Informational Guide

Can You Wash Clothes In A Dishwasher?

If you’re wondering if you can wash clothes in a dishwasher, normally no. But here are some alternatives if you don’t have a washing machine.

by Holly Curell

When emergency strikes and your washing machine is out of action, you may find yourself wondering, "can you wash your clothes in a dishwasher?" Although running your clothes through a dishwashing cycle may seem like a quick fix, it may do more harm than good, and it’s definitely not advised.  

But don't worry, if you're looking for alternative ways to wash your clothes, there are lots of great options that don't involve using a dishwasher. In this article, we'll take a look at why you shouldn't use your dishwasher for washing clothes and provide some alternative solutions for cleaning them if you don't have a washing machine. 

If you don’t own a washing machine, if your machine has broken down, or if you don’t have time to go to the laundromat, it may be tempting to wash your clothes in the dishwasher.  

However, although you technically can wash your clothes in the dishwasher, it doesn’t mean you should, and there are many reasons for this. Here are 5 of the main reasons why your dishwasher should never be used for laundry.  

1. Clothes Can Be Damaged 

Clothes are much more delicate than dishes, and therefore, running them through a dishwasher cycle could cause a lot of damage. There are a couple of reasons for this.  

Firstly, you can't use laundry detergent in a dishwasher as it will create far too many suds, so you will have to use dishwashing tablets or detergent. Dish cleansers are made from different components than laundry detergents, so it's not advisable to clean your clothes with them.  

Secondly, dishwashers reach much higher temperatures than washing machines do, which means that the clothes are at risk of shrinking or becoming burned by the heat. 

2. Dishwashers Can Be Damaged

Dishwashers are designed to have kitchen items neatly stacked inside during a cycle. Clothes, however, cannot be neatly stacked. Therefore, there is a risk of the clothing wrapping around the moving arm in the dishwasher and breaking it.  

Clothing can also clog the drain in the dishwasher or break the heating elements. All of these things can be extremely damaging to your dishwasher. 

Empty Opened Dishwasher

3. It May Void Your Dishwasher’s Warranty  

If your dishwasher has been purchased in the last few years, it may still be covered by the manufacturers’ warranty. As such, if the machine breaks down unexpectedly and this is due to a fault in the parts, then you may be able to get it fixed for free.  

However, washing your clothes in the dishwasher would be classed as improper use, and therefore, any repairs required would no longer be covered by the warranty. If something goes wrong, the cost of the repairs will be your responsibility, and they may not come cheap.  

4. Clothes Won’t Be Washed Properly 

Dishwashers use jets of water to spray the dishes and remove the dirt and grime. However, this method would not be sufficient to properly wash your clothes.  

Clothing requires more movement and agitation for the dirt to come out of the fibers, which is why washing machines spin the clothes so the water and detergent can penetrate the items.  

Therefore, if you put your clothes in the dishwasher, they may come out very wet, but they probably wouldn't smell or feel clean, and it's extremely unlikely that any stains would be removed. 

5. It’s A Safety Hazard 

The fifth and arguably most important reason that you shouldn’t wash your clothes in the dishwasher is that it’s a big safety hazard. If things don’t go to plan, you could have some serious issues to deal with. 

At best, you may flood your kitchen and cause damage to the dishwasher and surrounding areas. At worst, your machine could catch on fire if the clothes damage the heating element.


Can You Use Dishwasher Detergent For Your Laundry?  

The short answer is no. Using dishwasher detergent for laundry is not a good idea. As we briefly mentioned above, dishwashing detergent and laundry detergent are made up of different agents and chemicals, so they aren't interchangeable. Laundry detergents contain bleach and whitening agents that help to keep clothes looking fresh and clean.  

Dishwasher detergents are made up of softer cleaning agents that are sufficient for washing dishes, but nearly ineffective on clothing. In a pinch, you may be able to use dishwashing liquid or dish soap to handwash small items, but it probably won’t do a great job of cleaning them thoroughly or removing stains.  

Similarly, using dishwashing detergents in your laundry machine can cause damage. Most dishwashing detergents are made up of powders that break down at high temperatures. If used in a washing machine, they may not reach the required temperatures to break down and could leave a residue that could clog the inside of the washing machine.  

Laundry Basket Full Of Clothes

If Not In A Dishwasher, How Else I Can Wash My Clothes? 

If you don’t have a washing machine for clothing, there are a few different methods you can use to wash your clothes:  

Handwashing

You can hand wash your clothes in a sink or bathtub. Simply use laundry detergent and some hot water and scrub the clothes clean. For best results, work the clothes by wringing and swishing them around in the water to remove as much dirt as possible. 

Go to a laundromat

Although they are less common than they used to be, laundromats can be found in most towns worldwide. For just a few dollars, you can usually wash and dry your clothes using the machines provided. If you don’t want to wash the clothes yourself, you could also use a laundry or dry cleaning service and collect the clothes once they’ve been professionally cleaned. However, this is often more expensive.

Consider a portable washing machine

If you don't have a fixed washing machine, then you may be able to purchase a small portable washing machine as a temporary fix. They are quite small but often work well at removing dirt and stains.  There are tons of options available on Amazon, many of which are $200 or less. You may also want to consider ultrasonic portable washers too for small loads and delicates. 


Things You Can Wash In Your Dishwasher (Aside From Dishes) 

Although you can’t wash your clothes in them, dishwashers are still very versatile and can be used to thoroughly clean a range of items. Here are 10 things you can wash in your dishwasher aside from dishes. 

  • Ziploc Bags
    If you want to be eco-friendly and reuse your Ziploc bags, you can clean them in the dishwasher. Just be sure to spread the opening of the bags over the prongs, so the inside is properly cleaned.
  • Plastic Or Glass Art Supplies
    If you’re an artist that works with paints, things can get pretty messy. Thankfully, your plastic and glass art supplies like cups and palettes can be washed in the dishwasher.
  • Hair Accessories
    Plastic Hairbrushes, Combs, Headbands & Barrettes can all be washed in the dishwasher. A quick wash now and then will keep them hygienic and looking shiny and new. 
  • Pet Dishes
    Your pets deserve clean bowls too. Don’t forget to put them in the dishwasher to give them a thorough rinse. 
  • Soap Dishes & Toothbrush Holders
    If you have soap dishes, toothbrush holders, or other accessories in your bathroom, it's important to keep them clean. Washing them in the dishwasher is the quickest and easiest way to ensure that they're hygienic.
  • Microwave Trays & Drip Pans
    Microwave trays, drip pans, and other large kitchen items can be washed in the dishwasher. Just be sure not to overfill the machine when washing larger items like these. This will prevent damage and ensure that everything gets washed properly. 
  • Metal Fixtures
    Metal fixtures like wire racks and sink plugs can be washed in the dishwasher. They will come out looking shiny and new!  
  • Plastic Baby Toys
    Don’t spend hours slaving over your baby’s toys to clean them. It’s perfectly safe to wash plastic toys in the dishwasher. 
  • Fake Plastic Flowers
    Artificial flowers get dusty quickly and can be hard to clean by hand. Using the dishwasher is a surefire way to keep them looking fresh. 
  • Caps & Visors
    If you have plastic caps and visors, then you can wash them in the dishwasher. However, if your caps are made from fabric, you should wash them in the laundry machine instead. 
  • Spice & Condiment Containers
    Small spice and condiment jars can be difficult to clean by hand. Thankfully, they can be washed in the dishwasher along with your dishes.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

What happens if you put something not dishwasher safe in the dishwasher?  

In some cases, you may get lucky, and the item will be perfectly fine. However, if the item is not dishwasher safe, it could get damaged. Wood may become warped, and items with painted designs may get ruined by the high heat and water pressure. 

Can I put my eyeglasses in the dishwasher? 

We wouldn’t advise it. Eyeglasses are delicate and small. The pressure and high temperatures could cause scratches on the lenses or warp the frames. It’s best to use a glasses cleaning solution and a microfibre cloth. 

Can I put stainless steel in the dishwasher? 

Yes, stainless steel is usually dishwasher safe and should come out looking sparkly and new. However, be sure to check the individual items to ensure they're dishwasher safe before going ahead. 

How do you wash small things in the dishwasher? 

Washing small things in the dishwasher can be problematic as they can slip down into the bottom of the machine. To prevent this, consider putting them inside a mesh laundry bag and placing it on the top shelf of your dishwasher. 


Conclusion

So there you have it! Hopefully, you have learned a little more about what can and can’t be washed in the dishwasher. If you were considering washing your clothes in there, our advice is - don’t! Try one of the other methods listed above instead.  

If you need any more information about dishwashers, dishwashing detergents, or even dishwashers with garbage disposals, check out the rest of our site for more valuable tips, tricks, and guides.  

Holly Curell is the editor extraordinaire for Plumbing Lab. Having grown up in Michigan, Holly has spent time living in New York, Virginia, & currently North Carolina, where she lives with her husband & family. Holly loves DIY & has years of experience with at-home plumbing problems that arise from having 3 kids & living in colder climates. When she's not writing about her plumbing knowledge, Holly enjoys reading, hiking & relaxing with family.

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