Difference Between Dishwasher Detergent and Laundry Detergent

What’s the Difference Between Dishwasher Detergent and Laundry Detergent?

If you’ve gone to load your dishwasher or washing machine to find that you’ve run out of detergent, you might have found yourself wondering whether you could get away with using them interchangeably.

After all, both are detergents, right?

Dishwasher Detergent vs Laundry Detergent

Dishwasher Detergent vs Laundry Detergent

All types of detergent, whether designed for hands, clothing, or dishes are designed to break up oil, cut through dirt, and wash them all away. However, most detergents are designed to tackle specific tasks, and therefore are not interchangeable.

PH levels

One of the main differences between dishwasher and laundry detergents is the pH level. Detergents for use in the dishwasher use a “brute force” approach to cutting through food and grease, and so usually have a much higher pH than detergents that are designed for laundry.


Both biological laundry detergents and dishwasher tablets will usually have enzymes listed on their ingredients list. These are designed to break down the fats, starches, and proteins that make up staining on clothing and dirt on dishes.

Non-bio laundry detergents, on the other hand, don’t contain enzymes, so they are kinder to sensitive skin.


Phosphonates are used to soften hard water. They are common in dishwasher detergent because they can help prevent spotting and streaks on glasses, and can also aid stain removal. As they can soften hard water, they are also commonly found in laundry detergents. 

Phosphonates started being used in detergents as an alternative to phosphates after they were banned due to the damage they can cause to aquatic life.

Oxygen-based bleaches

Oxygen-based bleach is used in laundry detergents to tackle stains and brighten white laundry. These bleaches use oxidation to break down a stain and leave laundry shiny and clean.


Can You Put Laundry Detergent in the Dishwasher?

Can You Put Laundry Detergent in the Dishwasher

Technically you could put laundry detergent in your dishwasher, but that doesn’t mean that you should. One main issue that using laundry detergent in the dishwasher would cause is that it could invalidate your warranty.

In addition to voiding your warranty for using a product that isn’t designed for use in a dishwasher, you are also going to be exposing yourself to chemicals that are not fit for human consumption. The dishwasher might not be able to completely break down laundry detergent, which could leave it behind on your dishes.

Laundry detergents also create more bubbles than dishwasher detergents do, and this could block up the dishwasher’s arms. Not only could this stop your dishes getting washed properly, it could actually damage the dishwasher’s arms.

If you are desperate for a way to wash your dishes but do not have dishwasher detergent, wash them in the sink using an alternate soap. Something like liquid soap might be suitable, and it will be easier to wash the residue away properly if you are cleaning the dishes yourself.


What Should You Do if You Accidentally Put Laundry Detergent in the Dishwasher?

Putting Laundry Detergent in the Dishwasher

If you put laundry detergent in your dishwasher by mistake, it will likely have left a nasty residue over everything because the dishwasher might not have managed to break it down properly.

To deal with this, you want to run a cleaning cycle on your dishwasher. This can either be using a commercially available dishwasher cleaner, or white vinegar.

If you are using distilled white vinegar, simply put a small bowl of the vinegar in the top rack of the dishwasher and run an empty cycle as hot as possible. 

At the end of the cycle, your dishwasher should be sparkling and free from residue from the laundry detergent.


Can You Put Dishwasher Detergent in the Washing Machine?

Putting Dishwasher Detergent in the Washing Machine

Dishwasher tablets are designed to break down food and grease, and so are laundry detergents. However, that does not mean that trying to clean your clothing with dishwasher tablets is advisable.

Dishwasher tablets and laundry detergents are designed to tackle completely different materials, and work at different temperatures. 

In fact, dishwashers run at much higher temperatures than washing machines are designed to work at. 

If you put dishwasher detergent in your washing machine, this means it might not break down properly, leaving residue throughout the washing machine.


Cleaning the Washing Machine with Dishwasher Tablets

can you Clean the Washing Machine with Dishwasher Tablets

Lately, a cleaning “hack” has gone viral all around the internet telling homeowners that they could get a sparklingly clean washing machine by running a maintenance wash using dishwasher tablets.

However, it isn’t something we recommend.

Dishwasher tablets might break through grime, but they could also leave a nasty film over the inside of the drum that would transfer to your fabrics. It is not advisable to wash your clothing in an environment covered in a detergent that is not designed for clothing.

In addition to potentially damaging your clothes, washing machines are also not designed to deal with detergents as caustic as dishwasher tablets. Using dishwasher tablets could damage the washing machine’s seals and hoses, especially if used multiple times.

And that’s before you consider the fact that using a cleaning product that is definitely not designed for washing machines would invalidate your warranty.