Can You Use Body Wash as Laundry Detergent? [Yes, But…]

women using body wash as laundry detergent

Not too long ago, I ran out of laundry detergent and conducted a little experiment. An experiment to use body wash as laundry detergent. I hand-washed as well as machine-washed clothes with body wash. 

After all, body wash and laundry detergent share similar ingredients, right? With a half-empty bottle of body wash, I poured a generous amount into the detergent compartment, crossed my fingers, and pressed the start button.

I also hand-washed some laundry with body wash for better understanding. To make the process as authentic as possible, I chose various clothing items with different levels of dirtiness. From sweat-stained gym shirts to grass-stained jeans, I was ready to put my body wash to the ultimate laundry challenge.

Related: Can you wash clothes without detergent?

Laundry Detergent vs. Body Wash For Laundry

FeatureLaundry DetergentBody Wash
PurposeSpecifically designed for laundry useDesigned for bathing and personal hygiene
Cleaning PowerStrong cleaning agents to remove stainsMild cleaning agents for skin
FragranceUsually scented with a variety of optionsTypically scented with a single fragrance
EnzymesMay contain enzymes to break down stainsUsually does not contain enzymes
Sudsing AbilityProduces high suds for effective cleaningProduces moderate to low suds
pH LevelUsually more alkaline for stain removalMore balanced pH for skin compatibility
ConcentrationHighly concentrated for laundry purposesDiluted for safe use on the body
Skin SensitivityNot designed for direct skin contactFormulated for skin compatibility
ResidueDesigned to rinse out completelyMay leave a light residue on clothing
Cost EffectivenessGenerally cheaper per loadTypically more expensive per

Related: Substitute for laundry detergent.

Using Body Wash as Laundry Detergent in Washing Machine

body wash in washing machine for laundry

I used body wash in a front-load automatic washing machine. I added 2 teaspoon size of body wash to a full load of laundry. 


Doing laundry in washing machine with body wash is not recommended and not safe. The body wash can create many suds that can ruin the washing machine.

As the washing machine went through its cycle, doubts started to creep in. Would my clothes come out clean? Would they smell fresh? Or would this experiment be a complete disaster? I anxiously awaited the final spin.

Once the cycle was complete, I eagerly opened the washing machine to inspect the results. To my surprise, the clothes looked clean! There were no visible stains, and the colors seemed vibrant. However, as I picked up a shirt and took a whiff, I noticed a lingering scent of the body wash. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it definitely wasn’t the fresh laundry smell I was accustomed to.

I decided to dig deep into the science, and my results were shocking. I discovered that while body wash might contain some similar cleansing agents to laundry detergent, their formulations have crucial differences. Laundry detergents are specifically designed to tackle the unique challenges of cleaning fabrics, removing stains, and eliminating odors. They are optimized for washing machines and the specific conditions of laundry cycles.

On the other hand, body washes are primarily formulated for cleansing the skin and maintaining personal hygiene. They often contain moisturizing agents and fragrances that are suitable for our bodies but may not necessarily be ideal for fabric care.

This distinction became evident as I continued my experiment. While the body wash was able to remove dirt and grime from my clothes, it struggled with tougher stains. Additionally, the lingering scent of the body wash remained, even after multiple rinses.

Another factor to consider is the potential impact on the longevity of your clothes. Laundry detergents are developed to be gentle on fabrics, ensuring they maintain their quality over time. With their different formulation, body washes may not offer the same level of fabric care and could lead to premature wear and tear.

Based on my personal experience and the insights I gathered, I would not recommend using body wash as a long-term substitute for laundry detergent. It might work in a pinch, but it’s not an ideal solution for maintaining the cleanliness and freshness of your clothes. If you still wish to wash clothes with body wash, hand washing is still a better option than hand washing clothes with body wash.

Using Body Wash as Laundry Detergent for Hand Washing Clothes

body wash for hand washing laundry

I filled a sink with warm water, added 2 teaspoons of body wash, and swirled it around until it formed a soapy mixture. I gently submerged the first cotton t-shirt garment into the soapy water and began agitating it with my hands.

Surprisingly, the body wash created substantial suds, much like a regular detergent would. It felt smooth against the fabric, and the pleasant scent added an extra touch of freshness. After a few minutes of rubbing and scrubbing, I rinsed the shirt thoroughly under running water until all the suds disappeared.

With the shirt now clean and smelling great, I moved on to the next challenge—a pair of jeans covered in stubborn grass stains. I focused my efforts on the affected areas, rubbing the body wash gently into the fabric. Slowly but surely, the stains faded, leaving behind a significantly improved pair of jeans.

As I continued washing each piece of clothing, I noticed that the body wash effectively removed light stains and general dirtiness from clothes when hand-washed. However, it struggled with heavier stains like oil and grease. For those tougher stains, I had to pre-treat with a stain remover before hand-washing with the body wash.

One aspect that pleasantly surprised me was how gentle the body wash was on my hands. Unlike some harsh laundry detergents, it didn’t leave my skin feeling dry or irritated. It was a welcome change, especially for those with sensitive skin or allergies to certain laundry products.

After successfully washing all the clothes with body wash, I carefully hung them to dry. I couldn’t help but admire their cleanliness and the subtle fragrance that lingered in the air. Knowing that my little experiment had yielded positive results was a satisfying feeling.

However, it’s important to note that while body wash can work as a makeshift laundry detergent for hand-washing clothes, it might not be as effective or suitable for all types of fabrics and stains. For delicate fabrics or heavily soiled garments, proper laundry detergents are still recommended, which are tailored to their specific needs.

What Does Science Say?

baby shampoo and body wash bottles

Using a body wash as a laundry detergent is not recommended for several reasons. The body wash is primarily designed for cleansing the skin and may not have the necessary ingredients to remove dirt, stains, and odors from clothing effectively.

Body wash formulas often contain moisturizers, fragrances, and other additives that can leave residues on fabric, leading to a dull appearance and potential skin irritations.

Additionally, body wash may not have the same pH balance and enzyme activity as laundry detergents, specifically formulated to break down and remove different stains.

  • Can I use body wash to wash my clothes if I have nothing?

    Using body wash as a substitute for laundry detergent is possible in emergency situations, but it is not ideal. Only use body wash to hand wash the laundry.

  • Can I put dish soap in washing machine?

    Putting dish soap in a washing machine is not recommended. Dish soap can create excessive suds, leading to overflowing or malfunctioning of the washing machine.


After conditioning the experiment and analyzing the results, we recommend you invest in a good-quality laundry detergent because it is the best way to ensure your clothes are properly cleaned and cared for.

If you’re out of laundry detergent and looking for a quick solution, you can still use body wash as a laundry detergent. We recommend you hand washing clothes with body wash and never in a washing machine as the body wash can damage the washing machine. The body wash is a viable option for light stains and general cleaning, providing a gentle yet effective solution.

Related: Substitute for fabric softener.

Related: Can you use fabric softener as a detergent?