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Help! I'm Out of Laundry Detergent

Emergency Laundry Detergent Substitutions


Spilled cup of powdered laundry detergent Walter B. McKenzie/Photodisc/Getty Images

I had a question in our Laundry Forum from a reader who had run out of laundry detergent and asked if she could use a dishwasher detergent action pac. The quick answer is NO!

So, what do you do when you're out of detergent and laundry is a must?

Rinse out the bottle or box

Fill your "empty" laundry detergent bottle with warm water and empty that to your washer. You can do the same thing with an "empty" detergent powder box. You'll get enough product to do a small load of essentials.

Use Baking Soda

To enhance your last bit of detergent, add 1/2 cup of borax or  baking soda It works as a detergent booster and will help get your clothes clean. If you have no detergent at all, use one cup of baking soda in a normal load. Your clothing will be cleaner than you imagine with the action of the baking soda, water and agitation from the washer.

Oxygen-based bleach

As a last resort when you have no detergent, add 1/4 cup of oxygen bleach to the wash water.


Using any of these substitutions will result in overflowing suds and possibly some ruined clothes. Either wash a few items in the sink or make friends with your neighbors and borrow a capful of laundry detergent instead!

Specific questions? Just ask here.

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