How to Wash Clothes in a Bathtub Without Detergent

bathtub laundry

In a world that’s becoming increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of our daily activities, even the way we wash our clothes is under scrutiny.

Traditional laundry detergents, while effective, often contain chemicals that can be harsh on both fabrics and the environment. 

In this article, we’ll explore the art of washing clothes in a bathtub without the use of commercial detergents. 

Not only does this method prove gentler on your garments, but it also takes a step towards reducing your ecological footprint.

Let’s begin.

Why Consider Washing Clothes Without Detergent?

Conventional laundry detergents might deliver crisp, clean clothes, but they come with their fair share of downsides. These detergents often contain phosphates and synthetic fragrances that can linger on fabrics, causing skin irritations for those with sensitivities. 

Furthermore, the chemical runoff from washing machines can find its way into our water systems, adversely affecting aquatic life and ecosystems. 

By opting for detergent-free washing methods, you’re not only ensuring the longevity of your clothes but also contributing to a greener planet.

Basic Preparations

Before embarking on your detergent-free laundry adventure, gather the essentials. You’ll need a clean bathtub, water, dirty clothes, and alternative cleaning agents

These agents will be the heroes of your washing endeavor, ensuring your clothes come out fresh and clean without the need for harsh chemicals.

Using Baking Soda

Baking soda isn’t just for baking. It’s a versatile household item that can be a powerful cleaning agent too. 

To start, fill your bathtub with water and add half a cup of baking soda. Swish the water around to dissolve the baking soda, and then add your clothes. 

Let them soak for about 30 minutes before gently agitating them with your hands. The baking soda will work its magic in removing odors and light stains.

Lemon Juice Power

Lemon juice is a natural bleaching agent and can work wonders on stains. Squeeze the juice of a few lemons into your bathtub filled with water and add your clothes. 

Let them soak for 30 minutes to up an hour before giving them a gentle scrub. The citric acid in the lemon juice will help break down stains and brighten your garments.

The Magic of Vinegar

Vinegar is a laundry secret that’s been passed down through generations. Add a cup of white vinegar to your bathtub water and let your clothes soak for an hour. 

Vinegar not only helps soften fabric but also acts as a natural antibacterial agent, ensuring your clothes come out fresh and clean.

Utilizing Castile Soap

Castile soap is a plant-based soap that’s gentle on fabrics and the environment. 

Add a small amount to your bathtub water and agitate to create a soapy solution. Place your clothes in the mixture and gently scrub them to remove dirt and grime.

Eucalyptus Oil Freshness

For a refreshing scent, consider adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil to your bathtub water. Eucalyptus oil has natural antibacterial properties and leaves your clothes smelling clean and invigorating.

Scrub-a-Dub with Salt

Stubborn stains require a bit of extra muscle. Salt can be your ally here. Sprinkle salt directly onto the stain, then rub and scrub gently. The abrasiveness of the salt will help lift the stain without damaging the fabric.

Cold vs. Hot Water

The temperature of the water plays a significant role in the effectiveness of your washing. Cold water is great for delicate fabrics and prevents colors from bleeding. Hot water is more effective in removing grease and heavy stains.

The Agitation Process

Gently agitating your clothes in the water helps loosen dirt and grime. Use your hands to swish the water around and massage the fabric. For tougher stains, you can gently rub the fabric together.

Rinsing and Wringing

After your clothes have soaked and been agitated, it’s time to rinse them. Drain the bathtub and refill it with clean water. Agitate the clothes again to remove any remaining soap or residue. Once rinsed, carefully wring out excess water from each garment.

Drying Techniques

When it comes to drying, you have options. Air-drying is the most energy-efficient choice, but make sure to hang your clothes evenly to avoid stretching. If you’re in a hurry, you can use clean towels to gently absorb excess water before air-drying.

Tips for Efficiency

  • Sort your clothes by color and fabric type to avoid color bleeding and damage.
  • Pre-treat heavy stains before beginning the washing process.
  • Avoid overcrowding the bathtub, as this can hinder effective cleaning.
  • Use gentle, circular motions when scrubbing to prevent fabric damage.

The Eco-Friendly Angle

By choosing to wash your clothes in a bathtub without detergent, you’re making a small but impactful step towards reducing your carbon footprint. With every load of laundry, you’re saving water, minimizing plastic waste, and preventing chemicals from entering the environment.


Washing clothes without detergent might seem unconventional, but it’s a practice that’s rooted in practicality and environmental mindfulness. 

From baking soda to vinegar, these alternative cleaning agents have stood the test of time. 

So the next time you find yourself in a laundry bind, consider giving your bathtub a chance to shine as your washing machine’s eco-friendly cousin.

Do you want more natural laundry-washing tips? Read Natural Cleaning for Laundry: Tips and Products  


  1. Can you wash clothes in a tub with dish soap? Yes, dish soap can be used as an alternative to conventional laundry detergent. However, use it sparingly to prevent excessive suds.
  2. Can I wash clothes with just water? While water alone can help rinse out dirt, adding a cleaning agent like vinegar or baking soda enhances the cleaning process.
  3. What can I use instead of washing detergent? Baking soda, lemon juice, vinegar, castile soap, and eucalyptus oil are excellent alternatives.
  4. Can I use hand soap to wash clothes? Hand soap can work in a pinch, but it’s formulated for the skin and might not be as effective as other alternatives.
  5. Can I use vinegar instead of laundry detergent? Yes, vinegar can help soften fabric, remove odors, and act as an antibacterial agent when used to wash clothes.


Photo by Dmitriy Steinke from Pexels