How to Make Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

making your own dishwasher detergent

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Are you ready to trade your over-priced and chemical-laden dishwasher detergent for something better? Then, try making this simple recipe for homemade dishwashing detergent. Besides the expense, the pungent scents used in commercial dishwasher detergents can irritate those with allergies and are probably unnecessary. There are a number of benefits of using a homemade detergent in your dishwasher, and it's so easy to make and store. Here are some tips, benefits, and a few options for making your own dishwasher detergent.

What You'll Need


Benefits of Making Your Own Dishwasher Detergent

  • Inexpensive
  • You know the ingredients, so there's no need for decoding the label
  • No harsh chemicals
  • Does not emit chlorine gas like some commercial detergents
  • Effective sanitizer
  • Effective stain remover
  • Effective water softener
  • Environmentally friendly (phosphate-free)
  • No added scents to irritate allergies

Borax and Baking Soda Recipe

Mix the borax and baking soda together. Then, add to your dishwasher's detergent compartment, and run as usual. If you wish to make a larger batch, simply mix one-to-one, such as one cup and one cup.

Why This Works

Borax and baking soda are both natural disinfectants and mild abrasives, so they're just what you need to blast away stuck-on food and germs. In fact, you may be interested in learning that borax is a common ingredient in many commercial detergents.

mixing baking soda and borax

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Borax and Washing Soda Recipe

Some people have found the simple borax and baking soda recipe leaves a film on their dishes. This recipe uses washing soda instead of baking soda and adds citric acid and salt, both of which can be more effective at getting dishes and glasses clean. You will need to find food-grade citric acid, or you can use unsweetened lemonade mix.

  • One tablespoon borax
  • One tablespoon washing soda
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon food-grade citric acid

Mix all of the ingredients. Use one to two tablespoons per load of dishes. You can substitute unsweetened lemonade mix for the citric acid, as it is mostly citric acid. As a bonus, it adds a lemony scent. The salt is used to soften hard water and may not be necessary if you have soft water. To make a larger batch, you can vary the amounts, just keep the ratios at 2:2:1:1.

mixing together borax, salt, and washing soda

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Borax-Free Recipe

Some people wish to avoid using borax. Washing soda provides a similar chemical action.

  • Three tablespoons washing soda
  • Three tablespoons citric acid
  • One tablespoon baking soda
  • One tablespoon kosher salt

Mix together and use one to two tablespoons per load in your dishwasher. Store the rest in a glass container. As with the second recipe, you may not need the salt if you have soft water. You can vary the amounts in this recipe to make a larger batch, just keep the ratio of 3:3:1:1.

adding detergent to the dishwasher

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Tips and Warnings

  • Borax sells under the name 20 Mule Team and can be found in the laundry aisle at your grocery store or big box store. Arm and Hammer washing soda can also be found in the laundry aisle.
  • Food-grade citric acid can be found in the area of your grocery store where canning goods are sold. If your store doesn't stock canning goods, you can buy it online.
  • Save time by making up big batches of dishwasher detergent, consisting of equal parts borax and baking soda.


Keep prepared detergent out of the reach of children and pets.

  • Why make homemade dishwasher detergent?

    There are several reasons for making your own dishwasher detergent; not only does it save you money, but it's better for the environment, and you know just what ingredients have gone into producing it.

  • Should you rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher?

    Let the dishwasher detergent do its job, and don't pre-rinse your dishes just scrape any leftover food before putting them in the dishwasher.

  • Does washing dishes in a dishwasher save money and water?

    Absolutely! If your dishwasher is Energy Star rated, washing dishes in the dishwasher rather than handwashing saves money, water, energy, and time.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Watkins, Julia. Simply Living Well: a Guide to Creating a Natural, Low-Waste Home. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020.

  2. Saving Tips: Dishwasher vs. HandWashing Dishes.