Can You Use Shampoo To Wash Clothes?

Even though washing detergent is a must-have product in most households, we sometimes forget to buy a new one before we run out of it. In this case, can you use shampoo to wash clothes?

The short answer is Yes, you can use shampoo to wash clothes. When you are in a hurry, shampoo can be a quick and effective short-term product to use a washing detergent.

However, the answer is not as simple as yes or no, and we need to look at different angles to really understand whether washing our clothes with shampoo is good or bad.

We must look at how we wash our clothes: with a washing machine or by hand. Do not assume that if a product works well for one laundering method, it will also work great for another because it is very different for shampoo.

Can You Use Shampoo to Wash Clothes with a Washing Machine?

You should never use shampoo to wash clothes with a washing machine because it will cause you a big mess.

The problem, in this case, is not how much dirt shampoo can clean from your clothes but the bubbles it makes inside of your washing machine.

Most shampoo will make so many bubbles to help us clean our hair most efficiently.

However, when shampoo is inside the washing machine, the bubble will stick in the machine and your clothes stubbornly, and it will be hard to get rid of it.

For this reason, some people who used to replace washing detergents with shampoo reported that it takes them so much longer than they expected to do the laundry.

They needed to wash the clothes many more times, which cost them more money for water and electricity bills.

The cleanness of your clothes is another thing to look at. While washing clothes by hand, you can clean off the shampoo under running water.

However, washing machines usually use the same amount of water in one round, and it is really hard for the shampoo and bubbles to get off your clothes.

Let’s say you are finally finished washing your clothes with shampoo using the washing machine. Now, the issue is over, right?

Wrong! You might need to clean off the washing machine by itself without clothes afterward, or else the inside of the machine can be sticky and can continue to cause trouble the next time you wash your clothes.

If you have a front-load laundry machine, the trouble can be more serious. This machine is made to only work well, safely, and functionally with especially designed and low-foaming washing detergents.

If you use high-foaming products like shampoo, this washing machine can be damaged, and you might need to pay a lot of money to get it fixed.

Shampoo can cause damage to front-load washing machines
Shampoo can cause damage to front-load washing machines

After all, it is not worth it to use shampoo for a washing machine. 

Can You Use Shampoo To Wash Clothes By Hand?

The answer is Yes, you can do it. But, we need to talk in more detail to see if the shampoo is a good option in certain cases.

In general, washing your clothes with shampoo can still help you clean off your clothes. The shampoo is made to clean off dirt, grease, oil, and dead cells on our heads. Our dirty clothes are the same dirty because they stick in our body, shampoo can also get rid of them well enough.

Sometimes, it is even better to use shampoo instead of real washing detergent when you have clothes made from more fragile material with hair-like surfaces like wool or silk.

The shampoo is more gentle than washing detergent, so it can maintain the quality of these materials in a longer time. On the other hand, very-strong washing detergent can damage them with time.

Even though using shampoo comes with some advantages in certain cases, we do not suggest you replace washing products with it completely.

Shampoo has many foaming agents and it is much harder to wash away from fabric compared to regular laundry detergent.

Also, there is one thing we need to remind you of is that even when you wash your clothes with shampoo by hand, it will still be harder to clean off the bubbles completely.

You will also need to spend more time, energy, and water to get rid of shampoo from your clothes compared to real laundry products.

If you want to get the most out of shampoo, a washing product, only use it with the suitable material and when you do not have detergent around. Another good tip to consider is to use baby shampoo instead of adult shampoo because baby shampoo has less foaming agents.

You can wash your clothes by hands using shampoo
You can wash your clothes by hands using shampoo

How to Wash Clothes with Shampoo

You can use shampoo to wash your entire clothes or clean off the stains. Here is how to do that:

How to Spot Treat Clothes with Shampoo

Step 1: Loosen the Stains

Shampoo can treat spots on clothes pretty well. But before doing anything else, spend some time getting rid of the stains as much as possible.

If you have solid stains like soil, birthday cake, or butter, gently clean it with a piece of tissue. While doing it, try not to spread the stains in a bigger area as it will be harder for you to clean after.

When the stains are from liquid like tea, coffee, or ink, keep the area of the stains under running water and try to clean it. The water alone will not be enough to remove the stains, but it will loosen your clothes fabric and make it easier for us later on.


If you have liquid stains, it will help if you use hot or cold water, depending on the stains themselves.

Coldwater will be more effective than warm water for tea, coffee, sauce, or bloodstains. On the contrary, warm or hot water can loosen stains like oil, grease, dyer, etc.

For solid stains, a dull butter knife will be effective for lifting them away from the clothes’ surface.

Step 2: Spot-Streat the Stains with a Rag

When spot-treating some stains, we do not want to spread the stains to become bigger or make our clothes wet in the area around us. So, you should pick a rag with a suitable size to keep the stain and wet area as small as possible.

Now, make the rag wet first, and drop a bean-sized amount of shampoo into the wet rag. Fold the rag and gently rub the stains with it.

When the shampoo on the rag runs out, add more of it, but not too much. If the stain is more stubborn than you think, flip the clothes on the other side and rub the stains from there. Do not forget to rub it gently to prevent the stains from expanding into a bigger area.

Spot-treating, both sides of a piece of fabric, will help get rid of the stains quicker because sometimes, you can clean the dirt from one side, but dirt from the other side continues to affect this side.


Some people tend to fold the stained area and rub that fabric area to remove the stains.

However, doing this might allow the stains to spread bigger. It is a better idea to patiently use the rag and clean off the stains from both sides of the stains.

Step 3: Clean with Water and Double-Check

It is important to double-check the stains before throwing your clothes on the washing machine. Bubbles from the shampoo might cover the stains and make you not see the stains.

To double-check, rinse the stained area and check from both sides whether the stain is still there. If there is still some of it, clean it again with shampoo.

When the stains disappear, you can wash it with a washing machine using regular laundry detergent.

Step 4 (Optional) Soak the Entire Clothes If The Stains Do Not Come Off 

Sometimes, strong stains will not come off just by spot-treating. In this case, you need to use water and some detergent or shampoo for a while and keep rubbing the stains until they are gone.


Do not rush and put the clothes with the remaining stains in the washing machine because the stains might not come off without handwashing.

Sometimes, the stains can spread bigger or to other clothes if they are big enough.

If you do not want to wash the clothes and just want to get rid of the stains, do not hang them when the stains are not 100% removed because when your clothes are dried, the stains will stick more strongly to the clothes fabric and will be much harder to deal with in the future.

Step 5: Dry Your Clothes

When all the stains are removed, you can dry your clothes now. You can dry it by hanging it or lay it flat until it is dried.

How to Hand Wash Clothes with Shampoo

Step 1: Prepare What You Need

Before washing your clothes with shampoo, remember that water at the right temperature will be more effective. Depending on the material of your clothes, you can choose either cold or hot water.

Sometimes, the label of your clothes has simple instructions with simple symbols of what type of water you can use. If you cannot find it, here is what you can do:

For materials like silk, lace, and white articles of clothes darker colors and red, cold water will help. If the clothes are made from linen, cotton, or synthetic, warm or lukewarm water will give better results.

Next, you also need to prepare a sink (or a big enough bucket for your clothes) and shampoo that does not contain dyes or tints.

The easiest way to know if a shampoo product contains dyers or tints or not is to read the label. If it says “boost color” or “correct grays”, then they do.

If the container is too small, it will be harder to wash the clothes and clean off the shampoo later.

Step 2: Mix A Reasonable Amount of Shampoo and Water

In most cases, a teaspoon of mild shampoo is enough for you to mix with the water from a regular sink.

Next stir the shampoo and the water around to make the shampoo sudsy. If you need to wash more clothes, you can use a bucket and pour more shampoo.

However, do not make the water too soapy as shampoo is harder to clean off compared to detergent.

Notice: Do not use 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner because the oils in them will stick into your clothing fibers and make it really hard to wash afterward.

Step 3: Soak Your Clothes

Do not wash your clothes immediately because the shampoo might not be effective right away. Instead, soak the clothes in the shampoo water for around five minutes if it does not contain too much grease, stains, or soil.

When the clothes are dirtier and have more stains, you can soak them for ten minutes before washing.

Step 4: Wash Your Clothes

Gently wash your clothes in the shampoo water and focus on the dirtier parts like armpits and necks.

It would be best if you also rubbed the area with more stains and dirt. For more clothes made from fragile materials like silk, be more gentle while cleaning off the dirt.

When all the dirt is removed, squeeze your clothes gently, and soak them in clean water. We recommend that you water with the same temperature when you wash and rinse the clothes.

Carefully pull the clothes out of the water and soak them again to remove shampoo and its bubble.

If you find it hard to clean off the bubbles, you can also use running water until all the shampoo is removed.

Step 5: Dry Your Clothes

Once the clothes are clean and there is no shampoo bubble left, squeeze the clothes and dry them.

There are a few drying methods to consider. You can dry them by laying them flat, hanging them, or drying them with a clothes dryer.

For most clothing materials, hanging outside to air dry is fine. If you hang them with clothes hanging hooks, hang them on a string, and allow natural air and sunlight to dry them off.

Before hanging your clothes, keep them as flat as possible and avoid hanging your clothes with a fold as your clothes will also have folds when dried.

Many materials can be fine with dyers, and this drying method will work well with those who want to get their job done fast.

However, before putting your clothes on the dryers, check the clothes label to know if the material is fine with the dryers.

If you do not know what method to use, we recommend you lay the clothes flat because this method will retain the clothes’ shape the best. To avoid folds on your clothes, carefully lay the clothes as flat as possible.

Other Alternatives for Laundry Detergent Besides Shampoo

Besides shampoo, you can also consider using some of the alternatives below when you run out of laundry detergent:

  • Bar soap: You can hand wash your clothes with bar soap by grating some of them in warm water and stirring them carefully. You can grate more bar soap on dirtier areas, rub it, and then wash it like how you do it with detergent.
  • Baking Soda: Put some baking soda into your dispenser or sprinkle it directly on your clothes. Depending on your fabric, you can add hot or warm water to your clothes and wash them like normal.
  • Washing Soda: Washing soda has similarities with baking soda, but it is stronger and can remove stubborn stains better. The way you use this product is similar to how you use baking soda that we mentioned right above.
  • Oxygen Bleach (powder): This alternative can wash up the dirt on your clothes pretty well. But, it would help if you used it with caution and should replace it with detergent for a long time as it is not a good product for our skin and the environment. If you have clothing made of wool or silk, never use oxygen bleach on it.
    • To use it, prepare some water (warm water is better.) Next, pour half a cup of oxygen bleach into the water and stir. Now, you can wash your clothes like normal.
  • Chlorine bleach: Mix half a cup of chlorine bleach with warm water, then wash it like the way you wash with detergent. It is recommended to wear plastic gear if you hand wash your clothes with chlorine bleach as it can irritate your hand and skin in general.
  • Borax: Borax is suitable to be used with hot or warm water. To use it, add a cup of it into your dispenser or to your laundry and start washing.
  • Aquaball laundry ball: As this product is also made for laundering, all you need to do is put it on top of the clothes before washing the clothes. After that, the washing machine and the water will do the rest of the work for you.
  • OXY-Prime: To decide how much OXY-Prime you should use for a certain amount of laundry, you need to check its label and follow the instructions first. Then, you can add it to the dispenser or on your clothes.
  • Vodka: Vodka should be used for spot treating or hand washing. Mix vodka with water following the 1:1 ratio and start doing the job. You can mix these two ingredients in a bucket if you want to hand wash or pour them into a spray bottle for spot treating.


Can You Use Hair Conditioner As Laundry Detergent?

The short answer is No. Hair conditioner is made for softening our hair, so it does not contain active chemicals that can get rid of the stains and dirt so well.

If you only use hair conditioner to wash your clothes, you will also find it hard to get rid of the conditioner afterward because it is too sticky.

However, you can add a little bit of hair conditioner into your washing sink with water and laundry detergent while washing your clothes by hand. As this product is so moisturizing, it will help with softening the fiber a little bit.

So, if you are a fan of materials like wool, unmentioned, and pantyhose, this product can help with softening.

You can add a little bit of conditioner into your sink to soften the fabric
You can add a little bit of conditioner into your sink to soften the fabric

Can You Use Body Wash To Wash Clothes?

It is okay to wash your clothes with body wash. As body wash products do have active agents that work well with removing dirt and cleaning, they can also help us get rid of stains on our fabric well enough.

So, if you run out of laundry detergent, using body wash as an urgent alternative is fine. However, it does not mean you should completely replace washing detergent with body wash.

As body wash is made for skin, its ingredients are not as harsh and strong as laundry detergent.

Moreover, body wash does not have stain-removing enzymes, so it might be difficult to remove stains, especially stubborn ones, on your clothes with it.

We can use body wash as urgent alternative for laundry detergent 
We can use body wash as urgent alternative for laundry detergent

Can I Use Only Borax To Wash Clothes?

Yes, you can use Borax on its own as a short-term replacement for laundry detergent.

This product is proven to boost the cleaning process to another level, allow you to remove stains easier, and cause no damage to your washing machine.

However, you should not forget your detergent and only use Borax in the long run because it is not the best idea.

As it is super alkaline, it can cause trouble to your skin if you do not wash it completely off your clothes.

The best way to use Borax is to add it with laundry detergent following the ratio recommended by the manufacturers.

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