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
4.39 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




  • 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.
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.


267 responses to “Homemade Dishwasher Detergent”

  1. Jacqui Avatar

    I read your recipe for dishwashing powder a while back, but at that stage I didn’t have a dishwasher.
    Now I’ve just had the kitchen redone, complete with dishwasher. My neighbour recommended a particular brand of commercial tablets, but after using one, I found that they left an awful ‘taste’ on the plates and glassware.
    Soooo I’m going to try this natural option! Thank you!!
    PS The first time I used my new dishwasher, I didn’t have any tablets or anything. I put white vinegar in the soap and the rinse container, and was really pleased with the result! :oD

  2. Sarah Avatar

    I just made this and as soon as I added th citric acid to me hthe borax and soda it started making a fizzing sound and then got really cold…is this a normal reaction. I live in England so used soda crystals
    As I though they’re the same as washing soda but would love your feedback! I’m excited to see how my dishes turn out!

    1. Sammi Avatar

      This happened to me too! It’s really cold & fizzing. Also in the UK. Maybe th chemical makeup of the ingredients are slightly different….? Also I used baking soda instead of borax because I didn’t have any on hand. Dishwasher on at the moment, fingers crossed!

  3. Jackie Avatar

    Is Ball Citric Acid Additive the right citric acid?

    This is for canning and it’s cheap, but is it the same as we need for this recipe? I don’t understand why all the price differences.

  4. Rob Avatar

    For those having the mix expand, it is because Citric Acid (An Acid) is reacting with Borax and Soda (Bases). Add humidity or water and you get the same reaction as mixing baking soda and vinegar, you end up with salt (not table salt), a gas, and water. An inert cleaning solution that will leave dishes filmy. It is disconcerting how many of these so called green cleaning people advertise solutions that mix acids and bases and can’t figure out why everything is still dirty. Buy a grade school science book before posting this garbage.

  5. Debbie Avatar

    This is the best DIY dishwasher soap I’ve tried, thank you! I’ve had bad results with other DIYs, but this particular combination worked perfectly with our hard water. I did choose not to use essential oils, but everything else went right into the machine, and I couldn’t be happier– the dishes sparkle! Thanks again, Debbie

  6. Lisa Avatar

    There have been times when I am out of some of the ingredients and I have made due with using baking soda, salt and citric acid and adding vinegar into the rinse dispenser thingy.

  7. deb Avatar

    I use 1 cup each of borax and washing soda, 2 cups kosher salt, and five packets of unsweetened lemonade drink mix. No clumping, and no more cloudy glassware as with the original recipe. And, of course, white vinegar in the rinse aid dispenser.

  8. Michelle Avatar

    I made a batch and was super excited to use it! My first few loads were quite experimental…I got a TON of white residue. I came back to the comments to see if others were experiencing the same issue. I tried the lemon juice, kook-aid, and vinegar (not at once!!!) but nothing seemed to work. After a few more loads, I realized I was using WAYYY too much of the detergent! I scaled way back, and now I have perfectly shiny, clean, sparkly dishes, just like Katie promised! 🙂 I wanted to be sure and post this because maybe someone else is having a similar issue and is mistakenly using too much. A little goes a long way! I love it because now it’s even more economical! 🙂 Thank you, Katie!

  9. Jackie Bolen Avatar
    Jackie Bolen

    This is so easy to follow! I taught my niece to make homemade dishwasher detergent too, and now, she helps her parents make one for home use.

  10. Pip Avatar

    Is the Borax the same as the Borax in the laundry soap recipe? The link is different and I wasn’t sure if there is some difference here.

  11. Kat Avatar

    Does anyone know about the salt? What kind to use? Is it necessary? Wondering the salt makes it clump and harden as salt drawls moisture.

  12. Melissa Avatar

    Would Redmond salt work? It is a lot bigger than regular salt. Will it dissolve enough?

  13. Aimee Avatar

    I was super excited to try this, but after the first wash they dishes feel almost greasy and the glass is definitely cloudy. I did not use vinegar. Would this help? Or what would be another option to try?

  14. Kerry Avatar

    Instead of citric acid, I just squeezed a little bit of fresh LIME juice into the dispenser after adding the other ingredients…my morning porridge pot came out squeaky clean….glasses and overnight dishes…excellent…. very happy!! 🙂

  15. Jackie Avatar

    Just made this and not only are my dishes squeaky clean and glasses crystal clear, I think my dishwasher looks cleaner. I did use the vinegar as well.
    I wonder why people dont like citric acid? It is an organic. And it is an anticoagulant so should stop clumping not encourage it.
    I did not use any oils or dish soap. I am so pleased. Will never buy those pods again!

  16. Chesley Avatar

    Hi Katie! Searching for a DIY liquid dish soap… suggestions? I’m tired of paying the price of good liquid dish soaps in the store.

  17. DeVonna White Avatar
    DeVonna White

    Love this and love your site! I’ve been doing this for almost a year now and it’s great. I just re-read the post and I realize it says 1/4cup citric acid/salt. I’ve been adding 1/4 citric acid and 1/4 sea salt. Is this correct? or was I supposed to just add 1/4 citric acid OR salt? I’ve been having some residue issues (that I think I’ve solved with vinegar…we’ll see) but maybe my recipe measurements are the problem.


  18. Travis Avatar


    I just made this, and after one load, I am totally sold! Works perfect!

    I do have some clumping in my storage container, so I’ll try using rice to combat that, but just a minor inconvenience.

    I am really impressed with how well it works.

    Thank you!

  19. Deb Avatar

    This recipe works for me without clumping:
    1 cup Borax
    1 cup washing soda
    1 cup kosher salt
    5 packs unsweetened lemonade Kool-Ade
    Store in an airtight container in a cool place. Before starting machine, run tap until it is very hot.

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