What Can You Use in a Dishwasher Instead of Detergent

When it comes to washing dishes, dish detergent is a household staple. However, there might be times when you find yourself in a pinch and realize you’ve run out of dishwasher detergent. Don’t worry! There are several alternatives you can use to get your dishes sparkling clean without the traditional detergent. In this article, we’ll explore various substitutes that you likely have right in your kitchen. From natural ingredients to DIY solutions, we’ve got you covered.

Why Look for Alternatives?

Running out of dishwasher detergent can be a real inconvenience, but there’s no need to panic. You can turn to various alternatives that are safe, effective, and easily accessible. Let’s explore these options and find out how they can save the day.

Natural Ingredients

Baking Soda and Salt Mixture

A simple yet effective alternative involves creating a mixture of baking soda and salt. These kitchen staples work together to break down grease and grime, leaving your dishes clean and odor-free.

Vinegar Boost

Vinegar is known for its natural cleaning properties. Adding vinegar to your dishwasher’s rinse aid compartment can help remove stains and spots, leaving your glassware and dishes sparkling.

Lemon Freshness

Lemons are not only refreshing but also useful for cleaning. Squeeze some lemon juice into your dishwasher’s detergent compartment to cut through grease and add a pleasant citrusy scent to your dishes.

DIY Dishwasher Tablets

Craft your own dishwasher tablets using ingredients like washing soda, Epsom salt, and essential oils. These homemade tablets can be a convenient alternative when you’re out of regular detergent.

Castile Soap

Castile soap, a plant-based soap, can be a gentle yet effective option for cleaning your dishes. It’s biodegradable and safe for the environment.

Borax Boost

Borax, when used in small amounts, can enhance your dishwasher’s cleaning power. However, be cautious not to overuse it, as it can lead to excessive sudsing.

Salt Scrub

Mixing salt with water to create a paste can serve as a scrub for removing stubborn food residues before placing dishes in the dishwasher.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is a natural disinfectant. Adding a small amount to your dishwasher can help sanitize your dishes effectively.

Baby Shampoo

Surprisingly, a mild baby shampoo can work as a temporary dishwasher detergent substitute. Its gentle formula can effectively remove grease and food particles.

Unsweetened Lemonade Mix

The citric acid present in unsweetened lemonade mixes can help break down stains and grease on your dishes.

Rubbing Alcohol Rinse

Using a rubbing alcohol rinse can aid in the drying process, leaving your dishes spot-free and shiny.

Tips for Success

  • Scrape Off Food: Before loading your dishwasher, remember to scrape off excess food to prevent clogs and ensure optimal cleaning.
  • Check Dishwasher Compatibility: Some alternatives may not be suitable for all dishwasher types. Check your dishwasher’s manual for compatibility guidelines.
  • Adjust Dosage: When using alternatives, start with small amounts and adjust as needed to avoid overusing and causing excess suds.

Ensuring Dishwasher Safety

  • Avoid Harsh Substances: While seeking alternatives, avoid using harsh chemicals that could damage your dishwasher or dishes.
  • Run Maintenance Washes: Periodically run a maintenance wash with your regular detergent to keep your dishwasher clean and odor-free.

Environmental Considerations

Opting for natural alternatives is not only good for your dishes but also for the environment. Many conventional detergents contain chemicals that can harm aquatic life.

Economical Choices

Using household items as alternatives can be budget-friendly and save you a trip to the store, especially in emergencies.


When you run out of dishwasher detergent, don’t fret. There are numerous alternatives available that can get your dishes clean and spotless. From natural ingredients like baking soda and vinegar to DIY solutions and even unexpected items like baby shampoo, you have a range of options to choose from. Experiment with these alternatives to find the one that best suits your needs and keeps your dishes looking their best.


Can I use regular soap in a dishwasher?

While it might produce suds, regular soap is not recommended for dishwashers, as it can cause excessive foaming and potential damage.

Will using alternatives void my dishwasher’s warranty?

Using alternatives might void your warranty, so it’s best to check your dishwasher’s manual for guidance.

Can I mix different alternatives together for better cleaning?

It’s not recommended to mix alternatives, as they might react negatively or cancel out their cleaning properties.

Are alternatives safe for delicate dishes and glassware?

Yes, many alternatives are gentler than conventional detergents and can be safe for delicate items.

How often should I run maintenance washes with regular detergent?

Running a maintenance wash every month or as recommended in your dishwasher’s manual can help keep it clean and odor-free.

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