Can You Use Body Wash as Laundry Detergent Laundry Detergent Alternative

Can You Use Body Wash as Laundry Detergent? Laundry Detergent Alternative

Have you ever found yourself staring at a pile of dirty laundry only to realize you’ve completely run out of laundry detergent? We’ve all been there – detergent seems to run out at the worst possible moment. When you’re in a pinch and need to wash just one more load, you may be wondering if you can grab that bottle of body wash or shampoo instead.

In this article, we’ll cover Can You Use Body Wash as Laundry Detergent, look at some other laundry detergent alternatives you can use in a pinch, and provide tips for hand-washing clothes when you’ve got no detergent at all. Let’s dive in!

Can You Use Body Wash or Shampoo as Laundry Detergent?

Can You Use Body Wash or Shampoo as Laundry Detergent
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When you’re out of laundry detergent, it’s tempting to look under the bathroom sink for products you can substitute. But can you use body wash or shampoo in place of laundry detergent?

The short answer is no – you should not use body wash or shampoo to wash loads of laundry. Most body washes and shampoos are not formulated for use in washing machines. They likely won’t have the cleaning agents needed to get your clothes clean.

Products like body wash and shampoo also tend to produce many more suds than regular laundry detergent. They may create excessive suds that can overflow from your washer and leave residue on your cleaned clothes.

So while that bottle of shower gel might get you through hand-washing a few delicate garments, don’t pour it into your washing machine expecting it to work like laundry detergent.

Shampoo and Body Wash Differences

Regular liquid laundry detergent is specially formulated to dissolve dirt, oils, and stains while being gentle enough for frequent machine washing.

Shampoos are designed specifically for hair and to produce a rich, bubbly lather. Using shampoo in your laundry can result in far too many suds that may damage clothing or laundry machine components.

Similarly, the formulas for body wash and other bath soaps are meant for use on human skin. They often contain moisturizers not found in laundry detergents. Using body wash can leave behind residue that requires extra rinsing to remove.

Can You Use Baby Shampoo?

Some people wonder if baby shampoo might be a gentler option for hand-washing delicate clothes when detergent runs out. But baby shampoo is still formulated for use on hair, not laundry.

The ingredients and concentrations that make baby shampoo tear-free for infants’ eyes are not ideal for removing dirt and stains from fabric. Like regular shampoos, baby shampoo can also generate lots of suds not suitable for laundry machines.

Laundry Detergent Alternatives You Can Use

Laundry Detergent Alternatives You Can Use
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While body wash doesn’t work as a laundry detergent, there are several products in your pantry that can be used in a pinch. Here are some of the best options for substituting store-bought detergent:

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a natural cleaning and deodorizing agent. For laundry, it helps remove stains, odors, and residue that might be left behind from fabric softener.

To use for laundry, add 1⁄2 to 1 cup of baking soda along with your normal detergent. Or if you’re completely out of detergent, use about 1 cup per laundry load.


Like baking soda, borax has natural cleaning abilities. It contains sodium tetraborate, which helps remove stains. Borax works by chemically reacting with compounds in dirt and oil to dissolve and lift them from fabric.

Add about 1⁄2 cup of borax per load with your regular detergent. If you don’t have any detergent, use 1 to 1 1⁄2 cups of borax for an average load of laundry.

Distilled White Vinegar

White vinegar is another common household staple that removes stains, odors, and residue from fabric. It’s also a natural disinfectant.

When adding vinegar to your wash routine, use about 1⁄2 to 1 cup per load along with regular detergent. For washing without any detergent, pour in 1 cup vinegar.

Washing Soda

Washing soda (sodium carbonate) works similarly to borax as a water softener and cleaning booster. It’s more alkaline than baking soda and reacts strongly with acids in stains to remove them.

For best results, add 1⁄2 to 1 cup of washing soda to your regular detergent. If you don’t have detergent, use about 1 cup washing soda per average load of laundry.

Lemon Juice

The citric acid naturally found in lemon juice cuts through residue and stains much like vinegar. It also helps brighten whites and can eliminate odors.

When substituting for laundry detergent, use 1⁄2 to 1 cup fresh lemon juice per wash load along with detergent. Or use 1 cup of lemon juice without detergent.

Bar Hand Soap

If you have bar hand soap or even bath soap bars, you can finely grate or dissolve shavings to create a liquid soap. It likely won’t clean as thoroughly as detergent but can be used in a pinch.

For hand grating, use about three 4-ounce bars of soap per load. You’ll need to let the soap dissolve and fully incorporate water before adding clothes.

Tips for Hand-Washing Clothes Without Detergent

Tips for Hand-Washing Clothes Without Detergent
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If your washing machine is out of commission along with your detergent, you may need to hand wash your clothes. While not ideal, here are some tips to get by when hand-washing delicates or smaller loads:

  • Use a bathtub or large bucket and fill with warm or cool water, not hot. Hot water can cause the dye to bleed from fabrics.
  • Swirl water before adding clothes to create a gentle washing motion.
  • For a detergent alternative, add a half-cup of baking soda, vinegar, or lemon juice to the wash water.
  • Allow clothes to soak for at least 30 minutes, gently pushing them up and down to remove dirt and stains.
  • Drain the tub and refill with clean rinse water if heavily soiled. Use your hands to move clothes around.
  • Drain and press out excess water from items without twisting before hang drying. This minimizes wrinkles.

Things like body wash, shower gel, or shampoo should never be used for hand-washing clothes either. As discussed previously, they don’t properly dissolve dirt, stains, and oils like laundry detergents. The ingredients may also irritate the skin.

While it takes more time and effort, hand-washing with baking soda, vinegar or another alternative is gentler for delicates like silk, lace, and wool items. Just take care to not let clothes sit too long in wash water, which can set in stains.

FAQs About Using Body Wash as Laundry Detergent

Before we summarize everything we’ve learned, let’s review some frequently asked questions about using body wash and shampoo to wash laundry:

Can I use body wash or shower gel in my washing machine?

No, most body washes and shower gels produce excessive suds not suitable for washing machines. They may cause damage over time.

What if I only have a small load to wash?

Even for small loads, it’s best not to use body wash or shampoo in a washing machine. Try hand-washing items instead or waiting until you have detergent again.

Is it OK to hand wash clothes using body wash?

You shouldn’t hand-wash clothes with body wash either. While it may work in a pinch for delicate garments, body wash often leaves behind moisturizers and residue even after rinsing thoroughly.

Can I use shampoo if I dilute it first?

Diluting shampoo may reduce suds, but it still won’t contain the fabric cleaning agents found in detergents. For hand-washing, a mild bath soap bar is a better option than shampoo.

What about using baby shampoo?

Baby shampoo is tear-free for eyes and gentler than regular shampoos, but still not right for laundry. Like other shampoos, it can’t properly dissolve dirt, oils, and stains the way laundry detergents can.

Will body wash hurt my washing machine?

Using body wash instead of laundry detergent shouldn’t cause immediate damage. However, over time, consistent use can create issues from excess suds and clogged components. It’s best not to find out and use detergent only.

Conclusion: Can You Use Body Wash as Laundry Detergent

When you’re in a pinch without laundry detergent, skip the body wash and shampoo. Products like baking soda, borax, and vinegar make excellent laundry detergent substitutes for both machine and hand-washing clothes. They are designed as cleaners and are fabric-safe for optimal results.

While body wash and shampoo may seem tempting, keep them far away from your washing machine. Not only will they not get your clothes clean, but they can cause maintenance problems over time.

We hope these laundry detergent substitution tips help in a future cleaning crisis. But we still recommend keeping a spare jug of laundry detergent handy just in case you find yourself staring at a pile of dirty clothes needing to be washed!

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