How to Make Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

making your own dishwasher detergent

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 10 mins
  • Total Time: 5 mins - 1 day
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5-10

Dishwashers are workhorses in the kitchen. Even if you struggle over the correct way to load the dirty dishes, most families consider them an essential appliance. In order for the appliance to best do its job, you also need dishwasher detergent.

If you like to make your own products, you can use basic ingredients from your pantry to make dishwasher detergent. Even if you prefer commercial brands, it's a good idea to know what you can use in a pinch as an emergency alternative if you find the dishwasher detergent container empty.

How Often Should You Use Dishwasher Detergent?

Homemade dishwasher detergent can be used each time you run a dishwasher wash cycle.

Before You Begin

Since homemade dishwasher detergent does not contain the anti-caking ingredients of commercial brands, it's a good idea to create only small batches—no more than three cups. The product should be stored in a container with a tight-fitting lid and labeled clearly. Include directions on the label about how much to use for each load of dirty dishes.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 set of measuring cups and spoons
  • 1 airtight container
  • 1 silicone mold or ice cube tray
  • 1 mixing bowl
  • 1 wooden spoon

Materials

  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 cup food-grade citric acid powder
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup lemon juice

Instructions

How to Make Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

  1. Gather Ingredients

    To make powdered dishwasher detergent, you will need washing soda, borax, kosher salt, and food-grade powdered citric acid. If you prefer to make dishwasher detergent tablets, substitute lemon juice for the citric acid powder.

    mixing together borax, salt, and washing soda

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  2. Gather Materials

    You will need a mixing bowl, wooden spoon, measuring cups, and an airtight container for both forms of detergent. If you are making dishwasher detergent tablets, you will also need small silicone molds or an ice cube tray to form the tablets. Choose a mold that will hold about one tablespoon and create a tablet that will fit in the dishwasher detergent dispenser in your appliance.

  3. Mix Powdered Dishwasher Detergent

    In a mixing bowl, add one cup of washing soda, one cup of borax, one-half cup of powdered citric acid, and one-half cup of Kosher salt. Stir well with the wooden spoon to mix and transfer to an airtight container. Label the container.

    mixing baking soda and borax

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  4. Make Dishwasher Detergent Tablets

    Add one cup of washing soda, one cup of borax, one-half cup of Kosher salt, and three-fourths cup of lemon juice to a mixing bowl. Stir well with a wooden spoon to mix. Place one tablespoon of the mixture into small silicone molds or ice cube tray sections. Allow the molded tablets to dry for 24 hours or until hardened. Remove the tablets from the molds and transfer them to an airtight container. Label the container.

How to Use Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

  1. Powdered Dishwasher Detergent

    Use one to two tablespoons of powdered detergent for each load of dirty dishes. Since the homemade detergent does not have anti-caking ingredients, place the powder into the dishwasher dispenser right before you begin the cycle to prevent clumps that may not dissolve well.

    Keep a measuring spoon in the container so it is always handy. Add instructions to the label on the amount of detergent to use for each load so others can help run the dishwasher correctly.

    Tip

    If the mixture has hardened slightly, stirring well with a wooden spoon may soften it back up. However, if it has formed clumps, discard the batch. The clumps will not dissolve correctly in the dishwasher.

    adding detergent to the dishwasher

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  2. Dishwasher Detergent Tablets

    Place one homemade detergent tablet in the dishwasher detergent dispenser immediately before you run a wash cycle.

FAQ
  • Why make homemade dishwasher detergent?

    By making dishwasher detergent, you can control the ingredients that are used. Some commercial products include fragrances that may not be desirable to everyone. There are also cost savings by creating homemade products if you store and use them correctly.

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

    Let the dishwasher detergent do its job. Don't pre-rinse your dirty dishes just scrape away 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 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, washing dishes in the dishwasher rather than handwashing saves money, water, energy, and time.

Watch Now: Make Your Own Dishwasher Detergent in a Pinch

Originally written by
Erin Huffstetler
Erin Huffstetler is a frugal living expert who has been writing for over 10 years about easy ways to save money at home. She's covered money-saving advice and tricks for numerous publications, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Forbes, among others. She is the owner of "My Frugal Home," a money-saving, frugal living how-to guide.
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  1. Saving Tips: Dishwasher vs. HandWashing Dishes. Energystar.gov