Being honest right up front there. I had many failures using natural DIY dishwasher soap a few years ago, and I’m afraid my husband will never set foot in the kitchen again if I even breathe a word of more homemade dishwasher detergent experimenting, and that would leave me with a LOT of dishes. Not cool.
I already get a scowl when our dishwasher gets super gunky – although I use and believe in this natural dishwasher deep clean method, I still had to get in there by hand and pull out some nastiness last week. I’m hoping that’s a once a year job or less!
Anyway, I’m sticking with the best natural dishwasher detergents that I enjoy, but I know a lot of people swear by their homemade detergents, and even more, are wishing they could nail one that WORKS.
In my line of work, I get a lot of advice.
Now that I’ve written about natural dishwasher detergents quite a number of times, I have a ridiculous number of links, recipes, and tips in my file titled “homemade dishwasher detergent recipes,” and since I’m never going to use any of them (see above), I thought I might share the wealth with you and just “start the conversation” today.
Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Recipes
from a reader:
1 part bicarbonate soda (baking soda)
1 part washing soda (sodium carbonate)
1/2 part salt (regular table salt)
1/2 part citric acid
Mix together well in a mixing bowl, then ‘sift’ through a wire strainer backwards and forwards between two bowls until all the lumps are gone and it is well combined. Don’t breathe in over the bowl, it will make your eyes water.
The only ingredient that is not a food ingredient is the washing soda. I use 1 tablespoon per load, with white vinegar in the rinse aid compartment. Sometimes I put an extra 1/2 cup of white vinegar in the bottom of the machine before I turn it on, cleans the machine and gets the glasses just a bit more sparkling. I don’t rinse anything first either!
My dishwasher is stainless steel on the inside, you might want to use with caution if yours is aluminum or fibreglass (do they make dishwashers out of that?), because washing soda is not good on those surfaces, and citric acid might also be a problem, not sure.
Many readers recommended using soap nuts liquid:
The soap nuts tea only works if your dishes are SPOTLESS going in and you use the sanitizing rinse. A better use for them is in the following recipe:
1/8 cup ground soap nuts (grind in coffee grinder and DON’T inhale)
1/4 cup citric acid
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda
That detergent is the best I made at home. =) Works MOST of the time.
from Crunchy Betty:
- 1 c. Borax
- 1 c. Washing Soda
- 1/4 c. finely grated Castile Soap (optional) (do NOT use a soap that suds)
- 1/2 c. Sea Salt (optional)
- 30 drops Lemon Essential Oil (optional)
- Citric Acid (optional)
But…many in comments talk about white film on plastics!
from My Healthy Green Family, borax-free:
- 1 cup baking soda
- 1/3 c. citric acid
- 1/3 c. coarse salt
- 10-15 drops of citrus essential oil (Optional. Orange, grapefruit, or lemon essential oils have great cleaning as well as antibacterial properties.)
- Homemade citrus vinegar cleaner
Click over to see the method and tips.
More from Crunchy Betty:
- 2 c. borax
- 2 c. washing soda
- 2 c. Lemi-Shine
- 1 c. kosher salt
Click over for the method and her thoughts on Lemi-Shine.
Her preferred method is:
2 c. borax, 2 c. washing soda, 1 c. kosher or sea salt, 3 Tbsp citric acid, and 30-50 drops of lemon or grapefruit essential oil.
From a reader via Facebook:
I was using baking soda, washing soda, citric acid & coarse salt. After a few months, I noticed the salt was really messing up our dw! so I switched to equal parts baking soda & washing soda and it works just as well (clean sparkly dishes!) and literally costs just pennies. We also fill the rinse compartment with vinegar.
from Our Homemade Happiness:
Homemade Dishwasher Detergent for Hard Water:
1/2 pound Citric Acid
1 cup Borax
1 cup Washing Soda
1/2 cup Kosher Salt
Homemade Dishwasher Detergent for Soft Water:
1 cup Borax
1 cup Washing Soda
8 ounces Citric Acid
Click over to see the method, cost analysis, plus a GREAT bulleted list of homemade dishwasher detergent troubleshooting tips.
Do You Fill the Rinse Compartment with Vinegar?
I still do it, even after I read Adrienne’s expose on how the vinegar is eating the plastic dishwasher parts, darn it all. Appliances just aren’t made to last nowadays.
What do you think???
Why Don’t the Name Brand Dishwasher Detergents Work Like They Used To?
When the government took phosphates out of all detergents in fall 2011, they basically put all the big name brands on level playing field with the “natural” brands, since they had been trying to avoid phosphates for years. In my opinion, I’m guessing this put the natural brands ahead of the game.
Dishwasher detergent without phosphates tends to work “okay” at first, then cause major white buildup on glassware and plastics in particular. It’s a huge bummer, and exactly what we experienced when we thought Biokleen detergent was the answer to our prayers…and then it wasn’t.
Here’s some more fascinating info readers have shared with me about this issue:
- Consumer Reports demonstrated the phosphate-free dishwasher detergent problems
- And here’s a coupon blogger who sought to find detergents that still have phosphates. She also details that household use doesn’t seem to really be the problem with the algae “bloom” in the Gulf of Mexico and believes that phosphates truly aren’t a problem to use. You can decide for yourself.
Most people who have played with natural detergents say that adding a bit of citric acid takes care of the white film problem.
Here’s a tip from a reader on redeeming Biokleen:
Use only 1/2 the recommended amount (1/2 Tbs). Instead of using toxic, expensive lemi-shine, use any ol’ generic brand of 10 cent lemon koolaid. It has to be lemon. I use about 2 pkgs per biokleen tub. (25 cents-talk about frugal!)
Open biokleen tub, sprinkle about 1/3 to 1/2 pkg of lemon koolaid into biokleen tub and gently stir. After you’ve used the top layer (about an inch or 2), add more and gently (b/c it’s powdery) stir. The lemon koolaid is mostly citric acid. That is what cuts the rest of the film that biokleen tends to leave after the initial honeymoon period.
You can also just buy citric acid but I prefer the koolaid b/c you can smell the lemon and when you don’t smell the lemon anymore that is when you know you need to add more. I’ve done it this way for almost a year and still works great!!!
Here’s my comprehensive list of all my favorite cleaning products, from floor to ceiling, and my natural dishwasher detergent brands review.
Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post from which I will earn some commission. See my full disclosure statement here.