Dishwasher Without Detergent (Can You Run a Dishwasher Without Soap?)

Discover the surprising truth: running a dishwasher without detergent.

Why it may not yield the desired results and impact your cleaning effectiveness.

Find out if possible and explore alternative options for optimal dishwashing performance.

Dive deeper into this topic for a thorough understanding.

Can You Run a Dishwasher Without Detergent?

Detergent acts as a solvent that makes the cleaning process more manageable. Although almost everyone uses detergent in a dishwasher, it does not mean cleaning cannot go on if there is no detergent.

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.

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

It is normal to be skeptical about not using detergent in your dishwasher. I felt the same way the first time I did my dishes without detergent, only to discover that I had been wasting money buying dishwasher detergent.

What If You are Out of Dishwasher Detergent?

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

The use of detergent to clean dishes became widespread in the 20th century. Without a doubt, previous generations survived without using detergent; instead, they improved their way of cleaning.

But can traditional methods be used in a dishwasher? Stick around to find out.

Is Dishwasher Detergent Necessary?

We are inclined to think that dishwasher detergent is necessary when cleaning dishes. Furthermore, a dishwasher has a dispenser where you put detergent. The truth is that you don’t have to use detergent 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 Detergent in the Dishwasher?

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

Since you are not using detergent, 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 detergent, ensure the dishwasher runs 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 detergent will take longer than when detergent is included. 

Does Dishwasher Kill Germs Without Detergent?

Detergent does not kill pathogens or bacteria even when used in plenty but only acts as a solvent for stubborn stains. 

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

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

Like in ancient times, people used all sorts of natural ingredients to clean their dishes, as detergent was not yet that famous. Lucky for us, there are other cheaper alternatives for this purpose.

In the spirit of DIY, you can make your dishwasher detergent 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. 

A simple recipe to make your DIY dishwasher detergent

White Vinegar

Scrap off all the food remains from your dishes before loading them into the dishwasher. Put one cup of vinegar in the soap dispenser 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 as 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. Fill one of the soap dispensers with citric acid and run the dishwasher in the regular cleaning cycle. 

Liquid Detergent

As a DIY enthusiast, I can’t punt how often I have made my dishwasher liquid detergent. You require very few readily available ingredients and the no-how. Instead of detergent powder, 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 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 the type of products you are using to do your project, you might end up causing harm to your family members. To avoid this instance. I will mention the best natural ingredients to make your dishwasher detergent. You will follow this tutorial to create your perfect non-toxic dishwasher detergent. 

A video tutorial on making a dishwasher detergent on your own.
  • Baking soda
  • Washing soda
  • Citric acid
  • Essential oils. 

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

Can All Dishwashers Use Liquid Detergent?

All dishwashers can use liquid detergent. However, the detergent must have all the requirements to fit 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 detergent in our dishwasher, other alternatives have proven to work over time. 

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

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