I had recently moved to a newly furnished apartment that had everything except a laundry machine. Tired of the piles of dirty clothes lying around the house and not having enough time to go to the Laundromat, I wondered if it was a good idea to use a dishwasher instead?

Can you wash clothes in a dishwasher? I searched extensively for a convincing answer, and it turned out to be a ‘No.’ Dishwashers and clothes machines are designed differently, and they cannot be swapped to do each other’s job. If at all you put clothes into a dishwasher, you will end up ruining the fabric and color.

If you are okay with your clothes not cleaning properly and you just want the smell removed, this may work in emergencies. However, don’t make this a habit or you may end up damaging your clothes. Some types of fabric may accidentally catch fire during the drying process. Read on to know more.

What Is The Difference Between Dishwasher And Clothes Washer

The main difference lies in the way they operate. In a clothes washer, the contents are agitated back and forth, causing assorted actions such as scraping, scrubbing, torquing, grinding, drying, and other movements. The clothes are soaked well, dirt scrubbed out, and then rinsed and dried.

The dishwasher does not agitate or scrub the clothes. It sprays water on the dirty dishes to remove dried food parties, soapy solution cleans the dishes, and then utensils are rinsed again with water. The water used for cleaning in a dishwasher(click to see my review) can be extremely hot (140–155 degrees) due to an inbuilt heater.

The dishwasher soaps and cleansers also have different characteristics. They are formulated in a way to not create a lot of suds. The clothes detergent, on the other hand, contains brightening and bleaching agents that are not good for cleaning dishes. If you try adding clothes detergent in the dishwasher, you may end up with suds all over the kitchen floor.

Why Should You Not Wash Clothes In Dishwasher?

A dishwasher is not designed to move things around, so the piles of clothes will just sit there and get wet and maybe a little dry in the middle. The soapy solution would just get applied over clothes and then rinsed off without removing any dirt or stains from the fabric.

If small sized clothes blow around as the dishwasher runs, they may get tangled inside and disrupt the cycle. This may lead to a mess and possibly damage the delicate fabric.

The heating chamber in a dishwasher can make the water too hot, more than what you expect to get from a water heater. Dishes made of steel can sustain intense heat, but this can damage the cloth fabrics. Most expensive clothes contain instructions to wash them in cold water.

The drying cycle in a dishwasher also tends to be too hot for the clothes to handle. It can lead to damaging the clothes fabric.

If there are food particles and sludge stuck in the dishwasher, you can end up having them on your clothes. Hot water may also result in bleaching or color bleeding in colorful clothes.

What Other Things Can You Wash In A Dishwasher

I would not recommend you to put clothes in a dishwasher unless you are okay with weakening the fabric or dealing with bleaching/ color bleeding issues. However, the good news is that you can use a dishwasher to clean several other things other than dishes.

Here are some quick tips to help you use the dishwasher to clean other things quickly, while you leave the clothes for the laundry. If you are in a similar situation, I would suggest you do the traditional method of cleaning in a bucket using water and soap.

Potatoes and root vegetables

Harvesting potatoes, turnips, and beets that are grown in your home garden is a matter of pride. However, cleaning the mud and dirt stuck to them is a lot of work. You can cut that short and make it easier by keeping them on the top rack of the dishwasher and running the wash cycle without any soap.

Combs and hairbrushes

No matter how careful you are about removing shed locks from combs and hairbrushes, they can get dirty over some time. They can get covered with a greasy buildup caused by your hair’s natural oils. To clean the bristles, just put the brushes and combs inside the dishwasher rack, and they will come out squeaky clean

Lego toys

Kids are cute, curious, and eager to learn, but they also contaminate disease easily. It just takes one afternoon of play date to contaminate germs from the playmate. You can clean the Lego toys in a dishwasher as the plastic bricks are sturdy enough to sustain hot water. This is an easier way to sanitize toys and keep them clean.


Having a baby in the house means a lot of work. Besides taking care of the baby, you need to take precautions to prevent disease. Baby teethers once dropped to the floor can get infected with germs. An easy way to sanitize them is to wash them in a dishwasher. However, don’t toss any teether into the dishwasher. Read the labels to ensure that it is dishwasher-safe.

Waterproof keywords

If you are like me, you probably eat, drink, and spend a lot of time in the workstation. No wonder, it gathers a lot of dirt, debris, spilled drinks, and crumbs. If a spilled soda makes the keys stick, or there are too many black smudges, consider washing the keyboard in a dishwasher. Please remember, this suggestion works only for waterproof keyboards.

Garden Tools

As Spring draws closer, most home gardeners would be looking to bring out their tools and start digging and planting. While the tools with wooden handles need to be soaked to remove the dirt, those with plastic handles can be easily cleaned in a dishwasher. If you prefer this method of cleaning, consider buying dishwasher-safe garden tools.

Small countertop trashcans

The trash cans not only contain garbage but they also carry nasty smells. While the full-size containers may need a thorough wash using the garden hose, you may clean the countertop cans in a dishwasher. A quick spin cannot only leave it squeaky clean but also remove the nasty smells and make it bacteria-free.

Fake flowers

The fake flowers you once admired can look disgusting when covered with dust. Washing them in a clothes washer is not a good idea because spinning and scrubbing motion can cause much harm. However, you can always put them into a dishwasher and spin to make them look like new again. You may also wash soft toys, kitchen brushes, cup holders, baseball caps and so on.

Related Article: Your Dishwasher Can Run Better – 14 Tips to boost its Performance

What Items You Should Never Wash In A Dishwasher

Things made of wood: Dishwashing cycle uses hot water to clean, and this can strip the natural oils in the wood. With a lack of proper care, you can soon see the dishes begin to crack and warp.

Thin plastic: Hot water used for cleaning can melt or warp the thin plastic items depending upon the variety of plastic. Hence, you must avoid putting plastic items inside the dishwasher unless it is mentioned dishwasher-safe.

Sharp knives and graters: The intense heat inside the dishwasher can destroy the sharpness of blades. It can also destroy the adhesive on the handles, making them fall apart easily.

Non-stick pots and pans, and also the ones made of cast iron should not be put inside a dishwasher. Hot water can damage the non-stick layer on these utensils.

Can You Wash Clothes Using Dishwashing Soap?

Well, washing clothes in a dishwasher is certainly not a good idea but what about using dishwashing soap instead of laundry detergent. I often use the dishwashing liquid when I run out of laundry detergent but need to wash clothes urgently.

Surprisingly, my observation and other people’s comments suggest that you can save money on laundry detergent by using dishwashing liquid. Just a teaspoon spoon of liquid is enough to clean a small load. You may use 2 teaspoons for medium load and 3 for the heavy load. Avoid adding too much, or you may end up with a lot of suds flowing out of the clothes washer.

I would suggest to not make this as a practice as dishwashing soap is designed to work on hard utensils, not soft fabric. So, using them regularly for washing clothes may damage the delicate clothes.  However, you can use it to clean bed linens, and pillow covers once a week to remove the accumulate grease and skin oils.

Related Questions

Can I use body soap to wash clothes?

Yes, you may use body soap to wash clothes, and they will usually do a good job. However, as these soaps are used on the skin, they are gentler than any detergent.   You can soak dirty clothes with a bathing soap solution overnight to remove stains and get fresh smelling clothes.

Is it better to hand wash than putting clothes in a dishwasher

I would say yes in most cases. Clothes are made of delicate fabrics that are not designed to sustain intense heat and treatment with hot water. Furthermore, many expensive clothes come with labels that contain instructions to clean with cold water only.  Hand washing is a safer and better solution alternative.

What are Laundromats?

If you don’t have a clothes washer, look for a Laundromat in your area. These are known as self-cleaning laundry where the clothes are washed, dried, and folded by self. Some centers have staff, and they may offer professional service. You just need to drop in your dirty clothes, and they will clean, dry, and fold for you.

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