DIY Dishwasher Detergent

Last week I shared my three requirements for homemade household products:

1. Save Money – homemade products must cost less than the store bought version
2. Quick and Easy – homemade products must be very simple to make, with few ingredients
3. Effective – homemade products must actually work and work well

I’m happy to report that my homemade dishwasher detergent meets all of these requirements! And, as for #3, it actually works better than the store bought, name-brand variety. At least for me.

Before I tell you what I use, I feel it’s necessary to point out that the individual success of this product seems to greatly vary. From comments I’ve read online it seems that what works wonderfully for one person is a complete failure for another. Factors other than the detergent itself can impact it’s effectiveness – the hardness of your water, the age of your dishwasher, the dried-on-ness of food on your dishes – to name a few. So, I definitely suggest giving it a try, but maybe make a smaller batch to start with.

Also, buying four different products to make dishwasher detergent probably seems excessive. However, if you’re going to make other homemade cleaners, these are staples that you’ll use in other things.

On to the recipe. I found several recipes that call for varying amounts of the same basic ingredients. Depending on the factors listed above, you might have to tweak the amounts to figure out what works best for you. And if you want to see other reviews, comments or recipes a simple Google search will give you a ton of reading material.

1 Cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (not baking soda, washing soda is found in the laundry isle)
1 Cup Borax powder (also found in the laundry isle)
1/2 Cup coarse Kosher salt
1/2 Cup Citric Acid (hard to find, but the key ingredient)

Mix these four ingredients in any container by shaking or stirring thoroughly. And viola…dishwasher detergent. Use 1 tablespoon per load.

Does it Save Money:

My cost was $1.93 per batch. This may vary depending on where you buy your ingredients. (FYI – Walmart was the cheapest, as much as I hate to shop there, it was worth the savings.) The Citric Acid made up half of that total so if you can find a deal on that, please share. I was using Cascade which I can usually purchase on sale for $2-3. So, not a huge savings but every penny counts, right? Plus, it seems like this will last a lot longer but since I never tracked how many loads were in a bottle of Cascade, I’m not really sure.

Is it Quick and Easy:

1. The Citric Acid seems to be the key ingredient for making sure your dishes are film and spot free, but it’s a bit tough to find. I saw some comments online that it can be found in the “canning section” at Walmart. I wasn’t able to find it in the store and actually ordered mine from Amazon. Some commenters suggested using unsweetened lemonade powder instead – feel free to experiment if you dare.

2. The Citric Acid (clearly the trouble maker in this recipe) causes some major clumping of your detergent mix. A couple solutions to this – mix the other three ingredients together and add the Citric Acid separately to each load (too much work for me) OR after you mix your ingredients leave it on the counter for a few days and “open, stir well, close” several times a day. Admittedly, this was somewhat frustrating but magically after about 48 hours it stopped clumping. And, it works so well I don’t mind the extra stirring.

Is it Effective:

YES!! I’m so thrilled with how well this works. As I mentioned, I was using Cascade. I envisioned Cascade as being top of the line and never really experimented with other store bought brands. It worked fine but on my plastic dishes it left a powdery film. I don’t know how to describe it, I couldn’t really see a film but I could feel it on my dishes. Sometimes it was bad enough that I felt I should rinse my dishes before putting them away.

With this detergent there is no film. Everything is quite literally squeaky clean – glass, aluminum pans, plastic, silverware – all looks great!

What about the Rinse Aid? I’m not sure you know this but Jet Dry is stinking expensive. Just under $4 for a tiny little bottle that may fill up your rinse aid compartment twice. Instead use white vinegar. That’s right – vinegar. Just put it in your rinse aid compartment. Works like magic! And it’s about $2.40 for a whole gallon. PS – if you’re going to start making your own cleaning products, vinegar is going to come in REALLY handy. Go ahead and buy the whole gallon.

In summary – given my main motivation to make my own products (save money) and my three requirements listed above, this is a successful recipe. Yes, it takes a tad more effort than the store bought bottle but since I’m already using these ingredients in other things, it really isn’t that big of a deal to also make dishwasher detergent. If your motivations are more noble than mine (health of your family or the planet) than this would definitely be worth it. You get the health benefits of fewer chemicals plus save a little money and it is a very effective product. Win. Win. Win.

Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

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3 responses to “DIY Dishwasher Detergent

  1. Pingback: DIY Laundry Detergent « Chrystal Murphy

  2. Pingback: Dishwasher Detergent – UPDATE « Chrystal Murphy

  3. Keeks September 6, 2012 at 11:22 AM

    I am definitely going to have to try and make this! Thanks for the recipe!

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