How to Wash Clothes Without Detergent ( The 6 Alternatives)

Washing clothes without detergent sounds like a nightmare, right? But it’s not—especially when you have the right tools.

You can use a washer or hand wash clothes without detergent and get them clean and fresh smelling with these five steps:

So let me show you how it works

Can you wash clothes with just water?

Yes, but it depends on how dirty they are. White clothes can easily be washed without any detergent.

Dirtier clothes, especially those with a lot of mud or food stains will likely need a bit more help from either soap or laundry detergent.

Water alone won’t do much unless your clothes are very dirty. If you have dirt, grass stains, or other colorful stains on your white clothes then they will probably look alright after a wash with water but once again, it depends on how bad the stains are.

In any case, if your clothes do not get clean using just water, it will be a good idea to add some homemade cleanser like bar soap or dishwasher detergent.

What happens if I don’t use soap?

If you don’t use soap to wash clothes then they won’t come out smelling like flowers and rainbows. Without any soap, your clothes might smell like nothing or have a slightly funny odor.

This odor is usually due to the lack of a strong scent in homemade soaps and some people believe that their clothes get dirtier when they don’t smell good.

Do you really need laundry detergent?

Yes, you do. In order to have clean clothes, it’s important to have laundry detergent.

White clothes can be washed without it but other colors will need a little help from either soap or dishwasher detergent. Water alone won’t do much unless your clothes are very dirty and that means there are mud or food stains on them.

Without any soap, your clothes might smell like nothing or have a slightly funny odor.

What happens if you forgot to put detergent in washing machine

You should always double-check the load before adding any clothes, especially if you are using a washer without an automatic dispenser.

If you forget to put laundry detergent in your washing machine then it’s time to either add some dish soap, use 1/4 of a cup of vinegar or baking soda, or try other expensive alternatives that are specifically designed for removing the smell of a sweat from workout clothes.

When you wash clothes without any type of soap or detergent, they will likely come out smelling very bad. This is because it takes soap for your clothes to smell clean and fresh.

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Natural Laundry Detergent Alternatives

There are many easy and natural ways to wash clothes without detergent

Baking soda

how to get fabric softener smell out of clothes
Image: NatureFriend, Pixabay

The first reason that baking soda is an effective detergent alternative is that it is very cheap. It can be found in any grocery store or even at the dollar store.

There are, however, a few downsides to using baking soda as a detergent alternative.

There is the possibility that your clothes will come out smelling like salt if you use too much of it in your washing machine.

The other major downside to using baking soda for laundry purposes is that there’s no guarantee that all stains will be removed.

  • Just add 1/2 cup of baking soda with your clothes in the washer.
  • Then fill it up with water.
  • then run through a quick rinse cycle at the end to remove the residue.


Borax is a powder that comes from boron and can be used as a laundry detergent alternative. Most people already have it in their homes because they use it as an ingredient for cleaning purposes.

Some of the benefits of using borax for laundry include its low price, versatility, and effectiveness.

No matter what type of clothes you are washing, borax is sure to clean them up nicely and fresh. It’s also an effective detergent alternative even if the stains are too stubborn for baking soda or soap.

It is recommended that you mix 2 tablespoons of borax with 1/4 cup of vinegar or lemon juice in order to remove stubborn stains, especially those that come from paint or spray paint

Bar soap

Bar soap is a more natural alternative to laundry detergent that can be used for washes on delicate clothing. This type of soap is great because it doesn’t contain harsh chemicals and allows for gentle washing. It’s also very inexpensive and available in most grocery stores.

The main difference is that it isn’t effective on all types of stains. If you don’t have any luck with this option, try using either baking soda or borax for your laundry needs.

Dish liquid

Dish liquid is used to clean dishes, but it can also be used to hand wash clothes.

Dish liquid is a detergent that cleans dishes, but can also be used as a laundry detergent.

To use dish liquid as a laundry detergent, you simply need to dilute the soap in water before adding the water to the laundry machine.

Lemon Juice

There are many easy and natural laundry detergent alternatives that can be used for removing the smell of a sweat from your workout clothes. One of these is using lemon juice.

Lemon juice is a natural, safe and effective way of whitening clothes.

If you come across clothes that are stained or dirty, don’t throw them away yet.

Try using lemon juice on them for a bright white effect.

The disadvantage of this technique is that it won’t work for all types of stains or fabrics.

It also requires patience to make sure

Using Vinegar

Running vinegar through your washing machine will give you clean clothes and a clean washer at the same time.

If you want to add lemon juice to bring out some whiter whites, then just mix 1/4 cup of vinegar with 1/4 cup of lemon juice.

If you have stubborn stains on your clothes, then add the same amount of baking soda as you did vinegar in the washing machine.

This mixture should help remove any greasy dirt or stains that are difficult to remove.

How to wash clothes without detergent FAQs

Can you use shampoo as laundry detergent?

Using soap or shampoo is both great ways to get clean clothes if you don’t have anything else available but they will also not produce the same results. Soap and shampoo are typically made to clean skin, hair, or specific types of clothes so you won’t get as good of a result using either as a laundry detergent alternative.

What happens if you use soap to wash clothes?

Using soap in place of laundry detergent is not recommended because it will leave behind a residue and you won’t get as clean of clothes. Laundry detergent, when used in moderate amounts, dissolves dirt and stains really well whereas soap doesn’t.

Also, if you wash your clothes in the dishwasher with soap then they will come out a little smelly because the soap doesn’t rinse off properly. Dishwasher detergent is different from laundry detergent and you shouldn’t mix them up.

What happens if you use dishwasher detergent on clothes?

If you mix the wrong soap with your clothes then they will come out smelling like nothing, or worse, like the soap that was used. You should always be careful to use the right type of soap because it will either come out clean with a fresh scent or sticky and smelly.

Can I use dishwasher detergent as laundry detergent?

Dishwasher soda is the same thing as washing soda, which is another name for sodium carbonate. This product was originally used to dissolve grease from dishes but over time people have found that it works really well to clean clothes. Before you can use this ingredient, you will need to make a paste out of the powder and water.

How to wash baby clothes without detergent

You can wash the baby clothes without needing any detergent by following these instructions:

1. Fill a washing machine with water and set it to warm.

2. Add the dirty clothes to the machine, but don’t put in any laundry detergent or fabric softener.

3. Use an extra rinse cycle if you’re afraid that the clothes may not be clean enough.

4. Choose continuous fill instead of just filling for one load so that it will keep adding water when needed for each new load of clothes you add to the machine.

5. Continue to add clothes as you can until the machine is full.

6. Set the washer on spin cycle and dry clothes in a dryer or leave them outside until they are completely dry.

7. Take out soiled diapers and then hand wash with dish soap for 10 minutes while massaging, if needed, to remove stains.

8. Rinse the diapers in hot water thoroughly for 10 minutes, or until clean.

9. Put a few drops of baby shampoo in the rinsing cycle to make sure that all of the soap is removed from the diaper.

10. Wash with cool water and dry overnight outside to remove stains and ammonia smells if needed.

11. Rinse baby’s clothes with hot water and put them in a dryer for about 10-15 minutes to make sure they are completely dry or lay them outside until they are dried.

12. After the diapers are rinsed clean then you can hang them up on your clothesline to dry for use later, or you can store them in a dry location until your baby’s next change.

Is it OK to use dish soap to wash clothes?

It is not recommended to use dish soap because it will leave behind a residue and you won’t get as clean of clothes. Laundry detergent, when used in moderate amounts, dissolves dirt and stains really well whereas soap doesn’t.

Are my clothes clean if I forgot detergent?

Yes, if you forgot to put in the detergent. The clothes will still be clean.

What happens if you never wash your clothes?

If you never wash your clothes, they get really wrinkly. They also smell funny and get stained.

Will vinegar alone clean clothes?

No, vinegar alone will not do a good job of cleaning clothes. For a really tough stain, try mixing it with some other ingredients, such as baking soda or alcohol. You can also mix it with water and apply it to the clothes.

Can you wash clothes without fabric softener?

You can wash clothes without a fabric softener. Fabric softeners eventually lose their effectiveness, which means you eventually have to use more and more of the softener to get the same effect. They also make your clothes feel heavy and can make them stick together making it difficult to separate them again.

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