Can I Use Regular Dish Soap in a Dishwasher?

Ordinary Dish Soap Plus Baking Soda for Your Dishwasher

Overflowing dishwasher
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We've all wondered: If I'm out of dishwasher detergent, can I use regular liquid dish soap in my dishwasher? After all, ordinary dish liquid has a similar consistency to liquid dishwasher detergent and, depending upon the brand, it can be cheaper.

Why It's a Bad Idea to Substitute Regular Dish Liquid for Dishwasher Detergent

Substituting regular liquid dish soap for dishwasher soap is a terrible idea.

Ordinary dish and hand soaps are intended to create lots of foamy suds. If you fill the soap container in your dishwasher with ordinary dish liquid, the resulting suds will fill your dishwasher with suds and then overflow from the appliance to the floor.

Only detergents that are specially formulated for dishwashers should be used in these appliances. These create no suds during the cycle.

If you have used the incorrect liquid detergent for a cycle, you may need to run the wash or rinse cycle a second time, without detergent, to rinse your dishes and clear out the soap suds and residue. You'll also, of course, have to clean the slippery mess your dishwasher made all over the floor!

Likewise, dishwasher detergent is not recommended to manually wash dishes. Although your dishes will come clean, the lack of suds may cause you to add too much detergent to the water, which will make it difficult to properly rinse your dishes.

How to Use the Dishwasher When You've Run Out of the Proper Detergent

A straight substitution of ordinary dishwashing soap for dishwasher detergent is a recipe for disaster. But just a few drops of ordinary dishwashing soap combined with baking soda is actually a good recipe for sparkling dishes.

Here's how to make your own "emergency" dishwasher detergent:

  • Fill your dishwasher's soap container about 3/4 full of baking powder
  • Add a few drops of your favorite dishwashing soap (Dawn, Lux, etc.)
  • Add 1/4 cup of salt if you have hard water
  • Run your dishwasher

Baking soda helps reduce sudsing while it also improves your dishwasher's performance. In fact, you may even wind up with a cleaner dishwasher by using this system.

How to Make Your Own Dishwasher Detergent

After discovering that it's cheaper to wash your dishes with baking soda, you may wonder "why am I spending so much money on dishwasher detergent?" If you'd rather do a little prep work than spend extra money on dishwasher detergent, you can make your own dishwashing detergent that's ready to go whenever you have dirty dishes. Here's how:

Combine the following ingredients:

  • 1 Cup Washing Soda (an old-fashioned cleaning formula available on Amazon)
  • 1 Cup Baking Soda (baking soda cuts through grease)
  • OPTIONAL: 3 packages unsweetened lemonade drink mix (it's antibacterial and smells great)
  • 1 Cup of Kosher Salt (only necessary if you have hard water)

Stir together thoroughly, and store in an airtight canister.

You can use this powder just as you would use commercial dishwasher detergent, or keep it handy in case you happen to run out.