Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

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homemade dishwasher detergent
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I’ve posted a lot of recipes for DIY homemade cleaners, but dishwasher detergent was one I had trouble figuring out. After a little more digging, I finally figured out the secret! This homemade dishwasher detergent recipe uses natural ingredients to help you save money and get dirty dishes squeaky clean.

Powdered Dishwasher Detergent

I’d experimented with a lot of dishwasher powder recipes, but all of them left a little residue, especially on glassware. I wasn’t sure if I had too much of something or if I was missing an ingredient that would make it more effective.

Thanks to a little tip on Pinterest, I figured out the missing ingredient was citric acid. Even better, I already had some on hand from making bath bombs so I gave it a try. The result was clean, shiny dishes without residue buildup or grime.

The Magical Ingredient

As the name implies, citric acid is an acid and is naturally found in lemon juice. Adding fresh lemon juice to your homemade dishwasher detergent though isn’t really practical since it decreases the shelf life. For those with hard water (especially if you don’t have a water softener) citric acid provides natural cleaning power to beat filmy dish residue.

Most citric acid comes from fermented GMO-corn, so it’s important to check your source. The citric acid I use is food-grade, non-GMO, and fermented from cane sugar. Vinegar is made by using natural microbes to ferment fruit sugar (like apples) into acetic acid. Citric acid is made in much the same way as vinegar, except the end result of fermentation is citric acid.

I combine the citric acid with the rest of the ingredients and put the whole thing in the detergent compartment. Some people find though that it works best separately as a rinse aid. In this case, put a tablespoon of citric acid powder in the rinse aid compartment of your dishwasher.

Some people instead use vinegar in the liquid rinse dispenser or in a bowl in the top rack of the dishwasher. Over time though the white vinegar can break down the rubber gaskets and hoses in your dishwasher.

How Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Works

While the natural acidity of the citric acid prevents a film, the other ingredients in this homemade detergent help clean dishes.

Washing soda, the main ingredient here, raises water pH and helps soften water. It also removes stains and grease and works as a cleaning agent. Most store-bought detergents include it in their soap recipe so you’ll often see it on the label as sodium carbonate. You can even make it yourself from baking soda.

I’ve also added salt to the recipe which also helps clean and soften water. Most recipes call for Kosher salt since it’s pure sodium chloride without any other minerals. I haven’t had a problem using regular sea salt though.

Much Ado…

The final ingredient in this dishwasher blend is borax, which has been the center of some online debate. In my opinion, borax is very much on the low end of the scale when it comes to the potential toxicity of chemicals in cleaning products. It’s a naturally occurring ingredient that I feel comfortable using in my cleaning recipes.

If not, I’ve also used enzyme cleaners like Biokleen dishwasher soap which doesn’t have borax.

Where to Buy It

Don’t want to make your own dishwasher detergent but don’t want to resort to hand washing a load of dishes either? There are plenty of healthy dishwasher detergent options now! You can even find some of these at places like Walmart, Amazon, or your local grocery store. Here are some ones I’ve used before with good results:

homemade dishwasher detergent
4.25 from 20 votes

DIY Dishwasher Detergent Recipe

This simple recipe is a great non-toxic alternative for cleaner dishes! Plus it takes mere minutes to make.
Prep Time3 minutes
Total Time3 minutes
Yield: 3 cups
Author: Katie Wells




  • Stir all of the ingredients together and break up any clumps. You can use a fork to mash in the essential oils if using.
  • Use 1-2 tablespoons per dishwasher load as needed.
  • For an extra boost, add a few drops of dishwashing liquid (only a few!!!) to the powder before closing the soap container in the dishwasher.


Store the dishwasher detergent in an airtight container in a dry place.

Not Working For You?

Homemade powdered dish detergent can be tricky. Depending on how hard/soft your water is and the temperature you wash dishes at it can be difficult to find a recipe that works.

One easy fix to try is to omit the citric acid from this recipe and instead use it as a rinse agent. Put 1 tablespoon of homemade dishwasher detergent into the prewash compartment, and add 1 tablespoon of citric acid to the main wash compartment. This way, when you run the wash cycle the dish detergent will first wash the dishes, then the citric acid will help shine them.

New to Natural Cleaning?

If you’re just starting with DIY or natural cleaners, here are some other easy and inexpensive recipes:

What do you use in the dishwasher? Ever made your own dishwasher detergent? Share below!

Homemade dishwasher detergent makes natural cleaning easy. Borax, washing soda, citric acid and salt make an effective and inexpensive natural option.

Leverette, M. (2023, December 4). What Is Washing Soda and How Is It Used? A chemical compound frequently used in laundry detergents. The Spruce.

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Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


273 responses to “Homemade Dishwasher Detergent”

  1. Tony Avatar

    5 stars
    It really does work. We used to buy the most expensive dish tabs I can’t remember the name cuz it’s been so long since I bought it but it had the little red ball in the center of a white detergent Square. But we’ve saved so much money you should try it

  2. Lindsey Marshall Avatar
    Lindsey Marshall

    I want so badly for this to work but after a dozen tries, both as written, and separating the citric acid, I’m still left with less than clean and very foggy glassware… any other tips?! Thanks

  3. Dana Avatar

    The Bosch site says not to use sea salt and it can damage the appliances. Has anyone has issues? I can’t imagine it’s worse than the chemicals the detergents are made from.

  4. Natalie Avatar

    I mixed this together in a glass jar where I intended to keep it but it just got super hard and impossible to spoon out??

  5. Danieled Avatar

    Hi All,

    I’ve just created this recipe, has anyone had fizzing once all mixed together. I can’t put the lid on yet as it’s still fizzing 5 minutes later?

    1. Jamie Larrison Avatar

      It sounds like maybe some moisture or water got into the mixture. It shouldn’t fizz as that means the citric acid is already activating.

      1. Beatrice Avatar

        Is there anything we can do if it activates? Will it still work or do we need to start again?

  6. Lori Avatar

    Can we use citric acid that says for canning? Wondering if its all the same regardless of how we use it?

  7. Andrew T Avatar

    I’ve been looking for recipes, and this one is very similar to what I settled on. It’s a recipe for dishwasher *tablets*. Solves the clumping issue by intentionally clumping it! The only thing additional to your recipe was 1 part white vinegar. Aside from helping to bind everything together, vinegar helps with disinfecting and softening hard water. I packed the mix into silicone molds (after making sure the hardened tablets will fit my dishwasher’s dispenser), let it dry for 24 hours, and then popped them out into a container with an airtight lid.

    So far so good! Dishes come out clean and sparkling. There were a few pans that didn’t completely clean on the sides, but that was a problem with all my detergents and is solvable with a “power wash” option on my dishwasher.

    I do have a question though… I also have an enzyme dishwasher powder (Norwex), and I wonder if there’s any benefit to adding it to the mix? Anyone experiment with that? If so, what portion size worked with the recipe?

    1. Mike Avatar

      So I don’t like leaving negative reviews or comments, but borax is not safe to ingest. It can cause poisoning and organ damage. I just know it’s fairly easy for a dishwasher to not rinse off everything effectively every time. Is there a safer alternative to borax?

  8. Kourtney Avatar

    Short Comment:

    Borax (2 tbsp)
    Washing Soda (2 tbsp)
    Kosher Salt (2 tbsp)
    Citric Acid (1 tbsp)

    This is for (1) load.

    Long Comment:

    I threw my hands up /gave up on natural dishwashing detergent because I kept having to re-wash about 10% of the dishes each time.


    I gave it another go this week and finally found a recipe.

    I believe the problem was a failure to use enough product each load.

    I do believe you have to play around with DIY dishwashing detergent /tailor it to your water.

    We have hard water.

    Anyway, this recipe equals out to about $0.45 a load if you buy the ingredients in bulk (example: 10 lb bag of citric acid on Amazon).

    That’s pretty comparable (maybe even a little cheaper) than the best Cascade packs you can buy.

    I don’t pre-mix the ingredients for storage because they clump together (at least with my old recipe; I haven’t bothered combining the new), I just add them right to the dishwasher each time.

    I was soo excited, I had to share!!

    1. Kourtney Avatar

      Oh.. no, it’s more expensive than Cascade (which is about $0.30 /load) but it’s worth it to me.

      I always feel like those chemicals stick to my dishes and transfer to my food /drinks.. no thank you.

      1. Lynn Avatar

        1 star
        I tried this because you said it worked so well. I even put my dishwasher setting on heavy and extra boost and my dishes certainly did not come out clean. Everyone of my glasses had a white film that looked like they were rinsed in milk. I also have a 3 month old dishwasher. This recipe was horrible and will throw the rest of it away.

  9. Gloria Avatar

    Same here…. bought all the ingredients and tried it. First time worked perfect. Second, the powder was rock hard and dishes unclean.
    What seems to be the issue???? Anyone????

4.25 from 20 votes (18 ratings without comment)

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