8 Tried and Tested Substitute For Laundry Detergent

women carrying pile of laundry

You wake up on laundry day, ready to conquer the Mount Everest of dirty clothes, only to realize you’re out of laundry detergent. Panic sets in, and you start contemplating whether you should wear your clothes as they are or resort to drastic measures like looking substitute for laundry detergent.

No matter, if you’re out of laundry detergent or your laundry detergent has expired. I have the best substitute for laundry detergent ranging from baking soda, vinegar, and dish soap to shampoo or body wash.

Related: Can you wash clothes without detergent?

What Can You Use As a Substitute for Laundry Detergent?

  1. Rinse the Bottle or Box of Laundry Detergent
  2. White Vinegar
  3. Baking Soda
  4. Dish Soap
  5. Lemon Juice
  6. Shampoo or Body Wash
  7. Vodka
  8. Powdered Oxygen Bleach

1. Rinse the Bottle or Box of Laundry Detergent

women checking laundry detergent

Hold the bottle or box of laundry detergent under running water. We suggest using lukewarm water, allowing it to fill up to about halfway. Close the lid and shake the bottle or box vigorously. Doing so gives you enough solution to wash a load of laundry in the washing machine.

2. White Vinegar

white vinegar bottle

White vinegar is a chemical-free solution to remove stains and odors from clothes. The acetic acid in the vinegar helps in fabric softening, color preservation, odor elimination, and stain removal.

  • Add approximately 1/2 to 1 cup of vinegar to the detergent dispenser during the wash cycle. The exact amount may vary depending on the water hardness in your area and the size of the load.
  • As an alternative, or in addition to adding vinegar in the wash cycle, you can use it during the rinse cycle. Add 1/2 to 1 cup of vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser. This helps with fabric softening, odor elimination, and color preservation.

Are you planning to wash black clothes with vinegar? Then you must read: Will Vinegar Bleach Black Clothes?

3. Baking Soda

baking soda powder

Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), is usually used as a detergent booster, but you can also use it as a stand-alone cleaner for your laundry.

Baking soda will help to balance pH, brighten clothes and remove soil, odor, oils, and acids from clothes.

  • Add 1/2 to 1 cup of baking soda for one load of clothes in the washing machine to use baking soda as a substitute. Add baking soda directly into the wash drum.
  • Add 1/2 cup baking soda to the rinse cycle to enhance fabric softness.

As it’s a natural substitute, you can keep using baking soda as long as you want. We recommend you treat stains before washing them with baking soda, as it’s not the best stain remover.


Perform a spot test on a small, inconspicuous area. Baking soda can ruin delicate clothes like silk and wool. Take precautions and use less baking soda while washing delicate clothes.

4. Dish Soap

bottles of dishwashing liquid

Dish soap can be used as a spot treatment for specific stains on clothes. Dish soap contains surfactants that help to break down and disperse oils, fats, and other greasy substances on dishes. When used on clothes, dish soap can also help remove greasy stains. 

  • Use a tablespoon of dish wash in water to hand wash one load of clothes.
  • Use cold water only.
  • When using dish soap for washing clothes, less is more.
  • Properly rinse clothes with water, as if dish wash is left over clothes, it can damage them.

Has the thought of washing clothes in the dishwasher crossed your mind? Then you must read: Can You Wash Clothes in a Dishwasher?


Do not add dish wash in the washing machine as it can create a lot of suds and ruin your washing machine. Also, perform a spot test on a small, inconspicuous area, as dish soap can fade or bleach clothes.

5. Lemon Juice

yellow lemon juice

Lemon juice coins citric acid, which acts as a natural bleaching agent. Its acidity helps break down and dissolve protein-based stains like blood. Lemon also has antimicrobial properties that can help neutralize odors.

  • Add ½ to 1 cup of lemon juice to one load of clothes. 
  • Hang the wet clothes outdoors in direct sunlight after washing.
  • The combination of citric acid and UV light helps activate the bleaching properties of the lemon juice.

Lemon juice is acidic, and prolonged exposure can weaken fabric fibers. It is recommended to use lemon juice occasionally.

6. Shampoo or Body Wash

baby shampoo and body wash bottles

Shampoo or body wash is the best soapy alternative to wash clothes. The shampoo creates a lot of suds, so hand-washing clothes when using shampoo or body wash is recommended.

We suggest gentle shampoos or body wash, such as baby shampoo or baby body wash. Do not use products that contain conditioner or tints. 

  • Add 1-2 tablespoons of shampoo/body wash in the sink to wash one load of laundry.
  • Rinse clothes properly with tap water.

Related: Can you use body wash as laundry detergent?


Adding shampoo/body wash in the washing machine can create many suds that can be difficult to rinse off.

7. Vodka

vodka bottles

Who knew that vodka had so many uses beyond just being a drink? The high alcohol content in vodka makes it an effective stain remover and odor eliminator. 

  • Mix equal amounts of vodka and water and store it in a spray/mist bottle.
  • Turn your clothes inside out.
  • Spray the solution on your clothes.
  • Air dry your clothes.

8. Powdered Oxygen Bleach

oxygen bleach powder in a spoon

Oxygen-based bleaches are not a viable alternative as it’s expensive than laundry detergent, but you can still use them when you’re out of laundry detergent. Hydrogen peroxide(H2O2) is a weak acid but a color-safe bleach. It also helps in removing stains from clothes.

  • Add 1/2 cup of powdered oxygen bleach to the empty washing machine drum.
  • Add water and Laundry to Wash.

Do not directly add oxygen-based bleach to clothes as it can discolor or bleach them.

Related: How to remove bleach from clothes?


Many alternatives exist, whether you’re out of laundry detergent or looking for eco-friendly washing methods. Each option offers different solutions for your problems. 

The best substitute for laundry detergents is white vinegar, baking soda, dish soap, lemon juice, shampoo or body wash, borax, vodka, or powdered oxygen bleach.

Related: Can you use fabric softener as a detergent?

Related: Substitute for fabric softener