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Can You Wash Clothes In a Dishwasher?

Can You Wash Clothes In a Dishwasher?

You might need clean clothes fast but are not be able to go to the laundromat or use a washing machine. 

You should not wash your clothes in a dishwasher, as you might damage them without even getting them clean. Spraying hot water all over your clothes isn’t a good way to clean them.

There is probably a better way to get your clothes clean even in an emergency than putting them in a dishwasher. 

Can You Wash Your Clothes in the Dishwasher?

If you are in a situation where you don’t have a working washing machine and can’t go to a laundromat, what can you do? Can you wash your clothes in the dishwasher?

If you have to wash your clothes in the dishwasher in an emergency, it might work. A best-case scenario is making your clothes smell clean in the dishwasher. However, you can easily damage your clothes this way, so only wash older and cheaper clothes. 

A Better Solution

It isn’t even safe to wash your clothes in the dishwasher because you might start a fire. There are too many reasons not to do this. 

If you are so busy that you can't even go to the laundromat, call a friend and ask for them to help you. Return the favor later on when you have a bit more time. 

There is quite likely a better solution than using the dishwasher to wash your clothes. A dishwasher is too different from a washing machine to work. It can damage or, at worst, ignite your clothes. 

Dishwashers vs. Washing Machines

The two machines are completely different, so it can be hazardous to use one as the other.

Obviously, it would be a disaster to wash dishes in a washing machine. Putting clothes in a dishwasher isn’t quite as bad, but you can still damage them. 

How Do Washing Machines Work?

A washing machine spins shakes and agitates clothes to clean them and partly dry them. The clothes are soaked, agitated to remove the dirt, and then rinsed and dried. 

How Do Dishwashers Work?

A dishwasher works by spraying the dishes instead of moving or spinning them around. Since there is no movement, it is completely incomparable to a clothes washer. Water jets spray the dishes with hot water and soap, and then rinse the dishes with clear water. 

Dishwashers Use Very Hot Water

The water in a dishwasher is about 150 degrees Fahrenheit. This is to get the dishes as clean as possible.

Bacteria are killed by the high temperatures and not just by the soap. 

While high temperatures work great for dishes (other than some that are not dishwasher safe), they can wreck your clothes. Your clothes are not designed to resist hot water and could be permanently ruined. 

The Soap is Different

Dish soap is also very different from laundry soap. Laundry soap is supposed to make lots of suds that are good for cleaning clothes. If you put that in the dishwasher, it might leak out and go all over the floor. 

The Soap is Different

Laundry soap would not work well for washing dishes. It contains chemicals that brighten or bleach clothes, which would not work to clean dishes. 

Your clothes might also come out dirtier and not cleaner. Bits of food in your dishwasher might end up on your clothes. Look for a better solution to the problem if you don’t have a working washing machine. 

Washing Clothes in the Dishwasher Won’t Work

Washing clothes means your clothes might get wet in some spots but remain dry in other spots. Where they do get wet, they might not get clean. 

At best, you will make your clothes smell fresh in the dishwasher. You won’t get your clothes clean in the true sense. The soap is not right for clothing and won’t remove dirt or stains from the fabric. 

Damage to Your Clothes

You might wash out the colors by washing your clothes in a dishwasher. The buttons might also come off of your clothes. Delicate clothes might be ruined, tougher clothes might be damaged to some extent. 

Laundry detergent won't work well in your dishwasher and could flood your kitchen. 

Your clothes might come out smelling better, but they could come out smelling worse if they pick up food smells. The food smells might be hard to get out of your clothes, too.

Male repairing dishwasher

Damage to Your Dishwasher

Froth from laundry soap might clog your dishwasher’s plumbing. The pipes are not designed for such frothy soap. 

If a button comes off, it might jam the machinery. You might also break your spray arm if you put clothes in your dishwasher.  

What Can You Wash in a Dishwasher?

If you want to get “experimental” with what you can wash in a dishwasher there are some better ideas than clothes. You might use a dishwasher to wash any of the following:

  • Potatoes and other homegrown vegetables. Put them on the top rack and use the dishwasher to clean them without work. 
  • Combs and brushes. Your combs will get dirty over time, and the dishwasher is a quick way to clean them. 
  • Lego Toys can be cleaned and sanitized in the dishwasher. Not all toys are dishwasher-safe.
  • Garden Tools are often dishwasher-safe.

Key Takeaways to Using a Dishwasher to Wash Clothes

You won’t get good results if you wash your clothes in the dishwasher. At best, you could make your clothes smell better without cleaning them in the true sense. However, it might make your clothes smell worse, because of food particles in your dishwasher. 

You will probably damage your clothes by pulling off buttons or washing the colors. The very hot water is not safe for clothes. Laundry soap will create too many suds and flood your kitchen. It might clog the plumbing. 

Lindsay Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! I created this website to be a resource for everyone who wants to make the best home possible.