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Easy Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Recipe: Simple DIY Recipe

  • 11 min read

pinterst pin for making dishwasher detergent

Are you wanting a less toxic and a more natural dishwasher detergent? Find out how you make homemade dishwasher detergent with less ingredients and a safer choice. Give your dishes a thorough clean and cut down on expenses with this great DIY dishwasher detergent recipe.

In a Nutshell

  • You can make effective dishwasher detergent at home using common ingredients like washing soda, kosher salt, and citric acid, and it’s simple to switch from commercial products to a DIY version.
  • There are alternative homemade detergent recipes, including borax-free, tablet form, and options for hard water, plus solutions for common issues like clumping and residue.

The Basics of Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

Various natural ingredients like washing soda and baking soda used in homemade dishwasher detergent

Making your own homemade dishwasher detergent is more than just a fun DIY project.  We’ve got the wallet factor. Believe it or not, making your own dishwasher detergent can lead to significant cost savings. The cost per load for homemade detergents can range from 4 cents to 32 cents, which can result in annual savings of up to $95 compared to using commercial brands. With a bit of time and effort, your kitchen cleaning routine could become a lot more economical!

With a homemade recipe, you have complete control over what goes into your dishwasher detergent. This means you can avoid chemicals with potential health risks such as polyacrylates, methylisothiazolinone, and sodium hypochlorite that are commonly found in commercial brands. No more guessing games about what’s in your detergent – you’ll know exactly what you’re using to clean your dishes.

Cost Comparison

Now let’s talk numbers. A typical homemade DW recipe can cost you as little as 4 cents per load. If you compare this to the average cost of commercial detergents, which can range up to 30 cents per load, you’re looking at quite the savings! In fact, using a cost-effective homemade recipe can lead to annual savings of up to $95.

That’s right, by swapping to a homemade option, you’re not just making an eco-friendly choice, but also a budget-friendly one.

Ingredient Control

One of the best benefits of making your own dishwasher detergent is the control you have over the ingredients you use. This means you can avoid harmful chemicals and additives often found in commercial brands. For instance, you can steer clear of chemicals like polyacrylates and methylisothiazolinone, which can cause eye damage, respiratory irritation, and even allergic reactions.

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Plus, by making your own, you can exclude eco-unfriendly anti-caking agents and synthetic dyes, which add no cleaning value and carry health risks. With homemade detergent, you know exactly what’s cleaning your dishes – and what’s not.

The Ultimate Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Recipe 

So, let’s get started, grab the ingredients your homemade dishwasher detergent. But where to start? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. 


To begin, gather your ingredients. For this recipe, you’ll need washing soda, borax, kosher salt, and food-grade powdered citric acid. These ingredients are generally inexpensive and easily available at your local grocery store. The breakdown includes one cup of washing soda, one cup of borax, and equal parts of kosher salt and powdered citric acid. These ingredients can be combined to create a homemade cleaning solution..

Washing soda and kosher salt work together to soften water and remove stains, while the citric acid prevents filmy residue on your dishes.

  • 1 cup Washing Soda (sodium carbonate)
  • 1 cup Borax (sodium borate)
  • 1/2 cup Salt
  • 1/2 cup Powdered Citric Acid


Making your own dishwasher detergent is a breeze, and you can even make homemade with just a few simple steps. Simply stir all of the ingredients, including powdered detergent, together, making sure to break up any clumps that may form during the process. Once mixed, store your detergent in an airtight container to protect it from humidity and prevent it from losing its potency.

To keep the mixture dry and prevent clumping, consider adding a homemade desiccant packet made from a coffee filter filled with rice or silica gel.

Here are Some Tips for Best Results:

  • Start by using 1-2 tablespoons of the detergent per dishwasher load.
  • For optimal cleaning, avoid packing the dishwasher too tightly to ensure water can reach all items.
  • Consider air drying dishes post-wash to save energy.

For sparkling results, use white vinegar, lemon juice, or citric acid powder in the rinse aid compartment as a natural alternative to store-bought rinse aids. If needed, add a few drops of dishwashing liquid to the citric acid for an extra cleaning boost.

Alternative Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Recipes

While this recipe works wonders, we understand that everyone’s dishwashing needs and preferences may vary. That’s why we’ve gathered a few alternative recipes that you can tailor to suit your needs, whether it’s for a borax-free option, a handy dishwasher tablet, or a recipe that works well with hard water.

Borax-Free Recipe

Some folks prefer to avoid borax due to personal preferences or safety concerns. If you’re one of them, we’ve got a borax-free recipe for you! This recipe utilizes:

  • Washing soda for degreasing and disinfection

  • Kosher or sea salt to soften water

  • A little bit of plant-based dishwashing liquid soap to avoid sudsy overflow

  • An optional ingredient for enhanced cleaning is citrus enzyme.

And remember, when using the borax-free detergent, add full-strength white vinegar to the second detergent compartment and in the rinse aid well to ensure a proper rinse.

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Tablet Recipe

A woman starting washing her dishes with homemade dishwasher detergent tabs

Looking for a mess-free, convenient option? Try making DIY dishwasher detergent tablets. Here’s how:


  • 1 cup Washing Soda
  • 1 cup Borax
  • 1/2 cup Sea Salt
  • 1/2 cup Powdered Citric Acid
  • Water (as needed)
  • Optional: A few drops of essential oil for fragrance (e.g., lemon or orange)


  1. Mix Dry Ingredients: In a large mixing bowl, combine the washing soda, borax, sea salt, and powdered citric acid. Stir until all the ingredients are evenly mixed.

  2. Add Moisture: Slowly add water, a few drops at a time, and mix continuously. You’re aiming for a slightly damp consistency, similar to wet sand that can hold its shape when squeezed. Be cautious not to add too much water, as it will dissolve the citric acid and activate the mixture prematurely.

  3. Optional – Add Essential Oils: If you’re using essential oils, add a few drops to the mixture for a fresh scent. Stir well to distribute the oil evenly throughout the mixture.

  4. Mold the Tablets: Use a silicone ice cube tray or mold to shape your tablets. Spoon the mixture into the molds, pressing down firmly to ensure they’re compacted. The size of your molds will determine the size of your tablets, so consider the size of your dishwasher’s detergent dispenser.

  5. Dry the Tablets: Allow the tablets to dry for at least 24 hours in a cool, dry place. The drying time will depend on the humidity and temperature of your environment. They need to be completely dry to the touch.

  6. Remove and Store: Once dry, carefully pop the tablets out of the molds. Store them in an airtight container to keep moisture out.

  7. Usage: To use, place one tablet in your dishwasher’s detergent compartment. For best results, you might also want to use a separate rinse aid, like white vinegar, to help with drying and to prevent spots.

Just pop one into your dishwasher’s detergent dispenser, and you’re good to go.

Hard Water Recipe

If you live in an area with hard water, you might find that typical homemade detergent recipes leave residue on your dishes. But don’t fret; we have a hard water recipe just for you! This recipe utilizes sodium-based chemicals, which act as water softeners, and citric acid to prevent filmy residue on your dishes.

With this recipe, you can ensure your dishes come out clean and clear, regardless of your water hardness.

Transitioning from Store-Bought to Homemade Detergent

So, you’re ready to make the switch from store-bought to DIY dishwasher detergent. Before you dive in, it’s important to prepare your dishwasher and adjust your dishwashing routine. This will help ensure a smooth transition and optimal cleaning results with your homemade detergent.

Preparing Your Dishwasher

Before you start using your own detergent, give your dishwasher a good cleaning. This helps remove any lingering chemical residue from commercial detergents and prepares your dishwasher for the natural cleaning power of homemade detergent.

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Regular cleaning of your dishwasher, approximately every four weeks, will maintain its efficiency and ensure the best performance when using homemade detergent.

Adjusting Your Routine

Switching to DIY dishwasher detergent might also require some adjustments to your dishwashing routine. Make sure your dishwasher’s water temperature is set between 120°F and 160°F to properly dissolve the homemade detergent. Also, instead of pre-rinsing excessively, scrape off leftover food from dishes to allow the homemade detergent to work effectively.

And remember, use one to two tablespoons of the detergent per dishwasher load, and pop it into the dispenser just before starting the wash cycle.

Store-Bought Alternatives

While making your own comes with many benefits, we understand that it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Whether you’re short on time or just prefer the convenience of store-bought, there are still eco-friendly options available.

Top-Rated Brands

When it comes to eco-friendly dishwasher detergents, some top brands to consider are:

  • Dropps

  • Nellie’s

  • Blueland

  • Cleancult

  • Ecover

  • PUR Home

  • Grove Collaborative

  • Seventh Generation

  • ECOS

These brands offer various eco-conscious features, from plant-based ingredients to sustainable packaging. They also retain the conventional cleaning efficacy, giving you the best of both worlds – effective cleaning and environmental responsibility.

Circling Back Around

Making the switch from your own version is a way to live more eco-friendly, it’s also cost-effective, and offers a health-conscious lifestyle. Whether you opt for our ultimate recipe, experiment with alternative recipes, or decide to choose a top-rated eco-friendly brand, you’re making a choice that benefits both your household and the environment. Remember, every small step towards sustainability counts, and your journey towards greener cleaning starts with a single load of dishes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can you use instead of dishwasher detergent?

You can use baking soda, distilled white vinegar, borax, washing soda, lemon juice, or citrus drink powder as alternatives to dishwasher detergent. If you prefer a simple solution, try adding a few drops of regular dish soap and filling the rest of the compartment with baking soda before running the dishwasher on the normal cycle. Avoid using a compartment full of dish soap to prevent excessive sudsing.

What are the 3 ingredient homemade dishwasher detergent?

You can make homemade dishwasher detergent with 1 cup of baking soda, 1 cup of washing soda, and 1 cup of kosher salt. Mix them well to combine the ingredients, breaking up any chunks with your hands.

What can I use when I run out of dishwasher detergent?

When you run out of dishwasher detergent, you can use baking soda, a small amount of standard dish soap, and salt (if you have hard water) as an alternative. Additionally, adding a cup of white vinegar on the top rack can help cut grease. Just be cautious not to overload with dish soap.

I have hard water. Can I still use homemade dishwasher detergent?

Yes, you can still use homemade dishwasher detergent with hard water. Just make some adjustments to the recipe for better effectiveness!

I’m not ready to make my own detergent. Are there eco-friendly store-bought options?

Yes, there are plenty of eco-friendly store-bought detergent options from brands like Dropps, Nellie’s, and Ecover. Go for these if you’re not up for making your own.


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