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
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4.39 from 18 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

Equipment

Materials

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

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.
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.

Comments

267 responses to “Homemade Dishwasher Detergent”

        1. Myra Avatar

          our dishwasher and washer all go into grey water and we water the orchard with it. So my question is ….is it safe for the orchard? thx much,

          1. Jo Avatar

            Apparently borax becomes boron in the soil & builds up to levels toxic to plants. Washing soda increases the amount of sodium, also becoming toxic in the soil. Perhaps it is ok used a few times a week in a system that has plenty of other neutral greywater to dilute it. It would be wise to research it further perhaps.

    1. Cary Avatar

      You can substitute the borax with washing soda, baking soda, or oxygen bleach. No commercial detergents contain borax. I suspect its in recipes because it has a slight bleaching action, and it was more widely available before oxyclean came on the market. Personally I use a generic powdered oxygen bleach instead.

  1. Monique Siri Sant Avatar
    Monique Siri Sant

    Hi Katie 🙂 Thank you for sharing all this info about DIY thingies!

    I tried the dishwasher detergent, but it doesn’t seem to work very well.
    My first mix was borax, washing soda, citric acid and salt. My container popped and the mixture got a bit hard. So I made a new mixture: borax, washing soda and salt. So I put a spoonfull in the dishwasher and add a teaspoon citric acid. Unfortunately, most of the dishes and cutlery come out dirty. Any suggestions? Thinking of adding some fluid natural soap.

    1. J Albert Avatar
      J Albert

      I had similar problems with the dishwasher soap mixture, but found out it was not just the mixture. The pump on my dishwasher was not putting out enough pressure. Once this was fixed it was cloudy dishes, especially clear glass and plastics. The next batch I doubled the Citric Acid and it was amazing. The third batch I cut it down to about 1.5 the amount and it is perfect.

      I used a sock with rice for a bit to keep it from clumping, but decided to make it in ice trays a tablespoon in each pressed firmly down then popped out after a day on a cookie sheet to dry for several days in a cold oven. After 3 to 5 days (when I remember them) I take them and put the blocks in a airtight container, with the sock still there to manage the moisture. (I use the same method with the Toilet Cleaning Fizzies)

      J Albert

  2. shelly Avatar

    I found that adding a tied off sock filled with rice prevents mine from clumping.

  3. Monique Siri Sant Avatar
    Monique Siri Sant

    “store in an air tight container”… the lid of my container doesn’t seem to be air tight enough. The mixture is fizzing, and the lid POPS! 🙂

    1. Bonnie Avatar
      Bonnie

      Yeah, that’s the citric acid reacting with moisture. You could add the citric acid after, like someone else said, or try molding them into little dishwasher tabs like someone else said. Just use a table spoon to make ball-ish lumps and let dry individually over night. then you can put them in a container without worry. It’s pretty much the same as making bath fizzies.

    2. Bonnie Avatar
      Bonnie

      Hi Katie!

      Can you tell me what the borax does in the recipe? I’m not against using it I’m just wondering what it’s function is in the recipe.
      Thanks!

  4. Heather Avatar

    this recipe is great…it works awesome. i really really really want to use it. i have one problem. i have tried making it two different times and both times ended up in a solid mass. i tried it in a reused coconut oil container and a regular pint ball jar. i live in colorado so there is no humidity. can’t figure this one out! help!

    1. Heather Avatar

      just read through everyone else’s posts and it seems to be the citric acid. i will try putting it in the fridge as one post suggested or adding lemon juice or the citric acid separately. any suggestions/recipes for hand washing dishes? we prefer to do that more than use the dishwasher. i tried a recipe i found online that said “homemade liquid dishwashing soap that really works” and it sucked. everything was greasy

      1. Beth Avatar

        To cut grease I use Pure-Castile Soap. I few drops of this in your dishwater and everything will be squeaky clean. It does make the water cloudy so your water looks dirty faster but it works GREAT!!

      2. Kaitlin Khan Avatar
        Kaitlin Khan

        Idk if you’re still trying to find a good hand washing soap, but our family friends have a goat dairy and are owners of Bend Soap Company. They make awesome soap made completely natural with goats milk. Along with lotion and milk bath. We use their soap for everything from hand washing and bathing to dish washing and more. It smells incredible and has been my most successful hand washing soap. My sponge never smells bad and actually always smells pleasant. You can google Bend Soap Company and find their site. I hope this helps and that you give their soap a try. You’ll love it! If price seems to be an issue, they offer scraps in bulk for less and still just as great! I wouldn’t even call it scraps. God Bless!

        1. Kaitlin Khan Avatar
          Kaitlin Khan

          And when I mentioned hand washing, I meant hand washing dishes. Hints the sponge. 😉

    2. lee Avatar

      Put an absorbent package from an old vitamin bottle, etc or a sachet of rice in your mixture. It’ll help it not to go solid.

  5. Julie Krista Ladd Avatar
    Julie Krista Ladd

    Hey I have a question for you 🙂 I’ve used this recipe, and I used the Ball company citric acid, and it caused the whole mixture to be hardened and almost impossible to use. Do you think its the type of citric acid, or have you had the same issue? Do you have tips?

  6. Karla Avatar

    I tried this and used it twice, both times the detergent did not dissolve in my dishwasher, I was left with a big clump in the detergent compartment. Any idea as to why this might have happened?

    1. LaylaR Avatar

      I usually bleave the soap compartment open. Even with store bought detergent, the lid would not open on its own. It should dissolve if you just put it dishwasher and shut the door.

  7. chantel Avatar

    I have not had much success with this detergent. To prevent clumping, I keep the citric acid in a separate container and just add it in right before i start up the dw. My dishes do not get that clean and my pyrex remains foggy and everything is just kinda greasy feeling. I always make sure my vinegar is filled up too. I have also tried soap nuts liquid (that i made from boiling soap nuts). This works fine when i’m handwashing but not so well in the dw. I have also tried using both the homemade stuff and the soap nuts together. Not any better. I have bought dw detergent from Tropical Traditions and i find that works well, but at $20 plus shipping, it seems like a hefty price. 🙁

  8. Meghan Avatar

    This is the exact recipe I use, but I mold mine (using a tablespoon, scoop & dump onto a sheet tray) and let sit overnight until hard. Then I store them in an airtight container (with a silica packet…). They work great and I don’t have to worry about a clump mess!

  9. cecilia Avatar

    I’ve been making my dishwasher soap for a couple years. I use baking soda and not washing soda. Also, for citric acid, I use a packet of unsweetened lemonade kool aid. It works well. And of course the vinegar.

  10. Virginia Miner Avatar
    Virginia Miner

    No dishwashers for me! I would rather only think about my dishes once. What do you use when you hand wash dishes?

    1. Melissa W. Avatar
      Melissa W.

      I stopped using dish soap several months back when I purchased some high-quality microfiber cloths that pick up EVERYTHING. There are two brands you can choose from: Norwex and eCloth. The Norwex cloths are self-purifying so can be used for multiple days, but are much pricier. I would personally recommend buying seven eCloth rags, using a clean one each day, and laundering weekly. I still keep my dish soap around in case of a really greasy job (like after frying eggrolls), but 99% of the time I just wash my dishes with hot water and the rag.

      1. James Avatar

        After visiting the eCloth site, I have recognized that your use of eCloths is most certainly off label. These cloths were designed for home cleaning, not dishwashing. It says on the site that the cloths deposit 1% of bacteria back onto the surface you are cleaning. I would not trust these cloths for dishwashing purposes. They do, however look fantastic for other home uses.

    2. jen P Avatar

      I don’t have a dish washer either so I make castile soap for hand/body and dish soap. If you’re not ready to make soap, you can extend the life of a purchased bar soap by turning it into liquid soap. Dr. Bronners works well. 1 bar = 1 gallon liquid soap. Search the interwebs for how to make liquid soap from bar soap.

  11. Erica Price Kendall Avatar
    Erica Price Kendall

    I have been using a similar recipe for almost 2 years now and I’m never going back to the store bought junk. The citric acid is what makes the batch clump. But I use lemon juice instead of the acid because it is more readily available. Also I don’t have a problem with residue using lemon juice.

    1. Erica Price Kendall Avatar
      Erica Price Kendall

      Forgot to be more specific : add the lemon juice separately from your powder mixture

      1. Tara Avatar

        How much powder and how much lemon juice? Mix them and then add to dishwasher? Or just add them in the dishwasher?

      1. Erica Price Kendall Avatar
        Erica Price Kendall

        I fill my detergent slot that you close with the powder and other open slot with lemon juice. It comes to be about 1/4 cup each. Hope this helps

      2. Erica Price Kendall Avatar
        Erica Price Kendall

        I fill my detergent slot that you close with the powder and other open slot with lemon juice. It comes to be about 1/4 cup each. Hope this helps

        1. Jake Avatar

          Way too much. This is designed to use only 1 tablespoon per wash.

    2. Magi Avatar

      When you use the lemon juice instead of the citric acid are you making them into tabs or just puring the powder in the dishwasher spot with the lid and adding the lemon juice there too?

    3. Gwynn Avatar

      I just made my 1st batch using lemon juice because of that very reason! Much easier to get my hands on,cheap.

  12. Jill Prayner Avatar
    Jill Prayner

    I have been using this recipe and I have cloudy dishes all the time and sometimes they don’t get very clean. I have added vinegar and it does not seem to help. Any other suggestions??

    1. Amanda Avatar

      I have been using this recipe for over a year an must use the few drops of dish soap, vinegar and a Jet Dry basket. The basket may not be all natural, but it lasts a couple months and it still quite cost effective. It helps me with my hard water. ;0)

    2. Erica Price Kendall Avatar
      Erica Price Kendall

      Try lemon juice as a citric acid substitute to help with the cloudiness

      1. Renu Avatar

        How much lemon juice did you use to substitute for the citric acid?

    3. Aimee Avatar

      Three drops of DAWN dish soap, plus the vinegar. Mine come out great!

      1. Sandra Ellis Avatar
        Sandra Ellis

        NEVER use dish detergent in ur washer or dishwasher! This could damage your machine with build-up as well as voiding your factory warranty.

        1. Jake Avatar

          That is why you only use two or three drops. It will not create enough suds because it is well diluted.

    4. Carole Schmidt Avatar
      Carole Schmidt

      I’m having the same problem- a dull residue on dishes. We use collected rain water which should be good. I used this recipe last summer with excellent results.
      Last year, I did put dissolved Washing Soda in my collection tanks which seems to soften the water, and have done the same this summer. Very frustrating.

  13. Lisa Kraft Avatar
    Lisa Kraft

    I recently read that pouring vinegar into the rinse hole is not a good idea, which is what I have been doing. It breaks down the rubber gaskets. The new idea was to put a glass upright in the top rack filled with vinegar, this would seem to work the same as just pouring it in the bottom!

    1. James Avatar

      I believe that vinegar breaks ALL of the seals down, not just the dispensing unit. I don’t think putting a glass of vinegar in the top rack is going to solve that problem.

  14. Aime Avatar

    Do you have a clumping problem? I made mine and half of it is pretty solid on the bottom of my mason jar… I’m going to have to stab at it with a knife to break it up. :/ Any thoughts on how to prevent this in the future batch?
    I do love the way it cleans though! Much cheaper than commercial stuff! I also put some distilled vinegar in the bottom of the washer before running, works as the rinse agent and makes my glass sparkle!

    1. Diana Christian Avatar
      Diana Christian

      We had that problem as well. DH broke it up (with my good bread knife ????) and put it in the fridge. It stopped clumping after that.

    2. Heather Avatar

      same problem…not sure what to do. it’s solid and i don’t use my dishwasher often enough to break it up regularly. it works great, though. may have to go back to the store bought stuff. 🙁

      1. Aimez Avatar

        I made a second batch and pushed it into ice cube trays (not full or it won’t fit in the detergent slot). Let it harden for a day or so and it works fabulously!

        1. Jess Vogelpohl Avatar
          Jess Vogelpohl

          It just hardens on its’ own? Do I put it in the tray and sit out?

        2. TK Avatar

          I tried this and it didn’t harden in a few days…took a couple weeks. I’m at 43 north, in the fall, so not super humid here. Also always a little bit of powder, so I have to keep them stored i the ice cube tray and then dig one out with a butter knife when it’s wash time.

      1. Aimee Avatar

        Yes! Just don’t fill it all the way or it won’t fit in the tray. It took about a day or so to completely harden. I just left them out in the sun.

    3. Kristi Avatar

      Recycle those silica packs you get in packages in your container to keep it dry.

    4. Suzana Avatar

      Hi,
      put some rice in an old sock, tie it up and let that sit inside the container where you store the powder. That’ll take care of the humidity that’s making the powder harden.
      It works well for me.

    5. sarah Avatar

      mine has not only gone as a lump but to a solution!?!? when mixing ingredients together, what have i done wrong?!?

      1. jo Avatar

        mine has done the same, and it just keeps on expanding! if i put it in an airtight container i’ll have an explosion!! i think it might be the humidity here today- its currently at 60%, (i hate humid weather)

        1. Louise Avatar

          Mine has done the same and when I was shaking the mixture in the container, I did have an explosion. The explosion and me wearing a face/dust mask was quite a picture for my partner – his comment related to mad scientist!

    6. Susanna Avatar

      I take a couple of those cartridges that you find in pill bottles and throw those in the container. That keeps the moisture at bay and maintains the consistency. Either that or the silica packets that you find in packaging, like shoe boxes. Third option, put some rice in the toe of old panty hose and tie it off. Trim the excess hose and throw that in the container. I have hard water and add a little extra citric acid.

    7. Judy Avatar

      I’ve tried using an old sock filled with rice and it seems to help with the caking.

    8. Windy Lawrence Avatar
      Windy Lawrence

      I used one of those “Brown Sugar Bears” from Bed Bath & Beyond ($3.99) it works 🙂

    1. Erica Price Kendall Avatar
      Erica Price Kendall

      It can be found right next to the borax in your big box store’s laundry isle

    2. Brandy Avatar

      You can make it by cooking baking soda in the oven at 450 for 1 hour. Stir a couple times during cooking. It makes a fine powder when done. Be careful it can make a nice dust on everything when you transfer it to a jar. I make batches and store in a mason jar for making laundry detergent, and such.

  15. kristin farnsworth Avatar
    kristin farnsworth

    Do you find your glass is clear now and not cloudy looking? Thanks for the tip! Can’t wait to try this!

      1. Karen Avatar

        Hey can it be sea salt? Or only iodised table salt? Having trouble buying table salt in bulk but can get sea salt easily. For this is salt just salt? Thank you

      2. Winona Avatar

        Tell me how you are getting your glasses clear because mine are coming out cloudy. I use a combo of borax, citric acid, and baking soda. I’m also using vinegar as a rinse agent.

          1. Jessica Lovitt Avatar
            Jessica Lovitt

            Hello! I just made your liquid laundry detergent recipe and I love it. As this is really similar to the dishwasher detergent recipe, could I add citric acid to some of the laundry soap and just use that in the dishwasher? I usually use liquid detergent in the dishwasher. Thanks!

    1. Lisa Avatar

      I haven’t yet tried this recipe. Looking forward to it when I’m finished with the store bought stuff I have. But wondering for all of you with cloudy dishes, is your water hot enough. We have to run our tap water at kitchen sink until it’s hot, then start dishwasher, or we have similar problems…

  16. Nicole Avatar

    Thanks for this…I too have been trying and failing with the natural dishwahser route, can’t wait to get some citric acid and give this a try.

    1. Mary Slavey Avatar
      Mary Slavey

      I too have been having unfavorable results with making my own dishwashing soap until I added dry bleach and find the results to be very good. I found Smart Bleach Crystals at Wal-Mart, added two packets and am quite happy with the results. Glasses and plastics are very clear and shiny. I do also use white vinegar in the rinse dispenser.

      1. janice Avatar

        could you please send me your recipe for dishwashing soap, I’m tired of having tea stains on my plastic cups.

        1. Jackie Avatar

          Try Magic Eraser on cups for tea stains, works on plastics and ceramic. Removes them in seconds.

          1. Jackie Avatar

            Magic Eraser is not toxic but I would think it might scratch a very fine finish. But sounds like a good idea.

  17. Lorri Miller Avatar
    Lorri Miller

    This looks great! In step three, you’re adding drops of what to the powder?

      1. Gillian Avatar
        Gillian

        I don’t recommend putting any dishwashing liquid in as, I did this a long time ago and it causes a problem with my dishwasher and was costly to fix , dishwashers are not made to use dishwashing liquid, It caused. A bubble in the hoses because of the agitation it froths up, dishwasher powder doesn’t do this,

        1. Cindy Avatar

          That’s why Katie stresses using only a few drops. I do this if the dishes are extra greasy and haven’t had any problems.

      2. Muriel Avatar

        Hi Katie,

        I hope this finds you and your family thriving and happy! I enjoy your site so much and am working to making a number of your recipes including the toothpaste. I use the deodorant and it is the best I have EVER used!

        I am wondering if you might have a recipe for all natural dish soap, please? Not dishwasher soap…as I don’t have one…but one that lathers enough (like the bad stuff) when used in a sink full of water (rather than just sponging one dish at a time).

        Thank you for your help, and Happy Easter!

        Warmest wishes, Muriel

          1. Muriel Avatar

            Hi Katie,

            Thanks so much for the quick reply! I will give it a go. Someone said try 20/80 castille soap and water.

            Have a wonderful day.
            Warmest wishes,

          2. Jake Avatar

            Also, I noticed in many of the comments their mixture wasn’t working and leaving the dishes oily, dirty, etc. It might be that they used “baking soda” instead of “washing soda”.

        1. Marcee Avatar

          I use Dr. Bronners liquid soap and dilute at least 4 to 1 with distilled water and put in a foaming pump dispenser. Really goes a long way and they have several natural scents and a non scented options. I use this at every sink and even in the shower to shave with.
          However, I must note that when I shave a sensitive area like the bikini line. I use oil instead of soap and it prevents razer burn. I mix a little castle oil into some coconut oil or I just use a little olive oil. Couple drops is all it takes. Sometimes I use a whole teaspoon of an oil and rub it onto my whole body while it is wet before getting out and then I just blot dry. Natural lotion. Oh, if you want to use essential oils this is a perfect time to add a drop or two. I am not left greasy. That means that you used to much. Damp skin helps it spread very thin.
          I don’t even turn the water off – start high and work down to your feet avoiding your hair.
          God Bless

    1. Beth Avatar

      Do not add a few drops of dish washing soap! It ruined our dishwasher. Add white vinegar!

      1. Nikki Avatar

        This recipe did not work for me after the first use. It left white residue all over all my dishes, streaky & greasy. I tried adding the vinegar to the rinse, still gross. I tried using 1/2tbs, 1 tbs and 1 1/2 tbs. Fail for me.

        1. Whitney Avatar
          Whitney

          Did you ever get this to work? I’ve been using it too, and it leaves my dishes murky and filmy…

        2. Ashley Avatar

          I had the same problem until I used more. I fill up the soap container in the dishwasher and it cleaned great.

        3. Muriel Avatar

          Mine too, sadly. I tried it for 2 weeks hoping it would work….it was as if I’d washed them in olive oil..the greasy film was so bad. I also got a huge cold sore, so know it did not killed germs as the 6 times I’ve had one in the last 20 years was either when living with roommates who didn’t wash dishes properly..or when travelling and same Mcause I believe. Major fail.

    2. Jake Avatar

      Do not add the powder. Add to the dishwasher “soap dispenser”.

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