Think Twice Before Using These Laundry Detergent Replacements In A Pinch

When you run out of laundry detergent and need a piece of clothing washed right away, it may be tempting to find any other soap or cleaner in your home and throw it in the washing machine. If you're thinking of using ammonia, household cleaners, shampoo, body wash, dish soap, or dishwasher detergent, these alternatives could do more harm than good. These soaps and cleaners have the potential to damage your clothing and your washing machine, making other alternative detergents, such as baking soda or vinegar, safer options.

While ammonia is commonly used to remove tough stains (think grass, blood, and grease stains), get rid of mildew, or brighten whites, using it as a complete replacement for laundry detergent could change the color of your clothes. Rather than using these alternatives in the washing machine, try pouring a little water into your empty laundry detergent bottle. Once you shake the water around, it may pull enough leftover liquid detergent from the sides of the bottle to wash a small load — at least enough to get you to the grocery store in clean clothes.

Why these detergent alternatives are a bad choice

Washing machines are not designed to deal with other types of soap, including the above-mentioned body wash, shampoo, dishwashing detergent, or dish soap. These cleaners create more suds than laundry detergent, which makes them harder to rinse out of fabric. This could leave your clothing feeling stiff and needing to be rinsed again. If you end up using more than a teaspoon or two of these soaps, they could create too many suds and make your washer overflow. An overabundance of suds could also hurt the drains and pumps inside the machine, and using a detergent alternative might void your washer's warranty, leaving you to pay for repairs or a replacement.

Dishwashing detergent and dish soap may cause clothes to irritate your skin, fade colors, or hurt delicate fabrics. Household cleaners are also not sensitive enough to come into contact with your skin, and they're surprisingly sudsy as well. Avoiding these detergent substitutes will prevent itchy skin, broken washing machines, and damaged fabrics.

Safer alternatives for laundry detergent

If you plan to wash your clothing by hand, shampoo and body wash are not horrible options. Since these soaps are meant to be used on your body they shouldn't cause irritation like dishwashing detergent and dish soap, but it might take a bit of work to rinse the soap out of your clothes. Only a small amount of shampoo or body wash should be used on each item of clothing, and it's best to test a small area to ensure it won't affect the color.

In a pinch, a ½ cup of baking soda can be added to your washing machine instead of laundry detergent. This will help to remove odors and stains when you need your clothes smelling and looking fresh in a hurry. A cup of vinegar can also be substituted for laundry detergent and will help to get rid of any stains and smells.