Can I Soak Clothes In Washing Machine Overnight?

Welcome to GrayLineParis Some links on this page are affiliate links which means that, if you choose to make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I greatly appreciate your support!

If you soak clothes in soap or detergent water, you’ll ease the washing process. Stains tend to clean faster after a presoak. But if you soak your clothes for too long, you will loose the benefit that comes with soaking. Cloth fabric tend to damage faster after continuous extended soak.

Should you soak your clothes in washing machine overnight? No you shouldn’t.

Ariel a detergent maker said stubborn stain should be soaked for 30 minutes. These are stains that are hard to clean, such as motor oil stains. In their article they suggest soaking durations of ‘a couple of minutes to 15 minutes’.

Clorox, a bleach maker, suggest soaking clothes in bleach for 5 – 10 minutes.

The maximum time suggested is 60 minutes

Invariably, after the 60 minutes, you start loosing the benefits of soaking. 

Here is how!

Process Of Soaking – Simplified

Wondering how soaking clothes removes dirts? This is how it works:

  1. Detergents and soaps have a protecty called surfactants or surface tension.
  1. Surfactants helps to reduce the grip between chemicals therefore causing a separation and prevents them from rejoining.
  1. When you soak your clothes in water, this surfactant in the detergent, finds its way to your clothes fabrics.
  1. The water helps it get into tiny fabric fibres.
  1. At this point the surfact begin to act on the surface of the two different elements – fabric surface and attached dirts or stains.
  1. After some time, the dirts separates from the fabric. 
  1. The laundry water discolors because the detached dirts cannot reattach and hence drifts with the water particle.
  1. At this point, the soaking has done its job. The soap water should be thrown away along with the detached dirts.
  1. If the clothes remains in the water, the displaced dirts gradually start to settle back on the soaked clothes, but without attaching power because of the detergents still in the water.
  1. Further time in the water produces no extra good at this point.

Why Soaking Clothes In Washing Machine Overnight Is Disadvantagious?

Leaving clothes beyond the 60 minute maximum marker (15 – 30 minutes in most cases), only create a troubling scenario.

The displaced dirts drifts in the water for hours. Without intentional removal of the grey water, gravity begins to act, the dirts starts to settle down.

Have you noticed a film of slippery dirts on fabrics after leaving over night? This is the dirt removed from the initial soak.

Well we mentioned that because of the detergent, the settled dirts cannot reattach firmly. However this is as long as the clothes are completely submerged in the soap water.

However after some time, the water begins to evaporate, leaving some parts of your garments exposed. These exposes part eventually dry up. Any attached film of dirt on these exposed surfaces gradually reattached themselves, causing a tougher stain than the initial dirt and stain.

By morning, you have garments with tougher stains than the previous night. If the garment is a white cotton or other white fabrics, you’re in a bigger trouble, you’ll need more than ordinary wash to removed the dirt stains.

Another soaking is needed to clean the dirt stains and soap marks.

During all this drama, the one that definitely suffers is your fabrics.

So, can you soak your clothes overnight? Yes you can.

Should you? Definitely No.

My Personal Experience

This is one article, I write almost completely from personal experience, only did a little research to verify facts and number.

As a child, I did most of my washing. Even though we had a washing machine, poor power supply means we children, had to rely on hand wash for a lot of our washing.

And when you are playful as I am, you should know that even two changes of clothes is not enough for the day. And the dirt on each cloth is like that of a motor mechanic… or a little more.

At the end of a play-filled day, there is little strength to wash the soiled clothes. If you have an African parent, you should know that you’re getting no help in washing the clothes you voluntarily soiled.

So, I was a notorious ‘overnight cloth soaker’. All the previous points itemized in the previous subheading were my daily reality.

I ended up getting dirtier clothes with each overnight soak. Thanks to this, our clothes last less than they normally should.

Your experience will obviously not be as bizarre as an inexperienced African kid, but he has an excuse – inexperience.  What excuse will you have? 

How to Soak Clothes in Top Load Washing Machine

Many newer washing machines have a soak cycle, simple make use of this. But if yours doesn’t have:

  1. Simple add water and soap or detergent in a bucket or tub.
  2. For optimal result, and if you’re laundering heavy and soiled garments, you can use warm water of less than 40℃ or hot water at 60°C. This depends on your fabric type.
  3. Add bleach or any substitute of hour choice for stain removal.
  4. Presoak your clothes in the bucket or tub for 10 – 15 minutes (30 – 60 minutes for heavily soiled garment)
  5. You can also use the drum of a top loader to do this. Front loaders can only accommodate small underwear.
  6. After presoaking, remove clothes from water, squeeze out excess water and insert in washing machine for a normal wash. Or, if using hand wash, simply wash with the soaked water or a fresh one.

What Happens If You Soak Clothes For Too Long?

  1. After 8 – 12 hours clothes begins to smell.
  2. Dirt from water reattach to fabrics causing stains.
  3. Your fabric gradually weakens, and this can result in tears and rips.
  4. This can easily introduce molds to washing machines or tub

How Long To Soak Clothes in Detergent

  • Regular wash and, light stains: 10 to 15 minutes
  • Bleach: 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Stubborn stains: 30 minutes
  • Stubborn stains on heavy fabrics: 30 – 60 minutes. 

How Long can You Leave Clothes in Washer Before They Smell?

According to Lucinda Ottush of Whirlpool, clothes starts to smell after being in water for 8 to 12 hours.


After a busy day, it can be tempting to leave your clothes in water overnight. Sometimes its not an intensional act. 

“I’ll soak the clothes a little and return to do the washing”, you say to yourself. 

Only to realize the next moring that your clothes are still in water.

Obviously you slept off while waiting.

If this becomes a habit, you’ll start seeing it as normal.

As a fact, though, you have the right to treat your laundry the way you like, it is your money. 

But for the sake of hygiene and preservation of your clothes, its good to always remind yourselve that soaking clothes overnight does not benefit anyone… not you, not your clothes, not your wallet…

Or maybe the only benefactor here, is the neighborhood clothes store.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *