Can I Use Laundry Detergent to Wash Dishes?

Can I Use Laundry Detergent to Wash Dishes?

We are reader supported. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Also, as an Amazon affiliate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

You just spent the better part of the day preparing an incredible meal. Your sink is now full of dirty utensils including pans, pots, and plates-and you know how it is with dishwashing. Nobody ever likes to do it. And when you have composed yourself and ready to do it, poof! You realize you have run out of the dishwashing detergent.

So, can you substitute a dishwashing detergent with laundry detergent? Technically, yes you can. You can use laundry detergent to wash your dishes either by hand or in a dishwasher. However, cleaning dishes using a laundry detergent is not a good idea due to reasons that will be discussed below.

I would suggest you still use dishwashing detergent to wash your dishes. Read on to find out more on the differences between a dishwashing detergent and laundry detergent, why a laundry detergent is not good for dishwashing, and the best alternatives for dishwashing detergents.

How Is a Dishwashing Detergent Different From a Laundry Detergent?

First, let us look at the similarity. The two may be similar because both use surfactants in their functioning. Surfactants are simply organic long trails that contain ionic heads, which allow non-polar oils and greases to dissolve easily and come out with the help of polar water molecules.

Ultimately, you may use either of them to replace the other’s function since you are dealing with the same type of dirt. However, it will not work effectively because dishes and clothing have different cleaning requirements. Thus, the chosen cleaning product should meet those requirements to yield effective results.

Below are the notable differences between the laundry detergent and the dishwashing detergent, which make them not ideal for substitution.

  1. The first notable difference is seen in the kind of surfactant used. Typically, dishwashing liquids contain sodium laureth sulphates the laundry ones contain alkyl or other alkyl sulphonates. The sodium laureth sulphates are known to produce more foaming, one of the qualities of a good detergent. This is ideal for dishwashing, a more tactile experience compared to washing clothes.
  2. Laundry detergents have added enzymes meant to handle various types of stains and soil that may have launched deep into the cloth fibers. Those enzymes are not included in dishwashing detergents because you do not have sttaipns adhering deep into the utensils really.
  3. In addition, laundry detergents have specific perfume meant to make the clothes smell good and fresh for longer. However, you cannot tolerate this kind of scent on your dishes whatsoever.
  4. Laundry detergents also come with added benefits such as softeners and whitening agents like bleach.
  5. Dishwashing detergents are known to oxidize easily due to certain ingredients in them. Thus, little preservatives and chelating agents are added to them.
  6. Additives and antibacterial properties in dish wash liquid are rather mild compared to those in laundry detergents that are quite high. In addition, dishwashing detergents are less reactive chemically compared to the laundry detergent.

Basically, all detergents whether for hair, clothes, dishes, or the body work on the same principle: breaking and washing away oils and dirt. However, the different products are formulated and intended for specific conditions, and they should not be used interchangeably if you want to feel their effect.

What Could Happen If You Use Laundry Detergent to Wash the Dishes?

As already said, yes you can use laundry detergents to wash your dishes. However, you should be aware of the consequences because it is not ideal.

  • First, if you are using a dishwasher (see my reviews), you will likely void the warranty if you use a product not meant for it, and in this case the laundry detergent.
  • Secondly, the chemicals contained in the laundry detergents such as stain remover, fragrances and brighteners can become gases when heated in the dishwasher. They can be toxic when inhaled.
  • While it is possible to avoid the release of such fumes by washing the dishes manually in the sink, the laundry soap may not rinse off completely and may end up leaving an undesired residue on your dishes.
  • Another reason why you should not use laundry detergent for dishes is that it contains fragrances and UV brighteners, which are not suitable for dish soap. The fragrances contain synthetic masks that are long-lasting and hard to wash off. They are intended to keep your clothes smelling fresh for long. Surely, you do not want such effects on your utensils now, do you?

If you are too desperate for a way to clean your dishes, you could try using other types of detergent or soap such as liquid soap, bar soap, or bath gel. However, clean manually in the sink so that you can rinse thoroughly.

Out Of Soap Dish, What Alternatives Do You Have?

So now that we have ruled out the laundry detergent as an option for dishwashing, we now need to figure out what can work in case you run out of dish soap. Here are recommendations to help you solve your kitchen dilemma. Note that the suggestions below are not meant for use in a dishwasher because they may void the appliance’s warranty. In addition, it is best if you do the cleaning by hand in the sink because then, you can rinse thoroughly to ensure no residue is left behind.

  • Hand soap

Most hand soaps are in the form of detergents with antifungal and antibacterial ingredients that can sanitize and clean the dishes. For instance, liquid hand soap milder than your normal dish soap and it dissolves and foams better in hot water. Given that it contains more glycerin, it is bound to be gentler on your skin if you are doing the dishes manually.

However, you still must take some caution because most hand soaps contain additives that may not be food-safe. Thus, you need to take time when rinsing to ensure you do it thoroughly. The additives may be mild, but make sure to rinse several times to prevent buildup.

  • Bar soap

If you are wondering whether you can wash the dishes with bar soap, the answer is yes. What do you think people used before the invention of liquid detergents? Bar soap for sensitive skin without any added scent is a safe choice when you do not have an alternative. Bar soap may not be as effective as dish soap, but it is safe.

The main problem is that it will leave a residue on the dishes. Again, to solve this you just have to rinse several times with a lot of water to ensure all is clear before letting the utensils dry. It might not be the best option if you halve many dishes to clean, but bottom line, it will still save the day if you did not have any soap dishes left at all.

Can You Wash the Dishes without Soap At All?

It is possible to wash dishes without soap, especially the dish soap that most of are so accustomed to. Dish soap is a modern invention and liquid dish soap is even a more recent technique. Nevertheless, even before these two became available, people still washed the dishes. Mostly, the only ingredient that you will need is baking soda and vinegar. Baking soda (see different uses) absorbs grease, and once it mixes with water, it makes a paste that can help scrub and remove food debris. Here is a detailed guide on how to go about it.

  • Remove all the dirty dishes from the sink. The sink is not a storage unit. Wipe the sink properly and rinsing it with hot boiling water. It needs to be clean because you are going to washing your utensils in it.
  • If you do not have a double sink, you will need at least two or three separate washbasins. Since you are going to use hot water, you will need a pair of gloves so that you do not burn your hands.
  • Sort your dishes based on the level of dirt. Usually, we start with the glasses, then plates, bowls, and finally pots. Put all cutleries in a separate basin, sprinkle one spoon of baking powder, and cover them with hot boiling water.
  • For any pans and pots that require some scrubbing, put water and baking soda in them and leave them to soak.
  • Now put one tablespoon of baking soda and hot water in one basin or in one compartment of the sink. In the other one, put one tablespoon of vinegar and hot water too. If the water is too hot even with gloves on, you can add a little cold water until it is bearable, but in essence, the water should be hot.
  • Take one dish at a time, washing it thoroughly in the water with baking soda and rinsing it in the second basin. Let it dry on a wooden rack. Do not stack a whole bunch of dishes all at once. Remember also not wipe with a piece of cloth. Let them dry naturally in the air. This will not be a problem because hot water dries off quickly.
  • When finished, you can then rinse off the cutlery.

Just as simple as that, you have managed to wash your dishes without dish soap or any other kind of soap for that matter. Just be sure always to clean your dishes immediately after use to avoid a piled up mess. In addition, do not forget to use hot boiling water to get rid of dirt easily.

Related questions

Is hand washing dishes as effective as a dishwasher?

Hand washing does an acceptable job, but to kill most bacteria on the dishes, you need 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This is only achievable through a dishwasher.

What are the health hazards of using laundry detergents for dishwashing?

Laundry detergents contain UV brighteners and fragrances that are not recommended for dish soap. In any case, they may produce dangerous gas to inhale once they heat up in the dryer.