Homemade Natural Dishwasher Detergent

IMG_4182I haven’t tried this recipe yet on my dishes, but compared & contrasted half a dozen different recipes online.  They’re mostly this recipe:

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

I found a compare-contrast webpage where they tried different recipes — great idea! — and showed the results.

Based on that page, I put together my own homemade recipe tonight.  I made a double batch, and here’s what I put in my recycled container:

2 cups borax
2 cups washing soda
1 cup salt
10 packages of lemonade Kool-Aid mix — used for the citric acid

Use 1 Tablespoon per load of dishes.

Smells really good!  I stirred it up, shook it up, tried to smash the clumps of borax to the greatest extent possible, and then added some — half a tablespoon or so — brown rice to the mix to keep it from clumping.  My mom used to add rice to the salt shaker so the humidity in the summertime wouldn’t keep the salt from coming out of the shaker.  Rice works at de-clumpifying.

My dishwasher is from the ’90s, and doesn’t have a “rinse aid” dispenser.  I see some dishwashers do. If yours has a rinse aid dispenser, I’ve seen two recipes for that:  white vinegar is one, just straight white vinegar; and the other one is a mixture of 1 cup hydrogen peroxide and 10-15 drops essential oil — see the recipe here.

Cost for my dishwasher detergent:  I had Borax and washing soda already, but needed to replenish my supplies, so Wal-Mart was charging $3.97 a box each for those today; the Kool-Aid packets were 20 cents each, totaling $2.00; and the salt was about $3.  I used all of the Kool-Aid packets, 2 cups each of the washing soda and the borax, with lots left in the boxeIMG_4183s for other projects, and lots left in the salt box too.  This amount of dishwasher detergent should last me about 3 months, I’d say.  It weighs out to be 3 pounds 2.7 ounces, cost me $4 in ingredients (at the most).  I figure that’s 8 cents an ounce.

Or, for 11 cents an ounce I could buy Seventh Generation dishwasher detergent from Amazon.  Free shipping.  That’s what I’m almost out of at the moment.  I’m sure when I bought the dishwasher detergent at Target they were charging $9 or $10 or $11 for the 75-ounce box.  The Amazon deal looks like a winner, 2 75-ounce boxes for $17.


So I unpacked the dishwasher last night after writing this blog post, and way in the back at the corner I found this guy:


I was pretty shocked.  This was what came out after the end of a cleaning cycle!  I’d used some of the last of my supply of Seventh Generation dishwasher detergent.  To be fair, the rest of the dishes were fine, but this has never happened before.  What you see there is caked-on, dried yogurt with a little granola & strawberry remnants nicely still adhered to the glass.  I didn’t rinse it out before putting it in the dishwasher and probably let it sit overnight before running the cycle.

So, back in you go, this time using my brand new homemade natural recipe.

And this is what I just unpacked this morning, using my recipe (above) with the Kool-Aid:


IMG_4188Much, much better.  My water here in Oregon is very soft and I also have three Natural Action Technologies structured water house units on my house, so my water is softened and filtered to the point that it’s like water coming from a pure pristine mountain stream.  I don’t need a “rinse aid.”  My structured water units take care of that.

Feeling the dishes as I took them out of the dishwasher this morning, they feel actually cleaner than they ever felt using the store-bought brand of dishwasher detergent.

This time I put my dirty glass right next to the silverware caddy in the dishwasher; I didn’t hide it way in the back corner, and I also did not rinse it out first.

I’m impressed with my homemade natural dishwasher detergent!  Very impressed.

Another update!!

March 16:  Still liking this recipe a lot.  I think it gets the dishes cleaner than the store-bought brand.

And yet another update!!!

June 13:  I’m down to the last week’s worth of dishwasher detergent and I’m going to make up another batch today, so that’s an idea of how long one recipe lasts.  My typical usage would be one taIMG_5051blespoon a day since the day I made up the batch, which was March 6.  On some days I ran the dishwasher twice, and on some days I didn’t run the dishwasher at all, so an unscientific guesstimate is that I typically run the dishwasher once a day, and use one tablespoon a day.

This time the difference in the recipe will be that I now have a 1-pound bag of Citric Acid Anhydrous Food Grade Purity 100% stuff, and will use that instead of Kool-Aid.

About Susan Bame

Writer, Mediator, Facilitator, Teacher, fascinated with indigenous forms of conflict resolution. I love watching people become empowered. I have a master's degree in conflict resolution and a personal interest in organic food, detoxing and healing the body, alternative holistic approaches to health, self-empowerment and win-win solutions through mediation, Structured Water™, and energetic healing. I lived on the Omaha Reservation in northeast Nebraska for ten years, worked with Native families in the area, and have a great interest in Native history, culture, practices, traditions, stories, and current affairs. View all posts by Susan Bame

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