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13 Best Laundry Detergent Alternatives

Out of laundry detergent? These alternatives will save the day.

Do you need laundry detergent alternatives because you’re going for a more eco-friendly approach? Or have you just opened your cupboard to find you’ve got no detergent left? Either way, there’s no need to panic.

Thankfully, many alternative laundry detergent solutions will get your clothes clean, fresh, and stain-free without a mad dash to the supermarket. You’ve probably got at least a couple of these amazing items in your home right now.

Let’s look at our favorite 13 options.

Key Takeaways

  • Use baking soda, borax, or powdered oxygen bleach as eco-friendly laundry detergent alternatives that remove stains and odors.
  • In a pinch, use shampoo, bar soap, or body wash for hand-washing clothes, but avoid using them in washing machines.
  • Laundry balls and washing soda are effective laundry detergent substitutes that are gentle on clothes and fabrics.
  • Distilled white vinegar is a versatile option for cleaning, stain removal, brightening, deodorizing, and disinfecting clothes.

13 Laundry Detergent Alternatives

Store-bought laundry detergents might be effective. But the problem is, we don’t really know what’s in them. Not only do they contain toxic chemicals, but it’s also a lot of plastic waste.

If you have sensitive skin or a desire to minimize your carbon footprint, these alternatives may be just what you need. Plus, these DIY solutions will save money in the long run!

1. Baking Soda

The trusty baking soda will come to your rescue many times in the domestic world. It isn’t just a handy thing to have for baking, but it’s also powerful as a cleaning agent.

Baking soda works by neutralizing acid, no matter where it comes from (i.e. batteries, vomit, urine), to clean your clothes (1). Other benefits include:

  • Cleaning clothes well: Baking soda is a fantastic detergent and a powerful stain remover. It naturally breaks up stains to get them out of clothes.
  • Rids odor: If you have a sweaty sports bra or dirty socks that need deodorizing, reach for your baking soda.
  • Doesn’t damage fabric: The harsh chemicals in your store-bought detergent or fabric softener can wear down fabrics. Baking soda, though, does not.

How to Use Baking Soda As Detergent

Put one cup of baking soda directly into the drum or dispenser. Then wash normally, with warm or hot water, depending on the fabrics.

Product Specs

Type Brightener, cleaner, stain remover
Fabric Whites, colors, any fabric
Wash Machine or hand wash
Stain Any stain, including acidic ones

2. Borax

Borax, like baking soda, is a great thing to have in the house for emergencies. This is a great detergent alternative for deep cleaning your laundry.

Due to its high pH, Borax creates alkaline water for your clothes, leaving them clean and odor-free (2). Borax removes soap residue and stains and brightens white clothes.

Using Borax for Laundry

To use Borax on laundry day, add ½ cup directly into the drum or into the dispenser. Wash normally at a hot or warm temperature, depending on the fabrics.

Product Specs

Type Cleaner, brightener, and odor remover
Fabric Whites, colors, any fabric
Wash Machine or hand wash
Stain Smelly stains, including urine

3. Powdered Oxygen Bleach

Chlorine bleach is not ideal, especially for sensitive skin and for environmentally conscious folk. However, oxygen bleach is a wonderful alternative.

Powdered oxygen bleach has the ability to:

  • Remove tough stains: Powdered oxygen bleach can work on stains without damaging your clothes.
  • Disinfect: Powdered oxygen bleach has incredible anti-microbial qualities which disinfect your laundry (3).
  • Be gentle: Powdered oxygen bleach is perfect for delicate items like underwear and baby clothes.
  • Brighten clothes: It brightens all clothes, including whites and colors.

Using Oxygen Bleach for Laundry

Add ½ cup of powdered oxygen bleach to the washer drum before adding the clothes. Once the clothes have been added, wash the clothes at any temperature, but warm or hot water is preferred.


Don’t use it on silk or wool.

Product Specs

Type Disinfectant, stain remover, brightener
Fabric Whites, colors, and delicate fabrics, including baby clothes. Don’t use it on silk or wool.
Wash Washing machine
Stain Organic or dirt stains

4. Shampoo

In an emergency situation, run to the bathroom and grab that shampoo bottle. Don’t use this every time, as it’s obviously intended for hair.

Also, you should only use this for hand-washing clothes. If you put shampoo in your washing machine, it could bubble over.

We do recommend using gentle shampoo, such as baby shampoo. Definitely do not use a shampoo conditioner combo or a shampoo that tints your hair. You don’t want to end up with colored whites!

How to Use Shampoo for Laundry

Shampoo should be used for handwashing clothes. For a sink full of water, use one teaspoon of shampoo. Use more for larger basins of water. Mix first before adding clothes. Hand wash as usual. If the item is heavily soiled, first soak for 30 minutes.

Product Specs

Type Cleaner
Fabric Any
Wash Hand wash
Stain Dirt or grime

5. Bar Soap

Grab a bar soap as a laundry detergent alternative! Most of us already have bar soaps in the house, so this is perfect if you’re stuck in a pickle with no laundry detergent.

Keep In Mind

Don’t use bar soap with oils or skin softeners, as this can stain your clothing.

How to Use Bar Soap as Detergent

Simply grate some of the soap into hot water before hand-washing items. You can even rub stains with the bar soap. Hand wash as usual.

One more thing: if you use a fragranced soap, your clothes will smell amazing after they’ve dried.

Product Specs

Type Stain remover, deodorizer, cleaner
Fabric Any
Wash Hand wash
Stain General stains

6. Body Wash and Hand Wash

There’s no reason to fear running out of laundry detergent. There are so many things in your bathroom that you can use, including body or hand wash.

Please note:

  • Hand washing only: If you put body wash, hand wash, or shampoo in the washing machine, it will lather a lot because of the sulfates. This can be damaging to your machine.
  • No moisturizers, no oils: When choosing a body or hand wash to use as an alternative, read the ingredients. If there are moisturizers or oils, don’t use them on your clothes, as they can cause stains.

Using Body or Hand Wash for Laundry

Add about a teaspoon to hot water and hand wash as usual.

Product Specs

Type Cleaner
Fabric Any
Wash Hand wash
Stain Dirt, grime; not a useful stain remover

7. Laundry Balls

If you have a laundry ball in your cupboard, it’s a great laundry detergent alternative. Some brands, including Achenyu, can do up to 2000 washings.

Aquaball Laundry Balls are:

  • Kind to your skin and free from chemicals.
  • Gentle on clothes.
  • Good for minimizing color fading.
  • Convenient.
  • Cheaper in the long run.

How to Use Aquaball Laundry Balls

Add it to your machine drum on top of your clothes, and the water will do the work to bring out the cleaning agents.

Product Specs

Type Disinfectant, brightener
Fabric Any
Wash Washing machine
Stain It does not remove stains

8. Washing Soda

Washing soda and baking soda might be related, but washing soda is the stronger of the two. They have different chemical makeups. Washing soda is better for removing stubborn stains because of its high alkaline compound (4).

You can buy washing soda or make your own washing soda from baking soda. Isn’t that cool?

How to Use Washing Soda

To utilize washing soda on laundry day, it’s best to use it as a pre-soak. Mix two spoonfuls of washing soda in a gallon of warm water. Add the stained clothes and let them soak before washing them normally in your machine.

Product Specs

Type Stain remover
Fabric Best for cotton, preferably white. Shouldn’t be used on silk or wool.
Wash Pre-soak in basin
Stain Grease, blood, tea, coffee

9. Vodka

Vodka isn’t only useful for a fun night with the girls. It’s good for cooking, cleaning, and as a solution on laundry day.

If you need to freshen up your clothes, a vodka solution is the way to go.

What does vodka actually do? First, it freshens your clothes. Second, it disinfects your clothes because of the ethyl alcohol.

Lastly, it removes odors without leaving an alcohol scent behind.

Using Vodka as Laundry Detergent

Mix one part vodka and one part water in a spray bottle. Turn the clothes inside out and hang up before spraying with your vodka solution. Place in a well-ventilated area to air dry.

Product Specs

Type Freshener, disinfectant, odor remover
Fabric Most fabrics, but avoid dark and bright colors, and leather
Wash Spritz on dry clothes
Stain Does not remove stains

10. OXY-Prime

When actively looking for a laundry detergent alternative, you should consider OXY-Prime. It’s non-toxic, eco-friendly, and powerful in the laundry room.

OXY-Prime can do the following:

  • Clean clothes.
  • Remove stains.
  • Remove spots.
  • Work on all types of fabrics.
  • Work at all temperatures.

Using OXY-Prime for Laundry

Oxy-Prime is a powder that can go directly onto your clothes or through the detergent dispenser. Follow the instructions on the bottle to measure the right amount for your load.

Product Specs

Type Cleaner and stain remover
Fabric Any
Wash Washing machine
Stain Diapers, coffee, grass, blood, popsicles. Basically, any stain!

11. Vinegar

The best vinegar to use in the laundry room is distilled white vinegar since it does not stain. That being said, once you have introduced vinegar to your laundry routine, you’ll never look back! Vinegar is an amazing alternate laundry detergent as well as a stain remover, brightener, and deodorizer.

The acid in vinegar removes stains and thoroughly cleans clothes without damaging them. More benefits of white distilled vinegar include:

  • Removing residue: Soap residue, sweat residue, you name it. White vinegar is wonderful for removing residue, even on dark clothing.
  • Removing mildew: White vinegar can quickly tackle mildew that has grown on damp clothing.
  • Removes pet hair: Say goodbye to the long blonde hairs your golden retriever leaves behind on all your clothes because white vinegar can remove it! White vinegar also prevents pet hair and lint from sticking to your clothes.
  • Removes bad odors: Smoke, sweat, dampness, be gone! You’ve got to keep a bottle of white distilled vinegar in your cupboard to remove bad odors quickly.
  • Softens clothing: You can actually pour vinegar into the fabric softener dispenser of your washing machine. This is an eco-friendly and non-toxic way to soften clothes without leaving residue behind.
  • Disinfectant: Okay, vinegar, we get it. You’re amazing. This is an excellent alternative to laundry detergent because it disinfects, too.

How to Use Distilled White Vinegar

  1. Measure ½ cup: Measure out ½ cup of white distilled vinegar.
  2. Add to the machine: For a regular cycle, use white vinegar as you would your regular detergent. For a rinse cycle, add the ½ cup of vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser or directly into the machine.

For removing stains or whitening clothes, try this:

  1. Measure one cup: Measure one cup of distilled white vinegar.
  2. Fill up a large basin: With boiling water, fill up a large basin that can fit the items you want to work on. Add your cup of distilled white vinegar.
  3. Add your clothes: Add your white clothes to the basin and cover it, if possible.
  4. Soak overnight: Allow the clothes to soak overnight.
  5. Wash as usual: The next day, wash the clothes as usual.

Take Note

Soaking overnight only applies to 100 percent cotton fabrics.

Product Specs

Type Disinfectant, cleaner, stain and odor remover, brightener
Fabric Any (only 100 percent cotton for overnight soaking)
Wash Washing machine and hand wash
Stain Sweat, mildew, food, drink, grass, blood, crayon, vomit, etc.

12. Soap Nuts

Soap nuts are becoming increasingly popular in the world of non-toxic cleaning products as they are 100 percent natural.

If you have sensitive skin, soap nuts are the way forward.

Soap nuts have been a natural detergent option for a very long time in India and China.

But why should you use soap nuts?

  • Multiple uses: If you’re looking for a reusable alternative to laundry detergent, try soap nuts. They can be used a few times before you compost them. There is no waste when it comes to soap nuts.
  • No synthetic chemicals: Because of their natural origin, these are non-toxic and chemical-free.
  • Allergies: If you have allergies, try soap nuts. They’re safe and good for those with sensitive skin.
  • Multiple uses: They’re great for cleaning clothes, but also for your hair and body!
  • Baby clothes: If you have a young child or baby, soap nuts are a perfect option, as they are harmless for delicate skin.

How to Use Soap Nuts for Laundry

To use, put them in a fabric bag and throw them directly into the washing machine drum with your clothes. Use warm water so the soap nuts can lather well to clean the clothes.

Product Specs

Type Detergent, stain remover, disinfectant
Fabric Any fabric that can be washed warm or hot
Wash Washing machine
Stain Dirt, oil, grime

13. Lemon Juice

Our final laundry detergent alternative is (drum roll, please)… lemon juice! We always like to pick up extra lemons at the store every week in case of emergencies.

Benefits of lemon juice include:

  • Removes stains: The acid in lemon juice is a great natural stain remover.
  • Brightens whites: The acid also makes white clothes bright again.
  • Safe for colors: It’s hard to find an option that works for whites and colors, but lemon juice will do the trick.
  • Removes rust: Rust was a near-impossible stain to remove until lemon juice came along! You can easily remove rust stains by applying lemon juice to the stain immediately and tossing it into the wash.
  • Cleans clothes: Of course, lemon juice also cleans your clothes as a perfect alternative to regular laundry detergent.

How to Use Lemon Juice for Laundry

  1. Squeeze those lemons: Take a few lemons and squeeze the juice out.
  2. Apply to clothes: To remove stains, apply the lemon juice directly to clothes, work it in with a soft-bristled brush and then wash as usual.
  3. Make a paste: For using lemon juice as a detergent alternative, you need to make a paste first. Mix together lemon juice and salt. Quantities don’t matter — just eyeball it!
  4. Add your paste: You can add your paste directly to your clothes or through the dispenser if you’d rather.
  5. Add clothes to the washing machine: Put your clothes into the machine first.
  6. Wash as normal: Wash your clothes as usual according to the care label instructions.

Use Fresh Lemons

Fresh lemons are safer than store-bought lemon juice, as the latter probably has artificial coloring.

Product Specs

Type Cleaner, stain remover, brightener
Fabric Any fabric
Wash Washing machine or hand wash
Stain Rust, mildew, mold, juice, food

Love Your Laundry Detergent Alternatives

Next time you go to the store, you can skip the detergent section altogether. Instead, get some lemons, distilled white vinegar, or maybe some laundry balls.

These make for a more eco-friendly and non-toxic solution for washing clothes, removing stains, and deodorizing your wardrobe.

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About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a freelance writer & book blogger with a degree in creative writing, journalism, and English literature. Beth firmly believes that a tidy house is a tidy mind. She is always looking for new ways to sustainably clean and tidy her house, that's kind on the environment but effective in the house, too!