Can You Wash Clothes With Soap?

While you might think there’s no difference between the different cleaning products available today, including soap and laundry detergent, you might be surprised to learn the truth. If your laundry is piling up and you’ve used the last of your detergent last week, can you use soap instead? 

You can wash your clothes with soap, which is a convenient alternative to laundry detergents, especially when removing mild stains. Your soap should be oil-free to protect your clothes. Rub the soap against your clothes, especially parts with visible stains. 

There is much to know about doing your laundry with soap and other laundry detergent alternatives. Keep reading. 

Can You Wash Your Clothes With Soap?

You can wash your clothes with soap when you’re out of options. However, they’re not as effective as laundry detergents since they’ve been manufactured to serve different cleaning needs. 

Normally, soap is designed to clean your hands, face, and the rest of your body. That means that their components are sometimes too mild for clothes, unlike laundry detergents. The chemicals in laundry detergents specifically target stains of all types in clothes. 

There are other ingredients in soap that are meant to give the end user a pleasant experience but might damage your clothing, such as coloring agents or scents. While it’s okay to use soap on your clothes, they won’t get as clean or stay looking as new as they would with laundry detergent.

What Can I Use If I Don’t Have Laundry Detergent?

If you don’t have laundry detergent, you can use shampoo, dishwashing liquid, and body wash. However, these alternatives shouldn’t become your regular washing options because they’re less effective than laundry detergents.


While shampoo as an alternative to laundry detergent might sound a bit odd, you can use it for your clothes, but don’t make a habit of doing it. If you must use shampoo on your clothes, you should always ensure it is mild and never pour it directly on your fabric. 

Dishwashing Liquid 

Have you ever seen those sitcoms where the “clueless” husband or child adds dish soap to the washing machine instead of laundry detergent? Everything is fine for a bit until the suds burst out of the machine with a vengeance. 

You may not want to copy that experience, but you can use dish soap in a pinch to clean your clothes. But your dish soap shouldn’t contain any bleaching agents, which can ruin your clothing.

Use small quantities, and don’t apply it directly to your clothes but rather, mix a small amount of dish soap with water, then dip your cloth in the mixture. For your washing machine, use dishwashing liquid in small quantities to avoid bubbles covering up the machine. 

But should you wash your socks with your underwear? This article should clear that up.

Body Wash

You can also use body wash to clean your dirty clothes. The downsides of using body washes for your clothes are similar to those of using soap, so if you must use a body wash, ensure to use it in small quantities. 

Can You Wash Clothes With Just Water? 

You can wash your clothes with just water. However, washing your clothes with plain water isn’t as simple as merely dipping them in water and removing them. It may take longer and require more effort than when using laundry detergent. 

There are different factors to consider when washing your clothes with just water: 

  • How dirty your clothes are: This factor determines how you wash your clothes. Do you soak first or pretreat before loading in a washing machine or wash with hot water? Very dirty clothes usually require a more aggressive washing approach.
  • The type of fabric your clothes are made of: Certain fabrics shrink when they come in contact with hot water. So, to avoid permanently ruining your clothes, you should know whether they are compatible with hot or cold water. If they are soiled and can withstand high temperatures, then hot water is your best chance of removing stains without laundry detergents or soap. 
  • The method you use to wash your clothes: If you’re using a washing machine, you may have to increase the wash cycle to get your desired results. It also means that you may have to soak first and maybe hand wash with just water before loading in the machine. 
  • The size of your load: You can’t wash a lot of clothes at once with just water, especially when using a washing machine. Washing in small quantities will most likely give you your desired results.  

Washing clothes with water can keep your clothes clean, provided you put in more effort than when washing with laundry detergents. 

Can I Use Dawn Dish Soap As Laundry Detergent?

You can use Dawn dish soap as laundry detergent as it is an effective pretreatment for your laundry. It can remove food stains, grease, and oil. Apply it to the stained area, massage it with your fingers, and then wash the clothes with your washing machine. 

Dawn dish soap is one of the most popular dishwashing soap brands. People may sometimes consider using it as a laundry detergent when they run out of it. However, while you can use Dawn dish soap for your laundry, it should never replace your laundry detergent.

Although people often use dishwashing soap in their washing machines, it isn’t something you should do often to avoid ruining your washing machine. If you must use Dawn dish soap in your machine, always use a small amount to avoid bubbles overtaking your washing machine. 

Why Soap Is Not Used For Washing Clothes?

Soap is not used for washing clothes because it’s not as strong as laundry detergent and is not as effective on clothes. The colors in soap may also sometimes stain your clothes, unlike laundry detergents. 

We have said that although you can use soaps to do your laundry, laundry detergents remain the best option. Soap won’t give you the desired cleaning effect, especially with soiled clothes.


Using laundry detergent alternatives may be a good hack, but they shouldn’t replace your laundry detergent. Manufacturers create these detergents specifically for your laundry, taking a lot of factors into consideration. 

While alternatives may work, they’re not as effective as laundry detergents. Always use small quantities of whatever alternative you choose and avoid using them on delicate fabric.

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