Homemade Dishwasher Detergent [Soap] FAQs

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Dishwasher detergent FAQs

Our recipe for automatic dishwasher detergent has become a favorite of readers from all over the globe.

To help those just getting started, we’re publishing this FAQ page. It answers all of the common questions encountered by readers trying to perfect the solution in their homes.

Thanks to all our dedicated readers for their feedback, which has helped us arrive at these solutions. Many of the helpful hints come directly from the community, so don’t stop sharing your experience!

Use these FAQs if you’re having challenges.

Dishwasher detergent

Q: Will this homemade detergent work in my dishwasher?

A: This recipe is safe for any type of automatic dishwasher. Stainless steel interior, new, old, or any other kind.

Q: Where can I get ingredients for making my own dishwasher (soap) detergent?

A: Our recipe may call for ingredients you can not find easily at your local grocer. If you cannot find them locally, buy them online:

  • Arm & Hammer® Super Washing Soda: check the laundry aisle of your local grocery store, Amazon, or Soaps Gone Buy…OR learn to make your own!
  • 20 Mule Team® Borax: check the laundry aisle of your local grocery stores, Amazon, or Soaps Gone Buy
  • Citric Acid: purchase online, at your local health food store, check in the canning aisle at your local grocer, or at home brew supply stores
  • Kosher Salt: found at your local grocer in the baking aisle or online
  • Vinegar (rinse agent): check the salad dressing/vinegar aisle at your grocery store

Most grocery stores can order things you request. Put in a request (and have your friends do the same) to see if they will begin stocking these ingredients in the future.

Q: What if I still can’t get these ingredients? Are there substitutions that can be used?

A: Unfortunately, the borax and washing soda are staples in the recipe that should always remain the same. However, the following substitutions can be made if needed:

Q: How can I keep my detergent from turning into a solid rock after mixing?

A: The citric acid in the recipe promotes clumping of ingredients. A great way to avoid having a rock-hard clump of detergent is to leave the mixture out on the counter for 1-2 days (out of reach for kids and pets) WITHOUT a lid. Stir the mixture several times each day before storing with a tight-fitting lid.

Adding a teaspoon of rice to the recipe should also help eliminate some (not all) of the clumping by absorbing moisture. One reader suggested putting rice in the toe of an old pair of panty hose and tying off the end. Your rice sachet can be re-used for future batches.

If you diligently stirred the mixture and you still have clumping problems, dump the entire hard mess into a food processor and pulse until it resembles powder again. (You don’t need to have a dedicated food processor for this because it’s the same powder you’ll use to wash dishes anyway.)

Some readers have commented that storing their homemade detergent in the refrigerator keeps the detergent from clumping and makes it more soluble when adding to the dishwasher.

Try adding a silica packet (do not open or eat!), the little bead-filled packets from a vitamin bottle, a new purse, or new shoes. It should absorb moisture and prevent clumping.

Still having problems? Leave the citric acid out of the original recipe, and instead add ½ teaspoon citric acid along with detergent each time you run the dishwasher.

Q: Why are my dishes turning out cloudy?

A: With homemade dishwasher detergent, the success of your formula depends heavily on your water quality. Each city (or well) has water that will react differently to this powdered formula. Most people have hard water (even with city water or water softeners), which can be problematic for this recipe. Hard water will cause cloudiness or a powdery residue to remain on clean dishes. Call your city and inquire about the hardness of your water if you’re not sure. Don’t give up yet… sparkling dishes can still be achieved.

Q: What can I do if the detergent is leaving a residue on dishes?

A: Your powdered dishwasher detergent requires some kind of acidic ingredient to eliminate hard water spots and remove film on dishes. We prefer citric acid, but Lemi Shine or lemonade Kool-Aid packets can also be used. If your dishes are hopelessly cloudy, experiment with each acidic ingredient to find the right one for you.  Note: Citric acid can be purchased online, at health food stores, or home brewing supply stores. Lemi Shine can be found in the detergent aisle of the grocery store or purchased online. Use Lemishine as recommended on the packaging.

If you have hard water, you can double the amount of citric acid recommended in our original recipe to help combat some of the cloudiness.

Another good way to increase sparkle and eliminate cloudiness is to add vinegar to the rinse aid compartment of your dishwasher. Lemon juice can also be used, or even brewed green tea (containing tannins). Also, pour about ½ cup white vinegar into an upright wide-mouth glass on the top rack of your dishwasher (or just splash it into the bottom) before starting the load.

Some of the issue might even be corrected by increasing or decreasing the amount of detergent used. If one tablespoon is not working, try one heaping tablespoon dived between the prewash and regular wash compartment. Or try decreasing to about ¾ tablespoon. Every dishwasher is different and will require different amounts.

Experiment with hot water settings if your dishwasher model has this option. A high heat setting tends to work better with this homemade soap.

Q: Is the kosher salt absolutely necessary in the recipe, and what purpose does it serve?

A: The salt is not absolutely necessary, but helps in softening hard water, helping prevent hard water spots on dishes, and also acts as a scouring agent for dirty dishes.

Q: What if the detergent clumps in the detergent dispenser and won’t come out?

A: Try pouring your measured detergent right onto the dishwasher door (instead of inside the compartment) before running a load through.

Q: How can we reduce or eliminate etching of glasses?

A: DIY Natural community member Joyce had this to say: “I deal in a lot of glassware new and antique and I have found you never dry your glassware in the dishwasher because it causes small etching. This can be caused by minerals in the water or things in your detergent. You may not notice this at first but continued drying can cause the cloudy look which could be etching. Once it is etched it is over as far as beauty is concerned.”

In hopes of clean dishes…

We hope our recipe and this FAQ page help you in your journey to saving money, building more sustainable habits, and protecting your family from harsh chemicals found in commercial detergents!

If this recipe isn’t working for you, we encourage you to try all the suggestions listed above. If we missed anything, let us know and we’ll update the page to include more information.

Happy DIY cleaning!

*******

Betsy Jabs

About Betsy Jabs

Betsy holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Master's degree in Counseling, and for nearly a decade worked as an elementary counselor. In 2011 she left her counseling career to pursue healthy living. She loves using DIY Natural as a way to educate people to depend on themselves to nourish their bodies and live happier healthier lives. Connect with Betsy on Facebook, Twitter, and her +Betsy Jabs Google profile.

PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for us to support our website activities, we may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for our endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this website.

DISCLAIMER: Information on DIY Natural™ is not reviewed or endorsed by the FDA and is NOT intended to be substituted for the advice of your health care professional. If you rely solely upon this advice you do so at your own risk. Read full Disclaimer & Disclosure statements here.

Comments

  1. Summer says

    Hi – I just bought the ingredients for making the dw soap. I looked at the above advice and decided to keep my koolaid separate and just add 1/2 tsp at a time. If I WERE to mix the koolaid in with everything else, you had mentioned using two packets of koolaid per 1 c. borax/1 c. washing soda…but if there’s 32 tbsp. in that mixture, with 1 tbsp per dw load in use, isn’t it overkill to use 1/2 tsp of koolaid separately per dw load? The ratios seem to be off. If I do it that way, it doesn’t seem to save me much $ at $.20 per koolaid packet…am I doing it wrong? Thanks!

    • Betsy JabsBetsy Jabs says

      Yes Summer, the ratios are off when you begin separating the ingredients for each use. I can’t remember, but I think when we wrote this post we were just thinking 1/2 teaspoon was a tiny insignificant amount, and easy to measure out and dump in. But when you do the math, you really could use less. Try using less and see how you like the results. 🙂

  2. Lori Green says

    Cloudiness in areas where the majority of people soften their water because it is extremely hard (like here) can occur because of etching. This usually happens because too much detergent has been used in the past. I do not know of any solution to etching – does anyone out there?

  3. Sandra W. says

    I initially got frustrated with the clumping/hardening, so I came up with the idea (I’m sure someone already did as well) of putting the powder mixture in ice cube trays and cover to harden. After hardening I take them out and put in a container for future use. I filled them up to about 2/3 of the way and that seems to work for us. I prefer to handwash but my daughter and husband use the dishwasher. We also put vinegar in each wash and just dump it at the bottom of the machine. Works great!

  4. Marion says

    Hi, this is slightly off topic, however having suffered for months with this allergy I feel the need to share. I am highly allergic to isothiazolinone. It is a preservative found in the majority of cleansers, make up, natural latex, shampoo, laundry detergent . . . It is in Dawn. If you have an allergy to latex, STAY AWAY from the Dawn. I love making my own cleansers. I find that the bonus to having the clean house is the wonderful scents too.

  5. Susan says

    I have been using homemade dish soap for a while now. I have found that each time you use the soap, shake your container to give a good mix. Then after you close it up, store it upside down. Like you do with a paint can, it keeps the air from really getting in. Seems to be working for me.

  6. Christina says

    I’m excited about trying this when I get close to running out of my store bought! However I have been using white vinegar as my rinse add for a month or two now and has been workin great. But I add it to a small plastic container on the top rack. I was told not to pour it into the rinse aid compartment because the it would eat the rubber seals eventually. Do you know if that is a ligitment concern or was that bad information I received?

  7. Mary says

    I had pickeling salt kosher salt is hard to find i hope it works, the pickeling salt is a very pure form a salt.

  8. Christine says

    I need clarification on the KoolAid – Citric Acid conversion. Recipes call for a whole box of the Borax and Super Washing Soda 3 cups of epsom Salt and 24 pkgs of KoolAid (used for the citric acid). 24 pkgs of KoolAid amount to 4.8 oz total. Why is the conversion to straight Citric Acid come out to so much more?

    • Betsy JabsBetsy Jabs says

      That’s a good question Christine. We don’t personally use KoolAid, but many readers have told us the amount that works for them…and those are the amounts we reported in this article. We based our original recipe on the type of water we had at the time of writing…we needed more citric acid to make it work. However, everyone’s water is different and will react differently to the dishwashing formula. You can try using a lesser amount of citric acid (equal to the KoolAid amounts), and it might work fine for your washer. I hope I’m making sense here. 🙂

  9. Kyra says

    Need help. Will this stuff take the finish off of my silver-plated silverware? Because I just noticed one of my spoons, where it seems to be coming off…

    • Betsy JabsBetsy Jabs says

      I can’t be certain because we don’t put anything with silver plating in our dishwasher. You may want to err on the safe side and hand wash the silver.

  10. Chrissy says

    I’ve been using this homemade recipe as well as vinegar in the rinse aid compartment for over a month and it has worked great. Suddenly, yesterday, the glasses did not get completely clean. The wine glasses on the top rack, which have been coming out beautifully clean, were cloudy with a rough feeling. I ran everything that didn’t come clean through again in case it was just overloaded on the first run. They came out less cloudy, but definitely filmy. What could be going wrong? I have no intentions of going back to store bought cleaners and I need clean dishes. Help!

    • Betsy JabsBetsy Jabs says

      It may have to do with changes in your water. Do you have a water softener, possibly running low on salt? Or city water that your city may be making changes to? You may need to use the trick mentioned in the article (1/2 cup vinegar in a wide-mouth cup on the top rack) to eliminate the cloudiness for a while.

  11. Carrie says

    For those without a high-heat option on their dishwashers, I always turn the tap on until it gets hot to drain out the cold water. That way when the dishwasher starts, it starts out hot already.

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