Cheer Color Guard's Newer Scoop Wastes More Detergent, Money

Adapting to the threat of informed consumers, the insidious Grocery Shrink Ray has mutated to enlarge select items. The Grocery Shrink Ray is seen here needlessly inflating the size of the scoop bundled with Cheer Color Guard detergent. Is Cheer encouraging consumers to burn through their product faster, or is the new Cheer simply less effective? Reader Mark investigates, inside…

Apparently the super-market shrink-ray has a “reverse” option too. I’ve been collecting and re-purposing old scoops from laundry detergent boxes for years now, and have almost exclusively been a Cheer Color Guard (or it’s current incarnation) customer during that time. Rather than use the scoop from a new box, I usually just continue using the previous scoop. Therefore I can’t tell you how old this one is, but it’s at least three or four years old.

So the scoop on the left is an older one, used in the cheer boxes many years ago. The one on the right is a new one from a box I purchased this month. Notice anything immediately? If you’re like me, you don’t sit down and painstakingly measure out your detergent, you eyeball the partially filled scoop and pour. For years I’ve used about 3/4 scoop to wash my clothes, no problems. If I applied that logic to the same scoop from a new box of Cheer, I’d have been using significantly more in my laundry.

However, to give Cheer a fair chance, I decided to measure them out as per the directions on the scoop. Each has 3 levels. Medium, Large and Heavy Soil for the old scoop and a 1 and 2 for the new scoop. The new scoop however has three lines on it and the directions state they are for Medium Loads, Large Loads or Heavy Soiled Medium Loads and Large Heavy Soiled Loads. So to try and judge fairly, I filled the large scoop to the maximum amount (3rd line from the top) with water.

Looking at the two side by side, it actually appears that the larger scoop requires less detergent for a large heavy soiled load. Perhaps Cheer tweaked their formula over the years and I’m judging them harshly. So I decided to see, because it seems to take a completely full old scoop to equal what a 3/4 full new scoop does. So I poured the larger scoop into the smaller, attempting to transfer all of the liquid to the old one. I couldn’t do it.

If you’ll notice, not only is the smaller scoop completely full (including the handle) but there’s still water left in the large scoop. Two and one-half tablespoons worth.

So my conclusions are either Cheer is either trying to gently encourage us to use more washing powder than necessary, or they’ve reformulated their detergent over the years to actually be less effective.

-Mark

If you catch the Grocery Shrink Ray in action, approach warily with a camera, and send the results to the tipline.

Comments

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  1. darkshadow2247 says:

    Surprise, surprise. For this very reason, I’ve never used the recommended amount for my laundry. I’ve always used a bit less. My clothes have always come out as clean as I had expected.

  2. jpx72x says:

    It could be that the detergent has more filler. Dilution = downsizing.

  3. AnubisAscended says:

    Are you sure that what they’re calling the “Grocery Shrink Ray” isn’t actually a marketing term for a “Gnomish Shrink Ray”? (the Gnomish Shrink Ray has a tendency to enlarge the target, as well.)

    [/couldn't resist an opportunity like this]

  4. helloashley says:

    No matter what detergent you’re using, I recommend using less than the suggested amount. They always suggest too much and you can still get your clothes clean using less detergent.

  5. darkshadow2247 says:

    @helloashley: I’ve always done just that. Never had a problem.

  6. katylostherart says:

    that’s crap. i have a communal wash room in my complex. so we are supposed to used 2tbsp of detergent either powder or liquid. it gets the job done no matter what the soil rate or load size is. if you have badly stained clothes from your weekend killing spree, pretreat. it’s not so hard. the people who do these things to products really do know how stupid and lazy humanity is on a very broad scale.

  7. rjgnyc says:

    @jpx72x: They wouldn’t have the marker for largest load (and the others?) at the same points, then. Are the markers for the loads different now? It looks like they’re the same in the picture, esp due to where the indicators are.

    My guess is that the newer scoop is to prevent people from spilling any if they’re filling up to exactly the marker. I know when I fill things, I like to slightly shake the container to help things settle and see if they’re lined up properly. I couldn’t do that if I was filling to a full load using the left hand scoop.

  8. ClayS says:

    @helloashley:
    Good information. I always wonder if the manufacturer inflates the amount of detergent they recommend to ensure better cleaning and that you burn through it quicker, or if they understate the amount needed to make it appear that more loads can be cleaned? Often the box proclaims something like “Cleans 200 loads!”.

  9. @helloashley: @ClayS: Agreed, it’s just like when you see them squirt out that neat little squigle to toothpaste. It gives the impression that it’s the correct way to do things but you’re using a lot more than you actually need.

    If you give someone a cup, they’re going to think that you have to fill it to get the job done.

  10. Kajj says:

    @katylostherart: Yes, people who use laundry detergent as directed are definitely worthy of your scorn.

  11. raleel says:

    Last time i bought detergent, I had a hard time finding the powdered kind, and was informed by a helpful Target employee that everyone was moving to liquid only. I suspected shipping costs, as the containers for the liquid tends to be smaller. However, I should note that slipped in here was a price hike…IIRC, it was about 10 cents a load more for the liquid, even the same kind (color safe bleach mountain spring scent tide).

    I’ll see if I can find that again when I hit the store next time.

  12. jackal676 says:

    What does the scoop size matter? Does it actually do 60 loads? Is that fewer loads than the box that your 4-year-old scoop came from, and if so, does the current inflation-adjusted price reflect the actual wash capabilities in relation to the old box? If you value objectivity, those are the questions that matter. The headline of this story seems to state a fact that hasn’t been proven, and that’s pretty bogus.

  13. katylostherart says:

    @Kajj: or you could take it like that. people do what’s easiest. this is just a truth. there are few people that do everything because it presents a challenge. most people including most likely you and me, will do every day things (like laundry) with as little thought as possible. and companies that realize this will profit from it by changing things Just Enough to make them spend more.

    rmric0 said it just above your comment. there wasn’t scorn in my statement, it is just the simple matter of how things are. the path of least resistance is the most likely one chosen.

  14. homerjay says:

    @rjgnyc: Hey! That kind of rational thinking is just the thing that’ll get you kicked outta here, buddy.

  15. ryanoscerous says:

    The shrink ray has been used on my Faultless spray starch. The new packaging is now 20 oz where it used to be 22oz. That is the only fault i can find with the product!

  16. katylostherart says:

    but why shake something if you fill it to the top? you could just level it off with your finger? if you’re filling it lower than that like in the left scoop, then you shake it, but if you fill it to heaviest load, you’re using that much anyway and overfilling and then just levelling the top gives you exactly that level.

  17. RetailGuy83 says:

    This is shrink ray. The box is the same size but has more water in it. So you need more to get the same amount of detergent.

  18. attheotherbeach says:

    @ClayS: Of course they do.It’s the same trick JiffyLube uses, advertising that you MUST change your oil every 3,000 miles. Five thousand is fine, and recommended by some manufacturers.

  19. AgentTuttle says:

    Next they’ll be selling us clothes that are already dirty. Oh wait, they are doing that, dirty and worn out. I prefer to do it myself and use a lot less detergent. They get clean.

  20. aristan says:

    @raleel:

    I think it has far less to do with shipping costs than consumer preference. Most people like liquid detergent, so it sells better. It’s far easier to transport bricks of dry powdered soap with far less mess than it is to ship oddly shaped containers of liquid.

    Stocking in a grocery store, you’ll see that a case of Liquid detergent generally holds 4 bottles. The same load size of powdered detergent would be at least 6 boxes per case. Liquid detergent also takes up more space on the shelf because they don’t fit snugly like boxes of powder do.

    So that’s where your price hike comes in. They have to spend more money on cardboard boxes & plastic bottles to give consumers what they want, even though it’s far less efficient. They actually sell less soap to stores because they can only sell 4 bottles rather than 6 boxes per case. They have to make up for it somehow & that gets passed on to you.

  21. Old news. I blogged about this in reference to Tide doing this to us 3-4 years ago. I’ve kept the old scoop and continue to use that one. The greed, avarice and plain dishonesty of companies that does this never ceases to amaze me.

  22. Christopher says:

    @Steve Chambers: I will give Tide brownie points for the way they handled the “2x concentrating” of their liquid detergent line several months ago, though. They made it very apparent to all consumers to use half the quantity by sticking signs all over the bottles and halving the size of the measuring cap.

    Plus, they’re probably now a lot more environmentally friendly. Less carbon from shipping, less plastic for the bottles, etc.

  23. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    Another comment here to say that I use about half of the recommended amount of laundry detergent (regardless of brand) and my clothes come out perfectly clean. I think how clean your clothes get has more to do with how well your washer agitates them, rather than the effectiveness of the detergent (just like dishwashers).

  24. junkmail says:

    With a water softener and a front-loading washer we only use about a 1/10th of the recommended amount. Any more than that, and we’d NEVER get it rinsed out. Clothes come out clean as ever.

  25. coan_net says:

    I can say i did not read the article (only the first part of it)

    Bu I can say that if I used Cheer – I WOULD LOVE the new scoop.

    When the “large” load is at the top of the scoop, there is more of a chance to spill some from the way out of the box into the washer.

    So now that there is extra scoop to hold in the large load of detergent – YEA CHEER!

    3 Cheers for Cheer!

  26. arcticJKL says:

    I love the fact that they condense the chemicals make the box smaller (cheaper) and then tell you its for the environment.

  27. bohemian says:

    We have been using Method brand concentrate in the larger jug. I finally had to buy a new one as ours is close to empty. The previous one was bought 6-9 months ago. The bottle says you can get 64 loads of wash from that bottle. Even if it has only been 6 months we have gotten 104 loads minimum already and there is still some left in the jug. If we use any more than the “small” line on the cup in a large load of laundry there is excess soap in the clothes and they come out rather stiff and crunchy.

  28. amoeba says:

    I don’t buy Cheer, but Tide does have large scoops as well.

    If I am not wrong; depending on the concentration, the scoop is either small or big.

    I only use for extra large loads 1/2 cup and for medium 1/4 cup. I use regular baking or cooking cups for my detergent.

  29. SkyeBlue says:

    Just use an old measuring cup instead! If you always use the same brand detergent experiment a bit and start out with a 1/4 sized cup and see if that works, if it doesn’t work just try using more until you find out exactly how much detergent you really need to use. I use Tide liquid and sometimes only use 1/4 to 1/2 of what it says to use and my clothes come out fine.

    When you go by the actual scoop or cap I think you can use 2 or 3X more than you really need to.

  30. Snarkysnake says:

    A few years back, we used Wisk tablets when there was a brief craze for detergent tablets. The box said use two. We cut that in half for our front load machine and the clothes never looked better.Boxes lasted twice as long and there was no mess,no fuss. I wish they still made Wisk Tabs. Does anybody know of any other tablet detergent?

  31. StoneKitten says:

    Well maybe Cheer had a good reason.
    Perhaps people are stinkier suddenly.
    All the worry over gas prices and whatnot.

  32. Overheal says:

    i find anytime i use the recommended amount on any detergent/load it always ends up with my clothes reeking of soap anyway. screw them.

  33. purplesun says:

    @AnubisAscended:

    But then wouldn’t its cleaning power be increased by 250? You should still need less…. :)

  34. bwcbwc says:

    Various companies are doing the same thing with their liquid detergent measuring caps as well. The top measuring level of the Era cap is about 1/3 of an inch from the actual top of the cap. All is even worse, something close to a full inch from the top.

  35. BuddhaLite says:

    I have to wonder if the person actually weighed the amounts in each scoop. A higher scoop doesn’t equal more.

  36. u1itn0w2day says:

    I heard the big thing with washing clothes in a machine is suds:air bubbles help pull the dirt up or off the clothes and the circular force pulling the water out of the clothes.I heard that’s why front loading machines work better than top loading machines-at least that’s what the laundromat lady told me.

    I also rarely use the recommended fills because as noted too much is hard to get out.People dont realize it but the stronger the detergent smell or scent on your clothes the greater the amount of detergent residue that is left on them.That’s why many develope allergies to many detergents.I found the best way is too eliminate the major stains is ti clean them before they go in the machine.

    As slick as the shrink is it probably does have something to do with shipping cost along with the variety 1 truck must carry to the stores.Still though the basic shape and labeling of the bottles are the same.EXTRA did the same recently going from a 128 oz to 78oz saying 2X stronger.

  37. ChuckECheese says:

    @Snarkysnake: I’ve occasionally wondered why tabs disappeared. They were convenient and well priced. Maybe they were too consumer friendly. Previously (and again today) I looked for them online. Nobody appears to make them anymore (in the U.S.) with the exception of Laundry Dropps, which are scary expensive, about twice the price per load as Tide.

    It’s hard to know if the OP has a case here, without knowing the actual volume of the original and new boxes and scoops. Detergent makers change formulas, which change the volumes used. OTOH, having a scoop with the fill line below the level of the scoop would lead many to overuse–I know my roommate cannot bear to use less than a heaping scoop of detergent per load of laundry, no matter the size of the scoop or the load of clothes.

    For most detergents, a half scoop/cap usually does the job for me. Presoaking when you can is more effective than using more detergent. Purex Ultra products work well for me and for some some reason are still about the same price they were 2-3 years ago, as contrasted to the galloping prices of other name-brand products.

  38. Don’t you realize that Cheer is trying to help you by changing the scoop size? You see, uh, conventional wisdom is to, um, use less detergent, right? So by increasing the detergent amount, when you use less, you’ll really, er, be using the right amount.

    Therefore, Cheer is good and wise. Thank you, Cheer.

  39. emington says:

    One explanation could be that they changed the concentration of the powder.

  40. juniper says:

    … or, if they sell by weight, the bigger scoop weighs more and they can put less detergent in the package.

  41. kyle4 says:

    Consumerist, show the after picture of it being full! I want to see.

  42. Televiper says:

    It may be that they are getting complaints about the soap not working so they’re compensating by recommending more soap. Even so, they’re going in the wrong direction in a world that’s concerned about the environment.

  43. Raymond Chen has explored this phenomenon on two occasions.

  44. u1itn0w2day says:

    What they need to do instead of coming out with a numerical measurement is have sort of test like sudsy the water is or how long it takes to get suds.

    Also heard that if your using hard water(high iron content I think) it takes more soap.A water softener on the plumbing should use less soap.

  45. rjgnyc says:

    @homerjay: I hate being a rational consumer who looks at the clearly labeled opening graphic!

    Next time I’ll just go about claiming that they weigh the box post cup insertion and that by making a bigger cup they’re able to pu in less powder because there’s more plastic.

  46. Onouris says:

    @rjgnyc:

    Well I came here to say exactly what you did. But it seems the majority of people here can’t actually look at pictures for themselves, they just read what they’re told and take it as a given. The quite clearly marked spots are about the SAME height on either scoop… the second just reduces spillage.

    So where on earth did ‘forcing you to use more’ come from? Seriously? Are you just writing crap for readers or what?

    I mean come on, the lines were drawn on the picture by someone, and that person didn’t realise they were about the same height? Are you seriously telling me that there’s only three of us that noticed?

  47. Eric says:

    @Onouris:

    Read the article, they filled the larger cup to the line with water and tried to transfer it to the smaller cup and it wouldn’t all fit.

    Volume is 3 dimensional, height is only one factor.

  48. IrisMR says:

    S’why we just use an old scoop and use it for every laundry detergent we buy.

    Frankly, you usually don’T need nearly as much as they suggest.

  49. Agent007 says:

    The Grocery Shrink Ray, in the context that Consumerist presents it, is an urban myth with no basis in reality.

  50. modenastradale says:

    Here’s another vote for “use less detergent than recommended on the bottle.” Much less.

    The next time you have a heavily soiled load, try an experiment — use 1/3 to 1/2 the recommended amount, and see if the clothes come out fresh and clean. I bet they will.

    Further, if you adopt this as a regular practice, I bet you’ll find that your clothes don’t age as quickly. Detergent can be very harsh on the fabrics and dyes.

  51. MercuryPDX says:

    @helloashley: Add me to the “uses less than they say”.

    @modenastradale: 1/3 does fine by me. Ditto with the fabric softner.

  52. zenmonkey says:

    Hate to tell you this but load indicators on laundry detergent mean nothing. I’ve spoken to individuals within a large laundry detergent manufacturer (look up), and they gave me the skinny. They test market different “number of loads” and adjust the numbers for sales and marketing purpose. The thing is, they rarely adjust the actual volume of the product in the package.

    Also the only difference between hi efficiency detergent and normal detergent is the amount you put in the washer. Same soap, different load indicators.

    Ever since that discussion I just use minimal amounts of detergent, because unless you work in a particularly dirty job, or have really messy kids you don’t need to use that much detergent.