Have you ever filled up your dishwasher with a full day’s worth of dishes, went to run a load, and realized that you’re out of dishwasher detergent? That can be disappointing, but don’t worry because we’ve got you covered. This guide provides you with 9 alternative options to try when you need to get your dishes done without dishwasher detergent.
Is It Bad to Run a Dishwasher Without Detergent?
It’s fine to run your dishwasher without detergent every once in a while. Dishwashers use very hot water that will still remove food particles and grease from your dishes. The high temperatures will also work to sanitize your dishes somewhat, even without the detergent.
However, you don’t want to run your dishwasher without detergent too frequently. There are chemicals in dishwasher detergent that help to prevent grease build-up and rust in your machine. Without those chemicals to work their magic, your dishwasher could become less effective at cleaning your dishes and even stop working completely.
The funny truth is it is worse to run your dishwasher with too much detergent than none at all, see our full article on what happens if you use too much dish detergent.
9 Alternatives to Using Dishwasher Detergent
1. Just Run Hot Water
If you find yourself in a pinch and desperately need to do a load of dishes without detergent then hot water will still get them semi-clean. Dishwashers use very hot water which can be effective at removing food particles and grease from your dishes. However, it won’t work as well as detergent so make sure you give your dishes a more thorough rinse before running them through the dishwasher.
You also don’t want to use just water too frequently because your machine can become rusty and stop working if it’s not exposed to the chemicals in detergent often enough.
2. Baking Soda
Using baking soda in place of detergent will work to clean your dishes and the pieces inside your dishwasher. The baking soda will help to remove stains, grease, and grime from your dishes and machine. All you need to do is sprinkle 1 tablespoon of baking soda along the bottom of your dishwasher or add it to the soap dispenser. It’ll mix with the water during the wash cycle and work to get your dishes squeaky clean.
3. Drops of Dish Soap Mixed with Baking Soda
You can use a couple of drops of dish soap and baking soda to get your dishes clean and sanitized. Just add 2 drops of dish soap to the soap dispenser of your dishwasher and then fill the slot up the rest of the way with baking soda. Then you just close your machine and run your usual wash cycle. These two cleaners will work well together to remove food particles and grease from your dishes.
Washing soda works great to cut through grime and grease. If you use it in your dishwasher instead of detergent it will work to get your dishes sparkling clean, but you don’t want to use too much of it. Using too much washing soda can create too many suds and this can harm your dishwasher. Just add one tablespoon of washing soda to the bottom of your dishwasher or the soap dispenser for best results and then you can run a wash cycle.
5. Baking Soda and Washing Soda 50/50 Mix
If you have both of these cleaners sitting in your pantry then you can put them to good use in your dishwasher. Both are great for eliminating grease, grime, and stains. Combing baking soda and washing soda will raise the ph level of the washing water for an even more intense clean. Simply add half a tablespoon of each to the bottom of your dishwasher or the soap dispenser and run a wash cycle as normal.
Vinegar can be a great cleaner to add to your dishwasher. Not only is it a powerful cleaner, but it also works wonders for removing hard-water stains that would usually leave your dishes looking spotty. You don’t want to put vinegar in your dishwasher’s soap dispenser because it could harm your machine. Instead, fill up a dishwasher safe both with distilled white vinegar only. Make sure you place the bowl on the top rack of your dishwasher for best results.
You can use Borax in place of dishwashing detergent. It’s a powerful cleaner that will help disinfect your dishes while removing grease, grime, and tough stains from your machine. You don’t want to use too much of this product, so make sure you measure out only ¼ cup. Sprinkle it along the bottom of your dishwasher and run your usual wash cycle.
Using OxiClean is a great way to get your dishes sparkling clean. It provides an oxygenated component to the hot water and steam that your dishwasher generates. It will help to remove grease, stains, and food debris from your dishes and machine. All you need to do is add a scoop of OxiClean to the soap compartment in your dishwasher. Then you can run a wash cycle as you normally would.
9. Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Recipe
If you have a few minutes to spare and a handful of ingredients sitting in your pantry then you should give this fun homemade dishwasher detergent recipe a try. Each ingredient has a different purpose that will leave your dishes spotless, clean, and lemony-fresh!
This recipe requires 5 ingredients and is pretty simple to complete. All you need to do is mix together in a large bowl 1 cup washing soda, 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup kosher salt, 1 cup water, and 3 unsweetened packages of lemonade drink mix.
Once the ingredients have been completely mixed together you can take one tablespoon and add it to the soap dispenser in your dishwasher. Then you can run a wash cycle as you usually would and open it up later to clean lemon-scented dishes.
What Not to Use in Your Dishwasher?
While it can be fun to experiment and find new things to use in place of your dishwashing detergent, there are a few things that should never be used inside your dishwasher.
1. A Lot of Dish Soap
It’s perfectly safe to use a couple of drops of dish soap in your dishwasher, but you don’t want to overdo it. Using too much dish soap can create an overabundance of suds. This can damage your machine and prevent your dishes from being completely rinsed. If you use dish soap in your dishwasher, limit it to only 2 drops at a time.
2. Laundry Detergent
You should never use laundry detergent in your dishwasher. Laundry detergent will produce too many suds and prevent your dishes from getting rinsed off fully. Your dishes can be left with a soapy film that no one wants to eat off of.
3. Bleach-based Cleaners
Using a bleach-based cleaner will certainly disinfect your dishes, but it wouldn’t be safe to eat off them afterward. Most dishwashers contain stainless steel parts and any amount of bleach can cause serious damage to your machine.
4. Hand Soap
Just like too much dish soap, hand soap is made to create a lot of suds quickly. Using this in your dishwasher will cause damage to your machine and won’t clean your dishes effectively. Also, most hand soaps contain additives that aren’t food-safe so it’s best to avoid using this as a substitute.
5. Baby Soap
If you don’t have any dishwashing detergent or dish soap around then baby soap can seem like a tempting option. After all, the ingredients are supposed to be even gentler than the hand soap we usually use, so would that make it safe to use on your dishes? The answer is, no. Even though baby soap is gentler than the hand soap that adults use, it still contains ingredients that aren’t food-safe.
When you’ve got a full dishwasher and no detergent it’s helpful to know some alternatives you can turn to instead of running to the store. This guide will lead you in the right direction with 9 alternatives you can use instead of dishwashing detergent. We’ve also included some cleaners that you should avoid so you won’t be left staring at a bottle of hand soap and wondering if it’s a suitable option. Get your dishes sparkling clean with any one of the 9 alternatives on this list.
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