homemade dishwasher soap powder

I ran out of dishwasher powder recently and figured that it was as good a time as any to try making it myself. I’m very slowly eliminating or at least cutting back on the chemicals in the house by attrition. It’s the easiest way I’ve found to make a change – just run out of other options. I’m not about to waste anything that I already have and the others are more likely to accept the new ideas if they have no other choice. So, homemade dishwasher soap was born at our house.

And I’m almost certain that nobody else even noticed this small change. The dishes look exactly the same as they did with the old dishwasher soap.

I had a plan in motion to make this as soon as I ran out, so I ordered some citric acid on-line from Well.ca (no shipping charges in Canada). The rest of the ingredients I already had on hand from making my peppermint laundry soap powder.

If you are wondering what the little sachet thingie in front of the powder is for – citric acid can clump up, so I read a suggestion about adding rice to the powder to absorb moisture. My diswasher doesn’t have a food grinder and food tends to circulate around in it if the dishes aren’t scraped off, so adding some rice to the powder didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Instead, I cut the toe out of an old pair of pantyhose (haven’t worn pantyhose in years) and poured some rice in it and knotted it. I just keep it in the jar. Problem solved. Also, if it clumps up a bit, just shake it vigourously with the lid on or stir it around a bit.

Here is how to make it (I found this at DIYnatural):

Dishwasher Soap Recipe

  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1/2 cup citric acid
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt

Add all ingredients to a jar or empty container of some kind and shake to mix. Use 1 tbsp per load of dishes.

They recommend using vinegar for a rinse agent. I don’t. I have hard water, BUT I use a water softener and have never found the need for a rinse agent. I also only use 1 tbsp per load (even when I’m using the regular store bought powder – because I’ve never found that you have to fill up the whole little well for the dishsoap – my dishes have always come out clean using the bare minimum. No need to waste extra soap.

It’s been working great (better than having my husband do the dishes) – the dishes are clean and there has been no residue left behind.

Now I just need some hints to keep my kids from disappearing before they get the dishwasher loaded.

Linking to A Pinch of Joy, Addicted to Recipes, Frugally Sustainable, A Delightful Home, Like a Mustard Seed


50 thoughts on “homemade dishwasher soap powder

  1. I have Borax and Washing soda left over from my laundry detergent, so no problem there, also have the Kosher salt. Could a person buy citric acid from a store instead of ordering? Just wondering. The manufacturer always warns against using a detergent other than commerical detergents, but I suspect that’s just to scare us into buying more commerical products. Not clogging hoses or anything like that?

  2. Shira says:

    So impressive! I love your game plan of ‘just running out’. Too clever.

  3. elleadi says:

    I have always been a bit worried using homemade products in my dishwasher or washing machine but will definitely try that. Thanks

    • They’ve worked fine for me, but I have a water softener. I think people with hard water have difficulties with residue. The repair guy that Ive used in the past has always said use the minimum of the cheapest brand of powder in the machines. He also recommended vinegar as a rinse agent. He says there is less build up using natural cleaners and by using less of them.

      • elleadi says:

        Thanks for the tips. Yes, my repair guy (i.e. my Dad ;)) always say the same: use as little product as possible. Will definitely try your homemade dishwasher soap.

  4. This looks interesting, thanks for sharing! I’m trying to do more to reduce the chemicals in our house, as well. I use Seventh Generation dishwasher detergent, but I bet this is even better.

  5. EcoCatLady says:

    Well, at the risk of sounding like a party pooper…

    I tried a similar recipe several years ago, and within a few months my dishwasher started to have problems. The main motor started to run slower, so it wouldn’t squirt the water as well. Then it started failing intermittently and finally died completely about a month ago. It may just be a coincidence, but it sort of scared me off from trying homemade concoctions. I don’t want to mess up my new machine!

    The other things I thought I’d mention… the Arm & Hammer site says you should never use washing soda on anything aluminum. I’m not sure why, but I believe it somehow reacts with the metal and damages it. Maybe there were aluminum parts in the old dishwasher? I dunno…

    The other thing is that I’ve read that the EU recently reclassified all Boron chemicals as toxic, including Borax. I think it’s been linked to birth defects, but I’m not sure. I know it’s used to kill ants. I’m not sure how toxic it really is – and I’m sure that dish detergent itself is not something you’d want to ingest, but it sort of worried me.

    ANYHOW, it may be that I’m being overly cautious, but all of the above sort of scared me off from attempts to make my own dishwasher powder.

  6. Laura says:

    Good for you! I would love to hear an update in a few weeks/months on whether or not you still like it. Glad it’s working well for you so far.
    The one cleaning product that I make (consistently) is an all purpose cleaner with Dr Bronners. I’ll never switch to anything else!

  7. Vinegar as a rinse agent? Just put it in my “jet dry” area?

  8. Heather says:

    Nice! I’m in the same boat…about to run out and have some of the ingredients on hand to make my own. Now to find the citric acid so I can try out this recipe!

  9. Such a good idea to put in the rice bag. My homemade dishwasher soap tends to clump up a bit so I’m going to try this. I use generic lemon kool aid instead of the citric acid and it works well and is quite inexpensive!

  10. Very cool! Keep inspiring us!

  11. I love this! I agree with you about not wasting what we already have, and then eliminating the options when it is time to make the change. Great recipe, I have never made my own DW (or laundry) detergent. Thanks so much for sharing at Scrumptious Sunday!

  12. Kristi says:

    I haven’t seen this recipe yet, so I’m eager to try it. We have hard water too, and I always forget the vinegar. :/ Ha ha, I do the same thing—-make a new recipe when I run out of options. It makes it feel more frugal somehow . 🙂

    • I’ve been making a cleaner that uses citrus peels allowed to steep in vinegar for 4 weeks – you can use it as an all-purpose cleaner, and apparently works well as a rinse agent. I haven’t needed a rinse agent as long as I keep up the level of water softener salts though.

      • Kristi says:

        Ohhhh! Well shoot—I just started making that in the past month and am brewing my second jar. I had no idea what I would do with it, since I’ve already got 32 oz in a squirt bottle. What providence! Do you add any water to it before you use it as a rinse agent, or do you use the vinegar/orange mixture straight (after you strain the peels, of course)?

  13. Can’t wait to try this. I also have a goal of more DIY cleaning supplies, but so far haven’t gotten beyond a basic cleaning solution and window cleaner. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • I can honestly say that it works better than any store bought cleaner that Ive ever used – but thanks to my water softener I don’t have any hard water issues. The citric acid really seems to make a difference, too. It does clump a bit, but keeping the sock full of rice, plus an occasional good stir and shake makes it manageable.

  14. There is a citric acid also sold in the laundry aisle and the dish soap aisle – it is called Lemi-shine. It is a rinse aide. That is what I put in my dish soap. but I can’t keep it from clumping up, even with the rice in a bag!

  15. Cathy rowe says:

    Made 3 batches,,,had to throw away all of it….got so hard couldnt use it….back to cascade

  16. Babs says:

    The door on my dishwasher detergent compartment is broken – it holds the shop-bought tablets okay enough but not powder. It just sort of falls down uselessly into the front of the machine when I close the door. I wonder if there’s any reason why I couldn’t just ‘fling’ the home-made powder over the dishes in the machine – will it still do its job? I can’t afford to replace the machine (which still works fine) just to use home- made powder – not a money-saving idea 😉

  17. rachel patterson says:

    Could you use lemon juice instead of shop brought citric acid?

  18. Ginger Martin says:

    Love your post and have been making this recipe Since Sept last year. I find it works well. Citric Acid can be found in the canning section of Walmart or your grocery store,

  19. Debbbie says:

    Not happy with this recipe. My dishes came out grimy feeling and the glassware had white dishsoap on it. I used a rinse agent like I always use.

    • I’m sorry to hear that – it works for me. I have hard water but we have a water softener, so it might help make a difference in the white coating. You could try playing a bit with the amounts of the ingredients – add more salt, for instance – it’s a water softener – or more citric acid (though it clumps easily, so you might want to keep it seperate and add it in each time). I don’t even use vinegar as a rinse agent any more. The only time I’ve ever had any film on my dishes is if my water softener salts were getting low – its the mineral deposits in our water that get left behind.

  20. triedand true says:

    I am from Oklahoma and I don’t know where you can buy citric acid? Can you tell me where I can find it..

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