Can You Run a Dishwasher Without Soap?

It is a muscle memory to put soap in the soap dispenser anytime we are using a dishwasher. You cannot even imagine using a dishwasher without a soap. But what if you run out of dishwasher soap? Will your dishwasher clean the utensils effectively?

Use of soap to clean dishes became very common in the 20th century. Without a doubt previous generations survived without using soap. Instead, they improvised their own way of cleaning. But can traditional methods be used in a dishwasher? Stick around to find out. 

Can You Run a Dishwasher Without Soap?

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Soap acts as a solvent that makes the cleaning process easier. Although almost everyone uses soap in a dishwasher, it does not mean cleaning cannot go on if there is no soap. Hot water alone has proven clean efficiently. You will however need to use a rinsing aid so that your utensils are spotless. But what do I do about greasy dishes?

Well to ensure that the cleaning cycle is completed effectively, you will need to take a few more steps before loading your dishes into a dishwasher. 

  • Scrap of the food remains and rinse the dishes.
  • Soak greasy utensils in hot water for a few minutes. 
  • Use other alternatives such as liquid or powdered soap in the dishwasher’s soap cup. 
  • Use a rinsing aid during the rinse cycle.

If you are skeptical about not using soap in your dishwasher, it is normal. I felt the same way the first time I did my dishes without soap only to find out that I have been wasting money buying dishwashers detergent.

Is Dishwasher Detergent Necessary?

We are inclined think that dishwasher detergent is necessary when cleaning detergents. Furthermore, a dishwasher has a dispenser where you put your soap. The truth of the matter is that you don’t have to use soap in your dishwasher.

Most foods we consume are soluble. For example, carbohydrates including starch and sugar can dissolve in hot water. Emulsified fats are also water-soluble. Cleaning off these foods from your dishes requires only hot water. 

Proteins and animal fats on the other hand are not soluble in water. You will need to take extra steps while cleaning such dishes. These other alternatives will be discussed as we go on. 

What Happens If You Don’t Put Soap in the Dishwasher?

Starting the cleaning cycle without soap in the dispenser might seem like a crime. However, depending on the states of your utensils, cleaning will happen as usual. Did you get rid of fats on the plates, is the water temperatures ideal for cleaning? All this will determine if the utensils will be cleaned properly. 

Since you are not using soap, you should ensure you have scrapped all the food particles from the dishes. You can skip this step if your dishwasher has a prewash cycle.

Check the temperature of the water. Since you are not using a soap, ensure the dishwasher is running at 150°C. Remember not all dishes can be used under these high temperatures. Use hand cleaning for the dishes with low temperature resistance. 

Running a dishwasher without soap will take a bit longer than when soap is included. 

Does Dishwasher Kill Germs Without Soap?

A soap does not kill pathogens or bacteria even when used in plenty. Soap only acts as a solvent for the stubborn stains. 

Luckily all modern dishwashers have a sanitization cycle. In this cycle, you will need to raise the temperatures of the dishwasher to 150°C. By the end of the cycle, I can assure you no pathogen will remain breathing, if they do breathe. 

What Can I Use If I Run Out of Dishwasher Soap?

Like in ancient times, people used all sorts of natural ingredients to clean their dishes as soap was not yet that famous. Lucky for us, there are other cheaper alternatives for soap. And in the spirit of DIY, you can make your own dishwasher soap at home using the many available tutorials. However, for the sake of this guide, I will give you a few alternatives that have been proven to work efficiently. 

White vinegar

Scrap off all the food remains from your dishes before loading them into the dishwasher. In the soap dispenser, put one cup of vinegar and set the dishwasher into the rinse cycle. Ensure the dishwasher has a rinse aid solution in the rinsing cup. Start the dishwasher and your dishes will be good as new. 

Baking soda

This is the most affordable alternative for dishwasher detergent. Fill the soap dispenser with baking soda and run the dishwasher normally. 

Citric acid

Citric acid has proven to work efficiently when cleaning and disinfecting utensils. Simply fill one of the soap dispensers with citric acid and run the dishwasher in the normal cleaning cycle. 

Liquid detergent

As a DIY enthusiast, I can’t punt the number of times I have made my own dishwasher liquid detergent. You require very few ingredients that are readily available and the no how. Instead of soap pour the liquid detergent and run the dishwasher as usual.

What Can You Use Instead of Dishwasher Detergent?

Other than the discussed alternative, you use;

  • Powdered dishwasher detergent
  • Washing soda
  • Or any oxygen boost products.

You should avoid using products such as shampoos, body wash, washing machine liquids and all-purpose cleaning agents.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

DIY projects can be either good or bad. If you don’t research on the type of products you are using to make your project, you might end up causing harm to your family members. To avoid this instance. I will mention the best natural ingredients you can use to make your own dishwasher detergent. You will then follow this tutorial to make your perfect non toxic dishwasher detergent. 

  • Baking soda
  • Washing soda
  • Citric acid and
  • Essential oils. 

Ensure the dishwasher detergent cures for 72hours before you start using it in your dishwasher.

Can All Dishwashers Use Liquid Detergent?

All dishwashers can use liquid detergent. However, the detergent must have must all the requirements to fit for dishwasher use. If a liquid detergent forms studs, the studs can fill the dishwasher and start overflowing. 


As much as we have been made to think we need to use soap in our dishwasher, there are other alternatives that have proven to work over time. 

Ensure that you are using the right ingredients for the safety of your family. 

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