Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

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Small lifestyle changes around the home can add up to big savings. If you have committed to saving money this year, go beyond just clipping coupons and join me as I learn new frugal ways.

As I take further steps to reduce the toxins in our home, I am experimenting with several homemade recipes for cleaning supplies. I recently came across a very simple recipe for dishwasher detergent using items you likely have on hand. This is so easy and frugal!

Ingredients:

Baking Soda (frugal favorite!)

Borax (all-natural household cleaner, available at many stores in the laundry aisle)

Mix together equal parts of each ingredient, store in a labeled container

Use just like a commercial powdered detergent, approximately 2 TBS per load.

That’s it! Each load will cost you mere pennies.

A few observations about this method:

Practice good rinsing before loading, or use the “rinse and hold” feature on your dishwasher. This is not a problem in our home, since my husband is a stickler about rinsing well. Since this detergent is lacking many of the chemicals found in commercial cleaners, it may not be quite as effective. There is no fragrance left behind on your clean dishes. I did notice that stainless steel items looked streaky after washing, so consider doing those by hand.

With that said, this recipe makes a great “back up” in a pinch if you are out of detergent, and if you are not quite ready to give up your Cascade. :) There are many natural detergent alternatives on the market, but they tend to be quite pricey.

Using a rinse aid is helpful as well. Instead of Jet-Dry, try another frugal favorite – plain white distilled vinegar.

Do you have a homemade recipe for dishwasher detergent? I would love to hear it, or feel free to submit one as a guest post.

Comments

  1. April says

    we don’t have a dishwasher but we do use homemade laundry detergent and it saves A LOT of money…we use the same two bottles and refill them so it is more earth friendly as well…I think we make a ‘batch’ once every three or four months

      • says

        @karla,
        Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent:

        1 bar of Ivory Soap – grated (use a food processor or box greater)
        4 cups hot water
        1/2 cup Borax
        1 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (this is sodium carbonate not baking soda or laundry detergent)

        Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with the 4 cups of hot water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted. Don’t stir it too much or you will have a bubbly mess!

        Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken. This will be the consistency of loose jell-o the following day.

        Stir before using to break up the gel.

        Optional: You can add 10-15 drops of essential oil per 2 gallons. Add once soap has cooled. Ideas: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil.

        Yield: Liquid soap recipe makes 5 gallons.

        I use about 1/4 cup per load, a little more if the clothes are particularly dirty.

        Since this is a low suds detergent, you can use it in a traditional or front loading washing machine.

        • Christi says

          @Stephanie,
          I LOVE THIS!!! Thanks for your post! I too use a very similar recipe. Mine calls for Ivory, Fels Naptha or Zote soap. All work well, but my favorite it Zote as its so gentle yet effective, smellsso good and the best part-its pink (so the detergent is also asoft baby pink) We have used it for over 2 full years now and I’m convinced we are wearing clean clothes.
          NOTE: In our new area there is no Arm and Hammer washing soda to be found anywhere. It being sodium bicarbonate comes packaged as the swimming pool chemical pH up. I found it at all sorts of places. Very cheap.

        • Denise says

          @Stephanie, You can google homemade detergent and find different recipies too. There is one for liquid and one for powder. Some have suggested reusing those kitty litter buckets after washing of course. ;) And some have suggested reusing the detergent containers that you bought previously or the 5 gallon bucket. :) I just started considering doing this myself. Also, just moved from CA to TX and I’m glad I found your blog.

  2. says

    Awesome recipe, and so easy! I’d love to try it, but we live in a rural area and have a septic system – we have been advised not to use Borax at all because it can kill the bacteria in the septic system, causing it to not work anymore. Does anyone else use Borax who has a septic system? If so, have you run into problems?
    Coupons & Freebies Mom´s last blog post ..Kohls coupon codes pajama sets 9!

  3. Laura says

    I have tried a variety of homemade dish detergent recipes. None of them have impressed me. They just don’t get my dishes as clean as cascade. I use about half the amount as recommended and my dishes are just as clean. That helps stretch it out and bring down the cost. I use homemade cleaners for everything else and would love to find one that works well on my dishes. Vinegar does work great as a rinse aid!

    • says

      @Laura,
      I use a box of Cascade and then a box of Borax and a Box of A&H Washing soap- this works well for me and really extends the life of the Cascade- Just mix it all in a container with a lid. I do use Vinegar in the rinse agent area too.
      I will say I have a septic system also- I have not found problems using the Borax, I do add one package of yeast to my toliet every week, instead of Rid-X
      jennifer´s last blog post ..Faithful Friday

      • sandy says

        @jennifer,
        I do the same thing you do and have no real problems except that coffee and tea stains tend not to come out as well.
        At another sight I learned that you can turn regular baking soda into washing soda by heating it up in the oven to modify the chemical composition. Stir periodically until it becomes “grainy” like washing soda. If you can get baking soda cheaply this could be a money saver.

  4. Tracey says

    We have tried it and it doens’t work for us, but than again our dishwasher is like over 15 y.o.
    I ended up buying case of Biokleen Citrus Automatic Dish Powder, 2-Lb. Tubs (Case of 12) from Amazon. I just checked and I bought it in Jan. 2009 and we have only used half the case that I bought from Amazon. It works amazingly well and you only use such a small amount. It’s actually cheaper now than it was when I bought it and I though I got a great deal. We run our dishwasher 2-3 times per week!

  5. says

    I’ve used this same recipe in a pinch, but it isn’t something that I use on a daily basis. I wish I could because it’s definiltey cheaper than Cascade! However, maybe I should give it another whirl. Ever since getting our water softener, I’ve been able to use the liquid Great Value brand and they come out just as clean as when I use Cascade. This wasn’t the case before.
    Phoebe @ Getting Freedom´s last blog post ..Merry Christmas!

  6. says

    I’ve used Palmolive Eco + and have liked it ok and it’s actually cheaper than Cascade at the stores where I shop.

    I had no idea you can use vinegar as the rinse aid. I’ll definitely have to try that when our new dishwasher arrives!
    Aimee´s last blog post ..The Bible is Kicking my Butt

  7. deb says

    I got in on all the free Finish last year at Dollar General-still have many boxes left.
    And I just snagged the Finish deal this past Sun @ CVS. I can’t go much lower in cost than almost free…

    • Denise says

      @deb, I got that deal at CVS this last week along with Lysol Wipes and Lysol cans to help kill all the darn bugs (cold and flu) in our house. Family just got over strep. So that came in very handy.

  8. hannah says

    I like the idea in one of the comments to mix this recipe with Cascade. I’ve always used Cascade and had great results, but I’d love to make it stretch further!
    Thinking I’ll definitely try blending it with Borax and some .50 baking soda from Walgreens.

  9. Donna says

    I’ve tried the homemade laudry detergent and found that it does a fine job. I’d not heard of a recipe for homemade dishwasher detergent. I’d like to try it, but one person replied that it seemed to leave streaks on the dishes. We have extremely hard water in our area and have recently begun noticing a white film or streaks on our dishes. I’ve tried a product called Lemonshine that helped some, but it didn’t remove nearly all the film and it’s too expensive to use with every load. I wonder if using vinegar as a rinse agent would help this. How do I use it? Would I pour it into the rinse agent dispenser? If so, how often would I need to do that? Than you so much for any advice you can give me for this annoying problem.

    • Sarah says

      @Donna,
      We have ridiculously hard water, too. What I do is add 1/4 – 1/2 cup white vinegar to a coffee mug sitting upright in the bottom shelf of each load. It has helped a lot, but I had to stop using plastic dishes and I soak my clear dishes in a sink of water/lemishine on occasion.

  10. Momma Bear says

    Instead of baking soda we use the A & H washing soda. Same color and size bag. We find it at Ace Hardware for now. We mix it with the Borax and everything comes out SHINY!!! No streaks!! Sometimes Ace Hardware will have coupons for 50% off one item under $35! So that make s our dishwasher soap even cheaper and it last forever!! Very earth friendly too.

    • Denise says

      @Kara, White distilled vinegar in the final rinse cycle of the washing machine helps soften clothes and leaves them smelling fresh not like a salad. ;) That’s what I was taught when cloth diapering my children.

      • Denise says

        @Denise, Oh and the washing soda helps whiten and brighten your colors in the laundry too. And the vinegar helps balance the alkalinity of the Washing soda.

  11. Nancy says

    I have a son with very sensative skin. does anyone know or have sensative skin and use the homemade laundry soap? Also is it ok to use in HE washers?
    any advice is greatly appriciated.
    God Bless
    Mom of three under 4

    • Elisabeth says

      @Nancy, we just started in the last week using home made laundry detergent. I have son with very sensitive skin and so far, I have not noticed any problems. My friend who recommended it, has major allergy problems and so does her son and they have used it for a while. We both have HE washers.

    • kim says

      @Nancy, I turned my neighbors on to homemade laundry soap last year. The hubby and son had very bad sensitivity to commercial laundry soaps. I’m happy to report they haven’t had a single problem in a year. I use the same recipe that Stephanie posted, except I use Fels Naptha. I tried Ivory first and didn’t like it at all. We also have used this in our septic for two years with no problems.

  12. says

    I’ve used the laundry soap for over a year now w/an HE washer and have had no problems. None of us has felt that the clothes are as clean, though. I thought it was just me, but two other friends said the same thing to me (w/o me asking them). Therefore, on whites/lights, I go back to the regular stuff. Also, remember that if you use that much essential oils in the recipe…you won’t be saving much money. I’ve been keeping track of the soap this time, to see how long it lasted. I’m on my last couple gallons (it makes ten), and we are a family of six (5 of whome are adult size) and have dust mite allergies, so I do TONS of laundry. ;)
    Re: dishwashing detergent. I have been very happy with the way everything comes out clean…and I’m not a huge rinser (that’s why I BOUGHT the dishwasher, right? ;) ) The only comment I’d have is that the machine itself isn’t as clean. I just put in a tablespoon of each every time. Didn’t want to mix it ahead of time, in case I needed the Borax for laundry soap.

  13. Lollie says

    I am learning to be frugal. I’m not frugal by nature but some of what we’re doing is, not eating out as much. Planning a menu and keeping a grocery list. Not buying junk food. Also I make my own laundry soap. I never thought I could make dishwasher soap! It never even occurried to me! So thank you very much!

  14. says

    Liquid Dishwasher Detergent Recipe
    1 part baking soda
    1 part borax
    1 part water
    1 drop lemon or orange essential oil per cup of detergent
    * Mix the ingredients thoroughly and store in a sealable jug.
    * Use 2 to 3 TBS per load.

  15. Rachel says

    ALSO* You should add a packet of Lemon flavored Kool-Aid to Alyssa’s recipe.

    Why?!? That’s weird! WELL- The Citric Acid (found in Kool-Aid inexpensively) helps the whole cleaning process along. :)

    On another note.. I adore Seventh Generation Liquid Dishwasher Det.
    It’s a little pricier than some but it works sooo well! Plus it’s safe, eco and smells fantastic.
    Rachel´s last blog post ..incourage!

  16. sandy says

    I was at The Dollar Store today and saw Sun All Fabric Bleach and I looked at the ingredients and it listed Oxygen bleach. Maybe this would work in place of the Sun oxy booster?

  17. Jennifer says

    I’ve made this detergent before, but my husband does not like the results from homemade dish detergent or laundry. I’m going to try the laundry detergent soon with a different soap than I used before.

  18. Rose says

    I was searching homemade dishwasher detergent yesterday as we’ve been making our own laundry detergent for almost a year now and have been saving a LOT of money doing so! I found your site to be the most interesting. After reading through all of the comments this is what I did. I bought one box of Arm and Hammer washing soda, one box of baking soda, one box of cascade (about the same size box as the other two) and I have here at home a box of Borax. Oh! And I also bought one container of Lemishine powder. I mixed 1/2 cup EACH of washing soda, baking soda, cascade and borax and then added 1/4 cup of Lemishine. I put it all in a cleaned out coffee tin and shook it like crazy. I also bought (I was at Walmart at 4 am!) a coffee scoop which is about 2 Tablespoons. My plan is to use one scoop (or two tablespoons) of the mixture. I already have vinegar in my rinse aid portion of the dishwasher but I’m hoping the Lemishine will keep the dishes nice and sparkly! I’ll let you know how it works. If this works well it will last foooorrreeeevvvveeerrrrrr! :-)

  19. Rose says

    So I just realized that these posts were from january of LAST year! Wow…thats what I get for staying up so late! Anyway, if anyone still reads this, I’ll still update haha!

      • Denise says

        @Amy, @ Rose, We have been using the Lemishine stuff instead of lemonade koolade. I found that the koolade helped keep the dishes cleaner, but it caused it to clump together into a hard mess. So we decided to put the lemishine instead. It’s been working great for us. :) I might add some cascade to the mix to spread it out as I like the way cascade works over the other. ;)

  20. says

    None of the other recipes I’ve seen for dishwasher detergent called for “baking” soda, but “washing” soda…there is a big difference between the two! Could that be why some of you are having problems with it not cleaning?!?!? Just a thought…
    Monica´s last blog post ..Do You Pinterest?!?!?

  21. Rose says

    What I made (in my above post) works pretty well. I did notice a slight film even with the lemishine so I just add about 1/2-3/4 of a cup of white vinegar to each load and it works great!

  22. Jaime says

    I made this and even though I am a fanatical rinsed this soap did NOT clean the dishes! I will just use the TONS of it I made for other uses! I am thinking it might work as a scrub for pots and pans or the sink and shower – any other suggestions?

  23. Texasgirl says

    This recipe does not work! I tried mixing the borax and baking soda 50 50 and left a horrible film on the dishes and I had added the vinegar in the rinse aid plus I had to do a light wash after with the vinegar as the detergent to get most of the film off! Too much water usage! Also, what is the point of a dishwasher if you have to rinse prior to washing the dishes still using a lot of water that way! I scrape off big pieces of food before placing in the dishwasher, but they should not have to be spotless before they go in and then get a film placed on them makes no sense!

  24. Olivia says

    I have been making my own laundry detergent for a while now, and this version I use in my HE washer. No grating. I have to tell you, I like this version better than the store bought detergent. I cleans and brightens clothes like you would not believe.

    Recipe for liquid laundry detergent. You can adjust the tablespoons of each. The original recipe calls for 3 borax, 3 washing soda and 2 dish soap. I changed mine to below and I love it. It’s up to you.

    5 Tablespoons Borax
    5 Tablespoons Washing Soda
    4 Tablespoons Dawn Dish soap

    Pour 4 cups boiling water into the jug. Add these ingredients until ingredients are dissolved in the liquid. Then fill almost to the top with cold water. The bubbles will overflow out of the bottle.
    You can pick an awesome scent with the Dawn dish soap. This dish soap works the best because it gets grease out. The blue dawn dish soap is better than the green.

    Recipe for homemade washing soda:

    Homemade Washing Soda
    Ingredients:
    Baking Soda

    1. Fill a wide baking dish with baking soda.
    2. Heat in the oven at 400 degrees until all the baking soda becomes washing soda, it gets to a more rough consistency. I baked mine in a pyrex baking dish for about an hour.
    Occasionally mix it so that this process happens faster and more uniformly.
    3. Use as needed!

    • audrey says

      @Olivia,
      I just made my 1st batch like this. i like the cleanliness of the clothes but i swear it is too thin like water. is yours like that too? i want to try the grated kind to see the difference.
      I also make my own liquid fabric softener due to im allergic to ever store brand out there. Which i love!

  25. Donna says

    I have been trying a lot of home made recipies for cleaning products lately. I will definately try this one. Just want to say I LOVE your mission statement! With that as your guide, you are definately on the right track. : )

  26. Sarah says

    I used to make all of our cleaners from natural products. saved us some money but it could be a pain. Then, my husband started working at a factory that produces cleaners and gets a lot of the stuff that isn’t quite in spec (but still cleans fantastically) for free. Ironically, the cleaners drive my asthma insane, so I still make up a lot of our cleaners as no/low scent all natural cleaners. I don’t think I will ever convince my husband to give up the Electrasol tablets for the dishwasher though we have switched to a home made laundry detergent. Oh, and for those of you with septic tank worries, my mom feeds hers yeast once a month, and any leftover yogurt every week (i make enough at home for both houses) and in 20 years has never had an issue with their septic tank

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