I first tried my hand at do-it-yourself, homemade cleaning products when I concocted my recipe for laundry detergent. Years later I’m still using it, and I know that many of you are, too, as it continues to be a popular post here on Living on the Cheap. After my success with laundry detergent, I decided to give making homemade dishwasher detergent a try.
The ingredients you’ll need are nearly the same as for the DIY laundry detergent. The two main components are Borax and washing soda.
We happen to have hard water. Adding kosher salt to the recipe helps “soften” the water in the dishwasher. (We don’t use a water softener.) A couple of drops of dishwashing liquid —the kind that you would use for washing pots and pans in the sink — helps make DIY dishwasher detergent work better.
I played around with the ratio of ingredients until I came up with a winning recipe:
- 1 cup Borax
- 1 cup washing soda
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- a few drops of Dawn dishwashing liquid
Mix the powdered ingredients in a resealable container by shaking. Add the Dawn when you are putting in the powdered dishwasher detergent to run a load. That’s an important step to remember.
When testing the recipe, I used 1/4 cup, and that was way too much. Many of my dishes came out coated in gritty residue.
So for the next load, I used 1 tablespoon of the powdered detergent, plus the few drops of dishwashing liquid, and voila! The dishes and plates came out clean. But they were still a bit cloudy.
My hard water was the problem. Adding more salt didn’t help. A cousin told me about Lemi Shine, a citrus-based dishwasher additive that cuts hard-water film.
None of the stores near me carry Lemi Shine — hardware or supermarket — but Target and Walmart do. But those stores are a 30-minute drive away. I ended up ordering a case of Lemi-Shine from Alice.com, and knew with that first load of dishes that Lemi Shine was the final ingredient my DIY homemade dishwasher detergent needed.
So now when I wash dishes, here’s what I do.
- Add Lemi-Shine to the “pre-wash” compartment” in the dishwasher.
- Fill the “regular wash” compartment with a tablespoon of dry DIY detergent.
- Add a few drops of liquid dish detergent.
- Close the compartment and then the dishwasher door.
- Turn on the dishwasher.
My dishes — especially my glasses — are coming out looking better than ever. And from a frugal living point of view, here’s the part I love: By my calculations, taking into consideration the price of the ingredients and how many “washings” I’ll get from them, I’m now spending about 10 cents on soap to wash a load of dishes. When I was buying commercial products, I was spending anywhere from 22 cents to 33 cents per load. If I run the dishwasher once a day, which isn’t unheard of in this house, in a year I will have saved between $62 and $102. I realize that’s not get-rich money, but it is money saved nonetheless.
You don’t have to be a chemist or even a rocket scientist to make this recipe for homemade dishwasher detergent. Give it a whirl, and let me know how it works for you.