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. 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??

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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 . . .

  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. 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.

  7. 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.

    • allison says

      When I did it my dishes came out with this fine ash-like residue on them…I’m sticking with the store bought soap.

  8. Anonymous says

    I tried using silica packs in my dish detergent but it didnt keep it soft. So I put a marshmallow in the container and it WORKED!! Yay!!!

  9. 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.

    • Ivy says

      It’s washing soda. Not baking soda. There is a big difference in pH. The baking soda will not work very well and may cause a bit of a film.

  10. 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 :)