Tuesday, June 26, 2012

DIY Dishwasher Detergent

As we've been trying to increase the quality of items we put into our bodies, it seems a natural extension of that to also consider the chemicals we surround ourselves with in the home.

I have a cupboard full of cleaners: sprays, powders, wipes & detergents. I have slowly been replacing some of the ones I knew had a lot of chemicals with greener products-- I've especially become fond of products by Greenworks & Method.

But as good as they are, I still don't know exactly what is in them & how safe they REALLY are. I also have a few tough cleaning problems to deal with-- mostly related to extremely hard water. I was finding mineral build up in the shower head, tub drains, drinking glasses, & even the water dispenser in the door of the fridge. Some of these things needed to be cleaned with something I KNEW would be safe around food & children-- the answer??? VINEGAR!!  Plain, old ordinary white distilled vinegar! You can buy it by the gallon for about $2.50. You can use it straight (I dip a sponge or paper towel in it and swipe hard water stains) or dilute (mix 50/50 with water in a sprayer for general clean up).

I had such great results with this that I started asking myself, what else can I make?? It turns out that with a few simple ingredients, you can make a wide variety of cleaners for the floor, counters, bathroom, windows, even laundry detergent! 

I decided to try making my own dishwasher detergent first for a few reasons- cost is certainly one of them, as is greener cleaning, but honestly I just hate my dishwasher detergent. I've used Cascade all my life with generally good results but with the major detergent reformulation a few years ago, nothing seems to clean like it used to. I haven't found a brand that works better than "okay". I am currently using Cascade lemon liquid with adequate results-- most dishes come clean but anything caked on usually needs a separate scrub-- forget those commercials with the crusty lasagna dish! 


Dry Dishwasher Detergent:

1 cup Borax
1 cup Washing Soda
1/2 cup non-iodized (kosher) salt
1/2 cup citric acid

You can get Borax & Washing soda in the cleaning or laundry aisle at stores like Walmart. I paid $3.38 for the big box of Borax & $2.24 for the big box of washing soda. Borax is a mined mineral and has been used as a household cleaner for over a century-- I actually visited the main Borax mines which are about an hour or so from my city while chaperoning a field trip with a high school chemistry class. Washing soda is NOT the same as baking soda but it is made from baking soda and is a similar chemical. These big boxes also form the basis of other cleaners like laundry detergent.

The standard salt cylinder sized container of kosher salt cost .59 and the citric acid was the priciest at $1.99 for a measly 6 oz. The citric acid was the hardest to locate, I found it in the ethnic foods/spice section of a more ethnic grocery store. You can substitute Lemishine, which is mainly citric acid & salt for this and its found in most Walmarts, next to the dishwashing detergents.

To make the detergent:
Add all the dry ingredients to a 4 cup container with a tight fitting lid (I used a cleaned, recycled yogurt container). Mix well. If you aren't using it regularly, be sure to stir occasionally to prevent caking. Don't forget to label-- its not just for organizing but for safety!!

To use the detergent:
I've found that 2 tbs in the main wash and 2 tbs in the prewash (basically filling the compartments) works pretty well.

For best results:  FILL YOUR RINSE AGENT DISPENSER WITH VINEGAR  (you can even do this if you don't make your own detergent) you will get a great, chemical free, spot free finish!!

Final Thoughts: I've run a few loads of dishes and I'm finding that the homemade detergent is performing about the same as the store bought with one exception-- I have these white plastic cutting boards I use for food prep and the staining that normally comes out in the wash isn't. I might have to resign myself to doing a little bit of extra scrubbing on this one item but everything else seems spic and span! I'm also very happy about the cost. Because you have so many ingredients left over, the cost per batch is a little over $1. Big savings from $4 a bottle at the store!

Have you tried this?? How were your results?? Comment below!!


  1. Used this for the first time today. As someone who does not "pre-wash" I am extremely happy with the result! Thank you!

    1. You're welcome!! I'm still trying for a liquid version but this powder works better.