Can I Use Regular Dish Soap in a Dishwasher?

loaded dishwasher

The Spruce / Lacey Johnson 

You may have wondered, "If I'm out of dishwasher detergent, can I use regular liquid dish soap in my dishwasher?" Filling a dishwasher with dish soap appears to be okay; after all, dish liquid has a similar consistency to liquid dishwasher detergent, and depending upon the brand, it can be cheaper. But substituting regular liquid dish soap for dishwasher soap is actually a terrible idea.

Why You Shouldn't Use Liquid Dish Soap

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. There are also ways to make dishwasher detergent alternatives right at home.

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 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.

dishwasher overflowing
The Spruce / Lacey Johnson 


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:

  1. Fill your dishwasher's soap container about 3/4 full of baking soda
  2. Add a few drops of your favorite dishwashing soap (Dawn, Lux, etc.)
  3. Add 1/4 cup of salt if you have hard water
  4. Run your dishwasher
adding baking soda to the dishwasher
The Spruce / Lacey Johnson 

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


Watch Now: Make Your Own Dishwasher Detergent in a Pinch

Make Your Own

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
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • Optional: 3 packages unsweetened lemonade drink mix
  • 1/2 cup of kosher salt (only necessary if you have hard water)
ingredients for diy detergent
The Spruce / Lacey Johnson 
  • 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.
pouring dishwashing mixture into an airtight jar
The Spruce / Lacey Johnson 
Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Baking Soda: The Everday Miracle. University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension Oconto County.