DIY Dishwasher Detergent

Okay, I know you are going to think that I AM crunchy-granola kind of mom when I tell you that I started making my own dishwasher detergent.  Well, I’m still not.

I know you are starting to doubt me, but follow my logic…

Store-bought soap is pricey, homemade soap is not. Homemade soap works better than store bought.   Any questions? ;)

I found this recipe at DIY Natural. I already had most of the ingredients for dishwasher soap, because I had bought them when I made homemade laundry soap (and I already had the salt), so it really was a no brainer to switch over to homemade dishwasher soap.

Homemade Dishwasher Soap

1 cup Borax
1 cup washing soda
½ cup *kosher salt (*I used regular table salt, and it worked just fine.)
½ cup *citric acid (double this if you have hard water) (*I used 1 cup Lemishine found next to the rinse aids in the dishwasher-soap isle at Wal-Mart.) (You can also find citric acid in the canning isle, but I think you get more Lemishine for the money. JMO.) ;)

Mix everything together and store in a plastic container.  Use 1 Tbsp per load.  Use white vinegar in the rinse aid compartment of your dishwasher to help keep your dishes from getting spotty. If you buy the blue rinse aid stuff at the store look at spending $3.75 or more per 30 loads.  If you use white vinegar, you’ll be spending about $0.06 per 30 loads. Hello! (When I use white vinegar in stuff other than for dying Easter eggs, I feel like Martha Stewart!)

I am very pleased with how well my dishes turn out. They look better than when I washed them with the store-bought stuff.  (And I used the good expensive stuff!)

The glass on the left was washed with homemade soap and the glass on the right was washed with the good expensive store-bought stuff.

So, would you switch?

This recipe will clump. To reduce clumping, add a few tablespoons of rice in a cheese cloth and tie it up.  The rice will pull out the moisture and keep the detergent from clumping.

Disclaimer: If you have hard water, you may have to adjust the amount of citric acid (or LemiShine) that you use, to keep your dishes from getting cloudy.  Also, I’ve read that some people have had problems with the kosher salt being too abrasive on their dishes, because of the larger crystals.  I use regular table salt and have had no problems. If you use table salt, you may want to get the kind without iodine, but that’s what I had, so that’s what I used. ;)

(This picture has nothing to do with dish soap, but I thought it was cute!)

I was going to tell you about how I made pre-measured soap biscuits. (or whatever you call them, I can’t think what they are called, so I’m going with soap biscuits.  I think it has a certain ring to it, don’t you? Soap Biscuits…)  Anyhoo, I was going to tell you how I made these little pre-measured biscuit thingys, but my experiment failed.  And when I say “failed”, I mean, it FAILED.  I will spare you with all the details, but lets just say it involved my oven and my food processor.  Don’t ask!!!

So it’s back to square one for me.  If anyone has any idea how to make soap biscuits, please let me know.  Let me re-phrase that…  If you have tried to make them and had success, let me know how you did it. ;)

*Update: I did figure this out. It took awhile, but here they are DIY Dishwasher Soap Packets. :D

Have a good weekend peeps!


DIY Dishwasher Detergent — 80 Comments

  1. Pingback: DIY Dishwasher Soap Packets « Lady with the Red Rocker

  2. Thanks, Stephanie. I tried DYI dishwasher detergent before and I didn’t like it. My dishes were cloudy, but I didn’t use LemiShine. Do you use 1 cup because you have hard water? We have hard water. Wondering if I need to use 1 cup or double it to 2 cups? Also, how much do you use if you don’t choose to make the soap packets? I’d rather just measure it out each time, and I will also try the rice in cheesecloth because yes, the other time I made it – it got hard and clumpy. Thanks again!

    • Hey Terri! Miss you guys!
      Yes, I have hard water so I use 1 cup of the LemiShine. If your water is really hard, you might go to a cup and a half. Also, I use vinegar as a rinse agent, instead of Jet Dry, and that also helps with the cloudiness. I think you kind of have to try the recipe a couple of times and adjust it to the hardness of your water. Hope this helps! Thanks for stopping by! :D

      PS. Yes, It is still just 1 Tablespoon per load.

  3. Thanks for this recipe, I’ll definitely be trying it soon. Our dishwasher is two years old, and some of the dishes are not getting clean. I’ve been using gel cleaners, but maybe this will help. Found you randomly on Pinterest:) Julie

  4. Hey Steph: Crunchy granola mom…. Read what you said….

    “…store-bought soap is pricey, homemade soap is not. Homemade soap works better than store bought. Any questions?”

    and I say this, “store-bought granola is pricey, homemade is not. Homemade granola is way healthier than store bought.” !! You will be a crunchy granola mom someday. You’re heading that way!! ha!!

    Can’t wait to go to Walmart tomorrow and look for Lemishine. :) Weird things excite us homemakers, huh?! Thanks!

  5. Where should I place the rice packet in the dishwasher? Do I put the rice and the DIY wash detergent together in the cloth or just the rice? Thanks!

  6. thanks for sharing this….i just made my first batch of laundry detergent and was interested in making dish detergent as soon as my storebought stuff ran out, but our hard water was holding me back. now that i know what kind of adjustments to make (and the fact that other people who have hard water use the homemade stuff and it works for them!) i just might give it a go. thanks!!

  7. Hi there.

    Did this really work better for you than the store bought? I tried it w/ citric acid and it was horrible. I went back to the tablets. I may have to try the Lemishine. I wonder if that will do it. There are a bunch of folks on the DIY Natural site who can’t get it to work. Frustrating- but I hope there’s still hope out there!

    • Hi Adrienne! Yes, I do like my diy dish soap. I had to play around with the recipe a little to get it to work with the hardness of my water. You may have to use more LemiShine than I did if you are still having trouble with cloudiness. I also use vinegar as a rinse aid instead of Jet Dry, I think that helps keep the dishes from getting cloudy also. And I use regular table salt as opposed to the course salt, I read that the course salt could be too abrasive on the dishes. Hope this helps, and thanks for stopping by! :D

  8. Stephanie, This is a really good recipe, and am thrilled that there are others out there who have the same frustrations with hard/lime water as I do, even with using fresh, smaller Cascade (old detergent, larger boxes lose their effectiveness). Lemi Shine is amazing, and wish they would make detergent, as well. I’ve tried vinegar, but it does nothing to stop spots, and actually made the lime more apparent. Peroxide, and baking soda, also work pretty well when I have run out of Lemi Shine. There is also the issue of if your drain is clogged, and dirty residue is backing up into the dishwasher. I’ve spent time cleaning the inside of the door around the gasket, as well. The truth is, the low-water dishwashers, coupled with low water pressure, do a terrible job, and especially if the water temperature is not at least 120 degrees, in order to dissolve the detergent. Your recipe is amazing, and you should be proud of your research, and it’s really home-based knowledge that helps us from over-paying for products that may not work.

  9. thank you for posting this! I am now starting to make my own detergents to save money and so happy I found your post for dish detergent! :)


    • That paragraph on toxicity is enough to keep me WAY far away from this product. Seriously – fertility issues and/or harming a fetus? The idea of inhaling that stuff while making the soap – and then using it on something I EAT off of? Yeah. No. I’ll remain uncrunchy.

    • Borax is used in various household laundry and cleaning products,[5] including the “20 Mule Team Borax” laundry booster and “Boraxo” powdered hand soap. However, despite its name, “Borateem” laundry bleach no longer contains borax or other boron compounds. Borax is also present in some tooth bleaching formulas.[6]

    • Marie, I just put the vinegar in the little dispenser in the door of dishwasher where you would normally put Jet Dry, or any other brand of rinse aid. I fill it to the “full” line (maybe 1/2 cup? It’s hard to measure since I put it directly into the dishwasher). This usually lasts for about 30 loads.

  10. I’m excited to find this! We have impossibly hard water, so much so that even using the expensive stuff, our dishes were so cloudy! I finally called a repair company, convinced that something was wrong with our dishwasher. The scheduler was awesome (everyone is so friendly – that’s why we use that company), and totally walked me through some trouble shooting things to try. #1 – get LemiShine #2 – keep your rinse agent compartment filled. It was amazing the difference it made, so to find a recipe for homemade detergent with LemiShine already in it is awesome! Thanks!!!

  11. I made this this week and have used it three times. I love it! I made the little “biscuits” and they came out great. I have really hard water so I doubled the lemishine. As soon as my rinse agent runs out, I will switch to vinegar. I’m so tired of paying so much for “not so great” results. Thanks so much for posting this AND for linking up with “Sew Darn Crafty” where I saw it!

  12. Hi,
    Love this detergent. This was my first DIY endeavor. It has been successful, except the detergent hardened which makes it hard to scoop out. Did you have this problem?

    • Hi Kendra,
      Yes, that is why I started making dishwasher soap packets, you can find the post here. But, if you would rather not make them, I did have success with keeping the soap from getting hard by storing it in a ziploc baggie.

      I also, forgot to mention that you can put some rice (maybe a couple tablespoons worth) in a cheese cloth and tie it up into a little baggie and store it in with your detergent. Before I started making the packets, I was just keeping the detergent in a ziploc. Hope this helps! Thanks for stopping by! :D

    • Oh, ziploc baggie – that’s a good idea. Mine is an old small coffee can and I noticed yesterday it is getting hard to scoop out – even with 2 cheesecloth balls of rice.

      Do you do the rice in the baggie too? I guess I’m being lazy about making the packets, but maybe that is the best way afterall. I think I’ll try the ziploc baggie first!

      Thanks, Stephanie!

      • LOL! I forgot to mention about the cheese cloth with rice! No, I don’t use the cheese cloth and rice with the packets. Before I made the packets I was just keeping the detergent in a ziploc and that kept it from getting hard.

  13. I was just wondering about the lemishine. My silverware is not supposed to be used with lemon cleaners.Is there an alternative to that??

  14. I tried this recipe and it worked great except….for some reason the little detergent dispenser “door” on my dishwasher has a tendency to stick and with this all the soap did not come out and some of it was clumped together. We had to switch from liquid dish soap for this reason. WIth the commercial powders we don’t have the problem. It’s a newer dishwasher too. So…. any ideas what I can do with the rest of the detergent I made? Can it be used for sinks, bathtubs etc?

    • Stacey,
      When I first started using this detergent, i had the same problem. You may need to run an empty cycle with just LemiShine to get rid of any lime or soap build up. If you have any build up, it can keep the little dispenser from opening properly. Hope this helps! :D


  16. I just emptied my first DW load after using this recipe! Cleaner than with the store bought stuff, especially the knives that NEVER seem to want to come clean. I used regular salt and the Lemishine. Thanks! this is a keeper

  17. Hello! I made your recipe by using the regular table salt and 1/2 c of the lemi shine. I had a problem with my daughter’s sippy cups and a few other things leaving a whiteish film on them. I’m not giving up on this as everyone else loves this recipe! Any suggestions? Thanks!

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  19. Hi Step
    Instead of using rice in the soap use those little packs that come with shoes or a new purse…..Works E X C E L L E N T!!

  20. I love it!!! I live in Phoenix and have super hard water. I have been buying different brands of store bought since moving here 5 years ago. I finally decided that generic warehouse dish washing soap was as good as the rest. I clouded my dishes a little less then the others. I’ve tried Lemi Shine in with the normal wash and nothing has helped, until now. This stuff is so great that it has removed all the fog on my glasses and glass dishes. I used 1 cup citric acid and 1/2 jar of Country Made Lemonade Powder along with the 1 cup Borax,1 cup washing soda, and 1 Cup Kosher Salt. I noticed the dishes getting less foggy so today I soaked them in a sick of hot water and 5 mini cup cake doses of this DIY soap. OMG, this stuff is amazing. My dishes look wonderful. My husband will be so happy when I show him after he gets home. We are so embarrassed of our dishes that we always buy paper plates to serve at parties instead of our nice (fogged up) dinner ware.

  21. making my second batch of the soap. i LOVE it! my dishes are cleaner the first time around. thanks for the recipe.

  22. Be careful of Borax around small children …..1 teaspoon or less ingested can be fatal to a toddler….who love to play with the dishwasher soap holders if they can.

  23. So I started using this recpie and my kids actually noticed a diff…our dishes are SUPER clean!!! Thank u for sharing. Someone had asked how to not allow it to get hard…I put mine in the fridge and I haven’t had a hard spot in it yet…Try that…

  24. Stephanie, thanks so much for sharing this recipe. I’m also grateful to those who’ve posted comments … especially glad to read the posts of those with hard water! I had given up on DIY recipes because others failed. I am inspired to try again … especially with the use of Lemishine. ;-)

  25. Oh … must chime in on the use of vinegar! LOVE it & have been using it for years. I also use it instead of liquid fabric softener … alone or with a few drops of essential oil (usually lavender). It’s great for cleaning shower heads … saved mucho dinero since I thought the shower head needed replacing! Here’s what I do: Scrub shower head, rinse & turn shower on & off briefly. Pour vinegar in a plastic bag & secure the bag to the rod above the shower head with a rubber band or twist-tie ensuring that the shower head is immersed in the vinegar. Let it soak overnight, remove bag reserving the vinegar inside, scrub entire shower head with brush & vinegar, use toothpick to ensure that all calcium deposits are removed from the holes. Turn on shower & be amazed (unless your shower head really does need replacing ;-)).

  26. I was able to make soap tablets with this recipe. They are pre-meassured 1 tbsp. After you mix the ingredients wait until it starts clumping then grab a plastic 1 tbsp measuring spoon that’s deep and pack the clumping mix in it then gently place it on a cookie sheet that has been covered with a piece of waxed paper. Then once the cookie sheet is full, tablets can touch each other, gently spray a MIST of water using a spray bottle. Allow to dry and harden for a couple of hours then GENTLY turn them over and MIST the underneath, allow them to dry and harden. Then gently place them in a container. Plus, they fit in the soap dispenser, well, at least they did on my dishwasher. :-) I wish I could post a photo I took of them so you can see how nice they turned out.

  27. Is there a reason it says to store this in a plastic container? I just bought the stuff to make it and I bought a glass container.

    • Stacy,
      For some reason (chemical reaction?), over time, the powder will harden and turn into a brick. Some have suggested to keep it in plastic to help. I’m not sure, ’cause I store mine in plastic and it still seemed to harden up. I just throw a couple of those silica gel packets (that stuff that comes in new shoes or vitamins -to keep moisture out) into the powder and I’ve not had any problems with it getting hard. Some have also suggested putting rice tied up in a cheese cloth and place it in with the powder. (I’ve never tried this.) I think if you take measures to keep the moisture out, like I’ve mentioned, you should be able to store it in glass without any problems. Hope this helps! :D

      • Thanks! I’m really excited to try this. My boyfriend and I have 5 kids between the two of us so in an effort to stretch pennies I have made my own laundry soap and fabric softener and we have been pleased with the results. Can’t wait to see how this turns out too. I didn’t do an actual cost break-down but it’s obviously much less expensive. Thanks so much for the recipe :)

        • Stacy,
          Glad to help. You may find that it takes a little bit of tweeking to get the right formula for your water type. My water is heard so I have to use the whole container of Lemishine. I’ve also been using about 1/2 teaspoon of the the blue Dawn dish soap, and I love the results. You will also want to use a rinse agent. Hope this helps! :D

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    • Hi Nancy! That is not my little birdie. I just thought it was super cute in the window at a friend’s house, so I took a picture. I wish I had one. You say you have three? Where did you find yours? I’m not sure where my friend got her’s. :D

  30. I have used this and it works great. My dishwasher (I live in an apartment, so it’s a cheap model) required that I use 3T per load, two in the first slot and one in the other. Even with the additional soap used, I am still saving money. I also add a “splash” of bleach in the bottom of the machine to help with stains on my teacups and things.

  31. I love the dishwasher detergent but mine hardened even after using the rice any suggestions as to how i can soften iut back i dont wanna have to throw it away its really good stuff

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