Phosphates, Triclosan, surfactants, and plastics… not exactly the residue you want touching your food. You can avoid these chemicals (and save money) by making DIY dishwasher detergent.
Finding a good dishwasher detergent can be quite a task, let alone one that is safe, eco-friendly, and affordable. Some cloud. Some don’t clean. Some need rinse aids.
But once you find your goldilocks formula, you’ll probably never go back to premade.
Why Use a Homemade Dishwasher Detergent?
It’s a worthwhile question. While those pods or tablets are small and you don’t actually eat them, their residue gets on and can remain on your dishes. This means your family will likely ingest them.
This is especially concerning for kids and pets because they often contain:
- Chlorine and other bleaching agents
- Formaldehyde (may appear on labels as methanol, methyl aldehyde, and methylene oxide)
- Surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate
- Sodium metasilicate (can cause skin burns, eye damage, and respiratory problems)
- Triclosan a known endocrine disruptor
- Plastics in gel packs which have caused choking / poisoning in kids
- Phosphates (they get into the water supply and cause algae overgrowth and other environmental concerns)
And what about borax?
Many homemade dishwasher detergent and laundry recipes include borax because it works great as a cleaner. However, there are some concerns about its safety. Borax can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if ingested it by itself, and large amounts can lead to shock and kidney failure. It’s banned in U.S. food products. It also can irritate skin and eyes, and it can hurt your nose, throat, and lungs if you breathe it in. (source)
So while carefully using borax in a laundry detergent might be fine, we choose to avoid it completely in the kitchen.
And one caveat about safer store brands for the dishwasher… generally, they are safe. But they’re pricey! Have you noticed that they’re often almost double the price of the conventional brands?
And some of us aren’t fans of adding more plastic bags or big plastic jugs to our landfills. It turns out only a small percent of the single use plastic you place in a recycle bin actually gets recycled.
These effective detergent recipes are affordable, borax free, and won’t leave your dishes cloudy!
DIY Dishwasher Detergent Powder
This simple homemade detergent is a toxin free powder to add to dishwasher compartment. It’s tough on grime and really cleans pots and pans.
It contains a version of citric acid, which is found in lemons and limes and is super helpful when it comes to removing calcium deposits, hard water stains, rust, lime, and soap scum.
You could also swap the citric acid for 15 drops of lemon essential oil. We’ve searched and haven’t found any information saying you can’t put essential oils in a dishwasher.
- 1 1/2 cups Lemi-Shine or food grade citric acid
- 1 1/2 cups washing soda
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- 1/2 cup kosher salt (used to soften hard water, you can omit if you have soft water)
Mix all ingredients together. Store in an air-tight container, and use 2 Tablespoons per load. If detergent clumps inside the container, add a brown sugar bear to absorb moisture.
If you notice any clouding, add vinegar as a rinse agent.
DIY Dishwasher Detergent Tablets
These DIY detergent tabs can replace store bought dishwasher pods and are just as easy to use.
- 1 cup washing soda
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1 cup baking soda
- 3/4 cup lemon juice
- Silicone candy molds or ice trays
- Airtight plastic container
Combine the washing soda, kosher salt, and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice and stir to incorporate all ingredients equally.
Add one tablespoon of the mixture to silicone candy molds (shape should fit in your dishwasher detergent cup) or ice cube trays. Allow the molded tablets to dry completely and harden.
Remove from molds and store in an airtight container. You’ll love the fresh clean scent of these homemade tablets! Use one tablet per dishwasher load.
What Can I Use for DIY Rinse Aid?
We were delighted to learn you can stop buying expensive rinse aids and instead pour ½ cup of distilled white vinegar into the rinse aid compartment.
And just as a reminder, if you’re in a bind here’s what not to use in your appliance.
Never Use These in an Automatic Dishwasher
Some of us have found out the hard way that bubbly cleaners are not a good mix with your automatic dishwasher. This is an especially tough lesson to learn if your kitchen has hardwood floors. Spare yourself the bubble extravaganza by keeping these cleaners out of your dishwasher:
- Dishwashing liquid
- Laundry detergent
- Body wash
- Household all-purpose cleaners
Have you tried making your own dishwasher detergent? If so, we’d love to hear which recipes you’ve used and how they work.