Can You Use Dawn To Wash Clothes?

Have you ever run out of laundry detergent and thought about using the bottle of dawn soap at the kitchen countertop as a substitute? 

You’re right to have guessed the dish soap might have some cleaning potential for your clothes, but how much of it are we talking about here? And on the other hand, are there any red lines to take note of? 

Dawn can be used to wash clothes, but only using the hand technique and not the washer, especially a front loader. Dawn will create too many suds that can impede wash quality and be retained in nooks and crannies of the machine which will cause it to serve as breeding ground for odor causing bacteria. 

This will make the machine smell far too often that it normally used to, and this will mean an increased frequency of maintenance than normal. 

So when it comes to dawn and other dishwashing liquids, only resort to them in times of desperation, and ensure you’re only using them to wash clothes by hand and not in the washer!

Use Dawn to pretreat grease and oil stains on clothes

If you’re planning to use dawn dishwashing liquid in the laundry, the best way to do it is to use the cleaner as a pre-treatment for grease and oil stains. 

Here’s the science behind why this works all the time. Remember that dish soaps are specifically formulated to tackle oil and grease stains that accumulate on our plates, pans and cutleries — because food stains are basically oil and grease stains? This is the very same reason why dishwashing liquids work great to tackle oils and grease stains on your clothes.

Before you get too excited and immediately grab the bottle of Dawn dishwasher to use on your stains, you want to make sure you perform a quick spot test on the fabric to determine its reactivity to the chemicals in the detergent. 

Here’s how to do a quick spots test to find out where your cloth stands. Find an inconspicuous area (like the inside part of the collar) and dab it continuously with a cotton swab moistened with the dishwashing liquid. 

When you’re satisfied with the degree of lather you’ve produced, allow it to sit for no more than 10 minutes. 

Depending on how much you applied and the size of the stained spot, the time may be long enough to allow room for the lather to dry up, and that’s exactly what you want to avoid. 

So keep a close eye on the test spot and proceed to the next step when the spot is only starting to dry up but still have some degree of moisture in there.

Rinse off the lather completely and let the clothes dry, then come back for inspection. If you find stains, fading or changes in color, you want to steer clear of using Dawn dishwasher to treat that cloth because it will react and get damaged. If nothing happens however, you’re free to go ahead with the steps below. 

— One special mention goes to silk and other delicate materials out there. Whatever you do, ensure you never use anything outside what is recommended for treating stains on them, because they will get damaged due to how extremely delicate they are or their structure is!

Now back to using dawn as a spot treatment. 

To do so, apply a quarter size amount of the product to the affected spot and rub it in with a circular motion until it’s fully incorporated. 

Allow it to sit for about 5 to 10 minutes, launder the cloth for stain treatment; i.e. using warm to hot water, a heavy duty detergent, and the heaviest cycle possible.

One thing I would also suggest you do, is to add very little amount of the dishwasher liquid into the washer with the clothes. This would add as an additional booster to remove any stains that may not have been removed from the earlier spot treatment.

Before you opt for hard and tough wash cycles for any clothes, make sure you check with the fabric care label to determine whether these settings are permissible, otherwise, you’ll have to fall back to bleach (if allowed) and other laundry boosters, then use the recommended wash setting from the manufacturer to get rid of any stains that may not have been removed from Dawn alone. 

Don’t use Dawn in the Washing Machine, especially in a front loader! 

Spot treatment, as discussed above, is as far as you should ever go with dishwashing liquids like dawn in the laundry. Any other thing outside that is risky.

If you put Dawn dishwashing liquid as a substitute for laundry detergent in the washer, it would create two main problems to deal with. 

First is too much suds, and second is inefficient laundry. 

Let’s go through the two problems in detail. 

Dishwashing liquids are naturally created to produce too much suds, and that’s because consumers associate too much suds with better cleaning. 

Now if dishwashing liquid produces too much suds, that’s going to be a big problem for any washer because the cleaning efficiency will be greatly impeded, which means clothes will turn out far less clean than if a laundry detergent was used. 

You may not notice the effect immediately, but with subsequent usage and dependence on dishwashing liquid as a viable subsitute, it will become evident. 

Another problem with too much suds in the washer is that it can overflow, especially in a front loader. Then there’s poor drainage, (except you’ll manually take out the suds yourself), and then remnants that will be hidden in the nooks and crannies of the machine and serve as breeding ground for odour causing bacteria.

Your machine, in this condition, will begin smelling far too frequently than it normally used to, and will require even more maintenance within the normal timeframe you typically do it.

Now let’s set aside too much suds and focus on “cleaning” now. Remember that dishwashing liquids are formulated to tackle oil and grease stains on clothes. 

Laundry detergents on the other hand are formulated to tackle an even much broader range of stains like soil stains, dust, dirt and even odour causing bacteria. 

Substituting laundry detergent for dishwashing liquid would greatly affect the efficiency and quality of cleaning you’re getting during laundry.

So the best advice is, to always stick with the laundry detergent to do the laundry, and only resort to dishwashing liquid in times of desperation.

Feel free to use dawn to wash clothes by hand

Contrary to the advice I gave for using Dawn dishwashing liquid in the washer, you can actually use it to wash clothes by hand. It is mild to use on clothes which makes it a product that fares well with a wide range of clothing! Dishwashing liquid is best used to clean items that rarely get heavily or excessively dirty for instance bras, inner wears, scarfs etc.

Dishwashing liquid is best for hand washing because sud creation isn’t really a problem this time around, even though you’ll find that washing will become slower and less efficient. But you can easily cut out too many suds that form with your hands to reach the wash water underneath. 

You can also choose to use less amount of dishwashing liquid (since it’s highly concentrated after all) to prevent excessive suds from creating. 

Trying to achieve this in the washer can be somewhat of a headache. It’s either you apply too much cleaner (thinking you’ve used a little) and end up with excessive suds that can be difficult to remove from the washer, or have a wash water that desperately craves for more detergent because you used too little! 

How much should you use?

When it comes to how much dishwashing liquid to use, let the amount of load guide you. 

But at all times, always make sure to apply small first and try to see how much suds it produces in the water. You’ll eventually reach a balance that creates the littlest suds in water yet can provide sufficient lather on clothes that results in an impressive cleaning.

Avoid Using dishwashing liquid in a High Efficiency washer

High-efficiency washers are designed to minimize the use of water in cleaning clothes. Because of this, you want to avoid putting dishwashing liquid in them because it will create too much suds that will impede washing performance.

Can you mix dish soap with laundry detergent?

Just as we’ve mentioned above, when treating stains on laundry, especially oil and grease stains, you can actually add a little bit of dishwashing liquid to your laundry in the washer, alongside the laundry detergent. 

In fact, doing so will help to get rid of stains that may have not been removed from the earlier spot treatments. 

What you want to ensure you’re not doing however, is to putting too much of it as that result in all the problems that we’ve outlined earlier. 

What can you use instead of laundry detergent to wash clothes?

When you flip over the empty bottle of laundry detergent and discover that not even a single drop runs off, don’t panic, there’s a simple tactic you can leverage that can help you snatch up a wash session or two until you have the opportunity to stock up on laundry detergent. 

What you want to do is to take out the remnant of detergent sticking to the interior of the bottle using water. Add a little of it, and shake the bottle with little vigour and this should produce a fairly concentrated solution that should be able to do a little load of laundry. 

To boost the cleaning efficiency of the wash water, you can add one-half cup of baking soda to the washing machine. This would help you achieve cleaner clothes that are odor free. 

If this isn’t an option, because you’ve probably done it earlier, then you can fall back to the most basic way of washing clothes, which is using warm to hot water and baking soda. 

Opt for the highest setting and heavier cycle possible (if cloth permits). You should be able to wash clothes that have little to no stains on them or those that are clean but smell bad using this method. 

Final Thoughts

If you ever find that you run out of laundry detergent, then you can use dishwashing liquid to do the laundry without any problems. 

Just make sure to wash the clothes by hand and not using the washer as putting dishwashing liquid like dawn in there has downsides that far outweigh the perks.