Laundry Detergent is a Lie

Life has taught me that if you spill anything ever on a article of clothing it will forever bear the mark no matter how swift the Tide Stick. The best one can hope for is a slightly less visible stain after fabric treatment and a wash cycle.

So... I sat in something and stained my $300 white pants. I washed them in Woolite after treating with Zout. The stains faded somewhat, but the back still looked like I shit myself. I was out of detergent and loathe to purchase more Woolite on my strict budget. Poverty inspires creativity, so I looked around my kitchen. I wondered if dish detergent could be used instead. As it turns out, it can (thank you Internet) and it's better.

One teaspoon of Dawn for a small load, up to three tsp for a large load can get your clothes clean AND remove tough stains.  It fully cleaned my pair of ivory white pants, both in the treated areas and on a few spots I missed. I have never fully removed a stain in my entire life but this was as close as I have ever come.

It's also dawned on me how our obsession with laundry is a marketing scam. I'm big into re-wearing clothes. If they don't stink and they aren't wrinkled they're basically the same as "clean" garments. [Fun fact: Before washing machines, people spent less time on laundry. Hand washing took forever and was a total bitch, but folks only did it when there was an actual need. The convenience and automation of the machines made it a social norm to clean clothes that were worn once.]

For my money, there is only one reason to use soap on garments-- they're visibly soiled or stink like a men's locker room without AC in July.  This is why I think laundry detergent is a scam. It's not the best tool for the actual work you need it for. Water can remove odor and residual dirt just fine-- it's the most effective solvent in the universe. You only need detergent for the really hard shit. Yes... I'm talking about skid marks.

I will take Dawn over Tide any day of the week to "hide my tracks".  Dawn can eradicate any trace of burnt bacon grease off a frying pan, days and days after it congeals. I'm not so sure Tide would do the trick. And laundry detergent is more expensive. It's not the ingredients... it's just that people wash clothes frequently often than they wash dishes and the manufacturers need to make margin.

It safe for fabric?  Laundry isn't safe for fabric!

Clothing durability is like natural selection. Some clothes can swim in a scalding hot cauldron for a hundred years and look the same. While for others, the very act of taking them to a dry cleaner constitutes a life-altering trauma from which they never recover. My personal theory is this: the product used matters very little. Sturdy garments remain sturdy; "special care" garments disintegrate the second they touch moisture.

Dish detergent worked fine for me when I needed it. YMMV. But realize that a lot of "essential items" were manufactured for the benefit of corporations looking to take a common product (soap) and make people spend more money on the same thing in different packages.


Mike bode is the author of The Queen of Lies, the first installment in the ongoing series, Architects of the Grand Design. His next book comes out October. Sign up for the mailing list for more info. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest . (You can also follow him on Goodreads and even Amazon)

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