Why You Shouldn't Use Dish Soap in Your Washing Machine
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Why You Shouldn't Use Dish Soap in Your Washing Machine

Aug 31, 2023

There’s a reason why some social media cleaning “hacks” are only surfacing now, decades after domestic scientists and home economists developed many of the products and techniques still used today: They don’t work, and may even do more harm than good.

That’s the case with a laundry “hack” that’s been making the rounds on TikTok and other platforms for more than a year. This technique involves pouring one tablespoon of Dawn dish soap onto a clean rag, then putting it in your washing machine with a load of laundry—supposedly leaving your whites bright without using bleach.

But according to laundry experts, this is a bad idea. Here’s what to know.

Here’s the thing: Dish soap is a great way to pretreat food stains on clothing, because it’s formulated to create foamy suds that cut through grease and stuck-on food particles. So it’s not exactly surprising that people decided to take it one step further, and use dish soap in place of detergent when doing an entire load of laundry in a washing machine. Here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t:

According to Dawn’s website, dish soap is “not meant for direct use in a laundry washing machine” because “too many soapy suds can create a waterfall-like effect as your laundry washing machine runs a full cycle.”

That sounds like it might be kind of pretty, but two laundry experts at Consumer Reports say that all those suds can damage your washing machine, which was designed to handle low-sudsing detergent.

Washing machines may add extra water and tack on more time to a cycle, but the suds still may be too much for it to handle, and come spilling out the sides. Over time, the high-sudsing dish soap can also build up inside the drum of your washer, making it smell bad, and causing the machine to run less efficiently.

Dish soap may contain fragrance, harsh chemicals, or other irritants that be problematic for those with sensitive skin, Jodhaira Rodriguez of Consumer Reports explains.

When high-sudsing dish soap builds up inside the drum of your washer, it can coat your clothes with a soapy film, leaving them feeling stiff, Rodriguez notes.

On top of that, laundry detergents are formulated not only to clean fabrics, but to protect them in the process. Dish soaps, on the other hand, are formulated to remove grease from hard surfaces, like glass, ceramic, and plastic—not something soft, like fabric.

As a result, Rodriguez says that using dish soap to wash delicate fabrics like silk may damage the material. Though it may remove stains, dish soap doesn’t contain ingredients that protect the fabric, she adds.