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How To Make Homemade Dishwashing Detergent

You can make homemade dishwasher detergent easily and it cost much less than the store bought kind -- works great, too!

Making your own homemade dishwashing detergent is so easy you’ll wonder why you didn’t start making it a long time ago! The ingredients are very inexpensive, and you may have many of them on hand if you’ve made homemade laundry detergent or other homemade cleaners.

My search for a homemade dishwasher detergent recipe was inspired by necessity, as I had just run out of detergent and still had laundry to do that day. Luckily, it was a breeze to throw together — one of many advantages to making DIY laundry and cleaning products is that you’re always prepared for just such an emergency!

But affordability and convenience aren’t the only reasons to consider making homemade dishwasher detergent. It also works really well at fighting food grease and preventing hard water spots, and works as a scouring powder to boot! Just sprinkle it into your dirty kitchen sink and scrub for a cleaner, brighter sink that smells super fresh! It’s like two products in one (and for pennies in supplies, too!) Another bonus – it helps clean your dishwasher while it works on your dishes.

Here’s how to make it!

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Recipe

With just a few simple but effective ingredients, you can make your own homemade dishwasher detergent.

Ingredients:

*If you’re having a hard time figuring out where to buy washing soda, you can actually make washing soda in your oven at home.

**If you can’t find citric acid at your grocery store, two packets of unsweetened lemonade-flavored Kool-Aid mix makes an easy substitute.

Storing your Homemade Dishwashing Detergent in a mason jar with a dispenser lid makes it quick and easy to use.

Directions:

Add all the ingredients to an airtight storage container and stir or shake to mix. (And if you have a silica gel packet on hand from a bottle of medicine or other recent purchase, storing it in the detergent container can help prevent it from clumping!)

I like storing this powder in a mason jar with a pour spout — it makes it easy to use both as a detergent and scouring powder. You may need to tweak the recipe to suit your preferences and dishwasher, but the savings are sure to make it worth the effort!

Homemade Dishwashing Detergent goes in the dispenser just like store-bought detergents.

How To Use Your Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

Add 1-2 tablespoons of dishwasher powder to your dishwasher’s detergent compartment, along with a splash of white vinegar as a rinse agent to prevent spots, then run the dishwasher. (One easy way to use vinegar in your dishwasher to set a small, shallow dish of it near the center of the top rack.)

I suggest always using vinegar in conjunction with your DIY powdered detergent, as this homemade formula lacks some of the rinse aiding ingredients found in commercial detergents. (This is one reason why I buy white vinegar by the gallon at Costco! Since it never goes bad, I’m not afraid to stock up!)

Store your Homemade Dishwashing Detergent in an airtight jar to avoid clumping.

How This Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Works

This detergent relies gets its cleaning power from a few of my most-used cleaning agents: baking soda, washing soda, and borax. Borax has some surprising uses, including water softening and stain removal, while the addition of lemon essential oil and citric acid actually works to give the detergent a grease-cutting boost.

You can also make homemade dishwasher tablets.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Tabs

With a few simple tweaks to the original recipe, you can also make homemade dishwasher detergent tablets! To make dishwasher tabs, just combine the ingredients, pack the mixture into the cavities of a silicone mold, and wait for them to dry completely before transferring them to an airtight container for storage.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups washing soda or baking soda
  • 2 cups borax
  • 1/2 cup coarse salt or epsom salt
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 15-20 drops lemon essential oil

Just as with the powdered dishwasher detergent, be sure to use white vinegar as a natural rinse aid when you run your dishwasher!

In a pinch, you can use a little bit of Dawn in your dishwasher -- no more than half a teaspoon.

Liquid Dishwasher Soap & Other Dishwashing Detergent Alternatives

Alternatively, I have a homemade dishwasher soap recipe that gets its cleaning power from a small amount of Dawn dish soap. (We’re talking around half of teaspoon of the stuff — any more would result in a sudsy, foamy mess!) I personally prefer the homemade detergent featured earlier in this post, but it never hurts to have options!

If you’re in a real bind and need to run a load of dishes ASAP, you can even try putting a couple of tablespoons of baking soda and a half teaspoon of Dawn dish soap in your dishwasher detergent compartment. It’s not ideal, nor as effective as using a homemade or store-bought detergent, but it’s certainly better than nothing! (Just be sure to only up to half a teaspoon of Dawn so you won’t be cleaning up suds for the rest of the day!)

Have you ever tried a homemade dishwashing detergent?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

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Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

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Homekeeping Tips

  • When tweaking the recipe to work best for your dishwasher and/or water type. Where do you start? We have city water and a older dishwasher. I like the easiness of this recipe, but my cheap plastics have a white film on them and the rinsing cycle doesn’t seem to be working despite using white vinegar. TIA!

  • I would love to have a liquid recipe for dishwasher soap. I don’t use powder in my dishwasher or washing machine. The powder will build up and cause problems later on. Would love it if you come up with the liquid version.
    Thanks,
    Nelda

  • As I don’t use borax can you suggest an alternative to use??? And do you think these ingredients are safe for a dishwasher with a stainless steel tub???

  • I actually add a spritz of vinegar to the dry ingredients then pack into ice cube trays to dry. Then I have pre measured blocks to put into dishwasher!

  • […] One Good Thing by Jillee showed us a cheap and easy way to make homemade dishwasher detergent. […]

  • I wish you had a printable version of these recipes. I would like to take it with me when I go shopping. I have a note book of all your recipes that are my favorites. I have to delete or make smaller all of the pictures that are copied otherwise I have 3 to 4 pages.

  • Remember those huge fish kills where millions of fish died? That’s why the government banned phosphates. They’re a major biohazard.

    I have very hard water and I tweaked your original dishwasher detergent recipe (citric acid, kosher salt, washing soda, borax and 2 tiny drops of blue Dawn ). I throw a half-cup of white vinegar in the bottom of the dishwasher. I used to listen for the rinse cycle but I’ve discovered it works whenever I put it in. My dishes are squeaky clean with no residue.

    I agree with the poster who said Sun Oxi from dollar stores works better than Oxiclean. I’ve discovered so does sodium percarbonate (the primary ingredient in Oxiclean), and it’s much cheaper.

    I buy sodium percarbonate in bulk, and also sodium carbonate (soda ash), which is washing soda but much cheaper. I also buy bulk citric acid and sodium tetraborate (Borax). All of these are much less expensive in bulk and no reason to pay for a brand name. Make sure you buy products that are food grade and the same strength as the store brands and you’ll be fine.

    • Just FYI: Soda ash and washing soda are NOT the same thing. Washing soda is chemically similar to baking soda (not identical). I read someplace that you can bake baking soda at 400 degrees (F) for a while and it chemically changes to washing soda. Soda ash is a swimming pool chemical and also helps “fix” dyes in fabric.

  • I started using the Cascade tablets with Dawn in them, add about 1/8th tsp of TSP and I have not had any problems, my dishes come out perfect. I used to use about a tsp and had problems with a white film. I reduced the amount of TSP and get great cleaning power with no film.

    I also do not pre-rinse my dishes, I scrape off the food and just put them in. According to Consumer Reports, commercial detergents have enzymes that react with the proteins in food, so they work better if you don’t pre-wash your dishes. Consumer Reports also talked about common problems with dish washers not working well can be related to how you load dishes. My husband loves to lay pots and pans flat and large bowls face down which blocks the water jets from reaching all areas. If you are having trouble with clean dishes these are things to consider.

  • Where did you find the dispenser tops for the canning jars? Those are great! I wish I had success with the diswasher soap, it is the only homemade cleaner I have been disappointed with. Cloudy glasses, not cleaning well in general. I had to go back to store bought.

  • About the spotty dishes. A repairman told my Mom when they start to get spotty to use a treatment called Dishwasher magic. It’s available at Walmart and it works.

  • Question about the vinegar.
    1. The splash of it, do you add it to the powder compartment?
    2. The small cup of it, do you actually fill it, and place it in the top rack, or just pour it onto the items in the top rack?
    3. I noticed in your other post you just splashed it into the bottom of the dish washer…could we do that and then also add a splash into the powdered compartment?
    Thanks so much! :)

    • You can just put some in a cup or small bowl in the middle of the top rack, or do like the other gal said and put it in the spot that holds the jet dry stuff.

    • You do not add the vinegar to the powder compartment, just a splash in a small cup, not filled, on the top rack. You can try the bottom, too, it just depends on how exactly your dishwasher moves water around. Try both and see what works best for you! :-)

  • I’ve been making my own detergent with a recipe much like this, but with more washing soda. I found that even with vinegar in the rinse, my glasses became cloudy. I had to soak each one in straight vinegar to get them clear again. When I switched to baking soda instead of washing soda, the problem went away, The small amount in this recipe may not cause the same problem, though. Also, as a side note, the “pot marks” on my Corelle dinnerware went away as well, so now my plates are nice and white! Yay!

  • I’ll give this one a try for the sake of experimentation, but my experience with homemade detergents has been my glasses are left spotty, vinegar and citric acid notwithstanding.

    The only thing that I’ve truly found to get my dishes and glasses clean and spotless is the OxiClean-type powders. While I used that brand originally, I found the dollar store version actually does just as good a job (if not better) for a quarter of the price or less. A 16 oz. container costs $1, and at 1 tbsp. per load you get 30+ loads from a container, or about $0.03 per load.

    It should be remembered, though, *why* almost everyone has problems getting their dishes and glasses clean these days: the government forced detergent manufacturers to remove phosphates from their formulas, so now the products don’t work anymore.

    I did try adding phosphates back into my homemade recipes in the past using TSP found in big box DIY stores, but that left a white film on everything so it was quickly abandoned.

    As I said, the only thing I’ve found that consistently works are the oxygenated cleaning powders, and the dollar store ones are tops. But in the spirit of experimentation, I’ll give this one a shot.

    • Rugged Homestead, When you say Oxiclean powders, is this a dishwashing detergent you refer to or a general cleaner. I’d like to try it since I’ve have a similar experience with homemade cleaners and fails with so many store bought ones since the phosphates were removed-the one i use is so expensive to buy. Thanks!

    • Do you ONLY use the OxiClean powder, or do you add other things into the powder compartment?

      Also asking, do you mean OxiClean powder, the same that you use in your laundry?

    • I have the same issue which is why I abandoned any homemade dishwasher soap. It is the only DIY cleaner that I have found not to work. Do you use the ‘oxy clean’ type powders solo in the dishwasher? I’m going to hit the dollar store. I had to wait until I had a coupon to buy the name brand as it is so expensive.

    • If you live near a restaurant-supply store, they still sell dishwasher detergent with phosphates. Amazon sells it too. Seems the government made an exception for commercial food operations.

      I have a dishwasher less than one year old and it STINKS. Literally stinks. The repairman told me that is leaves about a gallon on (standing!) water (by design!) under the filter after it has been run.

      I always rinse my dishes before loading them, and I’ve checked for any food-related clogs in every part of the dishwasher that could possibly accommodate them, and nothing.

      Sprinkling a packet of lemonade drink mix helps, but it’s a real inconvenience and is going to add up $$

      I’m going to get some dishwasher detergent with phosphate to see if that makes a difference.

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