Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Revised

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

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 my first post about making your own Homemade Dishwasher Detergent and Scouring Powder  there were several people who posted that their dishes just weren’t coming out clean. Or they were coming out cloudy. And when I took 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 BubbleBandit.com that you can buy dishwasher detergent WITH phosphates (they sell “commercial” soap, which is NOT affected by the ban).

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

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 solutions 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!

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

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 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!)

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

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! (It doesn’t have to be Dawn…that’s just what I had.)

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:

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

Very same dishes WITH vinegar and dish soap:

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

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. :-)


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  1. nancybny says

    Hello from NYC !! Jill – I love love love your blog!! Trying so many of your tips!! My daughter and I are washing with oil for over a week – we really like it!!!
    I've been using homemade laundry detergent for years and now, recently the dishwasher powder too- I put the vinegar into the dispenser that used to hold the "blue stuff" and dishes come out fine – I haven't tried the 3 drops yet, but will the next time to see if there's a difference!! Keep up the fabulous posts!!

    • Donna says

      I have my own secret that I found works great on my dishes and our hard water which is full of lyme. I use the finish power balls, but I also fill up the jet dry dispenser with white vinegar then I also pour about a cup or 2 in the bottom of the dishwasher. In the extra compartment next to the power ball, I use good ole table salt. Somehow this mixture neutralizes our water problem and my dishwasher as well as my dishes are clean and fresh all the time. No yellow stains, and no buildup on the heat coil on the bottom. Just an FYI.

      • Felina says

        Where do you buy your vinegar? It’s about $3 a gallon around here, and I’d be loathe to put a cup or two in EACH time I do dishes (which is daily.)

      • Rebecca says

        I just got some from Sam’s Club! A box that had 2- 1 gallon jugs was $3.48… i bought 3 boxes! But before that I would stalk Dollar Stores… sometimes I could find gallons there for a buck and then I’d buy the whole shelf! Maybe 20-30 gallons at a time! They don’t carry it all the time so i stock up when I find a good price.

    • Sharon says

      Newbie here. What is washing with oil? I’m interested in this, is it for your body or household items. I was using Olive Oil (lowest grade as it wasn’t as thick, hard to find now….light without canola being added to it) after getting out of the shower…thinking I’ll go back to that. Is this something similiar? I can’t find it on Jillie’s search. Thx

  2. Ryan Rogers says

    Yes to the comment above I fill up the jet dry despenser and it works from about a month. With vinegar that is. Great post

  3. Rebecca says

    Once upon a time I cleaned homes for a living and worked with woman that was an expert. Adding vinegar to the dishwasher was one of her best tips! However, after adding detergent, we would then pour about a 1/2 C vinegar right into the bottom of the dishwasher before starting. Easy!

  4. ecokaren says

    Hi Jill,

    Do you know why you need the Citric Acid when you are adding Vinegar – Acetic Acid? I'm just wondering how it would be if I skipped Acetic Acid to eliminate one more thing I need to buy. :)

    Thanks for re-working the formula.

    • Brandon Edwards says

      I realize you posted this question nearly four months ago (so hopefully you already have your answer) and, while I am obviously not Jillee (LOL!), I wanted to give you MY answer to the question. I tried saving the extra money and skimped on the citric acid at first but when we would run the wash, our dishes would come out clean but there was a white residue on them. I bought a 5 pound jug of citric acid off Amazon.com; it took care of the residue problem and has lasted a long time…been using it since beginning of February and it is not quite half gone. Like I said, hopefully you’ve already figured this out but, if not, I hope I helped!

    • Brenda says

      Instead of the citric acid, she did say you could use 4 packs of Lemon Kool-Aid which where were are is only $.20 a pack. This is what I do and it smells and works great!

  5. Celeste Lux says

    Thanks for the update. I made your dishwasher soap from your original post, and found the dishes a bit cloudy and a little gritty (we have very hard water). In defense of your recipe though, store bought soap also left the dishes cloudy. I'm intrigued by this update. I have a love/hate with Dawn dish soap because even though it works so well in so many applications, it's a petroleum based product–another thing, like phosphate I'd like to avoid. That being said, I still keep a big bottle of it in my cleaning cupboard. Thanks for sharing your recipes and for your meticulous trial and error efforts. I'm off to whip up a batch of your DIY laundry treatment :)

  6. ecokaren says

    I'm planning to use Seventh Generation Dishwashing Liquid to try this formula and maybe try Castile soap too.. I am determined to make this work!

  7. Anonymous says

    Did you ever try just the 3 drops of dish soap and the vinegar? I'm curious how that would work…

  8. Tiffanie says

    I have USED white vinegar in my dishwasher for 15 years. I've always had good results with it in combo with Cascade pouches. I usually just pour it in the door of my dishwasher, NOT in the dispenser for the "jetdry" stuff, but I have thought about it though … I'm anxious to try the homemade dishwasher detergent. I close friend of mine has made homemade laundry soap that I just recently started using. I'm up for anything to save some money :o)

  9. Angela A says

    Well, the original recipe did kinda suck for dishes. However, it was an awesome scouring powder!! Our bathtub has this horrible textured flower patter on the bottom so that it's non-slip. The only problem is the flower petals are teeny, tiny and none of the bathroom cleaners would get the dirt and grime out of them — not even bleach! I sprinkled some of the scouring powder over it and didn't even use a brush or sponge! I just rubbed it in with my hands and it cleaned those annoying flower petals right out!! It took less than 5 minutes to clean the entire tub and then a quick rinse and I was done! I can't wait to try the revised recipe on my dishes :)


  1. […] I had everything on hand for this recipe because I was already planning to make it, along with all the other cleaners that I’ve been mixing. It didn’t take a lot and because I only have to add 2 tablespoons, I think it will last awhile. I got my recipe over on Jillee’s blog, “One Good Thing”. […]