How to Make Your Own Dishwasher Detergent

Dishwasher detergent is an ongoing expense in the operation of a dishwasher, and it can add up. As well, it sometimes does not clean as effectively as advertised. Save money and have cleaner dishes by making your own dishwasher detergent according to the directions provided below.

Ingredients You Will Need:

  • A 1-quart plastic container with an airtight snap-on or twist-off lid
  • Borax, sold under the brands 20 Mule Team and Borateem, available at the supermarket
  • Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
  • Citric acid, available at brewing kit retailers, or use 2 packets of unsweetened lemon Kool-Aid powdered soft drink mix per batch
  • Table salt
  • Citrus essential oil to provide fresh scent:  use lemon, orange, grapefruit, tangerine or blend them
  • Rinse cycle: Vinegar

Step 1: Prepare the Bulk Mixture of Your Dishwasher Detergent

In the container or a stainless steel bowl, mix the ingredients in these proportions: 1 cup of borax, 1 cup of baking soda, ¼ cup of table salt, and ¼ cup citric acid, from 2 packages of the powdered drink mix. Stir all these together in the bowl or shake up in the container. Add 30 drops of the essential oil combination you like and mix it well by shaking or stirring. If you have made your detergent in a bowl, transfer it to the plastic container once it is mixed.

Step 2: How to Use Your Dishwasher Detergent

Scrape and rinse your dirty dishes well. There are no chemicals in this detergent to help lift off food particles. Put them in the dishwasher and add 1 tbsp. dishwasher detergent mixture to the detergent compartment. Run the dishwasher load cycle as you normally would.

Step 3: For Hard Water Spotting

Fill the rinse cycle compartment with vinegar. Be careful to keep it out of direct contact with the dry detergent as baking soda and vinegar react strongly when mixed. It will reduce or eliminate water spots caused by the minerals in hard water.

Use this detergent as a low-abrasive scrubbing solution to clean your kitchen countertops, stove top and stainless steel sinks, too. The average cost per load for this dishwasher detergent is 8 cents, compared to 22 cents or more per load for chemical dishwasher detergents such as Cascade. It is also much cheaper to use than other chemical-free "green" dishwasher soaps on the market, but is just as kind to the environment and effective as those others. The scent from the essential oils is pleasant and tends to linger after dishes are washed, giving the dish cupboards a fresh scent too. You should be able to make up about 6 batches of dishwasher detergent from your initial box of borax. Replenish the other ingredients as needed.

Other ingredients you can add to your dishwasher detergent include washing soda, (sodium carbonate), a natural compound of limestone and salt which cuts grease well. You can find it at the supermarket or at retailers of paint and building supplies. It is often used to clean walls before painting or wallpapering. Add 1 cup to this recipe if you like.