Homemade Dishwasher Detergent and Scouring Powder

dishwashing detergent


So easy you’ll wonder why you didn’t make this LONG ago!

OK….I’m almost embarrassed to post this…because I feel like it’s been done so many times by so many other websites. But, this is the first time I’VE made it…so….there ya go. You get to be my audience. ;-)

I have been making my own LAUNDRY detergent for about 8 months now (won’t EVER go back to buying brand name again!)…but because I had a fairly large stockpile of dishwasher detergent I haven’t had the need to make any until now. And since I knew I was eventually going to make some…I’ve looked at A LOT of recipes. Honestly, they are all about the same, with just a few variations, and they are all very SIMPLE!

Here is my super simple version of
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)
* 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 or Amazon.com. 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!)
dishwashing detergent

OPTIONAL: If you like a scented experience…add several drops of your favorite essential oil–lemon, grapefruit, orange, tangerine, whatever strikes your fancy. I used about 20 drops of lemon in mine and it smells soooooo good!  Course I’m a major sucker for ANYTHING lemon!  I have the Pinterest board to prove it! :-)

dishwashing detergent


Combine and store in airtight container. I just poured everything directly into the container I was going to use and gave it a good shake!

dishwashing detergent



Add 1-2 tablespoons per load along with a splash of white vinegar as a rinse agent to prevent spots. (I just splash some straight into the bottom of the dishwasher). Personally I think the vinegar makes a HUGE difference! I have been using it with my brand name detergent for quite awhile now. Makes the glasses shine!

dishwashing detergent

Using my very limited math skills…I figure this is about 9 cents a load compared with Cascade at 21 cents a load. Compare that with Seventh Generation or BioKleen and it’s a STEAL!

Another great idea I read about was to use this same mixture as a scouring powder!

I put some in my favorite shaker canister (like the one I keep my cinnamon sugar in) from Walmart….and use it to scour my sink. The salt gives it extra scouring power and it smells so good!!! :-)

dishwashing detergent

For those of you who are LIQUID dishwasher detergent enthusiasts….don’t despair…there is a version for you too. Just not QUITE as simple. :-)

Liquid Dishwasher Detergent

2 cups vegetable-based castile soap (such as Vermont Soap Organics or Dr. Bronner’s)
½ cup water
½ cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3 drops essential oil of your choice

Pour ingredients into a plastic bottle with a squirt-top and shake until thoroughly incorporated. Before using, shake liquid well and measure out 2 tablespoons per load.

Try it out! See what you think! Play with the ingredients…the amounts…you are the master of your dishwasher and the captain of your kitchen!  (sorry…bad poem pun!)   ;-)

UPDATE: 1/21/2012

There were some concerns raised about this mixture hardening and clumping together, making it hard to get out of the jar.  One of the brilliant comments left was to use some of those silica gel packets that come in bottles of medicine or in shoe boxes or just about ANY product that comes in a box nowadays. I opened up a box today and look what I found!  Problem solved!  Thanks for all your amazing comments and/or suggestions…as usual.

dishwashing detergent


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  1. Michele says

    I am wondering if you could use the terra cotta little things that they make for keeping brown sugar soft to keep this from hardening. Just a thought. I'll let you know when I try it :)

  2. Anonymous says

    I saw a post that if you put a marshmallow in your brown sugar, it would keep it soft… I am still waiting to see if it helped. I wonder if it would work in your dry dish detergent. I just made a mixture of the Borax and the Baking Soda. I use TrueLemon which I use for everything to get the real lemon and not a fragrance. I will also add vinegar to the mix too. I will try tomorrow to see if it all works. I will add the salt and vinegar last minute.

  3. Anonymous says

    I made the dry detergent and tried it several times, including the vinegar. The glasses come out really cloudy, and the dishes were still dirty. Even my lipstick was still on the glasses.

    • Andi Roth says

      I’ve had the same troubles. Although for the lipstick, I’ve never seen even a store-bought detergent that will take it off – I always wash that off by hand before putting the dish in the dishwasher.

      Have you found anything that helps?

      • Beth says

        I’m wondering if your water is either too soft or too hard? I’ve seen lots of mixtures omitting the salt (because that softens the water) and Jillee has on her blog where she puts in a few drops of Dawn, so maybe that would help? Not that I’m an expert…I ran out of my detergent last night and don’t want to make a special trip to a store to pick some up, so here I am:)

    • Ivy says

      Did you use baking soda or washing soda when you made it? This will make a HUGE difference. I made that mistake once because I bought them in the same size box and it didn’t work so well. But, this recipe with the washing soda is wonderful. Works better than Cascade in my opinion. Also, I use citric acid instead of the lemon packets. Not sure if it makes that much difference or not, but it seems the citric acid itself is stronger.

    • Elizabeth says

      Check the temperature of your water as well. My dishes were coming out cloudy so I turned the hot water heater up a little and it seems to have solved the problem. We had turned the hot water down to prevent the grandkids from possibly getting scalded by too hot water – it worked for them but not for the dishes. Now that the GKs are older, we are sure they can tell if the water is too hot and add some cold :) Or if your diswasher has a “heat water” cycle, that may help to try it.

      • Elizabeth says

        Just one more thing – this also may help. I run the hot water (to clean the sink or rinse the dishes after dinner and before using DishWasher) to make sure the DW fills with HOT water … not cold/cool/warm. If you notice when you turn your hot water faucet on, unless you have instant HW heater, your water runs cold/cool from the pipes – that is the same temp you’re filling your DW up with.

  4. Jill Nystul says

    Good to know about the marshmallow! Never thought of that OR the little terra cotta disc. Will keep both in mind. So far no clumping/hardening here.

    For those who are still getting cloudy dishes…here is a little more information I found online that might be helpful about dishwasher maintenance.

    I know before i started using vinegar in every single load I do…I always had cloudy-looking glasses. Even when I used the expensive name brands. I just splash in a generous amount right into the bottom of the dishwasher right before I start it and no more cloudy dishes!


    For sparkling clean dishes load after load, a dishwasher needs monthly cleaning.

    First, dump a quart of white vinegar in the bottom of the dishwasher and run it through a complete washing cycle without any dishes.

    Next, clean the filter located on the floor of the dishwasher underneath the bottom rack. Some filters trap food residues on the outside surface so a simple wiping with a paper towel does the job. Other filters require unscrewing the cover to access trapped food residues. Consult your dishwasher owner's manual.

    After every load, take a glance at the filter and in the bottom of the dishwasher, especially if you have children loading and running it. Picking up any food residues, labels, plastic wrap, stray silverware, lids, caps, straws, toys (you never know) will help the dishwasher clean more effectively.

    Make sure the water going into the dishwasher is hot enough by running the kitchen faucet until the water is hot and using the water heating option on the dishwasher. In the short and long run, you save time and money by getting a full load of clean dishes the first time.

  5. Anonymous says

    I fill my rinse aid area with Vinger all the time and have clean dishes. Now I will try and make my own dishwasher soap and laundry soap.
    What a S A V I N G S!!!
    Thank-you soooo VERY MUCH!

  6. Anonymous says

    My powder clumped irreparably, so I added water to make a thick liquid and poured the liquid into an ice cube tray and made little pellets of dishwasher soap.
    I also got cloudy glassware, disappointing my husband a lot.
    Now I alternate a store bought pellet with my own homemade one and the glasses have lost their cloudiness and I figure I'm still ahead cuz I'm only using expensive stuff half the time . . .

  7. Anonymous says

    crystalmj924 I found that the Epsom salt works better. I don't add liquid soap to mine but I also use both baking soda and washing powder and I use Lemon kool aid and place the vinegar into the rinse agent. No cloudiness.

  8. Poppy says

    I ran across this recipe on DIY Naturally and (of course) didn't have all the ingredients on hand. I messed around with it and came up with this variation using just three of the ingredients -


    I have to say that I'm impressed with how well it is still working! We'd stopped using our dishwasher because of the nasty film left behind by commercial detergents.

    Thanks for your great posting! I'm looking forward to following your helpful blog!

    Warm wishes from Kansas!

  9. Kelli says

    I have tried several different combos of this recipe & used vinegar in the rinse aid but my plastic stuff comes out "powdery" like you can scrape it off. Regular dishes are ok though. I've also tried putting a few drops of Dawn in with it but still no luck. Any advice from anyone??

  10. Kitty says

    did anyone ever think that baking soda and vinegar cancel each other out and will probably not clean like you’d imagine it might? try one or the other. Vinegar also cancels out dish detergent. use acids in the rinse and you get squeeky clean, whatever, hair, dishes, etc, but not WITH the dish soap, detergent, baking soda, or any other soda. I’m not sure about borax but when I use it it makes the water feel slippery like baking soda does so I’d imagine it was a base as well. That’s why vinegar and baking soda fizz. they’re reacting to each other.

    • JP says

      Yes, Kitty, you are right. Borax is alkaline or base as well. You are a good chemistry student, too. Vinegar and baking soda (or other base) cancel each other out when the fizzing is done and the end product is water and salt. Lifehacker (or some other site; can’t remember exactly) recently discussed how vinegar and baking soda together is being touted in various contemporary places as some kind of miracle combination but they just cancel each other out. The fizzing is good in a recipe–when you bake and the recipe calls for buttermilk (or sour milk) and soda, the bubbles make your baked goods “fluff-up” instead of coming out of the oven like a brick, but vinegar and baking soda as some sort of miracle cleaner? Not.

      • Julie says

        Actually it is a miracle cleaner. Mybe not for dishwasher cleaner but when my new puppy had an accident on my carpet I tried every cleaner to get the smell and the spot out. I finally found a site where it said to spray vinegar (not sparingly) until the spot was wet – then sprinkle baking soda on the top and let dry overnight. Not only did the spot come off but the smell of the urine is completly gone also.

    • says

      Actually, that’s not exactly right. This would be the case if they were both strong, as in vinegar was a strong acid and sodium bicarbonate was simply a strong base. However, baking soda is amphoteric, meaning that it can react equally with acids and bases. Additionally vinegar is not a strong acid, so it doesn’t completely dissociate. They don’t cancel each other out and lifehacker is not the most accurate website for most things. When you combine vinegar and baking soda what you get is is sodium acetate and carbonic acid which quickly dissociates into carbon dioxide. Sodium acetate neutralizes very strong acids and helps to keep metals shiny by removing rust and scale.

      • MichelleyB says

        Kristi, I need more info. My education is in medicine but in the olde days I was a soapmaker, I wound up creating an entire line of bath and body products, chemistry was something I learned in the process and wound up loving. Are you saying you *do* or *don’t* recommend the combo of baking soda and vinegar (sodium acetate) as a dishwashing cleaner, and if you do, what else do you recommend in the mix. And what happens when you use WASHING soda instead of baking soda, since the pH goes from 8 to 11 with the washing soda? Also, what if we use apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar? I always understood apple cider vinegar (“ACV”) to be acetic acid, is this correct? When I went to college for natural medicine we learned a lot about ACV, one thing is it has a pH balancing effect on the human body, both topically and internally. I have used it as a hair rinse and skin rinse to correct rashes and other skin conditions.
        Michelle, aka Hungry for Info!

    • Amanda says

      I’ve also wondered whether they cancel each other out. I’m guessing that using the vinegar only as a rinse aid (most modern machines have a compartment for rinse aid) and not during the wash would eliminate that problem.

  11. says

    I was wondering with the liquid dishwasher soap if you can use the bar castile soap as it is so much cheaper or also if you can use octagon. I bought Octagon thinking that you could use it for dishwasher soap but I think it may have been for the home made dawn. If you can use bar soap do you know how much you would use?

  12. Marsha Huntley says

    another thing you can add to it to keep from hardening or clumping is dry uncooked rice in a new unused tied off knee high or a plastic baggie with holes poked in it.. I keep a small amount of dry uncooked rice in small baggies in my flour, sugar & brown sugar containers to keep out the moisture..

  13. Andi Roth says

    I’ve had great success with making laundry detergent from the recipe you posted, so I was excited to try this one as well. I made a triple batch (thinking it would be as awesome as the laundry soap), and I’m disappointed that I haven’t had as much luck with it.

    I’ve run a couple of different loads, adding 3 drops of Dawn plus 1-2 T of the powder to my detergent dispenser and 1/2 – 1+ cup of vinegar in the bottom of the dishwasher, as suggested. Each time my dishes have come out not clean. Some of them are clean, but most of them are not. Some have had a sort of greasy film left on them, others still have food residue inside, and the glasses have come out spotted (not cloudy).

    I’ll try thoroughly cleaning my dishwasher this weekend and not adding the dishwashing detergent as someone suggested above. Does anyone have other ideas?

  14. kaye says

    ive tried this recipe WITH lots of silica gel packets thrown in and STILL have it harden like a rock. i do live in the humid south, but am not sure why else this would happen. any tips?

    • kaye says

      just an update, i had a friend who also had the same problem, recommend adding the citric acid separately. so i have one jar of detergent mix, and one jar of citric acid, each with their correct measuring spoons. that did the trick and no more hardening! hope that helps other people with the same problem.

  15. Marilyn says

    I have been making this for months, we put ours in a container with a tight fitting lid, and we keep a spoon in it. So when we shake it the spoon helps to break it up some. We are a big household so we run like two loads a day. Here is another solution to the hardening. I don’t do this because of the space issue it would create for me but you can make the detergent and then put it into ice cube tray to harden and then pop them out, put them away and you have ready made and measured detergent just the like the big brands.

  16. katherine says

    How annoying. I got the citric acid online and finally made my dishwasher mixture. Put it into a kilner jar that I had run through the dishwasher last week and had left on the windowsill waiting for my citric acid. It must not have been completely dry because when I shook up my mixture if started to fizz.

    I’ll have to try it again. Any tips on what to do with the ruined dishwasher detergent? I suppose I could clean the bathroom?

  17. Tanya says

    Just wanted to say I have been using your dishwasher detergent and homemade laundry soap and I LOVE it!!!!! I am a mom of four, so not only does it help save money but also does the job beautifully.

  18. Jessie Rae says

    I really want to know why this works for some and not for others. I’m just curious becasue I keep making homemade recipes close to this and have not succeeded and what to know why the dishes are still dirty and/or cloudy. I just don’t want to waste anymore that’s all.

  19. laurel says

    We used the Wal mart brand unsweetened lemonade packets and it works fine. I had an antique mason jar with a wired lid, and although it looked GREAT, the mixture became hard as a rock, so I had to use a plastic tupperware type jar and keep that hidden uder the sink! I have never had cloudy glasses or dirty dishes with this. Love all the recipes I have used here, making another batch of dry laundry detergent today. I grew up with and now have a septic system and have always used dry detergent, and have never had a problem. LOVE THIS SITE!

  20. says

    Excellent recipe…Thanks for sharing this recipe it’s very useful for us… Actually I generally use the same method to make my own home made dish wash detergent. Usually I use 1 cup of baking soda in a bowl add 1 cups of borax, ¼ cup of kosher salt, ¼ cup of citric acid and add 3 drops of dawn dish washer liquid after that mix up in a plastic container now it is ready to use.

  21. Michelle says

    I am beginning to wonder if your water affects how well this works. I have very hard well water, and using this my dishwasher come out cleaner than before. I have vinegar in my rinse aid and also throw a splash into the bottom of my dishwasher. It might also be the dishwasher itself , not that they are dirty but the ways the cycle runs. My dishwasher does a prewash (with the vineager) then drains completly before the soap from the dispenser is added. Just a thought.

    • Jeane says

      Also you have to figure human error too – how they load the washer allowing the water to hit every dish appropriately, and as well as the things you mentioned. Old dishwashers vs newer ones. Temperature of water and if the dishwasher’s filter is clogged or dirty. Lots of factors to add in, so what I would suggest for everyone is to run a cleaning cycle before trying this and make sure the filter is clean and nothing blocking or obstructing. :)

  22. Debbie says

    I’ve been using this recipe for about three months and love it. My dishes have been clean every single time…much better than the store bought detergent. Tonight, for the first time, my dishes had a film left on them. I’ve noticed the past few times I’ve washed my hair that I didn’t need to use conditioner. I think the water company has added more softener and that could be the problem with it not working for some.

  23. Mandi says

    I made a batch of this and it did not work for me!! :( I added some dish soap, I added vinegar in the bottom of the DW, but it just did a horrible job every single time. I don’t know why it failed for me and works so well for others. So disappointed. :(

  24. Saxon Hernandez says

    Hi Jillee, I just wanted to say that I love your site very much. However I made the dishwasher soap recipe with the three drops of dawn and I have a few glass dishes that will not come clean, it’s like they have a cloudy residue that refuses to wash off. I also put vinegar in the rinse compartment like you suggested. I rewashes now 3 times and will not come off. Any other suggestions you may have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much for your time.

  25. Sarah says

    This worked beautifully for the first 2 or 3 times but now I have a terrible cloudy film on my glasses. I am so disappointed. What could be happening? I really want this to work….

  26. says

    I made this and can’t get it to work well for us. It did work better after I remembered to add the liquid Dawn and vinegar, but still not great. It also has caked up and gotten hard to scoop. Sooooo……I am “recycling” this mixture into my powdered laundry detergent, I’ll just grate my bar of Zote, blend it all up with this, add in the powdered color safe Purex stain fighter and give it a whirl in my laundry instead.

  27. Marianne says

    I made this several times…after playing with Dawn, white vinegar and bleach…I found the
    BEST FOR ME is to put white vinegar in the rinse dispenser and add a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of bleach to the load right before I start it. What gave me the idea was looking on packages to see what was in the liquid to possibly get stains out like tea in the iced tea pitcher. Love this new combo. and no more cloudy glasses!

  28. Patty Hare says

    I am looking for something that will take rust off my shower and sinks, toilet.. do you have any suggestions, like something I can make at home instead of spending money on the products that have chemicals in them at the store?

  29. Linda Gill says

    I have had trouble keeping dry products like brown sugar, garlic powder, some seasonings, etc. I have found if I put brown sugar, garlic powder, in the store bought containers and drop them down into a zip lock freezer bag, my brown sugar stays fresh, the same with the garlic powder. I try this with garlic powder I bought from a Amish store and it stays in its dry powder form. I was wondering if you put your dishwasher detergent in a jar and then in to a Ziplock bag if it would keep it in its’ powdered form. Just wondering. I too use white vinegar in my dish washer. It works great to keep my glasses clean and shiney.

  30. Mallory says

    First off. I love this site. I started making all my cleaners myself not really to save money but hey why not… It actually makes me more motivated to clean up after my 3 kiddos. The first things I made were homemade laundry detergent, and dishwashing detergent. I added a little bit of oxy clean to my recipe anyways. I have a coffee caraff that is staneless steal. I have had it for about 6 years. Lets just say it was no longer silver and very dark brown. I took three tablespoons of my dishwashing detergent and warm water and let it soak for about an hour. I was amazed when I washed it out. With very little scrubbing its silver again and looks brand new. I am a believer now ;) thank you.

  31. Teri says

    Can someone help me with why the plastic stuff I wash comes out cloudy? everything else is nice and shiny. I’m very frustrated I don’t want to throw it all out but this is getting old.

  32. LilLucy says

    I use a similar recipe but omit the Borax, dishes come out clean and sparkly. I add orange essential oil, and to keep it from clumping, I store the mixture in an old vitamin bottle (a bigger one with the partial lid that pops open). I just give it a good shake and pour with ease.

  33. Michelle Phillips says

    First and formost, thank you for this receipe. I deviated slightly by using the juice and zest of three large lemons and it comes out prefectly every time. At first, my husband made fun of me but after a month, he’s impressed. Not only are our dishes spotless and clean, but so is our dish washer. Thank you.

  34. Aubrey says

    Just ran my first load with this and it worked AWESOME! I already use vinegar in my Jet Dry spot so that part was done. I couldn’t find citric acid at the store so I just added a lot more Doterra lemon essential oil. I also chose baking soda after not being able to find washing soda. We have very hard water so this was the perfect recipe for us. I took the rice in pantyhose trick from the comments and hope that keeps it from hardening. Thanks for posting this! It will save me tons of money!

  35. Julie Scott says

    I made a nifty scouring powder dispenser by cutting the top off of an old scouring powder can. I had to use the old kind of can opener that cuts the lid and leaves a sharp edge, rather than the kind that Pampered Chef sells that cuts the entire top off, because I needed the lid to be small enough to fit inside of the canning jar ring. I chose to screw the new lid onto a small plastic peanut butter jar, since I really didn’t want my scouring powder and getting bumped around in the glass jar.


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