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What Happens When You Wash Clothes Without Detergent?

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Ever tried washing clothes without any detergent for a change? Certainly not intentionally. But it isn’t that bad after all.

We have tried, tested, and put our experience into words for you to read, so you don’t have to test this crazy theory at the expense of your clothes.

Long story short, water alone, without detergent, will clean your clothes and remove all water-soluble stains while sparing deep, oil-based, and grease stains.

It will do nothing to the smell of the clothes, though. You will have to rewash your gym clothes if you accidentally wash them without using any detergent.


Due to different allergies, unavailability of the detergent, or eco-friendly reasons, you may skip the detergent in your laundry. Here’s what will happen to your clothes:

  1. Water Soluble Stains Will be Gone
  2. Deep Stains Will Persist
  3. Nothing Happens to the Smell
  4. Long Term Effects

For one reason or another, if you plan to try washing clothes with just water while skipping on the detergent, we have compiled a list of some things you should know will happen. Towards the end of this blog, we’ve listed some other eco-friendly alternatives of detergents that you might want to try.

Things That Happen When You Wash Clothes Without Detergent

You might think your clothes will shrink, become rough, lose their texture, or become torn when washed without detergent in a washer. However, none of this is true.

It wouldn’t be a nightmare come true, but it will neither be much of a delightful experience. Let’s have a look at what actually happens when you try to wash your clothes without using any detergent.

1. Water Soluble Stains Will Be Gone

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All the water-soluble or minor stains will be gone due to the temperature and pressure washing of the washer. The tiny dirt stains on the shirt, the stains of some drinks that can be easily removed, and minor ink stains can get cleaned out even without a detergent.

The speed of your washer and the timer you set play a critical role in this case. You can set a minimal timer with low to medium power intensity for mild stains.

However, for major water-soluble stains, you will need to increase the time duration and the power of your wash cycle.

2. Deep Stains Will Persist

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Deep stains persist even if you wash your clothes twice with water alone. These stains include the stain of grease and oil-based stains. Stains in dark colors are also included in this category.

You will hard a hard time trying to get rid of them using merely water. You will need to use a detergent of one form or another to eliminate them.

3. Nothing Happens to the Smell

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If you’re thinking you can get away with washing your gym and workout clothes without detergent, you need to rethink your choices. The clothes with the smell of perspiration, sweat, kids’ urine, etc., should be washed with a detergent.

The detergent will impart its fragrance to the fabric of the clothes. Without detergent, water alone will not be enough to remove the smell.

When the clothes come dry, the smell might intensify, and you wouldn’t want to wear those clothes again.

4. Long-Term Effects

Clothes In Washing Machine. Laundry Concept.

Doing laundry without detergent can get you through a day or two but making it a habit is not a good idea. It will affect not only hygiene but also the health of your clothes.

The fabric starts to lose its texture and color over time when you keep skipping the detergent.

It can be due to the presence of hardness in the water. Hard water will have detrimental effects on your clothes in the long run if you keep using it without any detergent to counter its effect.

Alternative Natural Detergents To Use

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Suppose you plan to switch to green and more eco-friendly options for your laundry. You can use natural cleaning agents like washing soda, vinegar, borax, hydrogen peroxide, or lemon juice.

These natural cleaning agents are good at cleaning and have anti-inflammatory properties (some of them) that will help you keep your clothes free of germs.

These are the natural and more affordable alternatives for people planning to quit using artificial chemical detergents for laundry.

In A Nutshell

Not using a detergent for laundry can be a good idea or a bad idea depending on your intent and the clothes you want to clean. It could be a good option if you only have to deal with water-soluble stains.

But, for deeper stains and smelly clothes, you use a detergent of one sort; otherwise, water alone will not be enough to remove these stains and smells.

You can also use natural detergents like lemon juice, vinegar, and borax instead of chemical detergents to clean your clothes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Natural Way of Washing Clothes Without Detergent?

Take one cup of Baking Soda, one cup of Washing soda, and 1/4 cup of Epsom Salt, and pour this mixture into the water to wash your clothes.

This is how you can naturally wash your clothes without a chemical detergent.

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