The Difference Between Dish Soap and Dishwasher Detergent

By: The Cleancult Team

August 22, 2018

Have you ever found yourself in the position of wanting to use the dishwasher to clean dishes but you don’t have any dishwasher detergent, just liquid dish soap? Well, you’re not alone! In fact, the most common question asked about liquid dish soap is if it can actually be used in the dishwasher. Not only is learning the difference between dish soap and dishwasher detergent important for your dishes, it’s also important for your dishwasher.

Why, you ask? Well, because the ingredients in liquid dish soap and in dishwasher detergent are different and react differently to the friction, water, and motion of the process of cleaning. If you’ve actually used dish soap in the dishwasher before, then you’ve probably already learned one key difference between the two. Haven’t done it yet? Then read on to see why you should NEVER use dish soap in a dishwasher, the differences between both detergents, and why the two aren’t interchangeable.

Oh Gosh, the spills

Yep, spills everywhere. Even a small amount of regular or natural dish soap can produce a great amount of suds. This is good for when you’re cleaning dishes by hand and can look out for how much suds are filling the sink, but can take a devastating turn when using dish soap on an enclosed space like a dishwasher. The high suds action can very easily just spill out from the dishwasher and all the floor of your kitchen! Yikes!

The same applies to the other way around! You shouldn’t use dishwasher detergent when washing dishes by hand (we think you’ll probably have a hard time washing dishes by hand with dishwasher detergent pods and tablets, though, so we’re just talking about dishwasher detergent gel and dishwasher liquid). Even though you’ll dishes will be cleaned, you might accidentally add too much detergent, which could result in chemical leftovers on the dishes and your hands. You’ll also have a hard time completely rinsing off the dishwasher detergent from the dishes. More time rinsing dishes means more water wasted, too.

So next time you’re in the grocery store picking out a detergent to cut grease off your plates, take a very close look of what that detergent is formulated for. In short, dishwasher detergent doesn’t create suds while the dishwasher is running, and you should always use the proper detergent for whichever method you’re using to wash your dishes.


Oh, no. You did use the dish soap in the dishwasher.

Well, now we have to deal with the sudsy mess in the kitchen. For starters, in order to get rid of the suds caused by using dish soap in the dishwasher, you might have to do more than simply run the dishwasher again. Unfortunately, you may have to clean the dishwasher before its next use. I know. Not all.

To easily clean the dishwasher, the first you’ll want to do is to get rid of as much of the suds and water as you can with a bucket or other type of container. You also want to make sure that you wash out the soap dispenser well, if that’s where you poured the dish soap. Use a towel to dry the inside of the dishwasher before adding a half cup of white vinegar and a generous layer of salt to the bottom of the dishwasher in order to get rid of all of the suds. Once you have done all this, simply run the dishwasher until the suds have dissolved.

Things to remember: never use dish soap in the dishwasher, never use dishwasher detergent to wash by hand, and always read the instruction labels on detergents.