Does Laundry Detergent Freeze? (Explained)


Buying laundry detergent in bulk when on sale is a great way to save money on this frequently used cleaning product. You may be tempted to store it in the trunk of your car, a shed, or a porch. However, this is not recommended.

Laundry detergent containing water can freeze. Depending upon the water content and packaging, detergent may freeze partially or totally. Freezing will expand the liquid, potentially resulting in bulging or burst packaging. Laundry detergent can still be used once thawed. However, the consistency of frozen detergent may be lumpy, and may not dissolve as well in cold wash cycles.

Kinds Of Laundry Detergent

Detergent comes in three main forms – liquid, pods, and powder. The water content, or lack thereof, determines if the detergent will freeze.

Liquid

Liquid laundry detergent is the most likely product to freeze since it can contain up to 50% water. 

If the bottle is full, the water content inside can freeze enough to burst the container, most likely at the seams, creating a leak after it thaws. 

The overall consistency of frozen liquid detergent can be lumpy or gooey.

Pods

Pods, in particular, have considerably less water than pourable liquid detergent, offering a concentrated formula that mixes in with the water during the wash cycle. They are only about 10% water, and generally don’t freeze. 

Powdered

Powdered laundry detergent is not going to freeze since it has no water. But, extremely cold temperatures could alter the effectiveness of its components in the wash cycle.

Other Components In Laundry Detergent

Even if the other ingredients in any laundry detergent do not freeze, their consistency and effectiveness may be altered by cold temperatures. 

In most cases, the surfactants in detergents will become lumpy and unstable in cold temperatures. 

Laundry Detergent Freezing Points

When water is mixed with other components the freezing points may vary, and the numbers here are just an approximation. 

The only way to know the exact freezing point would be to experiment freezing with your particular brand of detergent.

Water on its own will freeze at 32°F. However, when mixed with other components it will freeze around 12°F or lower. 

The following components in laundry detergent will not freeze or are water-resistant: 

ComponentFunctionFreezing Logistics
Fragrances (natural or man-made)Make your washed items smell betterDo not contain water or freeze
SurfactantsRepel water, remove stainsCan bind up and separate in cold temperatures, resulting in reduced effectiveness in cleaning
EnzymesRemove protein-based stainsDo not freeze
BuildersChemical compounds that work in conjunction with surfactantsDo not contain water or freeze
Colorants/Dyes (natural or man-made)Visual appealOil-based, do not freeze

What To Do With Frozen Laundry Detergent

You can still use frozen laundry detergent by allowing it to thaw. Keep in mind that the consistency may have changed, and therefore, it may not clean as effectively.

How To Use Laundry Detergent After Thawing

  1. Let your detergent sit in a warm room, at room temperature, and allow it to thaw naturally. This could take a day or more.
  2. Shake the bottle vigorously before pouring it into the washing machine. 
  3. Run the washing machine on warm water, if possible. This may help break up the lumpy components. 
    • If your laundry requires the use of cold water, mix your laundry detergent in with 2 cups of warm water ahead of time. Then pour the mixture into the machine.

Never heat your laundry detergent using a heat source such as a microwave, oven, flame, and so on. Components could be flammable or toxic upon vaporization or inhalation.

General Instructions

Follow packaging directions to use the correct amount of laundry detergent. 

Generally, pods are highly concentrated and will work in cold or warm water. The pods are simply placed into the drum of the washing machine before clothes are added. 

Liquid laundry detergent comes with a measuring cup, with instructions about how much to use for different loads and cleaning power. There is typically a cup or dispenser to pour it into in the washing machine.

Alternatives To Laundry Detergent

If you must do laundry, and do not want to wait until the detergent is unfrozen, try these alternatives.

Other Soaps

You can use grated bar soap flakes, liquid hand soap, dish detergent, or body wash in place of laundry detergent. 

These have many of the same ingredients as your laundry detergent. 

Use about two tablespoons of soap in your washing machine to avoid lots of suds. If they leave a soap residue on your clothing, run an extra rinse cycle.

Baking Soda And Vinegar

Baking soda can brighten colors, soften hard water, and eliminate odors and stains. Vinegar softens and deodorizes clothes, much like fabric softeners. These two combined will create a fizzy reaction, helping to lift debris.

What To Do

  1. Put 1-cup of baking soda into the bottom of your washing machine.
  2. Pour enough vinegar to fill the rinse cup or dispenser of your washing machine.
  3. Add your clothes, and wash as usual.

Hot Water

Hot water can fade your clothes with repeated use since it can weaken fabrics and open up the pores to release dyes. However, if you are in a pinch, you can use only hot water to clean your clothes.

What To Do

  1. Set your washing machine to the hottest water cycle.
  2. Set the soil level to “heavy”. If you have additional options for “bulky” or “sanitizing”, choose these as well. 
    • Do not use “speed” or “delicate” cycle options.
  3. If your clothes do not have any stains after washing, dry them on the “heavy-duty” or “sanitizing” cycle in the dryer as well. These cycles will generally use more heat for an extended period. 
    • However, if you do have stains, high heat will make them settle in more permanently. Allow these items to hand-dry and rewash them when you have soap again. 
    • You can also try spraying some vinegar on stains before washing them.

DIY Laundry Detergent

If you happen to have these ingredients on hand, or perhaps the neighbor does, you can make your own laundry detergent. Follow packaging instructions when handling borax.

You Need

  • Lidded container
  • Tablespoon
  • Box grater
  • Bar soap
  • Washing soda

Make The Mixture

  1. Grate the bar soap.
  2. Put 1-part bar soap flakes, 2-parts borax, and 2-parts of washing soda into the container.
  3. Shake to mix.
  4. Use one to three tablespoons to wash your clothing and linens.

Storage Of Laundry Detergent

Ideally, all types of laundry detergent should be stored at 50°F to 77°F, in a cool and dry location with the lid or cap on tightly.

Cold Temps

Unheated basements will lower to about 40-50°F degrees cold, since this level is underground. Twenty to thirty feet underground stays a somewhat consistent temperature regardless of the weather. 

However, uninsulated garages, storage sheds, porches, or the trunk of your car outside, can get cold enough for detergent to freeze. Generally, water will freeze in temperatures below its freezing point, in about three to four hours.

You can store your laundry detergent in the basement, a linen closet, or anywhere else where it will not be exposed to extremely cold temperatures. So, if you keep detergent in the trunk of the car or your garage for a couple of hours, it should be fine.

Hot Temps And Moisture

Conversely, moist and hot temperatures can cause the ingredients in laundry detergent to lose oxygen or change composition. You can still use it, but you may find the detergent is not as effective, especially regarding stain removal.  

Powdered detergent will not freeze, but it will become lumpy if exposed to moisture. Make sure to store it in an airtight container.

Pods should be stored away from moisture and handled with dry hands. If the outer “skin” of the pods becomes wet, it will become sticky and disintegrate, possibly splitting open and causing a mess.

Disposal Of Laundry Detergent

If you decide that lumpy or ineffective detergent is not something you want to use, you can safely dispose of it. Refer to the label for your particular brand. 

Generally, you can pour it down a sink or tub drain in small amounts, to avoid excessive suds, with warm water. 

Rinse out the empty container and recycle responsibly.

Key Takeaways

Liquid laundry detergent can freeze. Pods and powdered forms do not freeze due to the low or no water content. However, the components of all types can be altered in extreme temperatures, making them less effective for cleaning purposes. 

You can still use laundry detergent once it naturally reaches room temperature.

In general, frozen laundry detergent is not a major concern. Moving forward, store laundry detergent at room temperatures, in a cool and dry location, for the best cleaning efficiency.

Lisa Burlison

Lisa is a freelance blogger, literacy specialist, teacher, and self-published author with a vast DIY experience. When she’s not writing for PlumbJoe, Lisa enjoys testing homemade cleaners and doing repairs around her home. Her other hobbies include birding and bicycling.

Recent Posts