How To Clean Your Clothes Without Laundry Detergent

Have you ever started a laundry load to find that you’ve run out of laundry soap? Frustrating, right?

How To Clean Your Clothes Without Laundry Detergent

Fortunately, there are several ways to clean your clothes without detergent, helping you get through those situations when you desperately need clean underwear and don’t have any soap.

We’ll cover some of the best laundry detergent alternatives in this article.

Most of the methods below use standard household ingredients that you probably have lying around your home!

You’ll also learn which substances you shouldn’t use in your washing machine, as well as a detergent alternative for sensitive skin.

Laundry Detergent Substitutes To Wash Your Clothes

It’s easy to forget about how essential laundry detergent is.

Whether you like powder or liquid, it’s so simple to add detergent to your washing machine and rely on it to clean your clothes.

But, like all products, your laundry detergent supply will run out or expire, and you may not be able to get to the store in time.

The good news is that several detergent alternatives can clean your garments well.

We’ve listed some tips on laundering without detergent below, as well as some effective DIY recipes for both washing machine and hand washing purposes.

Can You Clean Your Clothes With Just Water?

Some people choose to save costs by only using laundry detergent if their clothes are particularly dirty, but will this method actually clean your clothes?

Well, there may be times when your clothes aren’t that dirty. If you ran these garments on your regular wash cycle without any detergent, the water would still clean them to a certain degree.

However, this will only work on lightly soiled garments. For instance, campers often wash their clothes in a lake or river, then leave them to dry around their tent.

The result is similar to washing your clothes without detergent. Dirty clothes will need extra help, but water may still do the job if your garments are relatively clean.

What Happens If You Wash Clothes Without Laundry Detergent?

If you don’t use laundry detergent, the garments won’t be cleaned as well as they could be. Laundry detergent helps to loosen and eliminate dirt and stains from different materials. Only using water won’t clean your clothes properly.

You don’t need a large amount of detergent to clean your garments, but a small amount is important to eliminate oils, dirt, and stains.

However, if you don’t have laundry detergent, you can use substitutes that will clean your clothes well enough.

These alternatives use common household ingredients, like baking soda, Borax, and vinegar to keep your clothes in good condition. We’ve listed some of the best laundry detergent substitute recipes for you to try at home.

Whether you prefer liquid detergent, powder, or need an option for sensitive skin, you’re sure to find an option that suits you well below!

Detergent Alternative For Sensitive Skin

If you have sensitive skin, you might be wary about using laundry detergent alternatives, especially if you usually buy gentle detergent brands from the store.

How To Clean Your Clothes Without LaundryDetergent

This homemade preparation below is free from fragrance and irritating ingredients, making it completely safe for babies and adults with sensitive skin.

This recipe is also safe for High-Efficiency washing appliances.

Laundry Detergent Substitute – Sensitive Skin Friendly

You Will Need

  • Three cups of washing soda
  • Three cups of Borax
  • One bar of unscented Castille soap
  • Cheese grater
  • Large size bowl
  • Container or box with lid

Use the grater to grate the Castille soap bar into your container, then add the washing soda and Borax. Fasten the lid on the container and shake so the ingredients mix.

Add your laundry to your washer, then pour in ⅓ of a cup of the mixture. Wash your clothes using your standard washing cycle, then dry as usual.

If you prefer, you can forgo this recipe and simply wash your clothes with vinegar. The vinegar works well to get rid of odors and stains, but as it is so gentle, it’s completely safe for sensitive skin.

Simply add half a cup of distilled white vinegar to your washing machine, then launder your clothes as usual. You won’t need to add any other agents or detergents.

Recycling Empty Detergent Bottle

Another simple way to wash your clothes is to recycle your old detergent bottle. All you have to do is add some water to the bottle!

You Will Need

  • Empty detergent bottle
  • Half a cup of baking soda
  • Warm, clean water

Take your empty detergent bottle and fill it with warm water. Shake the bottle so the soapy residue on the inside loosens and mixes with the water.

Pour this mixture into your washer, then add the baking soda. Run the machine on your usual cycle to clean your garments.

Washing Clothes With No Detergent

Oxygen-based bleach is a good alternative if you don’t have any laundry detergent. As long as you follow the guidelines, bleach is safe for colored and white garments.

Oxygen-Based Bleach Cleaner

Empty your washing machine and add half a cup of powdered oxygen bleach to it.

Set the machine to your chosen water temperature, then let the machine fill with water.

Add your clothes to the machine last.

Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent Alternative

Soap nuts, also known as Indian soap berries, are the dried husks from the soapberry nut. These shells are full of an organic soap known as Saponin.

This method is completely natural and a great alternative to harsh chemical products.

You Will Need

  • 20 soap nuts
  • Six cups of water
  • Large pot
  • Container
  • Strainer
  • Freezer bag

Fill the pot with the soap nuts, then pour the water on top. Place the pot on the stove at medium heat, then let the mix boil for half an hour.

Keep monitoring the liquid to avoid the solution boiling over the pan.

Once the time is up, position a strainer over the container and pour the solution through it. Leave the mixture to cool to room temperature.

Fasten a cover on the canister and store it in the fridge until you are ready to wash your clothes.

Every batch will provide around four cups of detergent. Each laundry load will need roughly two tablespoons of soapnut solution, though you might need more or less depending on the size of the load.

You can place the leftover soap nuts into a freezer bag to use later. These can be reused up to three more times to make more detergent.

Soap-Based Powder Detergent Alternative

Bar soap is another good laundry detergent alternative.

Adding other household ingredients, like washing soda and Borax, creates an effective detergent that eliminates dirt and stains.

You Will Need

  • Three cups of washing soda
  • Two cups of Borax
  • Ten ounces of bar soap
  • Cheese grater
  • Food processing appliance
  • Container with lid

Use the cheese grater to grate ten ounces of bar soap into the food processing appliance. Blend the soap until the mix turns into a powder.

Add the powder into a container, then pour in the washing soda and Borax. Fasten the lid on the container, then shake so all of the ingredients mixes.

A High-Efficiency washing machine will only need a tablespoon of this mix, while regular washers will need two tablespoons. Wash your clothes on your usual cycle, then leave them to dry.

Soap-Based Liquid Detergent Alternative

If you don’t like using powder detergents, you may prefer this liquid laundry detergent alternative.

This is a simple adjustment from the last recipe, as it swaps bar soap for liquid soap.

Castille soap or gentle dish soap works best in this recipe.

You Will Need

  • Boiling water, four cups
  • Cold water, ten cups
  • Borax, half a cup
  • Washing soda, half a cup
  • Liquid soap, half a cup
  • Big saucepan
  • Large bowl
  • 1-gallon jug

Begin by boiling four cups of water. Add the liquid soap, washing soda, and Borax into the bowl, then mix thoroughly.

Carefully pour the boiling water into the soapy solution, then mix well so the powders dissolve. Leave the bowl to cool for half an hour.

Once cool, pour the soap solution into the jug, then pour in six cups of cold water. You now have your detergent.

Each laundry load will need around ⅓ of a cup of this detergent.

Remember to shake the container before you use it, as the ingredients might separate over time.

Using Dish Soap To Clean Clothes

Dish soap is great for dirty plates, but it also works well as a detergent substitute (never try to use dishwasher pods though).

Clean Your Clothes Without LaundryDetergent

However, don’t use this method for High-Efficiency washers, as dish soap can create a lot of foam, damaging the appliance in the process.

You Will Need

  • A cup of white vinegar
  • Two teaspoons of dish soap

Place your laundry into your washer, then add one or two teaspoons of your dish soap. Don’t add any more than this.

Pour in a cup of white vinegar and run your machine on your usual wash cycle.

White vinegar is a great fabric softener and works well at deodorizing garments. It also works well at eliminating hard water buildup and stains (like Matcha).

Using Vodka To Clean Your Clothes

You might not believe it until you try it, but vodka can clean your clothes well without leaving alcohol odors behind.

Vodka doesn’t just clean your clothes, but the alcohol content makes it great at eliminating mildew odors.

Try this method when you next wash your shower curtains and see how it makes a difference!

You Will Need

  • A cup of water
  • A cup of vodka
  • Spray bottle

Let your washing machine fill with water, then add a cup of vodka to the appliance while it fills.

Place your laundry in the machine then run your usual cycle.

You can also disinfect your clothing by hand by spraying vodka on your garments.

Fill the spray bottle with a cup of vodka and a cup of vodka. Hang your garments up and spray on both sides.

Remember to always dilute your vodka with water, as the alcohol may be too strong for some garments.

Things You Shouldn’t Use In Your Washer

If you run out of laundry detergent, it can be tempting to throw a bunch of household ingredients in your machine and hope that they clean your clothes.

This should be avoided at all costs, as some soap varieties can produce too many suds, which may make your machine struggle in the process.

Here are some things you should avoid adding to your washing machine.

Never add automatic dishwasher detergent to your washing machine.

These substances are a lot stronger than typical laundry cleaning products. They can lead to your clothes fading or bleaching, and may irritate your skin.

Don’t use household cleaners or ammonia in your machine. These products are very harsh on textiles and can ruin High-Efficiency washers.

Bubble baths, body wash, and shampoo may be suitable for your skin, but they can produce a lot of bubbles and suds, particularly in High-Efficiency machines.

The Bottom Line

If you don’t have laundry detergent on hand, many household items work well at cleaning your clothes!

Popular products like white vinegar, Borax, and washing soda are amazing laundry detergent substitutes. You can try some of the recipes above and see which ones you prefer.

Remember to avoid using household cleaners, automatic dishwasher tablets, or body wash in your washer.

These can produce lots of suds that can damage your machine and stop it from pumping out water.

Shauna Stone