Can You Hand Wash Clothes With Dish Soap? Answered!

Most people do laundry using a washing machine.

However, each of you probably has clothes made of delicate fabrics that cannot be machine washed and you have to wash them by hand.

Hand washing your clothes is also a great way to extend the life of your clothes and keep them looking their best.

Traditional laundry detergent is obviously the best choice for hand washing laundry, but what can you do if you run out of it?

Can you use dish soap instead? Dish soap is designed to cut through grease and grime on dishes, but is it safe and effective for use on clothes?

In this article, we will explore whether hand washing clothes with dish soap is a safe and effective alternative to laundry detergent.

Keep reading to find out the pros and cons of using dish soap for hand washing clothes, as well as alternative options and tips for effective hand washing.

The Difference between Dish Soap and Laundry Detergent

Dish soap and laundry detergent may seem to you similar at first glance, but they are actually designed for very different purposes and have different formulations.

The key differences between them include their ingredients, pH levels, and the cleaning power they possess.

  1. Ingredients:

Dish soap, or dish detergent, is a type of soap that is specifically designed for use in cleaning dishes, utensils, and other kitchen items.

It is typically a highly concentrated liquid that is formulated to cut through grease and food residue. You can use it with or without water to clean dishes.

With that in mind, it makes sense that dish soap contains harsher surfactants and degreasers than laundry detergent.

In contrast, laundry detergent is formulated to remove dirt, stains, and odors from your clothes and contains a blend of surfactants, enzymes, and other cleaning agents for this purpose.

  1. PH Levels:

It is important to know that the pH level of a cleaning product can affect its cleaning power and its ability to protect fabrics from damage.

Dish soap typically has a more acidic pH, around 6 or 7, which helps to break down grease and grime on dishes.

On the other hand, laundry detergent has a more alkaline pH, around 9 or 10, which helps to lift and remove dirt and stains from clothing fibers.

  1. Cleaning Power:

Dish soap and laundry detergent also differ in their cleaning power.

Yes, dish soap is a powerful cleaner because it’s designed to cut through stubborn food residue and grease, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be super effective at removing dirt and all kinds of stains from your clothes.

Laundry detergent, on the other hand is specifically formulated to break down and remove dirt, sweat, oils, and other substances from fabrics, making it a much more effective choice for washing clothes.

While using dish soap as a substitute for laundry detergent may seem like a quick fix, it can be problematic and potentially harmful to clothing fibers in the long run.

Dish soap can be too harsh on the fibers of your clothes and can leave a residue that can irritate your skin or damage the fabric over time.

That’s why it’s always best that you use a cleaning product specifically designed for laundry and follow the care instructions on the clothing label to ensure you don’t damage the fabric while hand washing.

Pros and Cons of Using Dish Soap for Hand Washing Clothes


In case you wanted to wash your clothes with the dish soap, you should check some of these benefits:

  1. Availability: Dish soap is a commonly available household item that many people already have in their homes. This can be convenient when you don’t have laundry detergent on hand.
  2. Cost: Dish soap is often less expensive than laundry detergent, making it a cost-effective option for hand washing clothes. Also, a small amount of dish soap can go a long way when you use it for hand washing clothes.
  3. Convenience: Dish soap is easy to use because you can simply add it directly to the water when washing clothes by hand. It is a convenient option for those who do not have access to a washing machine, or simply want to save on laundry.
  4. Grease-Cutting Power: As we mentioned before, dish soap is specially designed to cut through stubborn grease which can be helpful when you are washing clothes that are heavily soiled with grease or oil stains.


Using dish soap on your clothes can be problematic and potentially harmful for a number of reasons, so let’s take a look at some of them:

  1. Harsh ingredients: As we mentioned earlier, dish soap is formulated to cut through grease and food residue on dishes, which means it usually contains harsher surfactants and degreasers than laundry detergent. These ingredients can be too harsh for your delicate fabrics and can strip away the natural oils and fibers from the fabric, leading to damage, discoloration, and weakening of the fabric over time.
  2. Residue Buildup: Dish soap is not formulated so that you can easily rinse it off, so it can leave a residue on the fibers of your clothes that can irritate your skin, can cause itching or allergic reactions. These residues can further damage the fabric over time, but also attract dirt and other particles, making your clothes look dingy and dull.
  3. PH Levels: As we mentioned earlier, dish soap has a more acidic pH level than laundry detergent, which can be problematic for fabrics that require a more alkaline pH to maintain their integrity. If you choose to use dish soap on these types of fabrics, they can discolor, yellow, and weaken over time.
  4. Not Suitable for All Fabrics: Dish soap can be too harsh for certain fabrics, such as silk, wool and other delicate fabrics that require special care. If you use dish soap to hand wash these fabrics, you can damage the fibers, causing them to shrink, stretch or lose their shape.
  5. Limited Cleaning Power: Although dish soap is effective at cutting through grease, it may not be as effective at removing dirt and stains from clothing as laundry detergent, which is specially formulated for this purpose.

Overall, while using dish soap can be a convenient and cost-effective option, it is not recommended for all types of fabric and can be potentially harmful in the long run.

Hand washing your clothes with dish soap can be an easy fix only in certain situations, although it is always best to use a cleaning product that is specifically designed for purpose of washing clothes.

Is Dish Soap Safe for Hand Washing Clothes? 

Dish soap is designed to be used on dishes and other kitchen items so it is not the best choice to use on your clothes.

Dish soap is a highly concentrated liquid that is specially formulated to remove stubborn grease, which means it can be harsh on fabrics.

Dish soap can strip natural oils and fibers, damaging fabric, fading colors and leaving soap residue that is difficult to remove.

In addition, the high pH levels of dish soap can also irritate your skin and cause allergic reactions in some people. 

While it is true that dish soap can be effective in removing stains from clothes, you must keep in mind that there are alternative options that are safer and more effective for hand washing, such as laundry detergent, special fabric cleaners, or even plain water and gentle agitation. 

What Type of Dish Soap Should You Use to Hand Wash Your Clothes? 

Although dish soap is not an ideal choice for hand washing, if you do decide to use it, it is important to choose a mild, gentle formula that does not contain harsh chemicals and fragrances.

You should look for dish soap that is labeled as “mild” or “gentle” and avoid products that contain bleach, enzymes or other harsh chemicals. These types of ingredients can damage the fabric and cause discoloration.

It is also important to avoid dish soap that contains added fragrances or dyes, as these can irritate the skin and potentially cause allergic reactions.

Tips for Hand Washing Clothes with Dish Soap

If you do decide to use dish soap for hand washing clothes, there are some important tips to keep in mind!

You should use just a small amount of dish soap! Dish soap is concentrated, so you don’t need to use a lot of it.

You can use just about a teaspoon or less, depending on the amount of clothes you’re washing.

You should also add dish soap to a basin of warm water and dissolve it completely before adding clothes to prevent any undissolved soap from sticking to your laundry.

Warm water also helps remove dirt and stains and can improve the cleaning power of dish soap.

You should then soak your clothes for at least 10-15 minutes before washing to help loosen dirt and stains, making them easier to remove.

Use your hands to gently agitate your clothes in the water, but be careful not to be too rough or aggressive as this can damage the fabric.

Then, you must rinse your clothes thoroughly in clean water to remove all traces of the soap you used.

Make sure to rinse your close properly until the water runs clear. You can repeat the rinsing process several times if necessary.

After rinsing, you should gently squeeze the excess water from the clothes, then hang or lay the clothes flat to dry.

Following these tips will ensure that your clothes are properly cleaned and well maintained.

Alternatives to Dish Soap for Hand Washing Clothes

Finally, we want to draw your attention to some alternatives to dish soap when it comes to hand washing clothes.

This can include homemade laundry detergents, special fabric cleaners, or even just using plain water and gentle agitation for some types of clothing.

Laundry detergent is specially formulated to clean clothes and is generally a safer and more effective option than dish soap.

You can use a small amount of laundry detergent in a bowl of warm water for hand washing.

If you prefer, you can also use homemade laundry detergents for hand washing your laundry, which are usually made from natural ingredients and can be a good alternative to store-bought detergents.

Here is a simple recipe for homemade laundry detergent that is not difficult to make. You need just a few ingredients:

  • 1 cup of washing soda
  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 bar of soap (such as castile soap), grated
  • Essential oils (optional)

You need to mix washing soda, borax and grated soap in a large bowl and stir until the ingredients are well combined. If you like, you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oils for fragrance.

It’s important to note that homemade laundry detergents may not work as well as commercial detergents to remove tough stains or odors and may not be suitable for all types of fabrics.

Then, you can definitely use specialty fabric cleaners for hand washing your clothes. These cleaners are designed to be gentle on fabrics while effectively removing dirt and stains.

Specialty fabric cleaners can include products such as wool wash, silk wash, and delicates wash.

These products are formulated with gentle ingredients that are specifically designed to clean and care for your delicate fabrics.

If you don’t have laundry detergent, shampoo can be a good alternative too. Shampoo is designed to remove oils and dirt from your hair, so it can also work well for removing dirt and stains from your clothes.

You just need to dissolve a small amount of shampoo in a basin of warm water to hand wash your clothes.

Another good option for hand washing laundry is Castile soap. It is a natural, plant-based soap that is gentle on fabrics. It comes in liquid and bar form and you can find it in health food stores or online.

Most people have baking soda and vinegar around the house, but did you know that these products are natural cleaning agents that you can use to remove dirt and odors from your clothes.

You can also use plain water and gentle agitation to clean some types of clothing.

This is known as “water-only washing” and it can be a great eco-friendly option for clothes that are lightly soiled or made from delicate fabrics.


Hand washing clothes with dish soap may seem like a quick and easy option, but it comes with certain risks and limitations.

If you know the pros and cons of using dish soap for hand washing your laundry, you can make an informed decision about whether or not to use it.

Ultimately, the key is to choose a cleaning product that is safe and effective for your specific clothing and fabric needs.

It’s safe to say that while it’s possible to hand wash clothes with dish soap, there are a few reasons why it might not be the best solution for you.

Dish soap can be harsh on fabrics, may not effectively remove stains or odors, and may leave soap residue that is difficult to rinse off.

In addition, dish soap is not designed to be used on clothes, so it may not have the proper pH level or ingredients to clean effectively.

Instead of dish soap, we’d rather recommend using a mild laundry detergent or a special fabric cleaner that’s specifically formulated for the type of fabric you’re washing.

On the other hand, if you prefer to use a natural cleaning solution, options such as baking soda or vinegar can also be effective for some types of clothing.

It is also worth noting that in some cases plain water and gentle agitation may be sufficient for lightly soiled clothes or delicate fabrics.

It is very important that you always check the care label on your garment before washing it and that you follow any specific care instructions given to you.

In short, while hand washing clothes with dish soap may seem like a convenient option, it is generally not the best choice for cleaning clothes efficiently and safely.

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