It can happen sometimes: you run out of detergent, and yet you desperately need to wash your clothes. Then you remember you have some shampoo somewhere in your house. And the question pops in your mind: can you use shampoo as laundry detergent?

You can use shampoo as laundry detergent. The only caution is never to use it to wash clothes in the washing machine as it may result in some damages. Therefore, if you’re going to wash your clothes using shampoo, you’ll have to hand wash the clothes.

In this article, you’ll learn more about why shampoo makes a good laundry detergent, how to use it, and why you should never use it in a washing machine. Additionally, you’ll also learn some other alternative laundry detergents you can use at home.

Why Shampoo Makes a Good Laundry Detergent

A shampoo contains detergent just like the one found in laundry detergents. This detergent works as a surfactant, which lowers the water surface tension and helps loosen dirt in the cleaning process.

The surfactants also work as a wetting agent, enabling water to spread easily and interact more with grease and oil. That means when you clean the clothes, the stains will come out of the clothes more easily, leaving them sparkling clean.

How to Hand Wash Laundry Using Shampoo

  1. Put hot or cold water in a sink. If your clothes don’t have a tag with instructions on the preferred water temperature, it’s advisable to use cold water when cleaning. If they’re made of synthetic fibers, linen, or cotton, it’s safe to use hot water to wash them. If they’re made of silk or lace, use cold water only. Additionally, never use hot water for white clothes with red or dark patterns or articles.
  2. Choose the ideal shampoo to use as laundry detergent. Note that not all shampoos are suitable for laundry purposes. Basically, you shouldn’t use shampoo that has tints or dye. Also, don’t use a 2-in-1 shampoo (i.e., it comes blended with a conditioner) as they contain oils that might stick on the clothes.
  3. Add a teaspoon of shampoo to the water. Stir in the shampoo until all the water gets soapy.
  4. Soak the clothes in the soapy water for five minutes. If they’re heavily soiled, soak them for 10 minutes.
  5. Wash the clothes by rubbing with your fingers and hands. Focus on the heavily soiled parts to make sure they’re well cleaned.
  6. Rinse the clothes using clean water. You might have to change the water several times to make sure they’re fully rinsed. Shampoo lathers so much, and if you don’t rinse the clothes thoroughly, stains may appear when the clothes dry.
  7. Squeeze excess water from the clothes. Don’t wring them so tightly, as that could make the fabric stretch.
  8. Hang the clothes to dry. You can also lay them flat on a surface or tumble dry them in the dryer. It all depends on the washing instructions given.

Why You Should Never Use Shampoo in a Washing Machine

If you tried to wash your clothes with shampoo using a washing machine, the results would be devastating, and this is why.

Shampoo generates a lot of bubbles compared to laundry detergents. That means your washing machine will take a lot of time to get rid of these bubbles. That results in excessive power usage, and you’ll spend hours getting your clothes cleaned and well rinsed.

Additionally, the machine may not be able to get rid of these bubbles entirely. When that happens, your clothes will be full of stains after you get them out.

It’s even worse to use shampoo in a front-load machine as it can get damaged. These machines use only specified detergents, and when you use anything else apart from what’s specified, you’ll have no other option but to pay for repairs.

Other Effective Laundry Detergent Alternatives

If you don’t have any laundry detergent at home, or you don’t want to use your shampoo, here are some other alternatives.

Hand Wash Soap/Body Wash

Your hand wash soap or body wash will also come in handy if you run out of laundry detergent. Just like a shampoo, these two lather so much and should never be used in a washing machine.

Even so, you still have to read the ingredients used to make the hand soap or body wash. If you identify a moisturizer or oil, that’s bad news for you since they won’t be suitable for washing clothes as they’ll leave stains.


Vinegar is also a lifesaver when you run out of detergent unexpectedly. The best vinegar for this purpose is the white distilled vinegar since it doesn’t leave stains on clothes. It makes an amazing laundry cleaning product since it removes stains and brightens white clothes without damaging them.

Moreover, vinegar removes mildew that grows on clothes when they’ve been left damp for a long time. It’s also a disinfectant, odor remover, and clothes softener.

Baking Soda

Baking soda isn’t just for baking purposes. This product comes in handy in different situations in the home. It’s an effective cleaning agent, as it breaks stains naturally and gets them out of clothes.

Do you have sweaty clothes? Baking soda will get rid of the odor and leave the clothes smelling fresh.

Also, something impressive about baking soda is that it doesn’t contain chemicals that damage fabrics. It’s even safer than some detergents.

To use baking soda, just pour it in water and hand wash the clothes normally.


Borax is another effective alternative for laundry detergent. It effectively removes stains and other residues from clothes and also brightens white garments.

To clean clothes using borax, pour a half cup of it on them, then hand wash them using cold or warm water.

Dish Soap

Dish soap is also good for washing clothes, but only when used in small amounts. This is because it produces a lot of lather, just like shampoos.

You can also use white distilled vinegar in the rinsing water to remove the excess soap produced when using dish soap to wash clothes. Additionally, you can dilute it with water and put it in a bottle to use for laundry purposes.


Now you have a solution if you ever find yourself without laundry detergent and need to do some laundry. Remember that you should never try to machine wash your clothes using shampoo, as it’ll only lead to problems.

Also, remember that not all shampoos are good for washing clothes. Some have oils that stain clothes and should be avoided by all means. Also, be careful when hand washing clothes with hot or cold water to avoid damaging your clothes’ fabric.

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