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

Matt Jabs

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.

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. Brett says

    All: I am trying diatomaceous earth as an anti-caking agent. So far it seems to have totally prevented the clumping. I will let you know if it affects the quality of the detergent.

    • Sharon says

      Is diatomaceous earth abrasive enough that, over time, it might micro-abrade glass and fog it up?

      • Brett says

        Well, I am not sure yet. I found one web blog that included it as an ingredient in a “cleaning paste.” Specifically, they claimed that, “This paste is effective for most household cleaning chores and contains no harsh abrasives to harm surfaces. The paste resembles a gray putty, except that it is slightly softer and has a bubbled surface. The chalk or diatomaceous earth provides a fine sheen without scratching.” I will be sure to let you know. I used 1/4 of a cup in about a three cup batch. . .

  2. caroline says

    hi i made the dishwashing detergent and it cleans better than any other product i have bought, totally impressed, i’m inspired and am trying other products

  3. Lori says

    I am really getting into making my own cleaning supplies. How safe is this on our septic systems?

  4. caroline says

    Hi I am really keen to be more envionmentally friendly, however i’m in the UK and struggling to find some of the ingredients, eg kosher salt is there any alternatives i could use

    • Matt Jabs says

      Sure Caroline, any bigger crystal salt (similar to the kosher size) will work. Or just omit the salt and give it a shot without, you should be fine. Cheers.

    • Matt Jabs says

      The recipe calls for borax so we can’t stand behind a recipe without it, but give it a shot and let us know how it goes. If you have hard water be sure to include the washing soda. Blessings.

  5. ajlMO says

    I’ve been using this now for about 2 weeks. I was so happy at first with how clean my dish washer is but my dishes just aren’t coming clean. They are very cloudy and don’t feel clean and smooth. I’m using the kosher salt and vinegar, what am I doing wrong?????? Thanks

    • Sharon says

      I’ve been using this recipe since January 2012 and occasionally have a problem with cloudy glassware, also, although the vast majority of loads come out sparkling clean and clear. My checklist is: Did I overload? Did I have something aluminum in the load? I’m not too sure about the aluminum, but someone cautioned me about it clouding glassware. Overloading most definitely is the biggest factor in how well my dishwasher works with any soap, but there does seem to be some factor I haven’t identified yet. Have you figured out anything?

  6. cathy says

    oh!! can l use organic soap? ingredients are: sodium palmate..sodium cocoate..glycerin..sodium citrate..cinnamonum..zeylanicum..bark powder..eugenia caryophyllus (clove ) leaf oil..citrus aurantium dulcis orange peel oil..limonene..eugenol.
    Is this ok to use,or can you recommend a cheaper version?

  7. manny says

    try using another organic acid like tartaric acid or malic acid they also work and actually remove stains better, they are more expensive though, you can special order in the pharmacy of your choice

  8. Amy says

    Just tried this the other day, and my dishes came out with a film on them. Any suggestions for this? Tweaking the recipe, perhaps? I always use vinegar directly in the bottom before starting, too. I would really love for this to work. I hate the strong smell that emits from my dishwasher when I use the commercial stuff.

  9. Cindy says

    Hi Cristy,

    That’s what I figured was the problem. Do you know a solution to this? Should I use less/more of the citric acid? Do you know if the citric acid is necessary? I am using the lemon kool-aid packets and doubled the amount since I have hard water. Thanks for any tips or suggestions.

    Cindy

  10. Nan says

    Krystal, perhaps you’re ‘missing the point”. I’m trying to ‘fine tune’ my recipe and don’t even know how much citric acid I’ll need or if I even want to switch. Why would I buy FIVE POUNDS of citric acid I may never use or it might be enough for me for 20 years!?! If I want to buy two walmart kool aid packs for 12 cents a piece every 3 or 4 months, get over it already.

    • Amy says

      Well, Nan, you could recycle your kool aid packets into shoes and donate them to homeless children. and then you could feel sanctimonious too. 😉

      • Steve says

        Christy,

        Tarnish on silverware is usually caused by sulfur compounds in the air or water, such as the rotten egg smell in some water. I haven’t tested this, but you may need to increase the amount of salt. Cindy is right about adjusting the amount of citric acid.

        I do have a fairly easy way to remove tarnish from silverware that I’ve used. Take a glass baking dish like a cassarole dish, line it with aluminum foil and put the silverware on the foil, make a mixture of a quarter cup of baking soda per quart of water. Heat the water mix and pour it over the silverware, be ready it’ll foam a bit. After a couple of minutes the tarnish will be gone and you can wipe and rinse off the remaining tarnish.

    • Matt Jabs says

      Ladies, this comment form is for helpful comments only, please keep this in mind. We’re here to help each other, not tear each other down. Let’s stay positive.

  11. Krystal says

    I have read all of the comments on this page and decided to give it a try. I do have to say though those of you talking about using kool-aid are missing the point. You are suppose to be making this a cheaper/greener solution. As pointed out prior the packets are adding to our waste and the kool-aid is more exspensive. Ordering online or looking for a local store that carries the citric acid is not that difficult. Please reconsider the kool-aid option and try and help uour enviornment. Every little step helps. P.s.- I have used vinegar as my rinse aid for over 5 years now with no seal issues.

  12. Brett says

    Matt,
    According to the site I linked to, it is 200 degrees F. I have seen it as low as 140 Degrees F, and as high as 400 degrees F. The key according to one site is to get it above 140 degrees F. That is when it starts letting go of the of the CO2. The higher the temp, the faster the process.

    • Matt Jabs says

      That article is partially correct, the conversion of sodium bicarbonate to sodium carbonate begins at 212° F, but full conversion requires 392° F. Solid NaHCO3 begins to lose carbon dioxide and water around 100°C (212° F), but complete conversion to sodium carbonate does not happen until 392° F (200° C). If cooked at a lesser heat, full conversion will never happen.

      Best solution is to put baking soda in a glass dish about 1/4″ deep and bake at 400° F (nice round number) for an hour.

      I suppose I should write an article about it. 🙂

      • Brett says

        Good to know! I am not a chemist by any stretch of the imagination . . .I just try to do as much research as possible. Thanks for the site and your knowledge. 🙂

        • Matt Jabs says

          My pleasure Brett, I’ll be writing an article on the topic soon so we can have a thorough, go-to guide for people looking to make their own.

  13. Dabs says

    Could you please tell me where to find Washing Soda, it’s definately not $2.19 as stated at Amazon! Thanks!!!!

  14. pd says

    Tried it for the first time yesterday…seems to work great!

    Anyone try adding an oxygen-cleaner (such as Oxiclean) to the mix? Reading the list of ingredients on our nearly empty box of 7th Generation powdered dish detergent includes sodium percarbonate, which is the main ingredient in Oxiclean. I think Oxiclean adds some suds-producing agents though, which is not what you want in a dishwasher. I have found another product called Oxyboost which claims (corroborated by my research online) to have a higher percentage of the active ingredient (sodium carbonate) and the only other ingredient is sodium carbonate (washing soda, already in the recipe), no sudsing agents. Just wondering if anyone has tried it and if so, how much you used. I’ll try my own experiments and post again if no one speaks up.

    It may not be necessary to add more ingredients, it’s just we do a lot of dishes and home based cleaners don’t always do as good a job. We’ll see!

    • Amy says

      Sodium percarbonate is sodium carbonate (washing soda) + hydrogen peroxide. I think it sounds like a great idea, but I’m not really qualified to opine. Please let us know what happens!

    • Steve says

      I substituted a generic version of Oxiclean for the Borax (simply called Oxygenated cleaner), plus half the amount of baking soda. Here’s what I came up with so far. I also use vinegar as a rinse agent.
      1 Kosher salt
      2 Baking soda
      2 Washing soda
      2 Sodium percarb
      2 Citric acid (lemi)

  15. Jennie says

    Is your calculation of cost correct? It doesn’t seem quite right.

    Your recipe calls for one FLUID 8-oz cup of borax, and the calculation uses the 55 oz WEIGHT of borax, for example.

    Anyway, I’ve been using this recipe and it’s working great! Clumped up but I just stabbed at it a little, and the clumps dissolve just fine in the dishwasher. Thank you!

    • Jennie says

      I remade this today and weighed each item as I added it. Turns out your calculation was close enough! With your costs per box of ingredient, it worked out to a total of $2.25. Thanks again for this!

  16. Genn says

    I thought I seen a detergent recipe on your site before for hand-washing dishes. If so, I can’t seem to find it again. Could you please let me know what it is if you do have one? Thanks! 🙂
    P.S. Really enjoying your site and passing on to others!