Saturday, September 10, 2011

All Natural Homemade Automatic Dishwasher Detergent

We're on a roll, with our adventures in making our own homemade cleaning products.  We started a couple weeks ago, by making our own super easy, super frugal, homemade laundry soap, and it was a hit! It's cheap, it's effective, and better for the environment.  I won't be going back to the store-bought stuff anymore!

Next on the list of homemade cleaner recipes: automatic dishwasher detergent.  First, a little background: it is so incredibly difficult to find a good dishwasher detergent that doesn't contain chlorine.  My mother, especially, is very chemically-sensitive, and it was a lot of trial and error, before I started using Seventh Generation Automatic Dishwasher detergent for my own family.  It cleans thoroughly, especially with our hard water, it's phosphate-free, and doesn't produce noxious chlorine fumes.  Still, that came at a price; almost five dollars a box at my local grocery store.  Lucky for us, after having made our own laundry soap, we had almost everything already on hand, to churn out our first batch of homemade detergent for the dishwasher.

Much like the laundry detergent, this recipe calls for borax and washing (not baking) soda.  Both are readily available in grocery store and big box store laundry aisles, at a couple dollars a box.  The one ingredient I had to buy was citric acid.  It comes in a white powder form, and should be available where you buy your vitamins and supplements. I ordered a huge five-pound tub from Amazon.  The rest of the ingredients are just pantry staples: kosher salt, and a little bit of uncooked rice (a great tip, from DIY Natural, for keeping the powder from clumping).

No soap grating in this recipe: just mix the various dry ingredients together, in a container with a tight-fitting lid, label, and you're done!
1-cup measure
Storage container with tight-fitting lid
An old 1-oz. plastic scoop

1 cup of borax
1 cup of washing soda
1 cup citric acid
0.5 cup kosher salt
1 tbsp dry, uncooked rice

Add all of the ingredients to your storage container, close lid tightly, and shake until thoroughly mixed.

Use 0.5 oz (1 tbsp) per load.

I just ran a load of plates, flatware, glasses, mugs, and even a stoneware baking dish.  Everything is squeaky clean!  Vinegar also magically makes a reappearance in the kitchen.  Last month, we introduced it as a fabric softener for your washing machine.  Now, it goes in your rinse agent dispenser, to get sparkly, clean dishes, without the hefty price tag of store-bought rinse agent.

Happy frugal cleaning :)


  1. thank you for that recipe! I am a believer in natural laundry detergent and use it all the time now, I was ready to go to this next step!

  2. My Mom and I are excited to try this out tonight. People looking for Citric acid should also look in their local store's canning supplies. We found a smaller bottle (maybe 8 oz.?) for $5 at our local Farm Supply store, but I'm sure it's probably cheaper elsewhere.

  3. I tried this today minus the salt (didn't have a list when I went shopping) and it worked great! Clean, clear dishes with no residue or nasty chemical smell! Yay! Thanks for sharing!

  4. I was excited to see this recipe and immediately mixed it up. It doesn't clean my dishes even though they are not really dirty when I put them in the dishwasher. I have residue and stains on my dishes that I didn't have before. The mixture creates one large clump that I have difficulty breaking apart to use even though it is sealed in an airtight container.

    1. Lisa, sorry to hear it clumped together. It's the citric acid that likes to clump, and it will absorb any moisture that's around. Try adding more rice, and/or storing the mix some place very dry (i.e. not under the sink).

      Hope you have better luck!

  5. All I use is equal parts Borax and Washing Soda and it works great!

  6. Glad it's working out!

    The citric acid is the key ingredient, if you happen to live in an area with hard water.

    If for some reason your dishes aren't coming out completely clean, try increasing the amount of citric acid in your mix. Alternatively, some Pinterest users have had success by adding a little bit of powdered Oxyclean. It all depends on the composition of the tap water where you live.

    Also, just a note that I always run each cycle with the heated water option turned on.

    Happy Washing!


  7. Does the rice go thru the wash cycle ok? Is it to absorb moisture? Would it work if I made a little bag of the rice?

    1. Good question. Yes, the rice goes through the whole wash cycle just fine, and washes away down the drain. I have yet to find any residual rice at the end of the wash :)