Tuesday, February 26, 2013

DIY Dishwasher Detergent without Borax with Review

I've been looking for a dishwashing detergent that I could use that is more environmentally friendly and it's hard! Of the 88 dishwasher detergents listed in Environmental Working Group's new Guide to Healthy Cleaning, nearly 70 percent scored a rating of D or F, indicating that the ingredients offer 'likely' or 'potentially significant' hazards to health or the environment.

In terms of how they affect the health of humans it's hard to determine which brands are safe. Many detergents leave a residue on the dishes which is consumed when you use them to eat or drink off of. Others (like chlorine bleach) can cause respiratory problems or allergic reactions. 

Even more of a reason to change from a regular dishwashing detergent is the environment! Ecologically, dishwashing detergents can be a problem for wildlife. They have surfactants which has micelles which are toxic to fish because it affects their ability to get oxygen from the water. One of the big problems is that micelle is found inside of other substances so it can be difficult to figure out which ingredients are safe for local wildlife. 

Another concern is the phosphates because they boost algae growth which can also harm fish and wetland plants. I don't know about you, but all the brands that I've tried that are phosphate free don't perform nearly as well as the ones with phosphate because phosphates help significantly with hard water. 

In the recipe I'm trying today I am using a few simple ingredients:

Washing Soda: It is a natural substance made from salt and limestone, which is also known as sodium carbonate. It cuts grease, raises pH, and neutralizes chlorine.

Baking Soda: Also raises pH and acts as a "scrubber" to clean off the really crusty stuff. You may want to be careful when cleaning aluminum based products though as it can damage them.

Salt: Has some affect on water softening

Citric Acid: It helps eliminate the need for products, like phosphates, that soften the water. It removes hard water stains and is an antimicrobial agent. 


1.5-2 cups of Washing Soda (use 2c if you have hard water)
1 cup of Citric Acid (Recommended: Citric Acid (non-GMO))
0.5 cups of Baking Soda
0.5 cups of Salt (I used sea salt)

It comes out to be pretty cheap because y
ou only use around a TBSP per load! 


Total cost: $1.25 per batch  

Total # Loads: let's say 50 loads per batch so not to overshoot (I know it's actually more than that)

Total Cost Per Load: $ 0.03 


Total cost: $6.69 per box

Total # Loads: ~ 24 loads 

Total Cost Per Load$ 0.28/per load

Savings: $0.25/per load 

So if you run your dishwasher every day that would be a savings of over $91/ year. 

It's hard to tell in the picture, but there was definitely a film on the old dishwashing detergent's glass which was gone when I re-washed it with the new detergent. It is my opinion that it has worked better than my more expensive store brand. 

A few tips for clean, sparkly dishes:
  • Run the hot cycle. Your water temp should be around 120 F.
  • Use white vinegar as a rinse aid
  • Make sure your dishwasher is clean!You can read how it do it in my post DIY Dishwasher Cleaner
  • If you still continue to get that nasty while film, try putting 2-3 TBSP of vinegar directly in the dishwasher before you wash. It will loosen up some of the grim before your dishwasher releases the detergent. 
  • If you have extremely hard water, sadly, you may never get those crystal clear dishes unless you get a water softener or use chemicals to treat the water. 
If you don't know if making your own Dishwasher Detergent is for you, then you can read my review of two Green Dishwasher Detergents that you can buy: the Honest Company's Dishwasher Gel and GrabGreen's Detergent. 


  1. Sounds like a great recipe, I've been turned on to making my own cleaning products and the one thing I can say is that a cyber-friend said that the citric acid can cause certain things to rust (like mixer tools), and regular baking soda can leave a film. I use 3 cups water, 3 tablespoons Dr. Bronner's Castile soap and 1 1/4 cups washing soda. mix it, shake it, blend it. Pretty simple. I'm enjoying your blog and I've favorited it. Keep writing. Love it!

    1. Thanks Megan! You're so sweet!

      And, yes, I've heard about citric acid causing rust, but based on my research stainless steel and most dishware can take it. It's only if you're putting pure metal (like true silver) in your dishwasher that citric acid can be a problem. As for the baking soda-- yes, it can leave a film especially if you have hard water and that's why I don't use bunch of it! I'll try your recipe out though when I run out! It sounds pretty interesting-- you've peaks my interest! :) Thanks for sharing!

  2. One last thing I forgot. You'll want to let it rest upside down till it gels and shake it a couple of times. I made mine while I did homework. Good luck in school!

    1. Thanks! I will definitely try it and let you know how it goes! How much do you use per load?

      And thank you for the good luck wishes -- I need it! Since you're doing homework I suppose you're in the same boat! Good luck to you as well! :)

  3. 1 TBsp per load is all that's necessary, but I use another in the prewash too. I haven't had a dirty dish since switching!

    1. Thanks! I'll try it out. I will be out of my dishwashing detergent sometimes this month and I'll give it a go. Thanks for sharing!! I'm excited to try it! :)

    2. Megan! I tried your dishwasher detergent and it worked really well! Thank you so much for the suggestion. Sorry it's taken me so long-- the supply I had of my DIY stuff lasted FOREVER. If it's okay I'd like to write a post about it. :)

  4. Thanks for the recipes guys. Megan: how quickly do you go through a batch of your recipe? I have steered clear of water-based home recipes as I've heard that the lack of preservatives can be dangerous unless they are refrigerated. And who wants to refrigerate soaps? Have you heard anything about this?

    1. Carrie, I believe that what would cause the problems would be that if you don't use sterile water, then there could be bacteria in the water which could multiply, be harmful if ingested. However, the dishwasher should kill any bacterial with the hot water in the cycle. Of course, if it grows mold, I wouldn't use it. The washing soda and the castile soap shouldn't spoil or go bad at all in the water.

      For instance, I make a hair rinse that has water, vinegar, and lavender. I keep this refrigerated and if I do not it will grow mold within 3-4 weeks.

      As for how long it lasts I made approx 4 cups which would be 64 TBSP. So depending on how you use it-- 64 loads or if you double it as a pre-wash it would last 32 loads. I hope this helps!

      I just made my first batch last week, so I will let you know if I see any signs of spoilage. You can always reduce the recipe to make a smaller amount if you're worried as well.

  5. A big issue in many households is glass etching from dishwashers. That is the real cause of many glasses becoming hazy, and, once it occurs it is not removable, because the glass surface is damaged. Different formulations of dishwasher detergents have very big differences on etching (per Consumer Reports). While this formula addresses "the environment", it ignores the haze issue...and throwing glasses into the landfill is an environmental concern, too.

  6. Wow! I haven't heard that it's actually the detergent. I love it when people give me new info. Could you please send me the consumer report that talked about detergent causing etching? I've always read that the cloudiness had to do with hard water and that the actual drying in the dishwasher was the culprit of the etching:

    DIY Natural community member Joyce had this to say: “I deal in a lot of glassware new and antique and I have found you never dry your glassware in the dishwasher because it causes small etching. This can be caused by minerals in the water or things in your detergent. You may not notice this at first but continued drying can cause the cloudy look which could be etching. Once it is etched it is over as far as beauty is concerned.”

    I will say that I have noticed that if I hand wash a glass that is cloudy, it seems to be just fine. I don't know how long it takes for the etching to become permanent though, but I am interested in learning more! I really would like to read any of the articles that you found.

    If this is true and some DIY detergents cause etching, then perhaps we should hand wash our glass products so that we still lessen our environmental impact with the safer detergent. But I am going to do some research and look at what I can find. Thanks for bringing it up!

  7. Hello! I started using the DIY detergent, but my dishes are coming out with a powder residue. I'm literaly having to re-wash them. Any help?

    1. Hmmm… well, that's not good! Have you tried cleaning the dishwasher? There is a link in the article near the bottom if you want to read the post, but basically it is a cup full of vinegar placed on the top rack and you run the dishwasher. Then you put baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher and run it again. That should clean out all the gunk that's been building in the dishwasher.

      A lot of times dishwasher can get clogged up and not clean as well, so doing this cleaning every 1-2 months really helps keep my dishes looking clean.

      I hope that helps!

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