Washing our clothes is a necessity. After all, no one wants to walk around in dirty-smelling clothes, wondering if those passing by can smell them. Not only that, it eventually becomes unsanitary as well.
But what happens when you can’t or don’t want to use detergent? This can be facilitated by running out of detergent and not being able to go get more or wanting to move away from it entirely.
Whatever the decision is, you can rest easy knowing that it is possible to wash your clothes without the use of detergent.
What Not to Use
Before getting into how you can wash your laundry without laundry detergent, it is important to know that there are things that you should absolutely, under no circumstances, ever use on your clothes or in a washing machine.
Automatic Dishwasher Detergent
The first is automatic dishwasher detergent. You might think that the two are pretty similar in smell or texture, but they really are not. The majority of automatic dishwasher detergents have ingredients in them that are a lot harsher than laundry detergent.
Think about all the nasty, grimy things that you have left stuck to dishes, pans, and casserole dishes. Now think about the kind of soap and cleaning power that would be required to chip away at those things and eliminate them.
Using those ingredients on your clothes can have harsh impacts on your clothing. It can wind up bleaching the colors and causing them to fade, making even the newest of shirts look like some worn down piece of laundry that needs to be scrapped.
Those ingredients can also have a negative impact on the wearer, too. Some of those ingredients can lead to irritation of the skin which can progress into something worse over time.
Shampoo, Dishwashing Liquid, Body Wash, or Bubble Bath
It is also not recommended that you use a dishwashing liquid, bubble bath, body wash, or shampoo. Yeah, those things are meant to do cleaning all their own, but they are definitely not meant to clean clothes. Clothes have different tolerances that they can stand, and these kinds of soaps are too much for them.
If that weren’t bad enough, these kinds of products can create way too many bubbles, making it difficult for the rinse cycle to get rid of them all.
Even more so, using a dishwashing soap in a high-efficiency washer will actually produce so many bubbles that it will cause an overflow and do damage to the electronics system of the washing machine.
This will void your warranty and that is a very, very bad thing. Repairs on washing machines can be quite costly and not having a warranty means that you will be responsible for the costs of those repairs each and every time that your machine has a malfunction.
Ammonia or Household Cleaners
Implementing ammonia is never a good idea when washing clothes. These types of products can be very harsh on fabrics, lessening the life of those clothes substantially.
Even worse, they can have a very irritating impact on your skin, depending on your overall tolerance to the ammonia.
Not only that, household cleaners also have ingredients in them that can result in things such as spotting or color loss in your clothes. If that weren’t bad enough, some of these household cleaners have sudsing ingredients in them that can do damage to high-efficiency washing machines.
Again, you do not want to damage your washing machine or void the warranty because this can cost you a lot of money in the long run. Avoid using these household cleaners at all costs.
How to Wash Your Clothes Without Laundry Detergent
One of the most common reasons for needing to wash your clothes without laundry detergent is because you have run out. It happens to us all: you go to do a load of laundry and don’t realize that you have run out.
You think that you will have to make a run to the grocery store to get more and it can throw your day into disarray. But what you may not have known is that you can actually use household items without having to take a trip to the store right then and there.
1 – Make Use of the Empty Bottle or Box
Even if you think that there may not be enough left in your laundry detergent bottle or box to get the job done, you may be wrong. Try filling the “empty” liquid detergent bottle or box of your powdered detergent with some warm water.
When you have filled it appropriately, give it a good shake so that the water and the soap can fuse. Dump it into the washer drum and you should get enough of the product to be able to do an average-sized load of your essential laundry.
Something else to consider is that the majority of us use too much laundry detergent as it is. When you get to a high-efficiency washer, the need for detergent becomes lesser and lesser. The latter actually requires only two teaspoons of high-efficiency detergent to get a load done.
For most washers, it is the cleaning action of the water that is most important. This is water agitation and this is what will get most of the soil on your clothes removed. If you pretreat stains, the water will be particularly effective.
If you do have a high-efficiency washer, take note to follow the guidelines on the garment’s label. Water temperature may seem arbitrary, but the wrong water temperature can have an impact on the color, fading, and potential shrinking of your clothing.
These are all important factors to keep in mind.
2 – Use Baking Soda or Laundry Borax
If you are trying to enhance that last bit of laundry detergent, you can always add half-a-cup of baking soda or borax. These products act as detergent boosters that will help to get your clothes clean even if you are low on detergent.
All you have to do is place the dry product into the washer drum directly, before you add the detergent, your clothes, or any water to the drum. This is an important step to follow or the dry ingredient will not do as it is meant to do.
Should you be out of detergent completely, you can use a full cup of baking soda or borax for a normal-sized load of laundry. This may seem like a simple explanation or household ingredient to use, but you would be surprised at how effective that it can be when cleaning clothes.
This is because the detergent itself doesn’t have the impact that you thought it did. It is important to remember that most of the soil will come off because of the water and the agitation created by the water as it moves around in the drum and over the clothing.
It is always best to pretreat stains before you do any washing and make sure to use the warmest water temperature that is recommended for any of your garments. Pretreating is an especially great way to remove those nasty stains that you may have thought would not come out.
3 – Using an Oxygen-Based Bleach
You’re probably thinking “but I’m not supposed to use anything with ammonia in it” and you would be right. That is why using a powdered, oxygen bleach is different. A half cup or so of that oxygen-based bleach can do the job for a load or two when you are in a pinch.
All you do is add the powder to the empty washer drum of your machine before adding your laundry or the water. This will allow it to get rid of the soil created on your clothes without facilitating an immediate trip to the grocery store.
This is a last resort kind of thing. It is not recommended that you use oxygen-based bleach on a regular basis. Get more detergent when you can to prevent any issues with your clothing.
4 – Make Your Own Detergent
When all else fails, you can do it yourself. It doesn’t have to be as complex as it sounds, either. It takes mostly household items and a little bit of time, but you can create an effective household detergent whenever you need to.
Making Homemade Powdered Detergent
Making homemade powdered laundry detergent can actually be quite simple. Depending on what you were using for your previous detergent, it can be around 30 cents per load, making it a more cost-effective option.
Even better, homemade laundry detergent is quite safe to use in both traditional and high-efficiency washing machines. This is because the formula is low on suds, meaning you won’t ruin anything with too many suds.
All it takes is a bar of pure soap or about a cup of soap flakes, baking soda, washing soda (also known as sodium carbonate), borax, a cheese grater, a measuring cup, and a resealable container. Most of these we have in our homes.
All you need to do is grate down the bar of pure soap with your cheese grater into the aforementioned cup. Using a large container that is resealable, combine that cup of soap flakes, a coup of baking soda, a cup of your washing soda, and a half cup of borax.
When mixing this concoction together, be aware that washing soda is actually caustic to the skin. This can cause irritation and other unpleasantries, so you should wear gloves when you mix up the ingredients in your container.
After mixing the ingredients well, make certain that you keep your container in a dry space. All you need to do is use a half cup or so of the mixture per load of laundry when using a standard washing machine. For high-efficiency washing machines, only two tablespoons are necessary.
If you can’t find or don’t have washing soda, you can actually make it from baking soda. Even better, the recipe can be easily doubled, it just all needs to be stored in an air-tight container. You may find it easier to keep smaller amounts in a container closer to the machine itself.
If you want to boost the amount of cleaning power, just increase the amount of borax that you use in your formula.
Making Homemade Liquid Detergent
Having liquid laundry detergent can actually be better to use if you have extremely cold water. This is because some powders can be difficult to dissolve, leaving clumps on your clothes and throughout the washing machine.
Another great thing about making your own liquid is that you can be certain that it doesn’t contain any fragrances or dyes. These can irritate the skin and only by making your own can you be certain that their presence is nonexistent.
You will need all of the same ingredients, plus a saucepan. That means baking soda, washing soda, soap flakes, a measuring cup, cheese grater, borax, and a resealable container.
Much like making the powdered detergent, you will need to grate your bar of soap into the cup or use flakes if you have found them already. After you have the grated flakes in the cup, add them to a large saucepan with around four cups of water or so.
Continuously stir the flakes and water mixture over medium-low heat. Do this until the soap fully dissolves and is melted completely.
When you have done this, combine those melted flakes, a cup of washing soda, a cup of baking soda, a half cup of borax, and hot water (two gallons) into your large, resealable container.
Again, washing soda is caustic to the skin and can cause irritations if it directly contacts your skin. Wear rubber gloves while putting the mixture together so that you can avoid those irritations.
After putting everything into your resealable container, stir the mixture together until it has all dissolved. When you feel confident that it has dissolved completely, you can cover the container and allow it to sit overnight so that it may thicken.
If you are using it directly from the large container to the washing machine, be certain that you are only using two tablespoons of your new liquid per load. This is not only appropriate for high-efficiency washers, but standard washers as well.
You can make things easier on yourself by filling a small container with half liquid soap and half water. Make sure that you shake it well before using it and use about a quarter cup with each use for any kind of washing machine.
Creating Your Own Pods
Detergent pods have become very popular in recent years, so it would only make sense that you would want to create single-load detergent pods of your own.
Best of all, you can use these single-load pods to teach a child or teenager how to do laundry on their own without worry of using too much detergent.
You can also save money by making your own pods, save your clothes from any excessive wear, and even ensure that they are safe to use in your high-efficiency washing machine. That’s a win-win all around.
Making your own, you will need a few different things. A cup and a half of washing soda to soften the water. A half cup of soap flakes to remove the stains. Two tablespoons of Epsom salt to help with softening the fabric. Three tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide that is used for brightening fabrics. A quarter cup of distilled white vinegar that is used to reduce odor. Any essential oils for fragrance. The tools to mix them all: measuring spoons, hand grater, mixing bowl, sheet pan, and waxed paper.
Start by grating the soap until you have a half cup of flakes or purchase them in flakes if you want to skip this step. Pour those flakes into your mixing bowl and add your Epsom salts and washing soda, stirring well until they have been blended.
Now, it is time to add the hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, and any essential oils. You don’t need the oils; these are simply to provide a fragrance to the mixture that you create. When you’re done mixing the wet ingredients, it should look similar to wet sand.
Use a measuring spoon to scoop out the necessary size of mixture and shape it into individual pods. This should be about a tablespoon or so and should go onto the waxed paper.
Give the pods the proper space needed and make sure to spritz them with a little bit of plain water so that they can take proper shape before allowing them to dry overnight.
When the pods have dried, make certain that you have stored them in air-tight containers to preserve them. Keep in mind that if you live in an area with high humidity, it could take a little longer for them to dry.
There are many ways to wash your laundry when you have run out of detergent and these ways may have changed the way that you look at doing the laundry.
I have two Associate’s degrees, one in Medical Assisting and the other in Computer Technician, and I am roughly five classes from a bachelor’s degree. Though I never ended up working in the medical field, I have five and a half years of experience in IT. I recently became a stay-at-home mom to my two young boys, and I’m so excited to start this adventure with them! In my spare time, I love to bake and read pretty much anything I can get my hands on.