Can You Wash Clothes In A Dishwasher?

If your washing machine breaks, you might find yourself desperate for a way to clean your clothing. Rather than lugging your dirty laundry to the laundromat, you might wonder if you can wash clothes in a dishwasher. After all, it does wash dishes, so washing clothing can’t be much different.

Can You Wash Clothes In A Dishwasher

In this article, we’ll tell you if washing clothes in a dishwasher is possible. We’ll also let you know why washing clothing in the dishwasher isn’t a great idea and give you some alternative methods of cleaning your laundry if you don’t have access to a washing machine.

Can You Wash Clothes In A Dishwasher?

No, you should never try to wash clothing in the dishwasher. Dishwashers are designed to operate at extremely high temperatures to clean and sanitize your dishes. Most materials can’t withstand that kind of heat, so it will ruin them.

Reasons Not to Wash Your Clothes In A Dishwasher

When you think about it, it’s really quite obvious that dishwashers can’t wash clothing.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the biggest problems that putting laundry in the dishwasher can cause.

1. Your Clothes Won’t Get Clean

Although dishwashers and washing machines both clean certain household items, they have incredibly different designs.

These differences allow them to clean the appropriate items beautifully but make it impossible to effectively clean other things. You can’t use laundry detergent in a dishwasher; it will create too many suds and cause it to overflow.

Your clothes will also prevent the spray arm from dispersing the water throughout the dishwasher, so even if they got clean, the dishwasher wouldn’t be able to rinse them.

2. Your Clothes Will Be Ruined

We’ve already talked about the high temperatures at which dishwashers run compared to washing machines, but it bears mentioning again.

Most clothing isn’t made to withstand that kind of heat, so the water alone may ruin your clothing. Even if it’s not destroyed, it will cause the colors to fade and make the material pill.

Another thing to consider is that you can’t use laundry detergent in a dishwasher because it makes too many suds and could cause the appliance to overflow.

Dishwasher detergent is the only cleaning substance that’s formulated for dishwashers, but it is far too strong to use on clothing. 

3. You Could Ruin Your Dishwasher

Washing clothes in the dishwasher won’t just harm your clothing; it could also ruin your dishwasher.

The spray arm could become tangled in the laundry, and smaller items like socks or underwear could clog the drain. Clothes could also fall into the heating element, making the appliance catch fire.

If you use your dishwasher in a way it wasn’t meant to be used, such as doing laundry, and it breaks, it will void your warranty.

Now you’ll have a broken machine and have to pay for repairs or replacement out of your own pocket.

How to Wash Clothes Without A Washer

Now that you know you can’t wash clothes in a dishwasher, let’s look at a few other ways you can clean your clothes without a washing machine.

hand washing clothes

1. Wash Them By Hand

Before the washing machine was invented in the early 1900s, everyone had to wash their clothing by hand.

This is still a viable option if you have enough time to do it, but it is a lengthy process, particularly if you have very dirty or very thick clothing.

Here is a step-by-step guide to washing your clothes by hand:

  • Fill a basin with water: If you don’t have a basin, you can use your bathtub or a sink. The type of detergent you have and the delicacy of the material you’re washing will determine how warm the water should be.
  • Grab your laundry detergent: Since you will be using your hands to agitate the clothing, you may want to choose a gentle detergent. If your detergent has bleach or if you pre-treat your clothing with stain fighter, use rubber gloves to protect your hands from the chemicals.

Add a small amount of detergent to the water. Remember, this is a much smaller load than you would put in the washing machine, so adjust your detergent as necessary.

Using too much detergent won’t make your clothes any cleaner, and it will make rinsing them much harder.

  • Wash your clothes: If you’re using a small container like a basin or a sink, you will probably want to scrub the clothing with your hands, one article at a time. Set your clean, soapy clothes aside to prepare for rinsing.
  • Rinse your clothes: When all of your clothes are clean, empty the soapy water and refill your basin, sink, or bathtub with clean water. Add a few pieces of clothing to the water and push them under the water to get the soap out. When you no longer see suds on the clothes, you are finished. Depending on how much detergent you use, you may have to repeat this process a few times to remove all the suds.
  • Dry your clothes: To start this process, remove the clothing piece by piece, and squeeze out as much water as possible from each item. If the material is sturdy enough, you may even want to wring the clothes out to get out more water. If you’re washing delicate items, squeeze them gently, then roll them in a dry towel to absorb excess moisture. After removing as much water as possible, you can either hang the clothes up or lay them flat to finish drying.

2. Go To The Laundromat

Although dragging all your clothing to the laundromat may seem daunting, it is considerably easier than washing it by hand, especially if you have a large family.

Once you’re there, you can just use the washers and dryers with your own detergent the same way you would at home.

3. Hire A Laundry Service

If you can afford it, a laundry service is the most time-efficient method of getting clean laundry without using a washing machine.

Instead of sitting at the laundromat for hours, you can simply drop your dirty laundry off at the laundry facility before work and pick it up on your way home.

4. Consider A Portable Washing Machine

If renting an apartment is the reason you don’t have a washing machine, you may want to consider purchasing a smaller, portable one.

Portable washing machines don’t require dedicated hook-ups like a full-sized washer and can make your life much easier.

Portable washing machines aren’t as powerful as their full-size counterparts, but they work well for everyday cleaning.

Can You Wash Clothes In The Sink And Bathtub?

Yes, you can wash clothes in the sink and bathtub. In fact, before washing machines were invented in the early 1900s, this was the only way for people to get their clothes clean.

You can use the same kind of laundry detergent you would use in a washing machine, but make sure you adjust the amount you use, so it’s not too hard to rinse the soap from your clothes.


If you don’t have access to a washing machine, you may have considered trying to wash your clothes in the dishwasher.

Although the dishwasher does a great job cleaning your dishes, you should never use it to wash your laundry. Not only will it not clean your clothes, it will also probably ruin them.

You could also ruin your dishwasher by trying to clean your clothes with it, which will void the warranty since you’d be using it in a way that was not intended by the manufacturer.

If you need to clean your clothes but you don’t have a washer, you can wash them by hand, take them to the laundromat, or hire a laundry service.

If you don’t have a washing machine due to renting or lack of space, consider purchasing a portable washer. They’re much smaller and lack the power of a full-sized washing machine, but they may work well for your average laundry needs.

Shauna Stone