Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Revised

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). 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!

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!)


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:
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. :-)




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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!!

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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 :)

  5. 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)

  6. 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 :)

    • Rebecca says

      No, the citric acid and the washing soda are not the same thing. Washing soda is essentially baking soda that has been heated up and changed through the heating process. Citric acid comes literally from citric fruit as a byproduct. Two different things, although they work well together, and both are naturally occurring. Hope that helps!

  7. Denise from Ark says

    Nevermind – my friend just corrected me. Sodium carbonate is washing soda. Duh. I did see citric acid at Target with the dishwashing detergents the other day. I think it was called Lemi-shine?? About $3 and change for about 16z, if memory serves. But as you can tell, often it doesn't – at least not very well LOL.

    • Amanda G says

      Lemishine is mostly citric acid. You could use that and eliminate the citric acid. You might also be able to use a Vitamin C tablet. Vitamin C is citric acid. That’s why it works as a fruit preservatives in the place of fruit fresh but it doesn’t dissolve in water very well. You could probably use a few tablespoons of lemon juice in the bottom of the dishwasher as well.

    • Shirley says

      Lemi-Shine is super expensive compared to the citric acis I bought on Amazon – 5 pounds for $20.00. Been adding this to my dishwasher after replacing the old one because it wasn’t cleaning. Only to find out, the dish detergent had changed. Researh led me to Lemi-Shine ($6.00 for 7 oz. at my stores) and their price led me to read the main ingredient, citric acid and to Amazon!

  8. Denise from Ark says

    FYI. Dropped in to WF a minute ago to see if they had citric acid in bulk. Nope. They do have it in a 4 oz bottle in the whole body section for $4.99. WM has the Lemi-shine according to their web site for $3.22 for a 12 oz bottle. Boohoo… I missed out at Whole Paycheck again be Susie of price. I just have to be so picky about what I buy there.

  9. Jill Nystul says

    Whole Paycheck? You're the second one I heard call it that this week. I hadn't heard that before! lol! Funny.
    I've seen Lemi-shine at our grocery store before. I'm still working on the bottle of Fruit Fresh I bought.

  10. Mandy says

    I made homemade dishwasher detergent, but it didn't call for the citric acid and mine came out cloudy. I am going to try the dawn and vinegar and see if that helps before buying the citric acid. Thanks!

    • Heather says

      Hi, Mandy. I was wondering if you ever tried this without the citric acid and, if so. how did it work? I am allergic to citric acid & would rather not have to but a HazMat suit just to do the dishes. :-)

      Thank you, Jillee for all your posts! I found you blog from a post on Pinterest about a week ago & I absolutely love all your posts!!! Thanks for helping all us “newbies” learn to live without all the extra chemicals around us!!

  11. Anonymous says

    We were also getting cloudy dishes and not understanding why. I was thinking it was the dishwasher, we tried cleaning it, using liquid instead of powder and it wasn't working. Things I learned to make mine sparkle are less detergent is more AND our water heater wasn't set high enough.

  12. nkd215 says

    Hi! I love your blog! I made your original recipe a few weeks ago and it works great… my only change is that I add about 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the bottom of my machine before turning it on. My dishes are actually looking a lot better than they did with the store brand stuff. Thanks for posting this it is saving me money at the grocery store!

  13. Jaime says

    I just made the dishwasher detergent last week according to your original recipe with one little tweak. Instead of a whole cup of either washing soda or baking soda, I used a half cup of each along with the vinegar in the jet dry dispenser and a splash in the bottom. It has been working amazingly for us. Maybe it was the half and half mixture? I don't know, but it has been working so well I have told everyone I know about it.

  14. Anonymous says

    I just bought a case of the original 7% phosphate soap on ebay. Someone who worked at Sam's got all the leftovers when we switched to non. I got tiny boxes too, which is great for my arthritis.

  15. Erica says

    I followed a recipe for homemade detergent a few months ago using just Borax, Washing Soda, and lemonade Koolaid. The downfall was it was a HUGE recipe (using the whole box so I have more than a gallon of detergent) and I hadn't discovered citric acid yet. I was ok with the detergent though it usually made my Tupperware/plastic dishes filmy/cloudy. I started using JetDry plus a splash of vinegar and I'm much happier. Now I'm waiting to use enough of the mix so it's easier to add in the citric acid (gonna take forever since we don't have kids yet & don't go through many dishes)

    I really like this smaller recipe–soooo much easier to work with!

  16. Anonymous says

    My mother-in-law told me she uses dishwasher soap (powdered I assume) to keep whites whiter. I asked her and she said she uses that and baking soda although I am unsure if they are in conjunction or not.
    I was told this was for whites, add it with colors and darks at your own risk :-)

  17. Ginny says

    Do you have any idea about etching the dishes? I know that the clouding is an issue, but etching is a completely different one – and irreversible. I don't want to ruin my dishes trying to save some money! That has kept me from trying some recipes yet. I also have heard that the borax is not good for the environment if you are on septic. I am sure it isn't if you're on city water, but septic hits the environment a lot faster. Thanks for the suggestions. I'm going to have to get up the courage to try this. Pretty soon I am going to need to buy white vinegar by the barrel… I use it for ALL my cleaning stuff!

  18. Marianne says

    How well do you rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher? I use the "stuff in the green bottle" right now and one of the advantages (according to the commercial) is you don't really have to rinse the dishes first. I'm assuming the detergent dissolves all the food off and washes it away down the drain.

    So if I want to continue to not rinse the dishes first, will your homemade recipe work just as well? I'm concerned that the food won't dissolve and will eventually clog the drain of my dishwasher.

    Now, having said that, I DO want to try out your recipe because I'm curious to see if it works on my seriously cloudy glassware. I'll let you know the results. We have extremely hard water and no water softener.

  19. Angela says

    I gave up on making my own dishwasher soap a few years ago. I always had cloudy dishes or the plastics were greasy, no matter the recipe. With not enough ingredients on hand, I made a 1/2 batch. Used 1 cup vinegar, 2 tbs of the mix, & 3 drops of the dish soap. I've done 3 loads today with this new recipe. I am thrilled! The Finish tablets that I paid $.11/each left a greasy patch on the bottom of my new dishwasher door. The recipe you posted eliminates that problem! Very happy! Thank you so much for experimenting with this. I hope all goes well in your budget for your water bill. lol :)

  20. Meg says

    I bought a big jar of citric acid from Amazon. It wasn't cheap, but it works for dishwasher detergent and other cleaning (I use it to de-scum my washer instead of those tablet things, the jets in my master bath tub, inside the dishwasher, etc.), so over time it's worth the initial outlay.

  21. Angie says

    After trying sooooo many things, and failing, I'm about to cry over this stuff. This is the only thing that has left ALL of my dishes clean! I have a dishwasher that isn't even a year old, and I was about to write it off as a giant kitchen ornament until I tried your mix. THANK YOU! THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU!!!!!!

  22. Jill Nystul says

    Ginny…I hear ya! I'm going to have to start having vinegar delivered to my house by the 50 gallon barrel. ;-)

    Angela…you are welcome! I'm so glad it worked for you. That is the exact combo I use now and it has worked everytime.

    Meg…I've been meaning to look into that…thanks for the reminder. I think it would be cheaper over all than the Fruit Fresh?

    Angie…there, there…don't cry! ;-) I completely understand though. When you find something that actually WORKS for an almost daily chore…it IS a beautiful, emotional thing! :-)

  23. Marianne says

    Well, this didn't get rid of the cloudy film on my glassware but it does clean the dishes and it is cheaper than the stuff in the green bottle so I think I'll be using this from now on. Thanks for the recipe! Can't wait to try out all the other good homemade products on this blog!

  24. DDover says

    I've made the laundry soap and fabric softener. Loving them both. Will be making this tomorrow and hoping I will love it just as much. Like others I would like to thank you for "running the trials" for us! You rock!

  25. Betsy B says

    I used a modified version of this recipe. Actually it was for the laundry detergent. I ran out of dishwasher detergent so I put a scoop of the washing machine soap and it was awesome. So that is what I have been using. I do have rinse aid in the dishwasher. I did read someone put vinegar into the rinse aid container and it worked. The washing machine version has fels naptha (sp?) in it but it works great

  26. Mury says

    I haven't tried this yet. I just discovered it. I was reading the comments and was just wondering about those of you who said your glassware was still cloudy after using it. It's possible that your problem is etching. Etching is totally different from cloudiness and unfortunately is permanent.

  27. Marshena says

    I just found this wonderful recipe on pinterest and made a batch, cant wait to try it out. I also added the vineger to my jd compartment and cant wait to see how that works. I too have been spending so much money on dishwashing goodies and other cleaning products and i have been thinking there has to be a better way to do this. I love that i had everything need for this recipe, well except for the koolaid..lol.. of all things. Thank You for posting this, Im about to check out the rest of your blog for a laundry detergent. Thanks again and have a great night.

  28. WYwindgirl says

    Looking forward to trying this. I have been puoring vinegar in the bottom of my dishwasher but I realized my machine does some draining before it fills so I start it and wait until it is actually filling before adding the vinegar. We have VERY hard water that leaves deposits on sinks, faucets, etc. Since I have been doing this my dishwasher seems to be doing a better job so I assume it has cleaned the dishwasher.

  29. Mindy says

    I made my own dishwasher soap about a month ago (after finding a recipe on Pinterest) that makes a huge amount. I found pure citric acid on Amazon in a 5 lb bag for under $20 (obviously the price will vary since it is Amazon). My issue is that it clumps in the container. I haven't tried the 3 drops and vinegar yet, but I think I'm going to try it now and when I make my next batch, I'll scoop it into ice cube trays and add my 3 drops so that it clumps right away and I end up with "tablets" of dishwasher soap and just add 1 to each load, along with the vinegar.

  30. DreamCatcher says

    I made a batch and it worked very very well for…5 loads maybe. Then the glasses started to show more cloudy. Maybe it's the extra hard water in my area…
    It makes a hell of a scrubing thing though. My sink and bathrooms are super clean and smell divine for the whole day. As for the moisture thing, it can be fixed with some rice in the container (if you are to use it as scrubing powder! NOT as a dishwasher detergent!)
    As for the vinegar on the bottom…yes…it goes down the drain. The plumber once told me that all dishwashers first thing they do is empty any water that may exist on the bottom. So I just put mine in a cup in the upper drawer.
    Works fine.

    • Mab says

      That’s what I thought about the Vinegar at the bottom of the unit. Yes… the first thing my Bosch does (after I close the door and the cycle starts) is drain any water left in the unit. I can hear it. If I were to put in in the Jet Dry compartment, it would only eek out a miniscule amount of Vinegar, since the Jet Dry compartment isn’t refilled every time the washer is run… it lasts for several loads.
      I HATE Jet Dry. It etched my glasses years ago and I will not use it.
      FYI: Be careful which Lemi Shine, you purchase. There are different formulations: a machine cleaner, a rinse, and a detergent additive. The back of the bottle on the ‘Original’ reads: “Made with real fruit acids and natural citrus oils.” It does not have a breakdown of those ingredients specifically.
      The warnings are: “In dishwasher, not recommended on
      painted glassware ~ painted mugs ~ aluminum ~ fine china ~ or enamel coated cutlery or cookware. Not for non stick coated cookware, or removable stove top components. Don’t mix with liquid bleach.”
      FYI: There is a Lemi Shine formula that is meant to be a MACHINE CLEANER to clean empty dishwashers, empty washing machines, and garbage disposals. (Personally, I prefer to use CLR as a machine cleaner, as per package directions.) Don’t use this one by mistake on your dishes.

  31. Lena says

    I have been using the homemade dishwasher detergent for about a month now. My hubby who is a bit of a home chemist helped me modify the online recipes I found to what are water conditions are here. I live in the Pacific Northwest and we have wonderful nuetral water here so the salt is not needed in our water. The purpose of the citric acid is to help remove the dissolved salts in your water, especially needed if you added the salt to water that didn't need salt added to it. My recipe is:
    1 part borax
    1 part washing soda
    1 part oxi clean (optional)

    I do put about 1/4 c of vinegar in the machine right after the short wash cycle. This helps remove the residue of the borax, washing soda, and oxi-clean.

    If you are having problems with food residue on your dishes this is almost always because your filter is clogged and your machine needs a little maintenance. I do this myself but if you are uncomfortable with tools you should get someone out to do it for you. It usually requires removing a couple of bolts and removing a couple of screens and reaching into the yucky hole to pull stuff out… not the most pleasant of jobs, but the dishwasher runs beautifully afterwards and it is cheaper than paying someone $65 an hr to do it for you. :)

  32. Christense Andersen Jiang says

    The vinegar trick will work with any kind of dishwasher detergent. I put it in the little compartment that's for the rinse stuff…what is that called? It prevents water spots and build-up, but what I like best is it gets that film of grease off tupperware and gladware. You know how those never get completely clean? This does the trick. Thanks for the post!

  33. Anonymous says

    I went and bought some TSP to add to my current dishwashing liquid, but no one on hear states how much to add. Does anyone know the amount of TSP to add to my liquid detergent?

  34. Sarah says

    Can I put the vin. in the “jet dry” part and have it work as well? I already do that, but don’t know if it will give me the same result as what you get. I could just try it. :)

  35. Joy says

    I love this site. Im hooked. You all should check out Amazon and also Mountain Rose Herbs. They are BIG into fair trade, organic, etc……..Their citric acid was so much cheaper than Whole Foods or Walfart. I won’t even go into WF. More dollars than sense (cents)! Sunflower Market is fine with me ;)
    I like Amazon sometimes, because of the free shipping.
    But I just did the dishwasher soap today. My husband was thrilled, since Cascade was sooooooooooooo expensive. Plus I cant go to Walfart and use coupons and do price match. And Im just totally done going there, except for minor items like copy paper, once in a blue moon. Other than that, it’s Amazon, Mountain Rose Herbs and Costco. I like their selection more than Sams Club. Ok, Im off………I gotta find more recipes. Thanks again!

  36. Rhiannon Sanchez says

    I went out shopping today and could not find Washing soda ANYWHERE! Has anyone tried this with just baking soda?? Hubby is bringing home Ajax from Home Depot (I had him looking there just in case since he was going there anyway), he said it’s got sodium carbonate in it. Thanks!

    • Joy says

      Washing soda is in the laundry section or cleaning supplies section at walfart. They have Zote soap flakes there and Phels and all sorts. But it’s on that isle, all by its lonesome.

      • Anna says

        I was searching everywhere for washing soda online… Trying to find places near me that carried it. None of the search engines found “washing soda”. So I tried generic searches for arm & hammer, hoping that I would find it at the bottom of the list…. Nothing!!! I went to arm and hammer’s official website and did a search for their products near me… Nada!
        I started complaining to my hubbie. I told him how much money we could save if only I could find washing soda!! He looked at me like I was talking gibberish.. He had never heard of it and asked me if I meant soda ash… NOOOOOOOOO…. The recipe said washing soda. He dared me to do a search.. Whaddya know? They’re the same thing!! Soda ash can be found at any pool supply!!
        I guess that’s why I keep him around!!!

        • Debra Newton says

          Beware of pool Soda Ash. I went to go buy a 10 lb bucket to save money, and the pool cashier asked me what I wanted it for. I told him I was going to make my own detergents. He said a women came in last month and bought some and made laundry soap and ruined her whole load of clothes and worse, killed her washing machine. I asked him , why did this happen, and he said that the company now adds other chemicals to the Soda Ash. In fact, several chemicals. And that you can in no way use it to wash your clothes. Heads Up!

  37. says

    they took the phosphates out of the soap because it gets into our waterways and then out to the ocean creating an overgrowth of plants (like gross algae, also can happen in lakes) the over growth of plants takes up all the oxygen and kills the aquatic life. OBVIOUSLY A REASON THEY TOOK OUT THE PHOSPHATES SO DONT USE THEM… WHO CARES YOUR DISHES ARE A LITTLE CLOUDY… IM SURE THE FISH WOULD APPRICIATE IT. AND IF YOU WANT TO FIX THE CLOUDYNESS USE UNSWEETENED LEMONADE PACKETS… WHICH DONT KILL OFF ANYTHING

    • Really? says

      Really? Jill didn’t put this on here so someone could leave a nasty comment such as your own! It is wonderful that you care so much about the environment and I think everyone here agrees that we’re not out to KILL the aquatic life to save a quarter! Might I point out that there is a spell check you can use BEFORE posting something rude on someone else’s blog. That way MAYBE a few more people would take your concern serious if the comment was educated. Isn’t there a PETA website where you can go to voice this kind of complaint?

  38. B says

    wow – I am so impressed with your before/after pics. I’ve been making my own detergent for a while now, but the dishes are cloudy… very excited to try your updated version! I never guessed that one day I would be excited about dishwasher detergent, haha ;)

  39. Bonnie says

    You are so funny! I love reading your blog and trying your stuff. I have one question, apparently I have hard water (????) My dishes are so incredibly cloudy, they weren’t before using the homemade stuff. Also, it seems to leave a residue on my plates. I have to wash alot of stuff by hand before I put it up. I hate washing dishes. Should I leave out the Kosher salt? Decrease something? Add something? I am so lost! Thank you again!!!


  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”. [...]

  2. […] Free and Clear dishwasher tabs in the absence of anything better, but I recently found this recipe for homemade dishwasher detergent by Jillee (freaking love her) and am excited to try it. I already have most of the ingredients on hand for […]

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