How to Wash Clothes Without Laundry Detergent

If you are in a pinch and do not have any laundry detergent, or if you can’t quite find a laundry detergent that you like, it doesn’t mean you can’t have clean clothes! In fact, there are quite a few alternatives that you can use that you may even have sitting around the house. If you want to learn how to wash clothes without laundry detergent, keep reading! We have everything you need to know. 

To wash clothes without laundry detergent, you can use any of the following ingredients: 

  • White Vinegar. 
  • Borax.
  • Baking Soda.
  • Shampoo.
  • Bar of Soap.
  • Body Wash.
  • Handwashing Liquid.
  • Dish Soap.

It is important to note that while some of these solutions can be used in a washing machine, others can only be used when washing your clothes by hand. In this article, we are going to go through each of these products and how you can use them to wash your clothes when you do not have laundry detergent. 

What Can You Use Instead of Laundry Detergent to Wash Clothes?

As you now know, there are several products that you can use instead of laundry detergent to get your clothes squeaky clean! Your options include:

  • White Vinegar. 
  • Borax.
  • Baking Soda.
  • Shampoo.
  • Bar of Soap.
  • Body Wash.
  • Handwashing Liquid.
  • Dish Soap.

However, before you simply dump a big cup of cleaning liquid or powder on your clothes or into your washing machine, you will want to know how to use and how much of each ingredient you will need. 

What Products Can Be Used in a Washing Machine Besides Laundry Detergent?

Of all the various kinds of cleaning solutions you can use to wash your clothes, only a few can be used in a washing machine. 

White Vinegar

White vinegar is a great detergent replacement! In fact, some people use it all the time as it is known to be better for the environment, your clothes, and even your skin as there are no harsh chemicals.

Most of us have a bottle of white vinegar hiding somewhere in the kitchen, so you may be able to clean your clothes without even popping out to the store, not to mention that it’s an extremely affordable option. 

In order to wash your clothes with white vinegar, simply add ½ cup to your washing machine’s detergent compartment. If you do not have a washing machine, you can also soak your clothes in a hot water and vinegar solution.

Your clothes will not smell like vinegar, but they also will not smell like any scent at all. If you want your clothes to smell like fresh laundry, you may want to add a few drops of your essential oil scent of choice to the vinegar.

NOTE: Never put vinegar directly on fabrics unless diluted with water and only use white vinegar, never balsamic, red, or any other flavored option.


Using borax can be a great way to wash your clothes without laundry detergent. And the great news is, it’s extremely easy to use! You may even have some borax laying around from a big Spring cleaning session. 

Simply put ½ cup of borax in your washing machine before adding clothes and running the wash cycle recommended for the fabrics inside. That’s it! Your clothes will be just as clean as if you use laundry detergent. 

Baking Soda

Baking soda is another ingredient that is commonly found in the back of the pantry and can be used in a washing machine to clean your clothes. 

You can use either hot water or cold water, it just depends on the type of clothes you are washing. Follow the instructions on your washing machine, but instead of adding detergent, you can use ½ cup of baking soda!

Just as you would with standard detergents, we recommend applying stain removers to pesky blemishes on your clothes before washing with any of these options to ensure your clothes come out good as new.

What Products Can Be Used to Clean Clothes Without a Washing Machine?

While all of these products we have mentioned so far can be used with or without a washing machine, we do have a few options that are strictly washing machine-free. 

As you are about to learn, these options can make a big mess of your machine, so while they are still great replacements for laundry detergent, you will have to use them the old-fashioned way, with a bucket, tub, or sink full of water. 


Gentle shampoos can be used to wash your clothes, you should avoid using two-in-one varieties or any kind of shampoo for color protection or enhancement.

Remember, do not add it to your washing machine as it will create a surplus of suds and could flood your laundry area! In order to use your shampoo to get your clothes nice and clean, you will need to wash them by hand.

We recommend adding a teaspoon of shampoo to a small sink’s worth of water. If you are using a larger basin, you can add another teaspoon or two depending on the size. 

When it comes to water temperature, cold water is always the safest bet, however, you can also use warm or hot water if you know the fabrics can handle it (check your tags if you are unsure!)

Bar of Soap

If you have a bar of soap and some hot water, you have everything you need to wash your clothes. 

While most soaps will not harm your clothes, you should avoid those that have skin softeners or oils to ensure your clothes don’t come out with any discoloration. 

To use a bar of soap to wash your clothes, you can either shave some of the soap into hot water to melt it or use the bar itself to scrub the clothes in the water temperature of your choice. 

We do not recommend using a melted bar of soap in your washing machine as the wax may get stuck in the crevices of the machine. 

Body Wash

Body wash is another common cleaning product that you may have access to that will clean your clothes if you do not have laundry detergent. 

Just like shampoo, body wash suds in a completely different way than laundry detergent, so it is not a good idea to use it in your washing machine.

However, it is a great option if you are washing your clothes by hand! Also similarly to shampoo, a little bit of body wash goes a long way; just add a spoonful to a big bucket of water.

Handwashing Liquid

Another liquid option that you may have around the house is handwashing liquid.

Once again, this product is best used in small quantities with a large amount of water. The temperature of the water is not important, cold, warm, or hot will work. 

Dish Soap

While dish soap will work as a substitute for laundry detergent, it should probably be used as a last resort. If you are desperate, you can use the smallest possible amount of dish soap with water, but you will need to ensure there are no chemicals that might bleach your clothing. 

When it comes to washing clothes by hand with any soap or detergent option, you will still want to scrub your clothes gently or rub the fabric together under the water to ensure they actually get clean. 

After soaking and scrubbing them with one of the products listed above, you will certainly need to rinse them in soap-free water before hanging them to try or using a tumble dryer. 

What Can You Use Instead of Fabric Softener?

Of course, while any of these products can replace your laundry detergent in a pinch and get your clothes clean and good as new, they may not leave you with silky soft fabrics as a laundry detergent or fabric softener would. 

However, you may be surprised to learn that white vinegar or baking soda can actually make your clothes soft, just like fabric softener does!

So when you are choosing your alternative to laundry detergent, if softness is important to you, we recommend one of those two options. To add a nice scent to your laundry, you can include a few drops of essential oils in your vinegar or baking soda. 

Final Thoughts 

So now to know the answer to our original question: how to wash clothes without laundry detergent? In fact, you might just be a laundry detergent replacement expert!

In case you need a little recap, you can use a wide variety of household or bathroom cleaning products to wash your clothes instead of laundry detergent. 

White vinegar, borax, baking soda, shampoo, bars of soap, body wash, handwashing liquid, or even dish soap are all great options.

But it’s extremely important to remember not only which solutions can be used to replace laundry detergent, but also how to use them! 

While all of these options can work wonderfully to clean your clothes, using them the wrong way could wreck your clothes or washing machine, so please read the instructions for each product carefully!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *