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Natural Solutions – 7 Easy and Affordable Homemade Dishwasher Detergents

by Vanessa Goodpaster-Beaty on March 13, 2013

Affordable Homemade Dishwasher DetergentsDue to the high cost of everything today, many women have decided to become a bit more frugal. Some clip coupons and save as much as possible at the grocery store, many stockpile things that can be purchased in bulk for a savings and some are even beginning to make their own household products as opposed to buying them in the stores. Homemade cleaning products can be very cost effective and they are very easy to make.

Dishwasher detergent is one of those costs that simply have to be spent. Dishwashers make it much more convenient to clean the kitchen and keep dishes clean and put away. Unfortunately, dishwasher detergents can be a bit expensive, not to mention the chemicals that they contain. If you are looking for a reason to begin making your own dishwasher detergent, consider these benefits:

Benefits of Homemade Dishwasher Detergents

  • Cheaper than buying premade detergents – You can actually make dishwasher detergent that costs about 5 cents per load which is much cheaper than store bought detergents.
  • Much more environmentally friendly than most detergents on the market – Most detergents contain chemicals, additives and odor fighters that are not at all pure. These chemicals can be harmful. Just look at the detergents in your cabinet now and note that they offer a poison control number in the event of ingestion. This is not something that you want on your dishes.
  • They eliminate plastic waste – Helping the environment even further, when you make your own detergent you are not going to be throwing away those plastic bottles every month (or however long it takes you to go through a bottle). You are saving many bottles from the landfill over the course of a year.

So, not only are they cost effective, they are very friendly for the environment. And, contrary to what major manufacturers may have you believe, homemade dishwasher detergents work very well. You can buy the ingredients on sites like Amazon for just pennies on the load.

This means that instead of paying $5 or $10 every month for detergents you can simply make them yourself at home and spend about this same amount for six months’ worth of detergent. Imagine what you could do with the money that you will save.

Before you decide to jump on the bandwagon and begin making your own detergent, you have to learn a bit about the ingredients that are used. Note that these ingredients are very safe and contain no harsh chemicals. Still, it is a good idea to know what you are washing your dishes with so here is a breakdown of the major ingredients that are included in most of our recipes:

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Ingredients

  1. Borax - Prices on Amazon You may have seen Borax in stores in the past and wondered what it was. If you purchase 20 Mule Team Borax, it is a 100 percent natural mineral that comes from the earth. Once it is removed from the ground, it is washed and dried and then boxed up for use in cleaning products. The technical name for Borax is tetraborate and it is a natural occurring mineral. You simply cannot get any more natural than something that comes directly from the earth. There are no chemicals, no chlorine or anything else added that could be harmful. This is simply a 100 percent pure mineral that is as safe as drinking water.
  2. Washing SodaPrices on Amazon Your grandmother likely used washing soda in the past. It is also a natural substance that is made from limestone and salt. Arm and Hammer is a popular brand of washing soda and it is used to cut grease. You may also know it as sodium carbonate. It is safe and contains no chemicals whatsoever.
  3. Kosher SaltPrices on Amazon Kosher salt is simply a technical way to say 100 percent pure salt. Many use kosher salt in cooking so you know that it is safe for cleaning your dishes. It is used in dishwasher detergent recipes because it offers effective scouring qualities and will eliminate those tough stains from your dishes.
  4. Citric AcidPrices on Amazon Citric Acid is completely pure. It is just simply extracts from citrus fruits. Note that in many of the recipes that call for citric acid, you can actually use unsweetened lemonade mix if you prefer. This is added simply for fragrance to eliminate food odors so you do not have to use citric acid at all if you prefer not to, but because it is a pure substance it is a good idea to add it and it makes your dishes smell wonderful.

Liquid Dish Soap Recipes

So who’s ready for some homemade detergent recipes? We have selected a list of several different ways that you can make your own detergent and some of these offer different ingredients, all of which are very easy to find. Note that we have also included a couple of recipes for homemade dishwashing liquid for those of you who still enjoy washing your dishes by hand. We’ll start with those:

1. Hand Dishwashing Liquid

Soaps that you purchase for washing dishes by hand can include chemicals just like dishwasher detergents. Instead of buying those plastic bottles, you can simply make your own. Note that you can use any bar soap that you want in this recipe. You will need to grate the bar soap if you choose to use that as opposed to soap flakes.


  • A 4 ounce bar of soap or 4 ounces of plain soap flakes
  • ½ teaspoon of essential oil – any scent that you want
  • 8 cups of water – you can also use herbal tea if you want a dishwashing soap that is good for your skin


Freezing the bar of soap before you try to grate it makes it a bit easier. Also note that if you do not want conflicting scents, you should choose a soap that is all natural and has no specific smell to it. You should heat the water, or herbal tea if you are using that, just until it begins to steam. Remove it from the stove and add your soap and essential oils. Mix these together and let them sit for about 8 hours. Once it has thoroughly cooled you can put it in any container that you want and it keeps forever.

2. Old Fashioned Dish Soap

Another twist on the recipe for homemade dish soap uses just soap flakes and water. Note that you can also use grated soap if you prefer.


  • About a pint of grated bar soap or soap flakes
  • 1 gallon of water


You need to put these ingredients in a pot and heat over medium until they begin to boil. Keep stirring until all the soap has melted and then lower the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for about 10 minutes. Let it cool and then pour into your chosen container. It takes only about a teaspoon of the liquid for each sink full of hot water.

Powdered Dishwasher Detergent Recipes

Now, let’s get to the detergent recipes for automatic dishwashers. There are a few of them and while many of them use basically the same ingredients, there are a few different choices so you can find the one that you like best.

1. Powdered Dishwasher Detergent


  • 1 cup of 20 Mule Team Borax
  • 1 cup of Arm and Hammer washing soda
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup citric acid


You just have to pour all of the ingredients together and mix them well. To use, just place 1 tablespoon of the powder into the dishwasher for each load. Note that if you want sparkling clean dishes, simply add white vinegar to your rinse aid dispenser. This helps to make your dishes sparkly and takes away any leftover odors as well, plus its good for your dishwasher because the vinegar keeps it clean.

2. Lemony Scent Dishwasher Detergent

This recipe uses LemiShine to give your dishes a nice lemony scent although you can replace the LemiShine with unsweetened lemonade or about 4 packs of lemon flavored drink mix – without the sugar added. Simply combine:


  • 2 cups Borax
  • 2 cups washing power – You can also just use 2 cups of baking soda here if you want
  • 4 tablespoons LemiShine


Just mix the ingredients together and then store them in a tightly lidded container. Use 2 tablespoons in each dishwasher load. Note that if you have hard water you can cut the Borax down to about 1 ½ cups for better results.

3. Quick Dishwashing Detergent

If you run out of your normal dishwashing detergent or you simply have not made up a large batch of your own yet, you can use this simple recipe for single loads.


  • 1 tablespoon Borax
  • 1 tablespoon washing soda
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt


Just mix the ingredients together and put in your dishwasher. This is great for those times when you really do not have time to mix up an entire batch and just need to get a few dishes washed quickly.

Homemade Dishwasher Gel Recipes:

Next we have a couple of recipes that are designed to mimic the results of those drop in tabs. You know, the ones that are supposed to be great for getting your dishes clean because they are basically in gel form but they cost so much that you can barely afford them. Well, instead of buying those, simply make your own gel.

1. Gel Dishwasher Solution

This works wonderfully on any dishes and helps to cut grease. Although it is always a good idea to pre-rinse your dishes before you put them into the dishwasher, you really do not have to with this recipe. It works just like those expensive drop in gel tabs but costs loads less (pun intended).


  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ cup soap flakes or grated soap shavings
  • 1 tablespoon glycerin
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar – you can substitute lemon juice if you want


Simply add these ingredients to a pot and bring to a boil on medium heat. Once all the soap is thoroughly dissolved, remove from heat and allow it to cool completely before placing in a glass container. Use 1 tablespoon each time you run your dishwasher.

2. Dishwasher Gel

This second recipe uses castile soap which is a vegetable based soap so it is very natural. It also calls for LemiShine but again, you can substitute lemonade mix if you want. This is mostly for scent so it is entirely up to you whether or not you add anything with lemon.


  • 2 cups castile soap
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon LemiShine – or your alternative
  • 3 or 4 drops of essential oil – your choice of scents


Just mix these ingredients together over medium heat until the soap is completely dissolved. Once it cools, store in an airtight glass container and use 1 tablespoon for each dishwasher load.

It really is easy to save money, help the environment and better control what touches your dishes. You simply have to choose a recipe above and then take the time to begin making your own dishwasher detergent. Note that all of these recipes are very easy and fast to make. It takes only about 5 or 10 minutes, depending on whether you prefer powder or gel for your dishwasher and one batch of detergent is equivalent to an entire bottle of store bought detergent. Note also that you are not going to be using all of the Borax and other ingredients in making just one batch of detergent so once you have purchased those ingredients, you will have enough for several batches of detergent which should keep you going for many, many months.


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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Homemade Mama May 11, 2013 at 9:47 pm

While this is a great article and I love making homemade concoctions, please know that Borax is toxic. Be careful not to inhale it. Do not use around food, pets, or small children. It can cause renal failure and even death if ingested. With children and pets, only about 1 teaspoon is needed to be dangerous. It is also a skin and eye irritant and some say it can cause reproductive issues.


Al June 26, 2013 at 9:44 pm

No more than store bought Cascade or alike.
What do you use to clean your dishes? A chemical of some kind?


Aimee August 14, 2013 at 8:52 pm

I agree with Al. Plus according to some things I’ve read about borax, if you get the stuff with nothing added to it, it is a naturally mined mineral and is essentially the same thing they use for boron in supplements. Boron is an essential trace mineral. There are even some health sites that recommend using very, very tiny amounts of it in detox solutions. I am NOT recommending that any one do this!!!! We do need to be careful and have common sense about things. Just making the point that perhaps the toxicity of borax has been over rated. Additionally, according to some other data ( sorry I don’t have the references but the info is out there for those willing to search on google) it is less toxic and less teratogenic(causing birth defects) than sodium chloride(table salt), sodium bicarbonate(baking soda), and some other commonly used substances. I feel that is perfectly safe to use for cleaning. Just be sure to rinse thoroughly and don’t eat it or allow your kids or pets to get into it.


Patty July 6, 2013 at 10:42 pm

I am SO HAPPY you pointed this out as I was floored when I read that. I pray that those who read it in the two months prior to your reply learn that quickly, and not the hard way


Brigitte December 30, 2013 at 11:53 pm

Though caution should always be exercised when using any chemical( vinegar, sodium bicarbonate… Are also chemicals, albeit it natural). BORAX ( sodium tetraborate hydrate- such as mule brand) is not BORIC ACID though they are produced from the same natural mineral ( again, many natural occuring plants etc can be highly toxic/poisonous). Their chemical composition ie what they molecules put together create them, are different. Thus their different uses. Boric acid and borax are controlled substances in the EU meaning products containing borax must be labeled. Before fear mongering it is wise to read reputable information such as well researched peer reviewed education sites such as many universities (.edu) that refer to publications pertaining to their statements.
Should we be cautious and avoid making a dust cloud when using, avoid inhaling, avoid getting inside our mucous membranes and on our skin ? Yes I think it’s probably wise to be safe. But you know, you can also be killed by drinking too much water, you can be poisonned by excess salt, even spinach is toxic in too large doses. It’s about finding a lesser evil and a greener, safer alternative that WORKS so that people will make positive changes and leave the worse and more detrimental/dangerous chemicals behind.


Thomas December 29, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Borax is no more toxic than baking soda or salt… Please don’t confuse Borax with Boric Acid which is toxic.

Ingesting anything in large quantities can be toxic.


Sunny James June 9, 2013 at 3:38 pm

hey thanks for all the home made recipes I’m going to try a couple & let you know how they worked. thanks : )


alicia July 10, 2013 at 12:43 am

I would advise not to use vinegar in the dispenser, it can ruin the dishwasher, look it up. Instead use about a shotglass of vinegar on the top rack. omg thanks for telling me about borax! will be extra careful, my baby already got into it once, I had no idea it was toxic! thank you (it is already put high up!)


Rebecca Gollan August 8, 2013 at 9:24 pm

I’ve made the first gel dishwasher recipe but I’m finding a film of soap on the glasses & plastics. Any solutions to this?


Kristen February 24, 2014 at 7:09 pm

Add kosher salt to the recipe. Should clear it right up!


mayur joshi August 13, 2013 at 9:15 am

we are interested to make a dish wash gel like vim if any know how to make dish wash gel like a vim please contact me on my email id and i will pay for this formulation


Grant Logan August 13, 2013 at 2:00 pm

You say that your recipe contains sodium borate, and citric acid.
I agree it’s environmentally friendly, sodium borate is a natural surfactant found in rocks. And citric acid can be derived of citrus. Both fairly harsh chemicals.


Lindsey August 24, 2013 at 3:51 pm

I made the second gel recipe, but I used 2 cups grated castille soap, I forgot they made liquid until after. I’m now assuming I should have used liquid because my dishwasher is overflowing with suds. Any idea on how much grated soap I should use, stores close to me don’t sell liquid. I was going to try 1/4 cup, since that is what the other recipe calls for. Well I was going to try using my semi-concentate and adding to it, so I don’t waste it…or using smaller amounts. Any suggestions???


IdiocyAbounds September 5, 2013 at 2:09 am

Are you people for REAL?? I can NOT believe the comments going down this page.

We are talking about CLEANING AGENTS.
Of course there is some toxicity- even water or vinegar is toxic in large enough doses. IT is for SOAP…DO NOT EAT IT OR LET YOUR BABIES PLAY IN IT, for pete’s sake

If you do not have some strength to the recipe (read harsh) the dishes will not get clean.
After all, If rubbing your dishes with cotton balls soaked in love got them clean no one would be reading this page searching for home made recipes

Sheesh, NO WONDER we have directions on dish detergent and shampoo -PLEASE DO NOT DRINK. I thought that was a waste of time…apparently NOT.


Nancy February 4, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Awesome response! I totally agree!


Alison February 20, 2014 at 4:49 am

Lololololol! I have no borax right now, but I just may try cotton balls soaked in love!!! Can’t stop laughing!!!


Emily D. December 3, 2013 at 9:16 pm

The reason you’re dishes have a film on them is because there is wax in bar soaps. It’s the same reason if you use a bar soap in the shower that the shower is spotty and seems to have a film on it that won’t come off.


Karen December 25, 2013 at 7:02 pm

It never fails when I read one of these helpful “homemade” articles that someone comments with scare tactics and somewhat rude contradictory remarks about the helpful information that was freely given. It smacks of a lack of gratitude and egoic one-upmanship – “I know more than you… Look how informed I am…”. Perhaps find your own blog to spread your fear? Just a thought… Thank you, Vanessa Goodpaster-Beaty for trying to be helpful… it IS appreciated. I’m a grown up and can watch out for myself when creating products.


Nikki December 30, 2013 at 5:38 pm

From a mother and wife of corn allergic, citric acid is NOT simply derived from citrus. Just because it sounds like citrus, doesn’t mean it is. 90% of the time, citric acid is corn derived. The other part of the time it is cabbage. I have not yet found one made from citrus. But if corn and cabbage are safe foods, by all means use it. I’m just putting that out there for people who have corn allergic household members.


Brigitte December 31, 2013 at 1:23 am

One of the makers of Castile soap , dr bronner’s brand, states that vinegar (acid , ph of 4.25 to 5) and castile ( base, ph of 8.9) should not be combined as they tend to cancel each other out , they should be used in order , vinegar after castile.


Flo January 9, 2014 at 7:53 am

Just thought I could mention the following: when using a base (soap or soda) with an acid (vinegar or other), the two seem to cancel each other during a moment of fizzy reaction. Apparently, one should use one or the other but not mix the two of them, otherwise the products would be waisted.


teeth whitening pen February 25, 2014 at 3:15 pm

that is good advice and i feel i will attempt it
next time i go to the store i’ll get the strips and the liquid


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