Make your own homemade dishwasher detergent

Guest post by Jillee

My husband introduced me to Jillee’s site and I am in love with her cleaning product tutorials, and so HAPPY Jillee’s bringing her recipes to Offbeat Home for the next few weeks. Get ready to get spotless. -Cat

I fear my hot water bill is going to be SKY HIGH next month! For the last couple of weeks I have washed and re-washed and re-washed AGAIN load after load of dishes trying to figure out just the right “recipe” for clean and CLEAR dishes! After taking a good, long look at my own dishes, I had to admit that the homemade version wasn’t doing quite as good a job as the stuff in the green box I’d been using for years.

Of course the store-bought stuff hasn’t been doing as good a job as IT used to do either since the ban on phosphates in dishwasher detergent went into effect. It took us MONTHS to figure THAT one out.

We actually ended up buying a new dishwasher because we thought our old one (which was pretty old) was not working right anymore. Turns out it wasn’t our dishwasher, but the new detergent formulations imposed by the federal government back in 2010. Apparently it has caused quite the uprising among the general dishwashing public. There’s even a website called Bubble Bandit that you can buy dishwasher detergent WITH phosphates (they sell “commercial” soap, which is NOT affected by the ban). Or you can go to Home Depot or Lowe’s and buy a box of TSP for about $4 and add it to your current detergent. You’ll find it in the paint section where it’s still sold as a cleaning solution for painters.

It’s all very complicated, and you’re probably asking “What does this have to do with me and my dishes?” Well, I think I have come up with a satisfactory solution without having to go the phosphate route… but I just wanted you to know it IS an option out there for those who are interested.

So, all that being said, after probably a dozen “test” loads of dishes, trying different combinations of different ingredients, this is what is working for us! I obviously can’t guarantee the same results for you, but I am hopeful you will see the success I have with it!

The recipe for powdered dishwasher detergent/scouring powder:

  • 1 cup Washing soda or Baking soda (I’ve seen many recipes that use both so use whatever you have on hand or a combination of the two.)
  • 1 cup Borax (Borax and baking soda/wash are both natural disinfectants and mild abrasives.)
  • 1/4 cup Kosher salt (reduces the effects of hard water)
  • 1/4 cup citric acid (available at brewing places also. Or as an alternative you can use the same amount of Fruit Fresh or two packets of Lemonade-Flavored Kool-Aid, ONLY lemon and ONLY unsweetened!)

Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of this mixture to your dishwasher detergent compartment along with 3 drops of dishwashing liquid. Do not use more than three drops. The dishwasher will overflow if you use too much dish soap!

Then splash 1/2 to 1 cup of white vinegar into the bottom of the dishwasher and start the machine.

Here is what my dishes looked like WITHOUT the vinegar and 3 drops of dish soap:

Very same dishes WITH vinegar and dish soap:

I have now used this combination of ingredients at least a dozen times with consistent results. I can’t tell you what a great feeling it is to open the dishwasher and be greeted by squeaky clean dishes washed with my own homemade mix. 🙂

Battling the high cost of brand name cleaning products is always a good thing.

Comments on Make your own homemade dishwasher detergent

  1. I’ve been trying and trying to make this recipe work but to no avail. I’m going to try one more round with more Dawn, but after that I’m done. Better luck next time!

  2. Well, can’t say I’m impressed. I ran a load, looked inside, ran a rinse only, looked inside, added more powder (of note is that the first batch of powder didn’t all come out even through a wash, a rinse, and a rinse) and Dawn and vinegar, ran a whole wash again, looked inside, and now I’m doing a rinse only again. The inside of the dishwasher is still dirty and the dishes still have stuff on them, even though they were rinsed first. I just saw on Jilly’s site that she now is loving OxyClean, Dawn, and vinegar. I think I’ll give that a try. If I’m still not feeling any love, I guess I’ll go back to Ecover tabs, which are great.

    • I agree….we’ve had the same results. I was very disappointed. I came back to the site to see if anyone might have experienced the same thing. Glad i’m not the only one….would like to find a solution though.

  3. I have tried the above recipe with vinegar in the rinse cup for about 2 months. We do not have hard water or soft. It is medium. Just a little calcium. Not only did it not work but it just about ruined all my expensive stainless steel flatware!!! Everything had a film on it. I have used lemonshine which has fixed the film on everything except my flatware even washing it by hand hasn’t returned it to its shine. Soaking in vinegar, washing it with baking soda.nothing worked. It still is dull looking. I would really like to use homemade dishwasher detergent as I have great success with other homemade household cleaners. I have searched for a different recipe but can only find the washing soda,salt,citric acid,borax versions. Any suggestions?

  4. I wonder if you couldn’t forego using the citric acid and the vinegar if you added lemishine to your mix? I’m in love with lemishine…we have hard water and it makes the dishes come out so sparkly.

  5. I have been using this for months and its GREAT! The only problem Im coming up on is that my sliverware is tarnishing like crazy! I have had to eid of it a couple times now, and never had that before. Do you have any idea what is causing it, and how I could try to resolve it while still using this recipe?

  6. I made my own dishwasher detergent for 2 years and got tired of dishes that looked dirty. So, a couple months ago I purchased detergent. Yuck! The few plastic/rubber items I pull from the dishwasher smell like the detergent and can even flavor our food. I will try the added vinegar and dish on the next load. Thanks for posting the pics to show the difference:)

  7. Hi, thank you so much for posting this! I thought I had horrible dishwasher! I also was never satisfied with store bought detergents. Seventh Generation seemed to work the best and it was also phosphate and chlorine free. But, I am fond of making things at home. I will definitely try your recipe out. Do you know if I can use liquid castile soap instead of commercial dish soap? Would it work just as well?

  8. Ok, tried this and have been using it for a week. And it doesn’t work for me!!! 🙁 Am I the only one??? I do everything it says to do and my dishes are still cloudy and have a film on them.

  9. Works great! This is the second type of do it yourself dishwasher detergent. The first one clumped into a small rock. Trying this I was was a bit skeptical. I was very surprised that it didn’t do that. Using it as suggested with the 3 drops of liquid soap and 1/2 c vinegar… I couldn’t be more pleased. Awesome recipe for squeaky clean dishes! Thank you very much!

  10. I’ve used this recipe a few times now and am pretty happy with it, but I’ve noticed when it’s all done that I have a slight powdery residue on some of my dishes. Does anyone else get this? I’m using 2 tbs of the powder, so maybe I should try closer to 1? Would love to know if anyone else is having this problem and what they did to solve it, thanks!!

  11. The water is HOT enough and NO residue is left I am a male farmer trying to make ends meet and this one works….GREAT STUFF, Thanks

    PS dishes etc are not poures on the whole so Borax can not penatrate.

  12. I used your dishwasher detergent recipe last weekend. I keep it in a sealed mason jar. Each time I use it, I have to chop the top layer loose in order to scoop up a tablespoon to wash my dishes with. Have you had this problem? I make sure to close the jar very tightly, but it still continues to happen. Any suggestions?

    • you can either put a small amount of rice in cheesecloth in your container or find some of those silica gel containers they use in medicine bottles in pharmacy or in shoe boxes. either one works great.

      BTW, I’ve tried other homemade recipes. this is best one so far!

  13. I’ve revisited this post time and again since it’s gone up giddy over the possibilities. When I finally used this recipe in my dishwasher, it left residue on my dishes and left tiny scratches on my silverware. The only thing that ended up being clean was the glassware. Pots and pans had to be re-washed. I ended up buying Cascade Complete All-in-1 ActionPacs Dishwasher Detergent because of the Amazon reviews saying that this concentrated formula was just as efficient as the phosphate formulas of the past. The reviews were absolutely right and since it ships directly from Amazon, I didn’t have to deal with the long shipping time or high handling charges that Bubble Bandit offered. Also, there are listings for the commercial grade Cascade on Amazon that does include phosphates, but because it’s pretty high in demand, it’s often out of stock and is offered at a higher price.

  14. So, after researching this for several days, I have several helpful things to share.
    First being- washing soda is baking soda heated to a high temp and held until chemical change (about 30 min.) & it is easy to do at home- Yay! Washing soda is $4.29 for 2 lbs. and baking soda (5 lbs) was $6.12 at Sam’s. “1 1/3 C baking soda heated in 450 oven for 1 hr = 1 C washing soda” You can look up the in’s & out’s. (FYI 450 goes a lot quicker & don’t bake more than 1/3″ deep).
    Secondly, this recipe works just as well sans the borax. Here is a site, that is not just wikipedia and is a good source for future references, giving borax an F for health related concerns. Environmental Working Group –
    Lastly, as for the clumping put coarse sand, a chunk of clay, or, as the lady above mentioned, rice and tie it up in the end of pantyhose or cheesecloth and knot it off.

  15. I had to come back and post a reply after running my first load of dishes through with this recipe. THANK YOU. You’ve restored my faith in my dish washer! I swear, my dishes haven’t looked this flawless since we got them. I can’t see myself using any other method now.

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