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. Vanessa Avatar

    I have use the receipe but immediatly noticed the plastic container from the used to be dishwahser soap inflating. I went outside and realised the top and had a big gas escaping the mixture. I am wondering how safe it is to have this inside so I will store it outside and open to be safe. Any ideas of what I did wrong ?
    Still looking foward to the effectiveness of the full thing though !

  2. Brian Avatar

    A quick idea re: clumping. I looked up uses for silica packs/cylinders that come in practically everything nowadays including medicines. This has a lot to do with my packrat nature and my recycling-repurposing philosophy. Anyway, I added a few of these to my container. My concern was food safety as we use this stuff in our dishes, but as these come in bottles of ibuprofen, I’m pretty sure they must be safe as long as you don’t ingest the stuff.

  3. TK Avatar

    At first this seemed to work great, now a couple weeks later, dishes are coming out greasy and still smudged. I’ve read that maybe the water temperature isn’t enough, and that the dishwasher trap needs to be cleaned with soap to degrease it. That is, of course, annoying extra work, sigh…I’m trying to do this in a household with adolescent boys so am aiming to have it be as seamless as buying pods. I doubt I can get them to run the hot water in the sink first, before running the load, but we will see. If it were just me in charge of everything, I’d do it.

  4. Scott Avatar

    I noticed comments saying the citric acid and washing soda react to create sodium citrate. I already have sodium citrate but do not have citric acid. Can I just use this instead and can I sub it in at the same ratio?

  5. Jennifer Avatar
    Jennifer

    I love your diy products…is there a way to turn your recipe into tablets instead of a loose powder?

  6. Carol L Avatar
    Carol L

    Hi. I have “discovered” something while making my own dishwasher detergent: Now, it may only be my house, built in 1945 and not well, and the fact that our weather is snow and very cold temperatures, that this has worked like it has, but I am thinking that it may work like this for others. I have a recipe that calls for three ingredients: 2 parts washing soda 1/2 part salt and 1/2 part citric acid. That’s it. I have been using this for several years now, and it works. I think that often when there is a film, it is due to either hard water (hence the salt) or TOO MUCH OF THE DETERGENT! We have been ‘taught’ that we need to use a lot, (probably to get us to buy the rinse aid, and to keep buying the product) which we now know isn’t true. Less really is better.
    ANYway, I have made this and the first time, it hardened into a cement block in the container. I still used it, but it was a struggle to get it out. I then learned to let it sit, open, on the counter, and stir often and let some air into it, which would ‘cure’ the cement block issue. Today, I made it again, and for some reason, it really began clumping all on it’s own without adding ANY wet ingredient at all. So I decided to take tiny portions and form into balls to use as dishwashing detergent TABS. Yay!
    Note: there are recipes out there that call for Epsom salt. Please don’t use this, use plain sea salt…not even the spendy Himalayan or Celtic; just inexpensive sea salt.

  7. Christina Avatar
    Christina

    Once you have tried the homemade versions and have the residue on glasses that seems impossible to get off what to you do? How do you get the residue off the glass?

  8. Kathy Avatar

    After making the dish soap for automatic dishwasher I store in glass container.
    The product gets hard as rock. Help!How to stop this issue. Suggestions??????

  9. Caroline Avatar
    Caroline

    Any substitution for the borax? I’m in France and it’s quite hard to find here…
    Thanks a lot!

  10. bekah Avatar

    Totally going to try to make this over the course of the next week! Thanks for the recipe!!

  11. Nick Avatar

    Hello!

    Thank you so much for all of your wonderful recipes! I have used your DIY laundry detergent, stain removers, and others, and I so appreciate being able to know exactly what is in our cleaning materials.

    Unfortunately, for this recipe the dishwasher detergent was very hard when we went to use it. We stored it in a airtight plastic container, and when we went to use it, it was very hard. Do you have any suggestions as far as how to prevent or change this?

    Thank you!

    Sincerely,
    Nick

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      Hey Nick, that can happen depending on the temperature. If it hardens, I just use a wooden spoon bro butter knife to break it up.

  12. Lisa Avatar

    Thanks for this recipe. I was tired of my plastic containers and silicon scrapers taking like the chemicals in store-bought dishwasher detergent. We don’t have hard water, so I used 3 cups borax, 3 cups washing soda, and 1 cup kosher salt, 1 cup citric acid, plus 2 drops of dish soap. It works well. It’s not quite as squeaky clean as the commercial brands, but it’s clean, without spots on the glassware, and no awful chemical smell. (For your Canadian readers – London Drugs is a good source for washing soda).

  13. Bernadette Avatar
    Bernadette

    I am looking for a recipe for HAND dishwashing dishes. Thank you for all that you do and share.

  14. Victoria Avatar

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. I had tried a few other options with out the borax to no avail. I decide to try one more time by coming back to on a of my moat trusted sites, (past Katie that’s you. ?) and woot woot I have clean and clear and shiny dishes. So glad I pushed forward.

  15. Karen Avatar

    When I make this recipe, it becomes hard and clumped together. I thought at first it was because I made it during kind of warm and humid time, but my last 2 batches have done the same thing. I love the way it cleans and am so happy to not have the chemicals of store-bought. I had some initial issues with spotting and a residue being left on glasses but I think I’ve solved that by putting white vinegar in my rinse agent compartment as well as adding a splash in the extra soap department of the washer before running.

    How do I stop the clumping? is it humidity? which ingredient is causing it — I think its the citric acid but I’m not sure. I keep it in a glass mason jar with lid tightly closed. I do keep it on the counter above my dishwasher… hhhhmm humidity from the heat of the water? Any suggestions?

  16. rshanna Avatar

    I’ve read that salt caused damage to someone’s dishwasher. Has anyone else had that problem?

  17. dawn Avatar

    hi,

    i made the dishwasher detergent and it worked well. the problem is, when i went to use it a second time the blend was clumped together and not so easy to separate. also, it had taken on the texture of coarse sugar. using a fork it took awhile to separate because as i broke up the bigger clumps smaller ones formed. i can’t imagine that i have to go through this every time i go to use it. can you help?

  18. Laura Avatar

    I wanted to make my own dishwasher detergent but I was told that it would break the dishwasher machine as all the grease and dirt would be stuck there.. is it true? :/

  19. Lisa Avatar

    Thank you for this update! I’ve been trying to get this to work. Seemed like it didn’t work unless I used lemi shine rinse aid also. Apparently I was missing the citric acid.

  20. Lisa Avatar

    Where do you get washing soda? I want to make this detergent and it seems easy enough.

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