Last Updated on 6 months by Susan Mayrich
There are 10 ways on how to wash clothes without detergent. You can use dish soap, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, shampoo, body soap, hydrogen peroxide, borax, bleach, and soap nuts.
We will discuss each detergent alternative and its cleaning power against stains and odors. You’ll also know what to expect when you wash your fabrics without laundry detergent.
How To Wash Clothes Without Detergent: 10 Best Laundry Detergent Alternatives
Did you know the average person spends about $1.50 per load on detergent? You can also save about $2.70 per load when washing clothes without detergent!
That being said, here are all the best products you can use at home for cleaning clothing items without laundry detergent.
How To Wash Clothes Without Detergent: Alternative #1. Dish soap
Dish soap is one common household product to clean fabrics without a laundry detergent. It can effectively remove fabric stains, but know that you shouldn’t use it if you have a high-efficiency washing machine.
Dishwashing liquid can be used in place of detergent for colored clothing items. Here are the steps:
- Add a bit of dishwashing liquid to your load, but avoid using too much, as it will lead to excess suds in the laundry room
- If you have a lot of stains in your fabrics, you can also add half a cup of vinegar to the machine’s rinse cycle
- Wash the clothes as usual
How To Wash Clothes Without Detergent: Alternative #2. Baking soda
Baking soda is a known household item that can be used against stains and odors because of its cleaning power. It’s also a gentle detergent alternative compared to other products with harsh ingredients.
There are many ways to incorporate baking soda into your laundry, including making a paste or adding it to dirty clothes. You can also combine it with other cleaning products.
- Make a paste with baking soda and some water
- Pre-treat the stain on the fabric with the baking soda paste
- Wash your laundry with warm water and a cup of baking soda
- If using baking soda with other cleaning products, use ¼ cup instead of 1 cup
- Use the washing machine as usual
Here are more tips on using baking soda for laundry to make the most of this product with different fabric types.
How To Wash Clothes Without Detergent: Alternative #3. Vinegar
Baking soda is not the only common household product known for removing fabric stains and odors. Vinegar can also be your detergent alternative, but make sure to test it on a small spot of the clothing beforehand.
You can hand-wash the garment with vinegar to neutralize the stains and odors. Here is the best way to substitute detergent with vinegar:
- Mix a cup of vinegar and four cups of water
- Soak the affected area of the garment for an hour
- Brush the vinegar off the fabric and clean the clothing item in cold water
- Let the garment air dry and repeat as needed if the stain persists
How To Wash Clothes Without Detergent: Alternative #4. Lemon juice
If you don’t have vinegar, you can use natural ingredients to wash clothes without detergent. Try some lemon juice on your washing machine, for example.
However, make sure you can use lemon juice on the fabrics you have. You can also combine it with baking soda to maximize the cleaning job.
- Fill your washing machine with water
- Add half a cup of lemon juice to your load
- Do the laundry as usual, and air dry the clothes
- You can also add half a cup of baking soda for stain removal
How To Wash Clothes Without Detergent: Alternative #5. Shampoo
Besides detergent, you can achieve suds on your laundry with shampoo. Everybody has a bottle of shampoo at home, so it’s a convenient alternative if you find yourself without detergent and you have to do the laundry.
- Check if your shampoo ingredients are safe with your garment; this same method is also applicable to a body wash as detergent alternative
- Use a very small amount of shampoo on your laundry because you don’t want it to produce a lot of bubbles in the washing machine
- Wash the clothes as usual
How To Wash Clothes Without Detergent: Alternative #6. Bar soap
Shampoo is not the only bathroom item that can be used for washing clothes without laundry detergent. Try your bar soap to remove the stain on your clothing.
However, you’ll need to make small shavings on the soap. Use a vegetable peeler for convenience.
- Prepare the laundry with a few soap shavings
- You also don’t want to use too much soap because they won’t rinse easily
- If needed, run an extra rinse cycle to remove the soap completely
How To Wash Clothes Without Detergent: Alternative #7. Hydrogen peroxide
When it comes to cleaning stains, especially on white clothes, you can achieve bright and stain-free laundry with hydrogen peroxide. Here’s how:
- Fill the washer with water
- Add a cup of hydrogen peroxide for a regular road
- Wash the clothes as usual
How To Wash Clothes Without Detergent: Alternative #8. Laundry borax
If you need to clean very dirty clothes without detergent, you need something stronger and more effective. You can hand-wash them with borax or use this product on your washing machine:
- For the washer, use half a cup of borax dissolved in water before adding the clothes
- Run the cycle as usual
- You can also use half a cup more on the rinse cycle to remove lingering odors on dirty laundry
- For hand-washing, dissolve a cup of borax in hot water
- Soak the clothes with stains in the borax solution for half an hour
- Scrub the affected areas if needed to remove them more effectively
- Rinse and air dry
How To Wash Clothes Without Detergent: Alternative #9. Oxygen-based bleach
Oxygen-based bleach can replace your laundry detergent if you can use bleach on your clothes. First, check the clothing label and follow these steps:
- Pour half a cup of oxygen bleach on the washer
- Adjust the recommended water temperature setting
- Let the water fill the washing machine
- Add the clothes and wash them as usual
How To Wash Clothes Without Detergent: Alternative #10. Soap nuts
Did you know you can use berries as an alternative to detergent? Try soap nuts for a DIY laundry soap.
- Pour at least 20 soap nuts into a large pot
- Add six cups of water and allow the mixture to boil for half an hour
- Strain the liquid and let it cool to room temperature
- You can re-use the soap nuts three times
- Use two tablespoons of the mixture for each load
- Wash the clothes as usual
How Long Should Clothes Be Washed Without Detergent?
There is no specific timeline on how long it’s advisable to be washing clothes without laundry detergent. However, if your clothing items often get dirty and accumulate oils and odors, it’s better to use laundry products to clean them thoroughly.
Using a specific laundry soap to preserve the clothing material and color is also essential. And speaking of fabric colors, you should read about how to wash new clothes without colors running.
What Are The Benefits Of Washing Clothes Without Detergent?
Save money on laundry
The most significant benefit of washing clothes without laundry detergent is that it cuts household costs. You can save money because most alternatives for detergent are cheaper or already in your house.
Avoid harsh ingredients
How to wash clothes without detergent (using gentle ingredients)
If you have sensitive skin or allergies, avoiding harsh detergent and laundry products is safer. Some natural alternatives, like soap nuts, are gentler than the chemical ingredients in laundry detergent.
Reduced environmental impact
Did you know that detergents have negative environmental impacts? Unfortunately, the laundry detergent we often use can accumulate on organisms, so looking for an alternative cleaning product would also help the environment.
Are There Any Downsides To Washing Clothes Without Detergent?
The main downside of washing laundry without detergent is the reduced cleaning powder. However, if you’re dealing with deeper stains or more pungent odors, they might persist as detergent alternatives are milder.
Some stains also get harder to remove if you use ingredients not designed to break them down, like enzyme detergents. And if you own colored clothes, they might fade as more dirt accumulates on the fabric.
Fabrics might also harden as dirt gets trapped within the fibers. Finally, if the stains are oily, they can repel water, so you’ll need a specific product to remove them.
What Is The Best Way To Agitation When Washing Clothes Without Detergent?
The agitation or movement of clothes is important to clean them and remove stains effectively. You can achieve this in the washer or by hand to ensure that the stain trapped within the fabric gets removed.
To do this, rub, knead, and wring the fabric to break down the grime and dirt in the garment. Agitation does not necessarily mean using detergent, but it would help to pre-treat the stains with a cleaning product to aid the agitation.
How Should Clothes Be Rinsed After Being Washed Without Detergent?
It’s important to rinse your clothes thoroughly after being washed without a detergent. Some alternatives like shampoo, body wash, dish soap, and soap bars can cause too many bubbles and residue.
You may need to do another rinse cycle to ensure they’re completely eliminated within the fabric. If your detergent alternative makes a lot of bubbles, only use a small amount.
Some detergent alternatives don’t even need rinsing but are used on the rinse cycle. For example, you can run the top-load washer as usual, then add half a cup of white distilled vinegar on the rinse cycle.
A cup of vinegar to the wash cycle can also help remove soap residue. However, never mix vinegar with bleach.
What Is The Best Way To Dry Clothes That Have Been Washed Without Detergent?
Usually, it’s recommended to air dry the laundry washed without detergent. You can hang them outdoors, but they don’t need to be in direct sunlight.
But regardless of the alternative, make sure your clothes are dried thoroughly. The stains should also be completely removed before drying, or they’ll set and become stubborn to remove with detergent alternatives.
Are these hacks helpful? You just learned how to wash clothes without detergent with ten alternatives!
Choose between dish soap, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, shampoo, body soap, hydrogen peroxide, borax, bleach, and soap nuts. Ensure the product is safe with your fabric type, and rinse it thoroughly before drying.
And if you’re dealing with other laundry product residues, browse our blog to learn tutorials like how to get fabric softener smell out of clothes.