Homemade Dishwasher Soap

by Merissa on October 21, 2011

in Homestead Hints

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I run my dishwasher every day!!  I had decided to experiment with some different dishwasher detergents and see what would work in my dishwasher and be the most cost effective.  I definitely wanted clean dishes with no residue.  I was using some store brands, name brands, and "earth" friendly brands.  I have settled in with the homemade for over 9 months now and am happy with the results.  The recipe is very simple:

  • 1 cup 20 Mule Team Borax
  • 1 cup Washing Soda
  • 1/4 cup citric acid (--Get it from Mountain Rose Herbs)

Mix the powders together and add to homemade dishwasher soap "well".  I use approximately 2 T. in my main "well".  The amount will vary according to your dishwasher brand and capacity.

You can buy the Borax and Washing  Soda at  Walmart.  I order the citric acid in a bulk amount through Mountain Rose Herbs or you can order it from Amazon.  You can also add in a couple drops of your favorite essential oil to add additional properties to your powder.  I like to add in the citrus oils like grapefruit, orange, or lemon oil.  Mountain Rose Herbs also carry essential oils.

For the rinse aid compartment in my dishwasher, I fill that up with either vinegar or Biokleen Glass Cleaner Concentrate.

I have not had any problems with spots, residue or non-clean dishes with these combinations.  We do have soft water in our house, so if you have hard water, you may find other results or have to adjust the amounts that you are using.

Let me know if you have questions on this or if you have other suggestions for articles that you would like to have us investigate or write about.

Until next time,  Julie

Julie is Merissa's mom and she's committed to living a frugal and simple lifestyle. Julie grows her own herbs in her garden and enjoys making things at home. You can now find her home remedies and ideas here at Little House Living.

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sara Masarik October 21, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Hmmmm…. I have never found a recipe that truly works for me. I would love it if this one does!

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2 Sara Masarik October 21, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Hmmmm…. I have never found a recipe that truly works for me. I would love it if this one does!

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3 Mel Free October 21, 2011 at 3:04 pm

I tried the vinegar as a rinse aid & thank you so very much!..no more spots & now no more smell! :)

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4 Mel Free October 21, 2011 at 3:04 pm

I tried the vinegar as a rinse aid & thank you so very much!..no more spots & now no more smell! :)

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5 Mel Free October 22, 2011 at 8:35 am

Did I forget to mention that Rinse Aid is sooo expensive & they rarely had coupons for it!?

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6 Mel Free October 22, 2011 at 8:35 am

Did I forget to mention that Rinse Aid is sooo expensive & they rarely had coupons for it!?

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7 Leta October 22, 2011 at 9:58 am

I use generic lemon Kool Aid for my citric acid. I like the smell, and for me, it is the cheapest available citric acid source. If you choose to try this, please note that it can be any brand of kool-aid type drink but it MUST be lemon. I will have to try this recipe. I think it will work out to being cheaper than mine (50%-50% generic oxyclean and lemon Kool-Aid).

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8 Leta October 22, 2011 at 9:58 am

I use generic lemon Kool Aid for my citric acid. I like the smell, and for me, it is the cheapest available citric acid source. If you choose to try this, please note that it can be any brand of kool-aid type drink but it MUST be lemon. I will have to try this recipe. I think it will work out to being cheaper than mine (50%-50% generic oxyclean and lemon Kool-Aid).

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9 Danetta Cates December 20, 2011 at 12:35 pm

I was wondering if Sara,Mel & Leta had positive results after trying dishwasher detergent & if they hv hard r soft water?

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10 Danetta Cates December 20, 2011 at 12:35 pm

I was wondering if Sara,Mel & Leta had positive results after trying dishwasher detergent & if they hv hard r soft water?

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11 Kathy Anderson January 4, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I am getting ready to make this. I found the citric acid at Hardware Hank here in Rapid for about $2.50 for 3 oz. Another site I viewed the recipe on called for epsom salt added to the mixture, so I plan to add that as well. Can’t hurt, and it will make it go farther.

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12 Kathy Anderson January 4, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I am getting ready to make this. I found the citric acid at Hardware Hank here in Rapid for about $2.50 for 3 oz. Another site I viewed the recipe on called for epsom salt added to the mixture, so I plan to add that as well. Can’t hurt, and it will make it go farther.

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13 Angela January 20, 2012 at 5:07 am

Close to the same ingredients that I use for my homemade laundry soap. I don’t have a dishwasher…..just me.

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14 RaShell Keller February 13, 2012 at 6:27 pm

I found a recipe similar to this one on DIY Naturally and (naturally) didn’t have all of the ingredients so I tried a variation using 1) Washing Soda 2) Borax and 3) Table salt. We have been so thrilled with it! I’d stopped using my dishwasher a year ago because the phosphate free detergents were leaving a nasty film on my dishes. I can honestly say that I am impressed with my accidental recipe.

You can see my variation here -
http://poppyjuice-poppy.blogspot.com/2012/02/truly-amazing-homemade-dishwasher.html

I’d love to know if this works for anyone else as well as it does for me!

Thanks for your amazing website! I’m sharing on my facebook as it is full of very helpful information!

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15 Mindy December 28, 2012 at 8:57 am

I do not have a dishwasher at my house, I am the “dishwasher”. So I was wondering can I use this recipe for my dishes?

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16 Alf January 17, 2013 at 1:04 pm

I use 1/2 cup bleach and the dishes come out clean and sparkling with no bleach smell. It works great and very cheap.

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17 Cheryl R January 17, 2013 at 1:26 pm

@ Mindy – washing soda is caustic (not the same as baking soda) and I’m not sure if that amount of citric acid would be enough to counteract the caustic-ness, so you would definitely want to use rubber gloves if washing by hand. You might have to watch out for slipperiness also. Could cause you to drop glass dishes more easily. Just a couple of thoughts. Has anyone tried this?

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18 Dena January 17, 2013 at 7:00 pm

I have used this recipe for my dishwasher for a long time and love it. We used to have very hard well-water, but recently got connected to a rural city-water system. I didn’t have problems with this and the hard water; and I have no problems, now.
There is something that needs to be said about using vinegar in the rinse aid compartment, though. The vinegar can ruin parts of that dispenser area, according to comments I’ve read on several blogs I follow. I put my vinegar in a cup on the top shelf of my d/w and it works great!
I hope this info helps.

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19 Jana February 8, 2013 at 10:31 am

I used this recipe but I read on a few other sites that you can use Lemon Shine as its basically Citric Acid. I found it at my local WalMart for about $3 for a decent sized bottle (its about the same size as a small Comet bottle). I haven’t noticed any difference between the homemade detergent and the store bought except for the price! My sister in law had a horrible issue with hard water after she moved so she added Kosher salt as well and it has worked great for her.

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20 Rachel February 19, 2013 at 3:13 pm

We have hard water and it worked great!

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21 Debbie Mullin July 18, 2013 at 8:25 pm

After I made this dishwasher soap, it became a solid brick. Very hard to use. What do you do to keep this from happening?

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22 Merissa July 19, 2013 at 7:26 am

Did your ingredients get moisture in them? That’s the only reason I can think of them to stick together.

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23 nikki December 20, 2013 at 12:09 pm

I scoop 1 T amounts using an cookie dough scoop and let it dry that way.

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24 Stephanie November 23, 2013 at 6:50 am

I so wish any completely homemade recipe would work for me here in Wyoming however I think our water is just too hard so I found a way to stretch my dishwasher detergent and still get the result I want to see when I open the machine. I mix 1 cup of Washing Soda, 1 cup of Borax and 1/2 cup of a good store brand detergent. Use 2T per load and vinegar in the rinse. This recipe makes even a small box of detergent last a very long time and my dishes look like I want them to :)

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25 Merissa November 23, 2013 at 7:52 am

Stephanie, we had super hard water at our old house (in fact one of the reasons I’m so against having one here at our new house), but I finally ended up using Seventh Generation dishwasher soap. It still wasn’t perfect but it worked better than anything else I tried.

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26 jennifer December 19, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Just wanted to let you know that if you have a problem with spots due to hard water, just add 1/2 cup to one cup vinegar to the rinse cycle. Works wonders! I make a similar recipe, but instead of the citric acid, I add epsom salts and lemon juice and make a paste that I fill ice cube trays with. They harden up nicely, and clean well! When we live in a place with hard water, I just do the vinegar trick.

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27 nikki December 20, 2013 at 12:11 pm

How much Epsom salts and lemon juice would you use in this recipe? Thanks!

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28 Crystal Eutsler December 20, 2013 at 6:03 am

I was hoping this recipe would be a new one I hadn’t seen. I have tried this, and unfortunately in Missouri even in a sealed container, it turns in to a solid block of stone, and it leaves the worst film on my dishes. I have tried vinegar with it, I have tried real store bought rinse aid, and it still doesn’t work. I have tried slight variations and still can’t get it to work for me. Any thoughts? I do love your site, and I have found most of your recipes to be good and helpful. So pleasse don’t think I am a negative nelly.

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29 Karen April 9, 2014 at 6:09 pm

I put with 1/3 cup white rice in the toe of a clean knee-hi stocking. Twist the stocking close to the rice four times. Turn the top of the knee-hi over the ball you just created. Tie a knot in the knee-hi just over the two-layer knee-hi ball. Cut the extra knee-hi top off and put it i the bottom of any dry mixture (including this soap recipe), in your sugar canister, etc.

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30 nikki December 20, 2013 at 11:26 am

I find that I have residue left, even with vinegar, but I have pretty hard water. I’m thinking of adding Charlie’s Laundry Booster, which helped with hard water when washing cloth diapers. I’ve heard of people using it in their dishwasher, too.

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