Accidentally Put Dish Soap in the Dishwasher? Solutions and Tips

by | Last updated Oct 22, 2023

Have you ever had one of those days where your brain goes on a mini-vacation, and you accidentally put dish soap in the dishwasher? Yeah, we’ve been there, too. It’s one of those small missteps that can lead to a kitchen filled with bubbles and possibly a good laugh. But what to do next?

The dishwasher, our trusty companion in the kitchen, isn’t exactly designed to handle the foamy extravagance of regular dish soap. But accidents happen, and when they do, it’s essential to know how to handle the situation without causing more damage or wasting precious time.

Is it a big deal? Can it damage my dishwasher? How do I stop this soapy volcano? Fear not! Whether you’re staring at a bubble-filled kitchen or preparing for any future slip-ups, our guide on what to do if you accidentally put dish soap in the dishwasher will be your sudsy savior. So, buckle up and keep reading; by the end, you’ll feel more prepared and share a chuckle about it!

Soap Suds & Appliances: Not Best Friends!

Using regular dish soap in appliances like dishwashers can lead to excess suds, potentially damaging the machine’s mechanics. Oops!

Why You Shouldn’t Use Dish Soap in a Dishwasher

Dish soap, designed to clean dishes, would work just as well in a dishwasher as in your sink. However, the reality is far different. Dishwashers and dish soap are incompatible due to the nature of their design and formulation, respectively.

Dish soap is made explicitly for manual cleaning and creates a lot of suds and foam to help lift food particles and grease from dishes when scrubbed with a sponge or dishcloth. It’s designed to work with the agitation provided by hand washing.

On the other hand, dishwashers need low-foaming. These high-detergent products are designed to be used in an automated washing environment. They’re intended to clean effectively without producing suds. The machine’s spray arms and jets provide the mechanical force to remove food particles rather than foam.

Using dish soap in a dishwasher, therefore, leads to excess suds, which can overflow the dishwasher, seep out onto your kitchen floor, and possibly damage the dishwasher’s components. In the worst-case scenario, this could lead to costly repairs and replacements.

Immediate Steps to Take if Dish Soap is Accidentally Added

So, you’ve made a mistake, perhaps mistakenly used liquid soap in your machine, and now your kitchen looks like a sitcom scene, with bubbles everywhere. How do you rectify the situation? Here are the immediate steps to take if dish soap has been accidentally added to your dishwasher:

Turn Off and Unplug Your Dishwasher Immediately

First things first, it’s time to cease operation. Turn off your dishwasher immediately to prevent further suds from being produced. After turning it off, unplug it from the power source as an extra safety measure.

Remove Excess Soap and Suds

Open the dishwasher, and you’ll likely find a sea of suds inside. Start by removing and disposing of these as best you can. You can use a small container or towel to scoop or absorb the foam and dispose of it down your sink (with plenty of running water to dilute it).

Rinse the Dishwasher Interior

Once you’ve removed most of the soap and suds, you’ll need to rinse the dishwasher’s interior. Fill a large bowl or container with warm water and carefully pour it into the base of the dishwasher. This will help to rinse away any residual soap. You should repeat this a few times until you’re confident all the dish soap has been removed.

Perform a Rinse Cycle with Vinegar

After the dishwasher has been manually rinsed, run a rinse cycle with vinegar. To clean and deodorize your dishwasher, follow these simple steps: First, take a dishwasher-safe bowl and fill it with one cup of white vinegar. Place the bowl on the dishwasher’s bottom rack and run a short, hot water cycle. The vinegar will wash away any soap residue and leave your dishwasher smelling fresh.

Monitor the Dishwasher’s Next Wash Cycle Closely

Finally, when you run your next wash cycle, watch it closely. This will allow you to quickly intervene if any issues arise. For the first few cycles after the mishap, using less detergent than usual might be a good idea to avoid too much lather, as dish soap may still be lingering in the machine.

Accidentally using dish soap instead of dishwasher detergent can be stressful, but it’s not the end of the world. With these steps, you should be able to solve the problem and get your dishwasher back to its usual, efficient self.

The Vinegar Victory

White vinegar isn’t just for cooking! It’s a natural defoaming agent that can help break down those accidental soap bubbles in dishwashers.

Cleaning Your Kitchen After a Soap Overflow

Showcasing a pristine kitchen and dishwasher, depicting the results of effectively cleaning after a soap overflow incident.

When your dishwasher has been mistakenly filled with dish soap, the suds don’t just remain inside the machine. More often than not, your kitchen floor may also be covered with a foamy mess. Here’s a guide on how to get your kitchen back to its pristine state:

Safety First

Before diving into cleaning, ensure the area is safe. Turn off and unplug any electric appliances near the spill to avoid potential hazards.

Contain the Mess

Using towels, rags, or absorbent cloths, start by soaking up the spilled soap and suds from the floor and countertops. This will prevent the suds from spreading further around the kitchen.

Warm Water Rinse

Fill a bucket with warm water. Using a cloth or mop, wipe or mop the floor and countertops. This will help dilute and remove the soap residue. Change the water in the bucket if it becomes too soapy.

Vinegar Solution

If the soap residue is stubborn, mix equal parts of white vinegar and warm water in a bucket. Vinegar acts as a natural degreaser and can help break down the soap. Wipe or mop the affected areas with this solution.

Dry the Area

Once all the soap is removed, thoroughly dry the floor and countertops using towels or a dry mop. This is crucial as soap can slippery surfaces, which could lead to accidents.


Open windows or use fans to ventilate the kitchen. This will help any lingering moisture from the cleanup process evaporate faster and restore the air quality in your kitchen.

Check Other Areas

Ensure that areas like the insides of cabinets, under appliances, and other hidden spots are dry and free from soap. Often, the suds can seep into places we might initially overlook.

Effects of Dish Soap on Your Dishwasher

Why is dish soap in your dishwasher such a big deal? In reality, dish soap and dishwasher detergent are designed to work differently, and using the wrong one can impact your dishwasher’s performance. Dish soap is formulated to create suds and work in the presence of varying water conditions, such as those that you get when washing dishes by hand. On the other hand, dishwasher detergents are designed to perform in the hot, turbulent, and relatively hard water conditions found in a dishwasher.

Suppose dish soap is used in a dishwasher. In that case, the excessive suds it creates can overflow the dishwasher and spill out onto your kitchen floor, making a soapy, slippery mess. Moreover, the bubbles can also get into the appliance’s machinery, potentially causing damage to the pump and seals.

Over time, this can lead to breakdowns and costly repairs and will not clean your dishes effectively. The dish soap can leave behind a residue on your dishes and cause the glassware to become cloudy over time. Therefore, it’s always recommended to use a detergent specifically designed for dishwasher use.

How to Clean Your Dishwasher After a Soap Mishap

Depicting a spotlessly loaded dishwasher, showcasing the aftermath of diligently cleaning post soap mishap, primed for the next wash cycle.

Even after taking the immediate steps to handle a soap mishap, it’s important to thoroughly clean your dishwasher to ensure that all soap residues are removed, and your machine is functioning optimally. Here’s how to clean your dishwasher after a soap mishap:

Run Another Rinse Cycle

After the immediate cleanup, you should run another rinse cycle to remove leftover soap. As mentioned earlier, you can use vinegar to assist in this process.

Clean the Seals and Traps

Soap residue can stick to the seals and traps of your dishwasher. Use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe around the door seals, and check the traps (usually located at the bottom of the dishwasher) for any leftover suds or soap.

Perform a Baking Soda Wash

After cleaning the seals and traps, place one cup of baking soda at the bottom to clean your dishwasher and run a quick hot water cycle. Baking soda is excellent at absorbing odors and breaking down residue.

Inspect the Dishwasher

Once all the cleaning cycles are complete, inspect your dishwasher for any signs of remaining dish soap or damage. Getting a professional to take a look might be a good idea if you spot any issues.

Preventative Measures to Avoid Future Mistakes

While it’s easy to mix up dish soap and dishwasher detergent, especially if they’re stored near each other, there are measures you can take to prevent this from happening again:

Keep your dish soap and dishwasher detergent in separate locations. This simple measure helps avoid mix-ups and prevents accidental use.

Label your detergents clearly. This can be as simple as adding a “Dishwasher” or “Hand Wash” sticker to each bottle, especially if the containers look similar.

Ensure everyone knows the difference between dish soap and dishwasher detergent and where each is stored to prevent mistakes.

Always double-check the detergent before adding it to your dishwasher. A few extra seconds of verification can save you a lot of hassle.

Difference Between Dish Soap and Dishwasher Detergent

Although dish soap and dishwasher detergent serve to clean your dishes, they have different compositions and are designed for different cleaning environments.


Dish soap is formulated to create suds and is typically much thicker than dishwasher detergent. It’s designed to cut through grease and remove food residues by manual scrubbing.

Dishwasher detergent, on the other hand, is low-sudsing and is specifically designed to be used with the high heat and spray jets of a dishwasher. It’s designed to break down food particles and rinse cleanly away.

Cleaning Mechanism

The cleaning mechanisms are also different. Dish soap works primarily through manual action, using suds to help break down and remove food residue. Dishwasher detergent relies on the machine’s spray jets and heats to remove food particles and sanitize dishes.

Environmental Impact

While both can have environmental impacts, dishwasher detergents tend to be more concentrated, which means you use less per wash cycle. Many dishwasher detergents are also phosphate-free, unlike some dish soaps.

How Dish Soap Can Damage a Dishwasher

Using dish soap in a dishwasher can cause damage, primarily because of the soap’s lather properties.

Suds Overload

A dishwasher is not designed to handle the volume of suds produced by dish soap. The excessive bubbles can overflow, leading to a mess in your kitchen. But more importantly, it can also lead to water being pushed into areas of the dishwasher that are not waterproof, potentially causing damage to the machine’s mechanical and electrical components.

Residue Buildup

Dish soap can also leave residues that can build up over time, impacting the dishwasher’s efficiency. These residues can clog the water jets, preventing the dishwasher from effectively cleaning your dishes.

Reduced Lifespan

Repeatedly using the wrong type of soap can shorten the lifespan of your dishwasher. The extra strain placed on the dishwasher to deal with suds and residues can lead to more frequent breakdowns and, ultimately, a shorter usable life.

Dishwashers’ Suds Sensors

Most modern dishwashers have sensors to detect excess suds. They’re our unsung heroes, working quietly to prevent potential soap disasters!

Alternatives to Dishwasher Detergent

If you find yourself out of dishwasher detergent, you can use a few alternatives in a pinch. However, it’s essential to note that these should be used as occasional substitutes rather than long-term replacements for dishwasher detergent.

Baking Soda and Borax

A baking soda and borax mixture can be an effective DIY dishwasher detergent substitute. Mix equal parts of both and use the amount you typically would with regular detergent. This combination can help remove food particles and grease without creating harmful suds.


Vinegar, particularly white vinegar, can also be used as a short-term substitute for dishwasher detergent. Vinegar’s acidic nature can help break down food particles. However, it may be less effective at removing stuck-on food or grease.

Commercial Dishwasher Detergent Alternatives

There are also commercial alternatives to traditional dishwasher detergents, such as enzyme-based detergents and eco-friendly options. These provide a more sustainable and potentially safer option for cleaning your dishes in the dishwasher.

While these alternatives can help in a pinch, they are not designed for long-term use in a dishwasher. Always try to use a detergent formulated explicitly for dishwashers for the best results and to prolong the life of your appliance.

Final Thoughts: When You’ve Accidentally Put Dish Soap in the Dishwasher

In a nutshell, folks, we’ve all had those “oops” moments in the kitchen, and adding dish soap to the dishwasher is a classic. But no fret! While it’s not the ideal scenario (and can lead to a bubble party you didn’t plan for), there are clear steps to remedy the situation. Dish soap is for hands, and dishwasher detergent is for the machine. Mistakes happen, but with our shared tips, you’re now armed with the know-how to fix them.

So, next time you—or a friend—have a bubbly blunder, you’ll know just what to do. And hey, it’s always a good story to share and laugh about later! Keep those kitchens joyful and your dishwashers soap-free! Cheers to fewer mix-ups and more squeaky-clean dishes!

At WashDryDazzle, we’re dedicated to providing essential insights that make your daily chores effortless. Dive deeper into our comprehensive Dishwasher Education hub to learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I use dish soap in my dishwasher if I run out of dishwasher detergent?

It’s not recommended to use dish soap in your dishwasher. Dish soap produces excessive suds, which can cause issues and potentially damage your machine. If you’re out of dishwasher detergent, holding off washing until you restock is safer.

Can a small amount of dish soap damage my dishwasher?

Even a small amount of dish soap can create significant suds, which can overflow the dishwasher and potentially damage the machinery. It’s always best to avoid using dish soap in your dishwasher entirely.

Is there any dish soap that can be used in a dishwasher?

No, all types of dish soap are designed to produce suds and are unsuitable for use in a dishwasher. Always use a detergent specifically designed for dishwasher use.

How can I prevent excessive bubbles in my dishwasher?

Avoid using regular dish soap in the dishwasher. If bubbles form, run a vinegar rinse cycle or use baking soda to reduce the suds.

How can I ensure no soap residues are left in my dishwasher after mistakenly using liquid soap in the machine?

After you’ve removed the bulk of the soap and foam and have rinsed with vinegar, closely monitor your next few wash cycles. If you notice more suds, consider running another vinegar rinse cycle or manually rinsing with warm water until all residues are gone.



Home Appliances Expert

A. Ditta, a highly regarded authority in home appliances, contributes his expertise to With 15 years of global experience, Ditta's writings stand out for their quality, accuracy, and user-centric approach. Recognized as a reliable source for washing and drying products, his in-depth knowledge and commitment to providing clear, accurate advice make him a trusted guide for readers worldwide. Ditta’s work is a testimony to his profound expertise in the industry.