Homemade Dishwasher Detergent and Rinse Agent

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

Why do we make our own homemade products like homemade dishwasher detergent?

It all started with our first batch of homemade laundry detergent, since then we’ve been hooked! Now we’re on a mission to make as many household products as we can. It saves money and gives a sense of joy and accomplishment.

Up this week is homemade dishwasher detergent.

When you’re done making this check out these other related articles:

When we develop product recipes we focus on: 1) saving money, 2) simplicity, 3) and effectiveness.

Let’s see how easy this really is. Below you will find the written instructions, pictorial instructions, and tips to avoid clumping, cost savings breakdown, and borax safety.

Note: No time or desire to make your own dishwasher detergent? You can always purchase natural brands like these.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Recipe

Yield 24 ounces

Ingredients

  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • ½ cup citric acid
  • ½ cup kosher salt (for scrubbing action)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.
  2. Use 1 Tbsp per load (you can use a heaping tablespoon if you feel the need, but we do not).

Each batch yields 24 ounces of detergent. We recommend storing in a container you were going to dispose of anyway, like an old yogurt container or coffee can you can fit it under your kitchen sink. Feel free to double the batch, or multiply to create any amount you’d like.

For a DIY rinse agent, simply fill the compartment with white vinegar.

Notes

To answer common questions we wrote a dishwasher detergent FAQ page to help you better succeed with this recipe.

Deteregent Ingredients and Cost

  • A 55 ounce box of Arm & Hammer® Super Washing Soda = $2.19
  • 1 – 76 ounce box of 20 Mule Team® Borax = $4.29
  • A 48 ounce box of coarse Kosher Salt = $1.99
  • 1 – 5 pound container of food-grade Citric Acid = $27.00 You can find this online, in the canning aisle of your local grocery store, or at your local brewery or specialty beer store. If you cannot find this you can substitute LemiShine. If you do not use some form of citric acid you may see a cloudy residue left like most “green” cleaners leave.
  • 1 – gallon of White Vinegar = $1.79

Continue reading for pictorial instructions, tips to avoid clumping, cost savings breakdown, and borax safety.

How to Make the Detergent

For visual leaners, like myself, enjoy these pictorial instructions.

1. Start with these 5 ingredients:

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent 1

2. Begin with 1 cup of borax:

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent 2

3. Add 1 cup of washing soda:

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent 3

4. Add 1/2 cup of citric acid (double for hard water):

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent 4

5. Add 1/2 cup of kosher salt:

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent 5

6. Put the lid on and shake it up good:

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent 6

7. Use 1 Tablespoon per load:

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent 7

8. Fill “Rinse Aid” compartment with white vinegar:

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent 8

(You can also add lemon juice as a rinse agent)

Use 1 Tbsp per load (you can use a heaping tablespoon if you feel the need, but we do not).

Note: No time or desire to make your own dishwasher detergent? You can always purchase natural brands like these.

Continue reading for tips to avoid clumping, cost savings breakdown, and borax safety.

Tips to Avoid Clumping

This detergent will clump because of the citric acid. Here are a few ways to make it clump less.

  • Add a teaspoon of rice to the detergent to help absorb moisture.
  • After combining ingredients, leave mixture out (without a lid) and stir several times each day for a day or two before storing with a lid.
  • Add ½ – 1 teaspoon citric acid separately to each dishwasher load rather than adding it to the detergent.

Some people have had success forming blocks of detergent by using ice cube trays. We have never tried this so we can offer no help here; if you want to try it look to the comments for help.

Note: To answer other common questions we wrote a dishwasher detergent FAQ page to help you better succeed with this recipe.

Cost Savings Breakdown

Prior to making our own, we were using Palmolive eco+ liquid detergent. Here is the cost analysis:

  • borax | 76oz = 4.29 | 8oz=.45/batch
  • washing soda | 55oz = 2.19 | 8oz=.32/batch
  • citric acid | 80oz = 27.00 | 4oz=1.35/batch
  • kosher salt | 48oz = 1.99 | 4oz = .16/batch
  • total for 24 oz = $2.28/batch
  • white vinegar (as rinse agent) | 1gal = 1.79 | 4oz=.06/fill

Use 1 rounded tablespoon of this homemade detergent per load. If you feel it necessary use a heaping tablespoon, but we do not.

  • Palmolive® eco+ gel 75 ounce detergent – $3.79 – 28 loads = $0.14 per load
  • Homemade powder 24 ounce detergent – $2.28 – 48 loads = $0.05 per load

Here are the cost savings for the homemade rinse agent that goes along with this recipe:

  • FINISH® JET-DRY® Rinse Agent 4.22 ounce solution – $3.99 – 1 fill = $3.99 per fill
  • White Vinegar as a Rinse Agent 1 gallon solution – $1.79 – 1 fill = $0.06 per fill

That is a huge savings of 6650% on an effective rinse agent. Sounds too good to be true… but it is indeed true! The rinse agent costs just pennies and detergent only half as much.

Note: No time or desire to make your own dishwasher detergent? You can always purchase natural brands like these.

Is Borax Toxic?

After thorough research, I concluded borax is only as toxic as baking soda or table salt; if you ingest it in high quantities, it may make you sick. If you use it as described in our recipes, it poses no toxic threat.

Just make sure you don’t confuse Borax with Boric Acid, the two are NOT the same. Use borax (I recommend 20 Mule Team brand), steer clear of boric acid.

For those of you who want more info, read this excellent Crunchy Betty article where she expounds the toxicity levels of borax; I couldn’t have said it better myself, thanks Betty.

At the end of the day, decide for yourself to use it or not, and afford others the same courtesy.

There you have it folks… simple, easy, and effective homemade dishwasher detergent.

What are you waiting for? Go get started.

*******

References and Resources

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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. I’m on my third batch. In our dry climate, I’ve found it’s best to leave the lid off and add nothing extra. Only way I can avoid clumping. Bread or rice makes it worse. The detergent simply absorbed the moisture from them. Obviously my idea would be a disaster in a humid climate.

  2. Some recipes call for no sugar added lemonade koolaid packets if you can not find citric acid. Some say that the lemonade can stain the dishwasher. Can an essential lemon oil be added to this recipe for a nice scent? What would you recommend?

  3. I am so close to going out and getting all the items recommended but have a few questions, I see Borax and Washing Soda are both Laundry boosters. Why are both needed? Also, Borax, Washing Soda and Citric Acid are all to help in hard water areas. Why are all three needed? Lastly, Why even use Vinegar if Citric Acid helps eliminate water spots? Please help me to understand the role of each ingredient. I don’t have alot of money!

    Love Your Site!!!

  4. I’m still on my first batch, but am bothered by the fact that it’s increasingly becoming more and more hard and clumpy. To the point where I could barely break clumps apart with a fork. What can I do to prevent this? Otherwise, works great as long as everything is rinsed/scrubbed well and there is no food particles left when placing items in the dishwasher.

    • I make mine in smaller batches. Yes, this means I have to do it more frequently but it’s so easy I don’t mine. I also keep mine in a Mason jar. I highly recommend doing the same or another rubbered gasket sealed lid container. Hope this helps. Happy green cleaning!

        • I made some homemade dishwasher detergent with results that weren’t great. I didn’t find any citric acid, though, so that may have been the issue. As for storage, I started out with a ziploc freezer bag and it was horribly clumped. Then at Target I found a glass canister with a lid with a rubber seal and have less clumping. I use a coffee scoop to scoop it out. After a few cloudy washes (even with vinegar in the rinse agent container), I mixed it half and half with Cascade. We have really hard water in Texas, so sometimes I also have to run a rinse cycle with vinegar. With all the money I’ve spent on trying to get clean dishes (including an under-the-sink filter), I probably could have bought a water softener. :-/

          • I can never find citric acid either and I’m way too impatient to order order online and wait so I use Lemi Shine Original as the substitute. It’s usually quite easy to find at most retailers. I recommend trying the recipe again. If your water is really hard you can try adding more Lemi Shine to your mixture. I hope this helps. Good luck!

          • The best place to look for citric acid is in the canning section of any grocery store. It’s used as a preservative in jam and jelly. fyi a 5 oz jar is more than you need for 1 batch

          • With respect Jacqueline,
            if you purchase citric acid from the grocery store it will be significantly more expensive per ounce then buying a larger quantity online.

    • I mentioned early so sorry to repeat myself, but in our dry climate I’ve noticed that as soon as I put a tight lid on mine, it begins to clump. I’m better off leaving it off. To my first batch I tried adding a few grains of rice with lid on, as mentioned earlier. That didn’t work. I inadvertantly left the lid off another batch and voilà! No sign of clumping. Folks in Florida would have a brick in short order, so it really depends on your climate. Maybe make cubes in an ice cube tray? It’s worth expirementing with. It’s good stuff!

      • As I posted earlier, I am experimenting using diatomaceous earth, and so far, it doesn’t appear to be to abbrasive for my glassware. It has totally prevented any clumping, but leaves a slight film. I will reduce the proportions to see if this helps. So far though, it is very promising. I use 1/4 of a cup for a three cup (plus the 1/4th cup) batch. I will decrease it to 1/8th of a cup and see if it still performs well.

        • diatomaceous earth is mostly silica, which is abrasive when used in a paste for things like counter tops where pressure is applied. Your idea got me thinking about trying something like Bon Ami, which won’t harm glass and doesn’t have the clay component that diatomaceous earth has, which might be the cause of the slight film. I’m going to try adding Bon Ami as a parallel test. Keep up the good work.

          • Hi all. Update to the use of the diatomaceous earth: I cut down on the amount. I now use about 1/8th of a cup for a 3 cup batch. So, here is my formula:
            1 Cup Borax
            1 Cup Sodium Carbonate
            1/2 Cup Salt
            1/2 Cup (maybe a little more if I am feeling frisky) Citric Acid
            1/8 Cup Diatomaceous earth

            So far, no clumping whatsoever! Hoorah!

          • You mentioned a slight film problem, has cutting back on the diatomaceous earth cured that as well?

          • No more film with about 1/8th of a cup. It has been dryer here, so perhaps the lack of humidity is helping in the anti-clumping dept. But I think I will try less (may 1 Tbs) and see if it still produces good results.

  5. I halved this recipe and am almost finished with the first batch. Not all the time, but I’d say half of the time, there’s a chalky residue left mostly on the upper rack. Mostly on my drinking glasses. Am I using too much? Is it just that my food trap might be clogged? There’s no food left on the dishes just chalky soap. What should I do?

    • I am having this same problem. On the top rack and also on the silverware. If you can figure out a solution I would love to hear it! 🙂

  6. Hi Matt, I made this recipe but even with the vinegar rinse, my dishes come out filmy and cloudy. Any suggestions of what to try differently or add to the existent recipe so I don’t have to waste?? Thanks!

  7. Altough something is natural does not mean it is safe. Borax is not non toxic and should never be used with things that come in contact with food.
    Also, Do not INHALE!

    • Noon: Show us the proof then. I refer you to this site:
      http://crunchybetty.com/getting-to-the-bottom-of-borax-is-it-safe-or-not

      Bottom line up fron: unless you are spoon feeding yourself high quantities of the detergent created here, it is highly unlikely that you would have any issues whatsoever. And the issues you would have by eating this detergent are no more severe than swallowing huge amounts of baking soda, or salt. Yes, you should not inhale it (duh!), and I don’t think swallowing huge amounts of this natural detergent would be good for your colon. But it works great on your dishes, and so far, leaves no appreciable residue. So, I don’t buy your argument.

      PS: Noon, do you ever use talc? Yeah, don’t inhale that either, nor do I recommend consuming it in large quantities.

      • Yeah, I guess I was trying to be a bit rude. I get that way sometimes. Sorry, I am trying to be a better person. 😉

    • Dear Noon,
      Thank you for your concern. There certainly has been much controversy surrounding borax recently. To be completely honestly I am more comfortable using this recipe than I am buying a box of detergent from the store. I have done a lot of research regarding borax. I feel borax is safe to use for my family. That’s my personal call for my family. I know it is well rinsed from the the dishes so I am not concerned.

      • Serena and Brett are correct that Noon’s argument cannot be supported via research and Brett hit the nail on the head when he likened the toxic levels of borax equal to that of table salt and baking soda.

      • I am sorry, something went wrong here, i ment to just copy a couple of links for the proof about borax not being safe.

        Dont get me wrong, i am no advocate of telling people what they should do but stating borax is safe is just not wright.
        In europe where i am from it was considerd safe till 2010. What you read in the above message is from wikipedia in german it will give you the links from E.U regulations.
        You could translate if you wish

  8. Since everyone seems to have a problem with clumping, I was thinking I could use that as an advantage and maybe put it in an ice cube tray and make little detergent bricks, one for each load. Had anyone tried this?

  9. WOW! I am so impressed with this formula!. I made it up today and just used it for the first time. The dishes came out SHINY! I also added vinegar to the rinse agent compartment. The silverware had no spots! Neither did the glasses! Also noticed that the dishes were almost completely dry, usually have to finish drying them as I put them away. NOTE: I couldn’t find pure citric acid in the stores so I bought Ball Fruit-Fresh. It has other stuff, including an anti-clumping agent. I’ll let you know if it clumps. Thanks for the great $$ saving recipe. This works way better than the expensive packets I was buying.

    • Sheila
      Thanks for the great idea to subsitute the citric acid with Ball Fruit-Fresh. How much of it do you use when making a batch of the dishwasher detergent?
      Thanks again

  10. My (portable) dishwasher started leaking when I added rinse aid after about three years of using vinegar for that. I suspected the vinegar might have been too acidic, but it is an old dishwasher too. Thanks for sharing your recipes. I love how simple the laundry one is! Trying it today :).

  11. I am going to make my second batch. I have had mixed results. Cloudy glasses, silverware changing colors, dishes not completely clean and residue on dishes. Now I do have hard water and a water softener. I just read to use the high temp wash which I am trying right now. I will let you know how that works but I am trying to save money and I’m not sure how much it costs for that setting on the dishwasher. Any advise would be greatly appreciated.

  12. I had wonderful success with this formula (still on the first batch).
    For citric acid I used Ball (the canning company) Fruit Fresh. I couldn’t find citric acid anywhere (and was too impatient to order online). Citric acid is the 3rd ingredient in this stuff. It also has a non-clumping agent which is probably why I
    am not having clumping issues. I also am using white vinegar in the rinse agent
    dispenser. My dishes are cleaner and less cloudy than using commercial packets.
    I also have a water softener. BTW, also a huge fan of the laundry detergent. Clothes come out just as fresh and clean with only a TBSP! Amazing!

  13. Hi Rosemary:
    I just substitute an equal amount of Fruit Fresh for the citric acid (1/2 c per batch). I would say it is by far the most expensive ingredient in this formula. The little bottle (approximately 1 c) cost $3+ so I will probably order the citric acid online and see how it compares. I was just too impatient to try this out! I find it is a very effective substitute!

  14. Can people please tell me where you are purchasing the ingredients? I do most of my shopping on Amazon and the prices are WAY higher. The washing soda (55 oz) is $10.17!! Talk about a price hike! Kosher salt (48 oz) is $9.99! Help, I am trying to save money! Thanks!!

    • Wal-Mart is usually the cheapest for me but I am also able to get the ingredients at Target, Cub Foods, and Walgreens. I live in Minnesota.

    • I don’t know how widespread they are, but I always preferred Rural King. Not sure how the prices compare but I hate going to Walmart. Our local hardware store also has lost of these ingredients.

  15. So…. I have been using this exact formula for quite a while now. This is despite the fact that it does not do well with hard-water. Has anyone else ever noticed that the bottom of their dishwasher is all brown-ish? Is this just really hard water? My dishwasher is new”er”. What is going on? What to do about it? I also use the vinegar for the rinse aid.

  16. I started playing with this recipe (we live in Kansas – hot and humid summers, and to save a little on the cost of heating in the winter we vent our dryer into the house so it is almost always HUMID in our home and thus this detergent is a bit clumpy – I am going to try keeping it in Mason jars and see how that works)…what I’ve found to work best for hard water stains (that chalky film on everything including the dishwasher) is to blend the recipe as given, then use maybe a 1/2 Tablespoon of straight citric acid in the pre-wash compartment – it works just like Lemi-shine at a fraction of the cost. A few things; 1. I don’t really care if Borax is “safe” – it can’t possibly be less “safe” than commercial detergent…and I’ve used it for better than a dozen years mixed with lemon juice to clean porcelain tubs (it works beautifully and better than anything on the market – don’t care what CLR or Clorox claim…they lie). 2. Citric acid is easy to find online, I purchased mine at bulkapothecary.com or in a pinch you can find it at your local grocery in the food preservation isle where you find pectin and canning jars/lids. 3. Generally, though I do hate to admit it, I buy my ingredients at the big bad Walmart…no one sells Borax or Washing Soda cheaper (those you find in the laundry isle). 4. Most Importantly….THANK YOU for inspiring me to start making my own everything, Laundry Detergent, Dishwasher Detergent, Deodorant, Body Soap, Fabric Softener…I’ll keep trying to replace more and more commercial items in my home until I can no longer find things to replace!

    • Trisha,

      Great note! Save even more money by buying the .50/box baking soda a Wallmart, and convert it to washing soda yourself. Also, I have started using diatomaceous earth to avoid clumping. As little as 1/8th of a cup to a 3 cup batch works wonders!

  17. Hi I wondered if anyone has advice, i made my first batch around sept and it was great, it turned into a powder, i’ve since made the mixture a further four times with the same ingredients and quantities but it keeps coming out really watery, we live in the uk and it certainly getting colder and damp.
    Any suggestions
    Caroline

    • By watery, do you mean liquid or is it clumping? Even with the humidity in the UK I can’t imagine the dry ingredients turning to a liquid. Did you add a liquid to the dry ingredients? Perhaps the vinegar for the rinse aid?