I’ve posted a lot of recipes for DIY homemade cleaners, but dishwasher detergent was one I had trouble figuring out. After a little more digging, I finally figured out the secret! This homemade dishwasher detergent recipe uses natural ingredients to help you save money and get dirty dishes squeaky clean.
Powdered Dishwasher Detergent
I’d experimented with a lot of dishwasher powder recipes, but all of them left a little residue, especially on glassware. I wasn’t sure if I had too much of something or if I was missing an ingredient that would make it more effective.
Thanks to a little tip on Pinterest, I figured out the missing ingredient was citric acid. Even better, I already had some on hand from making bath bombs so I gave it a try. The result was clean, shiny dishes without residue buildup or grime.
The Magical Ingredient
As the name implies, citric acid is an acid and is naturally found in lemon juice. Adding fresh lemon juice to your homemade dishwasher detergent though isn’t really practical since it decreases the shelf life. For those with hard water (especially if you don’t have a water softener) citric acid provides natural cleaning power to beat filmy dish residue.
I combine the citric acid with the rest of the ingredients and put the whole thing in the detergent compartment. Some people find though that it works best separately as a rinse aid. In this case, put a tablespoon of citric acid powder in the rinse aid compartment of your dishwasher.
Some people instead use vinegar in the liquid rinse dispenser or in a bowl in the top rack of the dishwasher. Over time though the white vinegar can break down the rubber gaskets and hoses in your dishwasher.
How Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Works
While the natural acidity of the citric acid prevents a film, the other ingredients in this homemade detergent help clean dishes.
Washing soda, the main ingredient here, raises water pH and helps soften water. It also removes stains and grease and works as a cleaning agent. Most store-bought detergents include it in their soap recipe so you’ll often see it on the label as sodium carbonate. You can even make it yourself from baking soda.
I’ve also added salt to the recipe which also helps clean and soften water. Most recipes call for Kosher salt since it’s pure sodium chloride without any other minerals. I haven’t had a problem using regular sea salt though.
The final ingredient in this dishwasher blend is borax, which has been the center of some online debate. In my opinion, borax is very much on the low end of the scale when it comes to the potential toxicity of chemicals in cleaning products. It’s a naturally occurring ingredient that I feel comfortable using in my cleaning recipes.
If not, I’ve also used enzyme cleaners like Biokleen dishwasher soap which doesn’t have borax.
Where to Buy It
Don’t want to make your own dishwasher detergent but don’t want to resort to hand washing a load of dishes either? There are plenty of healthy dishwasher detergent options now! You can even find some of these at places like Walmart, Amazon, or your local grocery store. Here are some ones I’ve used before with good results:
DIY Dishwasher Detergent Recipe
This simple recipe is a great non-toxic alternative for cleaner dishes! Plus it takes mere minutes to make.
Store the dishwasher detergent in an airtight container in a dry place.
Not Working For You?
Homemade powdered dish detergent can be tricky. Depending on how hard/soft your water is and the temperature you wash dishes at it can be difficult to find a recipe that works.
One easy fix to try is to omit the citric acid from this recipe and instead use it as a rinse agent. Put 1 tablespoon of homemade dishwasher detergent into the prewash compartment, and add 1 tablespoon of citric acid to the main wash compartment. This way, when you run the wash cycle the dish detergent will first wash the dishes, then the citric acid will help shine them.
New to Natural Cleaning?
If you’re just starting with DIY or natural cleaners, here are some other easy and inexpensive recipes:
What do you use in the dishwasher? Ever made your own dishwasher detergent? Share below!