Homemade Dishwasher Detergent and Rinse Agent

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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

About Matt Jabs

Matt loves to inspire others to save money and live more sustainably. He is passionate about eating local, living simply, and doing more things himself. He also writes about Personal Finance at Debt Free Adventure. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and his +Matt Jabs Google profile.

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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. Diane says

    I love your detergent, many thanks to you and your wife for sharing your recipe and experiences. The detergent It is fun and easy to make and I really appreciate your troubleshooting page. I live in MD and the well water here is REALLY hard so at first I was having problems with cloudiness & residue even after doubling the citric acid. However, after going back and following your suggestions to increase the amount of detergent (I use two rounded TBSP) and adding 1/2 cup of vinegar to the wash, it has virtually resolved the problem. In addition, I love the cost savings and peace of mind that comes with knowing exactly what it is my detergent. Again, thank you so very much!

  2. Tammy says

    I was wondering if I could add some Baking Soda to this as well, for a little extra cleaning? I have also heard of doing a pre-wash with Baking Soda in the first dispenser, and the detergent in the other.

  3. Amy says

    I used vinegar for every load of dishes for three years because our water is so hard. Now the racks in our dishwasher are very rusty and falling apart. The seal is fine. (I used a commercial detergent just fyi; now I’m here looking for a homemade recipe so as avoid vinegar.) The bolts on our toilets are also rusty from using vinegar.

    • Stephanie says

      I’m not sure vinegar is the cause of the rust. I, also, have very hard water and the racks in my dishwasher are very rusty & falling apart. However, I have only used commercial detergent & commercial rinse aid.

      • Amy says

        Thanks for that, Stephanie! Very good to know. Wish I could find a non-corrosive softener now that the damage has been done.

    • Kelli says

      The vinegar is not causing the rust. Vinegar will actually take the rust out. If you soak the parts in vinegar then scrub them with a soapless steel wool, the rust should come off. If the parts are too big to soak, soak paper towels in the vinegar and wrap it around all the rusty spots and leave it for a while, then come back and scrub it with the soapless steel wool. It works. I tried it on a rusty crock pot.

  4. Tami says

    That doesn’t make sense! I have used vinegar in EVERY load of my now 4 year old front load washing machine. It isn’t going to cause the rubber to break down like bleach will.

  5. nickieisamom says

    We had an appliance repairman do some work on our dishwasher. He told us to never use vinegar in a dishwasher or front load washing machine because it can weaken the seal on the door of such machines. And, specifically he said that there are rubber seal peices on the inside of the dishwasher and around the motor that slowly errode from vinegar. I love using natural, but affordable vinegar in exchanged for expensive appliance just doesn’t weigh out to me. Anyone else heard this before?

      • cindy says

        This makes sense, but we’ve also been using it for well over a year with no problems. I need to make another batch of auto dishwashing powder; but I had such clumping problems with the citric acid, I want to try the unsweetened lemon Kool Aid – how many packets do I use??

  6. Brett says

    With a bit of research, I found some excellent sources of ingredients at much better prices:

    Batch
    citric acid: 10 lbs $26.99 $2.70 /lbs 4 oz $.68
    borax: 4lbs 12 oz $3.38 $.70/lbs 8 oz $.35
    soda ash: 3 lbs $1.56 $.52/lbs 8 oz $.26
    kosher salt: 4 oz $.16
    _________
    24 oz $1.45

  7. cindy says

    I’ve been using this for about a year and really like it. But the last batch I used, was with the citric acid. By the next day, the whole batch was so hard, I had to get DH to use his drill to break it up! I’ve been scraping off enough to use (make it in a gal size plastic jar), but I guess I’ll have to throw out the whole jar with the remaining quarter in the bottom…we cannot loosen it up anymore. We have extremely hard water, and I have to scrub everything before they go into the dishwaher, and pour 1-2 c of wh vinegar over everything at the beginning of the last rinse cycle or everything’s half-dirty and covered in lime. ew.

    • lynn says

      Add 1/4 cup of rice to your recipe. It won’t hurt your dishwasher, it will just wash down the drain.

  8. Cindy Sampey says

    Hi, I have hard water and have been using the homemade dishwasher detergent for about 1-1/2 to 2 months. The detergent cleans my dishes really good, and I’m very happy with it. However, it is turning my flatware dark. Some of my flatware is not shiny anymore and is turning black looking. Do you know what is causing this and is something I can do to fix it? Has anyone else had this problem? I really don’t want to stop using the detergent, however, I can’t have black looking flatware. Thanks

  9. JJ says

    Well, that last comment of mine was supposed to be a reply to MSGran’s comment/ question about washing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher! lol

    I made a batch and only ran one load so far. Mostly there was glass on top and bottom and mostly it came out sparkly clean but there were some discolorations (food stains) remaining on heavily dirty items. Also, one bowl that had been used with vegies sauteed in butter came out with light to medium greasy residue.

    I think I’m going to add more citric acid; all of our faucets have lime/scale build up so the evidence suggests doing so would be helpful. My hubby says one role of the citric acid is to remove grease… I wouldn’t know that for sure- can anyone else confirm, please? Otherwise I think I’ll be researching chemicals to add to the mix for that purpose. 🙂

  10. Amber says

    Love this recipe! Made it yesterday and used it on my first load of dishes last night. My dishes came out super clean. Better results than the other junk you buy in stores IMHO! One thing I did different was I used 10 packets of unsweetened lemonade since they are mainly citric acid. I used store brand at .12 each. Just came across this site yesterday and I am hooked! The homemade bug has bitten!

  11. cazra says

    you can get 1 lb or approx 3 c of citrus acid powder from dharma trading for 4.25 + shipping…fyi. Theyre super nice and a great company too.

  12. karl says

    You can use the small Kool-Aid packet (no sugar) as the citric acid. They are mostly citric acid anyway.

  13. Peggy says

    I just ran a load of dishes and they are fabulously sparkly clean. I actually poured the white wine vinegar in the bottom of the dishwasher – a splash or two. If you can’t get your dishes clean perhaps try that? I didn’t measure the dry powder, I just filled the soap holder, closed it, then poured a splash or two of the vinegar. LOVE this. Love it.

  14. Johanna says

    I’ve just made my second batch of the dishwashing detergent and love it. Because of our hard water I followed the suggestion to use double the amount of citric acid. Our dishes are clean and there is no residue. It works great. Since it has been working so great, I thought I would try it in my shower to remove hard water stains, soap residue and grout stains. I started by sprinkling the detergent on the shower floor and spraying with a water bottle – I loved watching it foam up. After letting it sit for a few minutes I scrubbed it with a brush. I did the same thing with grout stains on the tile walls by making a thick paste of detergent and water letting it sit for a few minutes and scrubbing with an old tooth brush. Although it took a little of elbow grease the shower is sparkling clean and I didn’t have to suffer through inhaling all of the toxic fumes of the toxic cleaning agents I’ve used in the past. Thanks!

  15. Hannah says

    My mother warned me that using anything but commercial “dishwashing” soap” is horrible for your diswasher and will clog all the pipes…but I refuse to believe this. Is homemade dishwashing soap safe to use in my new dishwasher? We have an apartment and I don’t want to risk destroying it!

  16. Cheryl says

    Ah but using citrus can also leave spots on silverware or other stainless products. I bought some good Odina Flatware and they said do NOT use anything with citrus it takes the finish off the flatware.

  17. MSGran says

    Same thing happened to me. I really wanted to continue to use this but who wants to wash the dishes before you put them in the dishwasher?

  18. Natasha says

    I just tried this a few times but I’ve noticed that I really need to scrub the dishes well before putting them into the dishwasher for this to actually work. The scrubbing power of the detergent itself doesn’t get food marks off my dishes. I tried washing them in hot water as well as adding some extra Kosher salt the load but neither worked. Has anyone else seen this happen? any tips? I really want to move away from the Cascade gels I currently use but they really do a great job getting food off the dishes. Thanks.

  19. Carmen says

    I have made dishwasher soap with just borax and baking soda. I think I will try this but would the citric acid just be to produce a nice smell? The borax and baking soda worked pretty well. Just trying to keep it simple but would love to know the reason that the citric acid was needed.

    • Brooke says

      I dont use citric acid, I use lemonade koolaid, the unsweetened kind, 2 packs per container of soap I make.

      • Brett says

        Brooke, then you are using Citric Acid. But you are using a very expensive version, with a lot of waste (packets). Look around and buy the citric acid in bulk online:

        check out http://www.dudadiesel.com/search.php?query=citric

        The citric acid is just like using lemishine. Not just for the nice smell.

        Also, a nice additive to your chicken kabobs or what not for a good citrus zing! Think lemon pepper (ever wonder why it clumps: Citric Acid)