Can You Use Dish Soap in a Washing Machine

Can You Use Dish Soap in a Washing Machine

With people having to pinch pennies and budget their monthly expenses like never before, many are curious about using liquid dish soap in the washing machine. If you peruse websites and online forums about the subject, you get answers all across the board.

So, can you use dish soap in a washing machine? It is possible to use dish soap in a washing machine, but it’s not advisable to do so. This is because dish soap contains harsh chemicals that can not only damage your machine but also your skin. You’re better off getting detergents specifically designed for the laundry.

However, if you’re in a pinch and you have nothing else you can use, there is a way to use liquid dish soap to wash laundry in a machine. But, there are other substances you should use and leave dish soap as a last resort. White vinegar, baking soda and borax are a few that will be better and more effective.

Why Shouldn’t You Use Dish Soap in a Washing Machine?

Whether powdered or liquid, you shouldn’t use dish soap in a washing machine. Manufacturers develop soaps and detergents separately because of what certain formulations can do to clothing and machines.

Also, with more modern models of washers, they are high-efficiency (HE). This means they require a special formulation so that their inner mechanisms and engineering do not fail during use. Even if your dishwasher soap says HE, do not use it in your washing machine.

Dish soap dissolves food particles and grease and washing machine detergent disintegrates fats and oils. This means manufacturers blend varying types of detergents, surfactants and other saponification compounds to achieve specific ends.

Is There Any Situation Where Using Dish Soap will Be Ideal for Clothes?

There is one situation where it may be okay to use dish soap in a washing machine to clean clothes. That is if you have incredibly filthy work clothes with grease, oil and stubborn schmaltz that stain remover and normal detergent won’t remove. Then, dish soap will be perfect.

What Happens When You Use Dish Soap in a Washing Machine?

In most cases, dish soap will leave a funky residue on clothing, making them feel stiff and inflexible. This will force your garments to deteriorate and weaken much faster than otherwise.

Additionally, the detergents comprising the dish soap can corrode, gum up and ruin the inner mechanisms of the machine. What’s more, you could end up with a foamy, sudsy flood if you’re not careful. If you have an HE washer, this can lead to issues in the future, where you may find it difficult to clean your clothes effectively.

Such a mishap will be costly, albeit rare. The potential to lose clothing, your washing machine and pay a pretty penny to fix it all is simply too high to risk using dish soap in your washing machine. If you do this at a Laundromat, you will be held responsible for the cost of fixing their machines as well as cleaning fees.

Are There Other Things You Can Use for Detergent in a Washing Machine?

Instead of using dish soap to clean your clothes, other things like bar soap, baking soda, white vinegar and borax will do the job. They can clean clothes effectively, remove odors and dissolve stains. Even if you have a high-efficiency washing machine, these will be safe enough to use.

Bar Soap

A good go-to solution is vegetable-oil bar soap, such as palm or coconut oil. This would be the same kind you’d use on hands or in the shower. It works well to clean garments, but it may leave behind a funky residue.

However, you could use it as a spot cleaner or stain remover rather than add it directly to the machine’s detergent compartment. This will have a better chance of rinsing out well while preserving the inner mechanisms of the machine itself.

Baking Soda

If you have some baking soda lying around, you can avoid using dish soap altogether. Baking soda is a classic household and laundry detergent that works excellently against stubborn stains, dirt and grime. Add the same amount as you would regular detergent into your washing machine’s compartment.

When in doubt about the amount, simply set your washer to do an extra rinse cycle. This is because if you use too much baking soda, it can leave a powdery white residue on your clothes. While this won’t hurt fabrics, it does make them look unappealing.

White Vinegar

Another longtime trustworthy laundry cleaner is white vinegar. You can use this alone or in combination with baking soda. In both cases, it may be a good idea to incorporate some essential or fragrance oils to the mixture, which masks the horrid smell associated with white vinegar.

You should do a little research if you have allergy or skin reaction concerns, especially where fragrance oil comes into the picture. However, things like rose, lavender, geranium, lemon, orange, rosemary and peppermint make excellent accoutrements to a pure vinegar laundry detergent.


Borax is a type of laundry detergent that works in the same way as baking soda. In fact, borax is essentially baking soda that the manufacturer heated for several hours at around 325°F. It’s slightly more powerful than baking soda and it’s an ideal substance for high-efficiency washing machines.

You would add the same amount to the machine’s detergent dispenser as you would regular laundry soap. Because of the treatment it undergoes, there’s no need to set your machine to do an extra rinse cycle. It should rinse clean enough on its own to suffice.

What Is the Best Method for Using Dish Soap in a Washing Machine?

If you have none of the other options mentioned above, you can use liquid or machine dish soap as a last resort. But, you have to take note of some things before attempting it and understand that you’re doing this at your own peril.

Two Conditions

First, know that there’s a likelihood that the dish soap will leave behind a white film onto clothing. This is because it doesn’t dissolve in the same way as laundry detergent and won’t rinse off cleanly. Therefore, you have to do two things: pre-dissolve it and turn on an extra rinse cycle.

Second, it’s imperative you read the labels of all your garments before washing them with dish soap. Under no circumstances should you wash clothing that indicates hand wash or delicate wash. These will fall apart, acquire holes and appear unsightly.

Pre-Dissolving Dish Soap

When you pre-dissolve the dish soap, you only need to use a little bit. For typical machines, don’t add more than a tablespoon to one gallon of warm to hot water. Of course, the amount you use will depend on the size of your washer and the load you’re looking to wash.

Be sure to stir the soap in a clean, sterile container until it completely dissolves. When in doubt about your machine and the amount of soap, start with a teaspoon per quart. If it is too weak of a solution, you can always increase the dish soap to suit your needs.