Top 8 Laundry Detergent Alternatives

You have a heap of clothes that needs washing ASAP, but there is no detergent liquid left in the bottle. We get into this household dilemma quite often, which makes us rush to the store at midnight. Don’t worry, as we got your back. 

You would laugh if we said that you could wash clothes without detergent. But surprisingly, you can. There are many alternatives to deal with dirty clothes at no cost of detergent. And chances are, you have already been seeing them around the house. So, what are those methods? Let’s find out.


8 Best Laundry Detergent Alternatives

#1. Rinse The Detergent Bottle

Yes, it may sound desperate, but at least it’s better than having nothing. Pour in your almost empty bottle of detergent or powdered detergent box with a little of warm water and give it a shake. What’s left to do is dump directly into the washer drum or in the detergent dispenser drawer. And lucky, you might have enough liquid for a normal load of clothes.

#2. Baking Soda

In case you don’t know, baking soda is a perfect alternative for commercial detergent. It brightens white clothes and colors while making them look like new. You can use baking soda to neutralize many stains, such as vomit, urine, ketchup, soda, etc.

If you have some left-over detergent yet not enough, add around half a baking soda cup to boost the detergent performance. Otherwise, use three-quarters of a cup of the powder to wash a full laundry load. A quick reminder is that add it directly to the drum before dry clothes and other liquid.

Besides the cleaning ability, baking soda also gets rid of the odor on your products. It can work effectively on your swimsuits, gym clothes, and old towers. Especially baking soda softens your clothes without damaging your skin, unlike normal fabric softener. This is a nice tip for families with small children. 

However, this isn’t feasible long-term speaking, as baking soda is a costly method. We’ll show you another method related to baking soda below, so stay tuned with us.

#3. Powdered Oxygen Bleach

You can add half a cup of powdered oxygen bleach to replace laundry detergent. Same as baking powder put this into an empty drum before adding dirty clothes and water. Being a bleach, it can remove most stains on your garments without worrying about color fading or delicate clothes being ruined.

Since it’s oxygen-based, this bleach doesn’t toxify organic beings and humans, so you can feel free using it even for children’s wear. Aside from the cleaning power, which does an awesome job giving your white shirt a new life, powdered oxygen bleach also acts as a sanitizer. Parents now can ensure that their offsprings are safe with whatever they wear.

#4. Homemade Detergent

Img by Abi Porter

This is the solution you are waiting for if you are keen on using baking soda as a substitute. With baking soda, you can create homemade detergent. These are what you need:

  • Washing soda
  • Baking soda
  • Epsom salt
  • Your choice of essential oil

Mix them until they are blended, and you have your DIY washing detergent from natural ingredients. For a lightly soiled laundry batch, you need one-eighth of a cup of the DIY mixture. Double it for heavy wash or seriously dirty garments.

You can replace Epsom salt and essential oil with a bar of soap. Any brands are okay, but it’s best to choose a natural-made soap. Grate the bar, then dissolve it in a heated pan with little water. Next, mix the melted soap, 2 gallons of hot water, and baking soda and washing soda with 2 cups each into a container. 

With this liquid, you would use ½ cup for a full load of laundry and change depending on the level of dirty and types of clothes.

#5. Soap Nuts

Soap nuts are usable for light wash since there’s no artificial chemicals or stain-removing ability in this alternative. They’re completely natural and non-toxic, making them the go-to choice for sensitive skin. Also, soap nuts are safe on delicate garments like silk regarding how gentle this detergent substitute is.

You can reuse soap nuts several times before disposing of them. No waste is left behind from the disposing process since they are compostable. It sounds like a great option for green-minded people!

#6. Vinegar

The acid found in vinegar from the distilling process is well-known for the ability to stop the development of mold and some bacterias. Therefore, it’s a perfect add-on if you don’t have enough detergent left. The light acid in white vinegar can remove any persistent stains as long as you treat it the soonest possible. 

In addition to tackling dirt and brightening your clothes, vinegar is a savior of pet owners. Adding vinegar to the washing process helps remove hair and lint sticking to any garments while softening them.

To active vinegar, pour ¼ cup at the final washing stage. We would say white vinegar is the only kind you should use. If you use balsamic or any other dark vinegar, it can turn out to be a disaster. 

#7. Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is an extra option to boost your left-over detergent. The acid in lemon juice is quite similar to acid found in vinegar, so feel ensured to rely on this method. Refresh your white shirts, tackle the stains, especially rust and juice stains on clothes; lemon juice can handle them all.

Make lemon juice paste with salt and apply it to the stains, mold, and mildew on garments. The paste will kill spores quickly, and what’s left is washing them with hot water. 

#8. Vodka

Another luxurious method, we believe, but it works surprisingly. Nevertheless, you can only use this if your clothes aren’t dirty or stained. The technique requires one part of vodka and one part of water, mix well together, then put into a spray bottle. Hang your clothes inside out in a well-ventilated space, and spritz the mixture evenly on them.

The alcohol in vodka will remove not only odor but also disinfect your costumes. Due to the strong spirit, you won’t have to worry about a reeking smell on clothes, as the vodka will evaporate quickly. An extra advice is that use cheap vodka; don’t waste delicious spirits on cleaning.

The Benefits Of Laundry Detergent Alternatives

As we have provided a plethora of alternatives to detergent, it’s safe now too, once again, claim that you can definitely wash clothes without detergent. And these methods bring to the table certain benefits:

  • With the correct usage, you can save more money than buying commercial detergents. The above ways are proven to be working, and some are more affordable than washing detergents.
  • Knowing the alternatives can save your day in emergency circumstances.
  • With DIY detergents, sensitive skins are well-protected. Homemade detergents are chemical-free and safe to use.
  • If you prefer organic solutions over chemicals, it’s time to ditch commercial detergents and follow our guide for the above DIY washing agents.

Now you have acquired the knowledge. Though these are excellent washing agents for your costumes, there exist cautions about how you should not use what you learned mistakenly. Let’s go over them.

Cautions: What Not To Use In Case You Run Short Of Detergent


Generating foam to clean like washing detergents, yet you shouldn’t mistake that dishwasher can be a substitute.

This detergent has a high cleaning capability but too high for clothing, which might cause fading colors. Not to mention, dish soap generates more foam than commercial washer detergents, leading to chances of residue left in your clothes. If you have sensitive skin, it will irritate. If not, still having the residue of detergent on clothes is not a good thing.

We have a solution for using dishwashers in case of emergency, yet we recommend no overuse. Add ¼ cup of distilled white vinegar to a small amount of dishwasher to eliminate excessive foam, and make sure you use this mixture less than normal detergent for a normal load.

Shampoo/Body Wash

Again, shampoo, like dishwashers, can overload your drum with bubbles, which are difficult to remove with the washing machine’s water setting. Besides irritating skin, small chances are the electronic system might go down, voiding your warranty. 

You can consider handwashing with shampoo and body wash.

It is more simple to control the bubble and water as you can observe by eyes to adjust. Regarding heavily soiled situations, pre-soaking in the cleaning agent is recommended. This gives time to the solution to tackle the dirt.

Household Cleaner/Ammonia

Right, don’t go overboard here. Household cleaner is a heavy cleaning liquid. Not only being able to damage your machine, it definitely will vandalize your garments. We repeat, do not use household cleaners! You’d rather get new clothes to wear tomorrow than waste current clothes on this liquid.

Final Words

Though alternatives exist, using these methods might not produce as satisfying results as using commercial detergents. They are meant to clean, disinfect, and soften the garments, not to mention that they won’t destroy your machine. Nothing works better. 

So, we only recommend these methods under the circumstances that you’re running out of normal detergents at home. Is it possible to wash clothes without detergent? Washing clothes without detergent is definitely feasible, but remember to follow our cautions and guides to ensure your favorite suits won’t fade away or be damaged.

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