By Stephanie Dayle. Most of the time I hand wash all of my dishes mostly to conserve water and power, but sometimes I am just too busy taking care of the garden, farmstead and working. Lots of people involved in emergency preparedness and homesteading, get real busy in the summer with food preservation, their garden, and camping – there is no shame in leaning on the dishwasher when time gets tight. Plus that ‘sanitize’ cycle sure comes in handy when you are washing up box after box used canning jars you just bought at that yard sale up the road. Here is a recipe for homemade dishwasher soap that will save you some money and you can bank on the fact that its better for you and the environment than the store-bought stuff. Use the extra money on your emergency preparedness items!
Again, there are different versions of this recipe all over the internet. If you don’t like mine, just search for “homemade dishwasher soap” and you will see many others. I have tinkered with this one a lot, and finally have the way I like it. It works really well, and I will never go back to store-bought detergent.
Homemade dishwasher detergent is going to depend a lot on your water. Is it hard water or do you have a softener? Is there a lot of iron in it? (If so, increase the amount of vinegar you use.) This is because getting your dishes clean is a snap, getting them shiny and residue free is kind of tricky, as most of that has to do with the type of water you have. This is what works the best for me.
To maximize your savings, try to get all these ingredients as cheaply as possible. Price shop, and keep a note who carries them at the lowest prices. Personally, I stock up on these ingredients while taking advantage of sales. However I do not to prep them specially for dishwasher soap as almost any long-term emergency will include a power outage and this recipe is specific to dishwashers. The last time I calculated the cost per load for this it came in at 5 cents a load – and again it’s all going to depend on how cheap you can get all the ingredients for.
Homemade Dishwasher Soap Recipe
DIY Dishwasher Detergent
- 1.5 cup Washing Soda: Washing soda is a natural water softener, abrasive, and is pure cleaning power – baking soda will only act as an abrasive and is not nearly as effective as washing soda, so I just leave soda out. The main ingredient to many commercial dishwasher detergents is washing soda – Sodium carbonate.
- 1/2 cup Borax: Borax – again, an abrasive not super effective, but I have found it helps with glass, which seems to need a finer abrasive.
- 1/4 cup Citric Acid: Citric acid, which is also used in canning, will counter your washing soda, so you have to be very conservative with it. But it can be the only way to deal with some hard water marks and residue. If you don’t have hard water you can reduce this amount.
- OPTIONAL 3 TBS OxiClean (or generic equivalent): One of the active ingredients in OxiClean is sodium percarbonate (Na2CO3•H2O2), an adduct of sodium carbonate (Na2CO3) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). Dissolved in water, it yields a mixture of hydrogen peroxide (which eventually decomposes to water and oxygen) and sodium carbonate (“soda ash”) both ingredients are commonly used in eco-friendly household cleaning because of their gentle and non-toxic nature.
- OPTIONAL: 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of Dawn: This just adds more cleaning power – be VERY careful with it though, just a small amount or you’ll end up with an overflow of suds all over your kitchen floor.
- Some people add salt: I don’t bother with salt – it is used as an abrasive and as a softener, and since washing soda AND borax already soften the water, I didn’t find that it added anything to the existing recipe.
Double or triple the recipe as needed. Combine ingredients, mix with a fork and shake it up real well. 2-3 TBS in your “Wash” compartment should be all you need for a whole load of dishes, some folks use less! If using a long cycle, go ahead and sprinkle some in your “Pre-Wash” compartment as well.
I have had great luck using vinegar in the “Rinse Aid” compartment to help get my dishes shiny and residue free. Be careful using too much vinegar though because it is so acidic, and the recipe already contains citric acid, it can be very hard on the gaskets and other plumbing parts of your dishwasher causing problems down the road.
Be proud of your efforts! Don’t hide them – post a picture of your finished product on Facebook, and see who messages you for the recipe!
Can I add a little fragrance to it?
If you put a little Dawn in your soap mix, it will have a fragrance. But it you absolutely need more fragrance, you can add 5 drops of lemon essential oil to this mix. Keep in mind that by the time your dishes are washed, if your recipe has done its job, your dishes will not smell anyways – therefore you are basically just making the soap smell. Sometimes our obsession with fragrances baffles me, I think its nice when things just smell clean. Walking down the cleaning section at the grocery store gives me a headache sends me into a sneezing fit.
You can add this recipe to a half gallon jar, and keep it under your sink. Since you are adding a little liquid to dry ingredients expect some clumping. The next day, get it out and break up the clumps with a fork, and mix it up again real well. If you want to avoid future clumps you can add a large marshmallow to it – just like you do for brown sugar!
Also click here to check out my recipe for Homemade Laundry Detergent! It is more compact than many of the recipes on the web, and it has a little more cleaning power as well. It will also save you money and uses many of the same ingredients as I listed here! I like keeping products around that have more than once use.
Frugal TIP: In my area, the best price on Mule Team Borax used to be found at Target, who used to sell it in bulk – however I have not seen it sold at bulk for two years. Best price on Washing Soda I can find is usually at Wal-Mart, but I have seen it lower at Bi-Mart. The best prices I have seen on Citric Acid were at Wal-Mart, during canning season and Bi-Mart also during canning season. If you can’t find it there, look at your local Health Food Store! And you can’t beat Costco or Cash and Carry stores for vinegar prices! For the price of a gallon of vinegar at the grocery store, you can buy two at Costco – but supporting your local grocers is also important.
Questions? Have a good recipe of your own?? Share it here! Remember to include what type of water you have at your house to help others who are maybe working on a similar problem, and stay tuned for more money-wise articles!
There are many homemade dishwashing recipes out there on the internet, any similarities are merely coincidental.