detergent. If you have or upgrade to an HE washer, use HE detergent so you don't mess it up.