The Laundry

Ugh – the cost of laundry detergent. I’ve experimented with making my own laundry soap in the past from recipes I’ve found online, but I haven’t been thrilled with the results. The liquid kind I tried turned into a brick of soap gel. I didn’t like the way powdered recipes gunked up my machine and seemed harsh on certain fabrics. Everyday use of castile soap in the wash was expensive (although I love it for other uses).

About a month ago I was having a laugh with a family member about running out of laundry detergent and he casually mentioned that he’s been known to throw a dash of dishwashing liquid in the machine until he can get to his local big box store to grab detergent. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but after a day or two I started pondering if one could, in fact, substitute dishwashing liquid for traditional laundry soap. I’ve been known to utilize vinegar, castile soap, and baking soda in my machine when I’ve run out detergent, but I’ve never reached for dish soap. And so began my experiment. . .

While there wasn’t a ton of information online about swapping soaps, I did find a few things that were helpful like the suggested amount of dish soap to use in place of regular detergent. Here’s the nitty about getting the gritty out of your duds with dish soap. . .

*I have a top-loading non high-efficiency washing machine. I also have a water softener system that treats our well water. I don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets, but I do use three wool dryer balls when drying laundry.*

The Ingredients
I wanted to see what made these two products so different from each other and what I found was that they both are pretty similar. The laundry detergent contains a few more things like pH adjusters, anti-foaming agents, water softeners, and soil removers. To me, this was just more crap going into the groundwater supply so I wasn’t letting the lack of anti-foaming agents in my dish soap halt my experiment.

The Ratios
I found a tidbit of info online that suggested using the following soap-to-load-size ratios when using dish soap to do laundry:

Large Load = 3 teaspoons
Medium Load = 2 teaspoons
Small Load = 1 teaspoon

I decided to use the suggested amounts above while conducting my experiment.

TIP: Add dish soap directly under your washer’s water stream when doing laundry.

The Savings
Because we have a septic tank and a large garden, I try to use biobased products whenever possible. That being said, I was spending around $12 on a 100oz bottle of natural laundry detergent that will do 66 large loads. I paid $2.79 for a 25 oz bottle of the same brand of natural dish soap this week. Here’s the breakdown:

100 oz Natural Laundry Detergent = $12.40
12 cents per oz
1.50 oz per large load
20 Large Loads = 30 oz OR $3.60

25 oz Natural Dish Soap = $2.79
11 cents per oz
3 tsp per large load/.50 oz
20 Large Loads = 10 oz OR $1.10

Total 12-Month Savings = $30

I estimate that I do around 20 loads of laundry per month for my family of three (five if you include the dogs) when I factor in sheets, towels, my husband’s work uniforms, and random loads of blankets or dog towels/beds.

The Tests
– I never had any issue with soap suds overflowing the wash. I religiously checked during early and mid wash cycles in the first week of use.

Mascara – I never had any issues with the dish soap removing mascara from my face towels.

Mud – I noticed a little bit of dirt residue left on scrap towels I had used to wipe the dogs muddy paws with a few days prior to washing (so the towels sat with mud on them for a few days before being washed). Muddy items that went right into the wash came out clean.

Poop – I have a three-year-old so skid marks happen on the regular. The dish soap actually did a better job than laundry detergent without any pretreating.

Grease – Again, I have a three-year-old so her shirt is her go-to napkin most of the time. The dish soap did a great job of cutting the grease from her shirts.

Odor – I was fully committed to this experiment and sniff tested just about every garment that might still stink when pulled from the dryer if not thoroughly washed. I’m talking shirt armpits, underwear, towels, dog bedding, etc. Everything came out fresh.

Softness – One thing that surprised me is that our clothing came out of the dryer feeling super soft when using the dish soap.

Fading – I have not noticed any color difference in our laundry. When I conducted this experiment I was 7 months pregnant so I tended to wear the same 12-15 outfits most of the time (which means some items were washed 3-4 times).

Since it’s winter in Michigan and the ground is frozen, I didn’t get a chance to test grass stains, but I usually pre-treat those before throwing items in the wash.

TIP: I always have a box of baking soda on hand to add to loads (about 1/3 cup) that need a little extra cleaning boost. I used this along with the dish soap and it worked great.

Overall Impression
I’m not going back, y’all. Thirty dollars in savings may not seem like a lot over the course of the year, but I’ll take it because every little bit helps. I also like that there are less chemical ingredients going into the ground, that there’s less plastic in the packaging of the dish soap bottles (we recycle, but less is still better overall), and that it takes up a lot less space in my laundry cabinet.

If you have a high-efficiency washer, you may want to experiment with the soap ratios. I’m curious to know how clothing feels coming out of the dryer when they’ve been washed with dish soap and hard water not treated with a softener system.

If you run your own experiment, let me know how it goes!

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