Can you put dish soap in the dishwasher?

What Happens When You Use Dish Soap in the Dishwasher?

Dishwashers are designed to use specially formulated dishwasher detergent that creates suds and cleans dishes using a combination of water pressure and temperature. Dish soap, on the other hand, is meant for handwashing.

If you use a regular dish soap in the dishwasher, here is what happens:

  • Excess Suds – Dish soap creates a lot more suds than dishwasher detergent. The extra suds can escape from the dishwasher and create a mess.
  • Reduced Cleaning Power – The ingredients in dish soap are different than dishwasher detergent and may not clean as effectively in a dishwasher.
  • Clogged Parts – The extra suds can clog up components like the drain pump, soap dispenser, and spray arms.
  • Residue – Dish soap may not rinse away completely, leaving spots and residue on dishes.

So in most cases, it’s best to avoid using dish soap in the dishwasher. But there are some exceptions.

When Is It Okay to Use Dish Soap in the Dishwasher?

While not ideal, there are some instances when using dish soap in the dishwasher can be an acceptable backup option:

As a One-Time Cleaner

If you run out of dishwasher detergent, adding a small amount of mild dish soap can work in a pinch to clean your dishes. Use only about 1-2 tbsp and run the dishwasher on a light or quick cycle. This likely won’t cause major issues with excess suds or clogging but don’t make it a habit.

For Greasy Items

If you have extra greasy or oily dishes, adding a spoonful of dish soap can help boost cleaning power. The soap helps cut through and emulsify grease that dishwasher detergent may struggle with.

In Place of Dishwasher Cleaner

Run an empty dishwasher cycle with 2-3 tablespoons of dish soap to help remove grease and limescale buildup in the machine. The soap helps degrease the interior. Just don’t use this method too frequently as it can cause damage over time.

When You’re Out of Dishwasher Detergent

As mentioned above, using a small amount of dish soap in an emergency when you don’t have dishwasher detergent can work. Just use caution and limit how often you do this.

Tips for Using Dish Soap in the Dishwasher

If you do need to use dish soap in your dishwasher, keep these tips in mind:

  • Use a mild variety like Dawn or Joy without strong fragrances or moisturizers.
  • Only use about 1-3 tbsp at most. Too much can cause excess suds.
  • Run the dishwasher on a shortened, light cycle, or use a rinse only cycle afterwards if needed.
  • Never use dish soap in a dishwasher that explicitly says not to. Check the manual.
  • Ventilate the kitchen to help steam escape and prevent excess moisture.
  • Remove dish soap residue by running a vinegar rinse or dishwasher cleaner monthly.
  • Don’t make it a regular habit. Use dishwasher detergent for daily loads.

Should You Use Dish Soap in the Dishwasher?

Overall, it’s best to avoid using dish soap in the dishwasher when possible. The detergents are formulated very differently. But if you’re in a bind, using a small amount of mild dish soap once in a while likely won’t cause major issues. Just take precautions, don’t overuse it, and don’t make it a regular habit if you want your dishwasher to last. Stick to traditional dishwasher detergents as much as you can.

FAQs About Using Dish Soap in the Dishwasher

Can I use dish soap in my dishwasher all the time?

No, you should not use dish soap in the dishwasher on a regular basis. The sudsing and chemistry of dish soap are not well suited for frequent dishwasher use. Use traditional dishwasher detergents for daily loads.

What’s the worst that can happen if I use dish soap in the dishwasher?

The worst-case scenarios are damage to the dishwasher like clogged pumps, a huge bubbly mess leaking onto the floor, etched glassware from residue, and improper cleaning results.

What kind of dish soap works best?

A mild dish soap like Dawn or Joy works best. Avoid ones with strong fragrances, moisturizers, or “ultra” cleaning formulations that can cause extra sudsing.

How much dish soap should I use in the dishwasher?

No more than 1-3 tablespoons. This small amount can work as an emergency cleaner but too much soap can be problematic.

Should I run the dishwasher differently with dish soap?

Yes, use a light or quick wash cycle and you may want to follow up with a rinse only cycle to clear any residue. Also ventilate the kitchen.

How often can I do this?

Limit dish soap in the dishwasher to only occasional emergency situations, not daily regular use.

What are signs I used too much dish soap?

Signs of too much soap include lingering bubbles or suds, cloudy residue on dishes, dishes feeling slippery or tacky after washing, and water leaking onto the floor.

The Bottom Line

Dish soap in a dishwasher should be avoided in most cases. But if you’re in a pinch without dishwasher detergent, using a small amount of mild dish soap temporarily can work but take precautions. Don’t make it a habit and rely on traditional dishwasher detergents for daily use to avoid issues.