Homemade Dishwasher Detergent – What I’ve Learned So Far

These past few days I’ve been trying out a couple different methods for making my own powdered soap mixture for use in our dishwasher. Much like Homemade Laundry Soap the recipes for homemade dishwasher detergent are usually some combination of Washing Soda (or Baking Soda) and Borax. I’m going to give this a few more weeks of testing, but here’s what I’ve learned so far.

Using a Vinegar Rinse is a Key Part of the Process
Most of the recipes for homemade dishwasher detergent included a last step giving instructions to use vinegar in the Rinse Aid compartment of your dishwasher. Now I must confess that I had never used the Rinse Aid compartment of my dishwasher. I even got out my owners manual to make sure I knew how to use it correctly. But once I had that all figured out and put the vinegar in there, I was amazed at how squeaky clean the dishes were, especially the glasses – AND – nothing smelled like vinegar either! Even if I don’t stick with the homemade detergent, I am definitely going to keep using vinegar as a rinse aid.

vinegar as dishwasher rinse aid

Adding Citric Acid Makes the Mixture Clumpy and Expensive
One of the most popular recipes out there includes kosher salt and citric acid in the mixture (See the recipe below). Citric Acid can be found in grocery stores and is sold with the canning supplies. Citric Acid in the mixture is supposed to keep the plastic and glass from getting cloudy. The small bottle of citric acid I bought cost $3.29 and I needed to use almost half of it. This brought the cost of my homemade mixture to $2.17 and only yielded one and a half cups of soap. This didn’t seem to be much of a cost savings. Plus, the addition of citric acid makes the mixture clump up and you have to break it up a bit every time you use it. I’m not convinced yet that it’s a vital ingredient to keep away the cloudiness.

homemade dishwasher detergent

You’ll probably have more success if you’re a “Prewasher”
Some people stick the dishes in the dishwasher straight off the table, gunk and all. Other people like to give the dishes a “prewash” first or at least a rinse to get the gunk and chunks off. I’m in the last group and so my dishes are not super dirty. This could very well be why I’ve had good luck so far with the homemade detergent – I’m not asking it to do much.

dishes

So here are the two recipes I’m trying if you want to test them out too:

HOMEMADE DISHWASHER DETERGENT #1
1/2 cup Borax
1/2 cup Washing Soda
1/4 cup Citric Acid
1/4 cup Kosher Salt
(Plus Vinegar as a rinse aid)

Combine the borax, washing soda, citric acid, and salt and store in a jar or other small container. Use 1 tablespoon per load. Use vinegar in the rinse aid compartment of your dishwasher to prevent cloudiness of plastics and glasses.

HOMEMADE DISHWASHER DETERGENT #2
1 tablespoon borax
1 tablespoon washing soda (or baking soda)
(Plus Vinegar as a rinse aid)

Combine the two ingredients to make a one usage amount. To make a bigger batch, simply combine equal parts borax and washing soda, and then use two tablespoons per load. Use vinegar in the rinse aid compartment of your dishwasher to prevent cloudiness of plastics and glasses.

Final Thoughts
I’m also considering simply extending the store bought stuff by mixing it with baking soda.  Overall, I think this is one of those experiments that takes a while to really understand what works best for your own home and lifestyle.

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10 Comments

  1. When you use the citric acid, let the mixture sit on the counter, opened, for a couple days. Give it a shake and stir every couple hours (or when you think of it). After a couple days, it won’t stick together anymore and you can seal it and put it under the sink.

    For the vinegar rinse… put a couple drops of food coloring into a small bottle of vinegar and refill the compartment as needed. You’ll now be able to see when it is empty. (That is how you see the jet dry stuff).

    1. You are right about keeping it on the counter and stirring it every so often when you first make it. I tried this a few months ago and it does work! I was getting ready to write a post about it and then my dishwasher died. ๐Ÿ™ As soon as the new dishwasher arrives, I can get back to testing my new batch made with this method. Thanks for sharing the advice!

  2. I have rather hard water and I find that I need the salt as a softening agent to allow the detergent to work better in my water. (Most water softeners use salt to soften the water). The citric acid (or some unsweetened Lemonade Koolaid) is supposed to help as well.

  3. I have rather hard water and I find that I need the salt as a softening agent to allow the detergent to work better in my water. (Most water softeners use salt to soften the water). The citric acid (or some unsweetened Lemonade Koolaid) is supposed to help as well.

  4. TKN – I have not had any discolored vinegar from the rinse compartment. BUT – I've had a hard time telling when it is time to refill my rinse compartment. So I have backed off on using the vinegar for a while to make sure the compartment was empty before refilling it. I'm not sure what could be causing the rusty color you're seeing.

  5. Hi, Bev, we have been using a mixture that is sort of between your two recipes here (1 part Borax, 1.5 part baking soda (read somewhere that you need to increase baking soda half again to substitute for washing soda), 1/2 part coarse salt, vinegar as rinse aid), and has been a relative success. However, I have noticed that my rinse compartment discharges a little bit of unreleased vinegar that has turned a rusty color… Have you experienced this at all?

    Perhaps I need to do as you did and break out our washer's manual to make sure I am using the rinse compartment correctly. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for your testing and generous information!

  6. I am so glad you are doing these experiments. I tried one version of homemade dishwasher soap and wasn't happy with the results. I am anxiously watching for your final outcome.