How to make homemade dishwasher detergent

If anyone who knows me in real life is reading this post today they probably read the title and literally laughed out loud (I‘m talking to you mom). You see, I’m not exactly known for my sparkling clean home or being fastidiously clean. I’m definitely not a germaphobe and when you hear those people talk about how they are so OCD that they can’t live with dust or crumbs on the counter I cannot relate to them. At all.  That said, when I do take the time to really deep clean my home I make it count and in spite of whether or not messy people like myself should be dishing out cleaning advice I’m going to anyways.
  I started making some of my own cleaning supplies about a year ago. I haven’t bought Lysol or Windex in a very long time. Making your own cleaning supplies is fun, environmentally friendly, economical and easy! This is the recipe that I started using to wash my dishes but as you will read soon enough you can also use it for other household cleaning needs as well.

The Ingredients:

1 cup washing soda
1 cup borax
½ cup salt
½ cup citric acid

What the heck is all this stuff???.

Washing Soda is similar to baking soda but they are not the same thing. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate and washing soda is a sodium salt of carbonic acid.  Baking soda is very easy to find at the store but washing soda can be more difficult to come by. I went to 5 different stores in my area looking for washing soda and couldn’t find it. It was only after I bought some off eBay that I randomly stumbled upon washing soda at Fred Meyer. Go figure. Although it wouldn’t hurt to mix the two up when it comes to making cleaning supplies you definitely don’t want to use washing soda for cooking.  Washing soda comes in a yellow box whereas baking soda is in an orange box. The laundry section of the grocery store or a hardware store are your best bet for tracking this stuff down. You can also buy it online if they don’t sell it in your town.

Borax is also know as sodium borate and is derived from the same stuff as boric acid. Don’t use boric acid for this recipe. Boric acid is nasty, nasty stuff used to kill cockroaches and other bugs. Look for the box in the laundry isle that says 20 Mule Team Borax. It has household cleaning as one of its uses listed on the side of the box so you know it’s safe.

Salt. I think we all know what salt is. Regular table salt will do just fine but purists may prefer to use finely ground sea salt or kosher salt. These will work fine as well. Moving on…

Citric Acid
is a weak organic acid. Its used as a preservative, cleaning agent and a TON of other things. You can also use it to make bath bombs! (recipe coming later this week!) I have no idea where to buy citric acid except the Internet. I bought a big 5lbs pail off Amazon. Citric acid is your secret ingredient in this recipe. It helps to cut grease and residue.  Apparently you can also use unsweetened Kool Aid or Lemonade mix instead of pure citric acid though I have not tried this.

Mix the ingredients together and store in a reusable container. Add two tablespoons per load. Swap out your regular rinse aid (Jet Dry)  for regular distilled white vinegar.

Because everyone’s dishwasher and water hardness are different you may have to tweak things around until you find the right ratios for your homemade detergent. Try making smaller batches at first until you find the right mix.

You can also use this mixture to clean your toilet bowl. Take a bucket and fill with water and dump it into the bowl. This will flush out the water and leave it empty. Wearing gloves, (obviously) rub the powder on the inside of the bowl thickly and let it sit for about 10 minutes.  Scrub it with the toilet brush and flush. Voila, sparkling toilet!

In a pinch your can also use this as laundry detergent. The homemade laundry detergent recipes I have read usually don’t include the citric acid or salt but I have been adding a couple tablespoons instead of laundry powder and it seems to be working just fine.

For the shower, take an old spray bottle and add two teaspoons of the mixture and fill the rest with water. Spritz on the bathtub and shower walls and scrub like you normally do. You need to use a little more elbow grease but it does work.

Do you make any of your own cleaning supplies? What are some of your favorite recipes?

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21 Responses to How to make homemade dishwasher detergent

  1. Janet says:

    I love finding recipes like this. A while ago I blogged a cleaning recipe I use on countertops, that I love.


  2. @ Janet, cool, off to check it out!


  3. This is great! I'll have to keep my eyes out for the washing soda!


  4. Thank you for this tutorial…and for explaining what each item in the recipe is, too. 🙂

    Great meeting you through the Etsy Blog Team!
    I am a new follower/subscriber of your blog. 🙂
    Mary C. Nasser


  5. @Mary, welcome, thanks for following along!


  6. I am your newest follower. Love the recipe I will have to look for washing soda. I make my own all purpose spray cleaner as well. Thanks for sharing. I have a new crafty, thrifty, healthy blog as well at Please stop by and follow or like if you like it! Kristy


  7. prolix says:

    I love reading through your blog, I wanted to leave a little comment to support you and wish you a good continuation. Wishing you the best of luck for all your blogging efforts.
    Commercial Dishwasher


  8. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for posting this – I'm actually excited to run the dish washer! I have used citric acid in young starter sourdough bread. I find it in the bulk spice aisle 🙂


  9. Anonymous says:

    Can you use fruit fresh? I can't find plain citric acid.


  10. I don't recommend using fresh fruit. It will probably clog your washer. You could try lemon juice but if you add it to the powder it will fizz up right away as the chemicals react.


  11. Anonymous says:

    Lemi shine can be used in place of the citric acid. It is supposed to be good if you have hard water.


  12. Anonymous says:

    I'm sorry you had such a hard time finding washing soda…..but you should listen to your own advice. Anything you buy in the store you can make at home!
    Simply place BAKING SODA onto a cookie sheet and place into a 350 degree oven for about an hour, until the 'powder' becomes granules…the heat causes a chemical reaction that turns baking soda into washing soda! No need to go to 5 different stores or buy it off the internet!You probably have a box of baking soda in your kitchen right now! 🙂


  13. Thank you for this post. It inspired me to make my own dishwashing powder. I mentioned your blog on my blog post.


  14. Alisha Scott says:

    I get my citric acid at our local health food store. It is about $8 for a 1 lb bag.


  15. Julene says:

    Honeyville Grain ( has 50lb bags of citric acid for $80 and they ship really cheap too. I keep it in a 6 gallon bucket with gamma lid to store it and I use and old Lemi Shine bottle under my sink for daily use. It will last you a very long time and that is a really good price for that much citric acid!!


  16. I buy citric acid by the home canning supplies at walmart.


  17. Anonymous says:

    How do you dry make laundry detergent?


  18. Help Tried this and it woks great but my mixture is no rock solid. why do you think this happened??? I am storing in a plastic container with screw on top under my sink by dish washer. Have you experienced this/ thanks


  19. Barbara says:

    Hi, can you please what ingredient(s) quantity to increase?? with the dishwasher recipe. I’ve followed the recipe (but could only get borax substitute). I’m regularly getting some unwashed items. I usually use the 35 degree Eco wash but have increased the temperature to a 50 degree wash and added 2 heaped tablespoons of recipe mixture but regularly get items to wash again by hand. Water in my area is moderately hard. I’d be grateful for any suggestions. Many thanks !!


  20. Really useful article! Thank you! I like green recipes and I’m always ready for trying something new! Yesterday I made a mixture of: 1 tsp baking soda, 3 drops commercial dishwasher detergent (for handmade washing) and 3 tsp table salt. It washed the dishes for 40 minutes but it didn’t rinsed them well, I think. So I used the 12 min program for rinsing the dishes and everything was okay! I will definitely try your recipe soon! Greets!


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