People contemplate using dish soap to wash clothes for varying reasons. Perhaps you have a large family and are finding the laundry detergent too expensive, or you have just discovered that your supply has run out when it’s too late. Whatever your reasons, you’ll likely hesitate to substitute laundry detergent with dish soap because you’ve probably read somewhere that doing that can make your washing machine overflow with bubbles.
You can wash clothes with dish soap. As long as you use less than three teaspoons of dish soap, your washing machine won’t overflow with bubbles. The only potential drawbacks are wrinkles and static cling, which can be addressed with a few DIY hacks.
In the rest of this article, we’ll compare the chemical composition of dish soap to laundry detergent to help you understand what will happen if you use the former to wash your clothes. We’ll also take a look at some of the DIY hacks you can use to improve the efficiency of dish soap when using it as laundry detergent, so be sure to read to the end.
Dish Soap vs. Laundry Detergent: What’s the Difference?
This is a critical question for anyone looking to replace laundry detergent with dish soap because it can help you determine whether you’ll get the same result. As it turns out, laundry detergent and dish soap have quite similar formulas. The primary chemical composition is the same in terms of enzymes, colorants, and cleaning agents.
However, the additives in dish soap are a bit different from those of laundry detergent. Dish soap’s additives are typically meant to keep your hands soft as you clean, whereas the softeners in laundry detergent are meant to protect your clothes from static cling and wrinkles.
Does this mean that using dish soap in your washing machine will leave your clothes with wrinkles and static cling? Probably. However, you can address that issue with a few tricks that we’ll cover in the next section.
Tips for Washing Clothes With Dish Soap
For clean, static-free, and wrinkleless clothes and mess-free cleaning, observe the following guidelines when doing your laundry with dish soap:
Check the Ingredients List
Whether machine washing or hand washing, you’ll want to review your dish soap’s ingredients before using it to do the laundry. If bleaching agents feature on that list, do not use the detergent on your laundry because colored clothes may fade (we’ll tackle removing tough stains that typically require bleach later on; hang in there).
Scents are another thing to look out for because it’s likely that the dish soap you’re considering won’t leave your desired after-smell on your clothing. To play it safe, choose scent-free detergent because you can always use laundry scent boosters to add your preferred after-smell.
Here’s a quick video to help with that:
Add a Smaller Amount Than You Normally Do When Using Laundry Detergent
The main reason people avoid using dish soap to machine-wash clothes is the risk of having the laundry machine (and probably the whole laundry room) flooded with bubbles. That happens because dish soap typically creates lots of suds, but you can prevent it by adjusting the amount of dish soap you add to your washing machine.
As a general rule, keep the amount of dish detergent below three teaspoons. One teaspoon is enough for a small load, while two teaspoonfuls are ideal for medium loads. Only use three teaspoons of dish detergent when you’re up against a large load.
Keep in mind that the problem of bubbles only applies to machine washing. When washing by hand, you can use as much dish detergent as you deem necessary because you can always rinse out excess bubbles.
Use Hydrogen Peroxide to Formulate a Spot Remover for Tough Stains
Some stains just won’t come off without a bleaching agent. If you’re up against such, mix one-part dish soap with two parts hydrogen peroxide to create a powerful homemade stain remover.
Next, test the solution on a small patch of the affected clothing before applying a thin coat over the entire stain. Once applied, let the spot remover sit for about ten minutes before tossing the garment into the washing machine alongside the other laundry.
Consider Using Vinegar, Baking Soda, or Aluminum Foil to Eliminate Static Cling
While it’s not necessarily harmful, static cling can be annoying and is one of the main reasons laundry detergents typically contain fabric softeners. Since your everyday dishwashing liquid doesn’t contain fabric softeners, you need to supplement it when using it to do the laundry to prevent your clothes from accumulating static energy.
The usual go-to move for keeping clothes static-free is to add homemade or store-bought fabric softener to the rinse cycle. That certainly works. If you don’t have access to fabric softener, try one of the following DIY hacks:
- Add white vinegar to your rinse cycle. White vinegar isn’t just great at preventing static energy from building up on your laundry; it also kills bacteria, softens clothing, and prevents soap residue from sticking on clothes during the rinse cycle. Use about a quarter-to-half a cup depending on the size of your load.
- Use baking soda during the wash cycle. Add half a cup of baking soda alongside the dish detergent and run a cycle. Doing this will help minimize static cling issues and keep the colors of your clothes vibrant.
- Place balls of aluminum foil in your dryer. When baking soda, vinegar, and fabric softener aren’t available, aluminum foil can be an alternative way to eliminate static cling. Shape the foil into three tight balls and then place them in the dryer. They’ll act as dryer sheets, but with the added benefit of being reusable for months.
- Shake your clothes while still slightly damp and air/line dry. Last on our list of creative ways to prevent static cling is stopping the load when your clothes are still slightly damp and then thoroughly shake each before line/air drying.
Note: If you’re handwashing, you can still use white vinegar, fabric softener, and baking soda to remove static energy on your laundry. Add white vinegar and fabric softener when rinsing and baking soda alongside the dish detergent.
Related: Can You Mix Bleach and Baking Soda?
Consider Using Ice to Prevent Wrinkles
Wrinkles are another primary concern when using dish detergent on laundry due to the lack of fabric softeners in the soap formula. Again, you can add fabric softener to the rinse cycle to get around this issue. When that isn’t an option, ice can be a cost-effective alternative.
To prevent wrinkles, wash your clothes as usual, but place an ice cube in the load before it goes into the dryer. The point is to have the ice cube turn into steam due to the dryer’s heat, which prevents wrinkles from forming on your clothes. If you don’t have ice cubes, you can include a damp sock in the load or lightly spray a few items with water for a similar result.
When using dish soap as laundry detergent, it might also help to observe some general guidelines for preventing wrinkles:
- Don’t overload the dryer.
- Use a mild washing setting for clothes made of cotton and other delicate fabrics.
- Add a cup of apple cider or white vinegar directly to the load before you start a cycle.
- Use warm water to do the laundry.
In a nutshell, we’ve established that you can wash clothes with dish soap. However, you’ll want to use a smaller amount than what you usually use when washing with laundry detergent because dish soap produces lots of suds, and using too much of it can flood your washing machine with bubbles.