DIY: Three Different Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Recipes: Powder and Liquid

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

Thrifty Thinking


It’s DIY FRI. , where every weekend I try to post something you can do yourself rather than buy, which is a money saver, and can be VERY REWARDING.  Some of these posts are crafts, sewing projects, homemade cleaners, homemade health aids, tutorials, and the like.

**Update 10/11/12: Recipe #3 has been updated so it works even more efficiently, and reduced to only three ingredients.  The vinegar and castile liquid soap don’t work together well at the same time.  Still use the vinegar as a rinse aid.  Go here to see updated recipe.

I was running out of dishwasher detergent earlier this year, and I thought I would try to make some.  I wanted to find a way to have it more economically then buying it commercially, and I wanted something that would be better for the environment.

I am including three different recipes because I know that not everyone has the same kind of water, and one recipe may work for you that didn’t work for me.  My favorite was #3, the liquid.**Update 10/11/12: Recipe #3 has been updated so it works even more efficiently, and reduced to only three ingredients.  Go here to see updated recipe.

dishwasher detergent

Dishwasher Detergent Ingredients

I found a recipe at Quiver Full of Blessing that inspired me to start exploring the  world of homemade dishwasher detergent.  I made this recipe and used it until it was gone.  I can’t remember how long that was exactly, but it was approximately 3-4 weeks.  It got the dishes mostly clean but not as clean as my Palmolive Phosphate Free Dishwasher Detergent I’ve been buying at Walmart for 2 years without a coupon since it’s the best price there.  Sometimes at the end of a cycle there would be a clump of detergent left which was kind of disconcerting.

At first I had NO idea where to buy citric acid in the recipe.  It’s in so many products at the store, but the stores usually don’t sell it unless you go to a pharmacy or local co-op store.  I went to standard stores like Walmart to try to find it, but I could not.  A local pharmacy, Hilton’s in Marysville, WA sells it for $20.43/4 ounces.  Ouch!  The local co-ops in Mt. Vernon and Everett sell it for approximately $7/lb.: much better price!  I found the borax and washing soda in the laundry soap section at our local Walmart, though.

Also, use the vinegar as the rinse aid.  It’s so important as it really works and it doesn’t leave your dishes smelling like vinegar.  Promise!

Homemade Dishwasher Deteregent Recipe #1


  • 1 cup Borax
  • 1 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
  • 1/2 cup citric acid
  • 1/2 cup salt


  1. Put all ingredients in an airtight container, and shake to mix.
  2. Use 1 T per load.
  3. Use 2 T of white vinegar as a rinse aid.

I am not a fan of powered dishwasher detergent.  I wanted to see if I could find a recipe that would work more effectively than the first recipe.  The second recipe is another powder homemade dishwasher detergent recipe that I found at Stacy Makes Cents.  I found Lemishine at our local WinCo in the dish detergent area.  You can even go to there website, and it will tell you where the nearest stores are that carry this product.  I found this highly helpful! 

Homemade Dishwasher Deteregent Recipe #2


  • 2 cups Borax
  • 2 cups Washing Soda
  • 1 cup Lemi-Shine (found in the detergent aisle)


  1. Combine all ingredients.
  2. Store in an airtight container.
  3. Use 2 T white vinegar as a rinse aid.

The second recipe did clump some for me and didn’t get the dishes as clean as I would like.  It may work for you, though (that’s why I am sharing this).

As I stated at the beginning, my favorite kind of dishwasher detergent to use is liquid.  Early in our marriage we would have problems with clumping powdered detergents, so I’ve used liquid dishwasher detergents for over a decade.  The last recipe I found at Mother Earth News.  I did adapt the recipe a bit because I used Lemishine instead of real lemons.  I believe it’s the safest of the 3 recipes, as I have heard some people question using Borax on dishes you eat with, although with a good rinse aid like vinegar, the problems should be washed away.

**Update 10/11/12: Recipe #3 has been updated so it works even more efficiently, and reduced to only three ingredients.  The vinegar and castile liquid soap don’t work together well at the same time.  Still use the vinegar as a rinse aid.  Go here to see updated recipe.

Homemade Dishwasher Deteregent Recipe #3: Liquid


  • 2 cups vegetable-based castile soap (I got mine at Trader Joe's)
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Lemishine
  • 3 drops essential oil of your choice (I used Tea Tree Oil from Trader Joe's)
  • **Update 10/11/12: Recipe #3 has been updated so it works even more efficiently, and reduced to only three ingredients. The vinegar and castile liquid soap don't work together well at the same time. Still use the vinegar as a rinse aid. Go here to see updated recipe.


  1. Save an old bottle of liquid dishwasher detergent, or find a pourable container. Pour all ingredients in the bottle and shake well.
  2. Shake each time before using.
  3. Use 2 tablespoons per load.
  4. If you find this is not working as well, fill the dispenser completely with the homemade liquid dishwasher detergent as the dishwasher manufacturer. This should work really well. Everytime you use the dishwasher, slightly decrease the amount of detergent you use until you get an amount that works well.
  5. Always use vinegar as a rinse aid.

**Update 10/11/12: Recipe #3 has been updated so it works even more efficiently, and reduced to only three ingredients.  The vinegar and castile liquid soap don’t work together well at the same time.  Still use the vinegar as a rinse aid.  Go here to see updated recipe.

The first time I used the homemade liquid dishwasher detergent I forgot the vinegar rinse aid and my dishes weren’t completely clean and some dishes were cloudy.  After that experience and needing to rinse and/or clean EVERY DISH from that washing again, I remembered to put the vinegar in the rinse every time after that.  The liquid detergent worked well after that and is my favorite of the three recipes!  7/29/12 Update Read here to learn about several tests done on Lemi Shine @ .  Update 10/11/12: Recipe #3 has been updated so it works even more efficiently, and reduced to only three ingredients.  Go here to see updated recipe.

All of these homemade dishwasher detergent are soooo fast and easy to make!  You really should try one or all of them.

Have you tried to make your own dishwasher detergent or other cleaners or health aids before?

Have you made…:

Re-purposed Mesh Bags to Scouring Pad Scrubbies @

Babywipes Solution

Foaming Hand Soap @

3 Deodorant Alternatives @

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Tiny Tip Tuesday @ Nature's Nurture


  1. Hilary says

    When do you add the vinegar rinse aid? There is no way I will remember to add it once the load is started so I am hoping there is a way to add it at the beginning, otherwise I may have to stick with store bought detergent.

    • says

      Hi Hilary, Yes, the rinse aid is put in at the very beginning. In my dishwasher I have a compartment for the rinse aid, and I fill it at the same time I fill the detergent. Thanks for visiting!

  2. says

    I tried the 2nd one and when it came time to use it, it had harden so much, I couldn’t get it our of the jar! Don’t know what went wrong. But I’m not giving up!

    • says

      Hi Gail, I wonder if it got wet at all. My powder detergent never got that clumped. Yikes! When my powder clumped in the storage container, it wasn’t bigger than small peas, and I just shook it really well, it broke apart, and I used it. This is one of the reasons that the liquid is my favorite! I know other people have much success with the powder, so that’s why I posted all three of the recipes.

    • Jessica says

      The first batch I used turned into one big lump. I even kept it sealed well and made sure the measuring spoon was kept dry. With the second batch, I would shake the container so things wouldn’t clump together. For the first few days I would turn the jar upside down to get things moving every time I was in the kitchen. I haven’t had any clumping problems with the second batch.

      • says

        Hi Jessica, Thanks for sharing! Because I know different recipes work for different people, I wanted to include a few different ones. I am glad you found something that works for you!

    • Debbie says

      I read a recipe where you put the vinegar in the mix and press them into ice cube trays. You have dishwasher bricks after they dry and store them in a plastic container and voila.

  3. Grace says

    That’s interesting that you couldn’t find citric acid at Walmart, since that’s where I found mine next to all the dishwashing rinse agents. Thanks for the recipes.

    • says

      Hi Grace, I know it’s weird! I wonder how much it is for citric acid at Walmart. Do you remember?

      I went to the detergent aisle there, and I didn’t see it. I called the store (when I was at the store), and they said they didn’t have it. The associate I talked to in the detergent aisle said try the canning aisle. It wasn’t there.

  4. says

    Have you tried using lemon-flavored Kool-Aid (contains citric acid and it’s only $.20/pkg. at WalMart) with the Borax and Washing Soda? I’ve been using the following recipe with success, both with and without vinegar as a rinse aid:

    2 cups Borax 2 cups washing soda 4 packets lemon- or lemonade-flavored Kool-Aid (sugar-free)

    Mix all ingredients together, shake well, and store in an airtight container (repurposed plastic jug works well).

    To use: Place 1 Tbs. in the pre-wash (open cup) and 1 Tbs. in the main wash (closed cup). If using vinegar as a rinse-aid, pour that into appropriate cup.

    This makes app. 100 loads for less than a penny per load.

    • says

      Hi Connie. Thanks for your info!

      Does your recipe clump at all?

      I haven’t used the Kool-Aid, although I have heard it works as a citric acid substitute.

      What an amazing value!! Thanks so much for sharing!

      • says

        While there is a small amount of clumping inside the plastic container (3# jug previously contained organic sugar cane crystals), a bit of shaking the jug will break up the mixture enough to pour evenly into the dishwasher cups. (There hasn’t been a problem with clumping in the cups, though, if the correct amount of mixture is used.) Although I haven’t tried using any type of absorbing agent (eg., absorb-packs that are used in nutritional supplement containers), I have thought that perhaps placing some packets in the dry mixture could aid in controlling clumping in the container.

        Also, to aid in the cleaning power of the mixture, I also scrape off excess food debris, etc., from the dishes before loading.

        • says

          Thanks, Connie for letting me know about the clumping. I have had that minimal clumping happen, too, and I agree with you that shaking the jug does help to get rid of those clumps.

          Scraping the plates is a must. I put my dirty dishes at the bottom of the sink and wash my big pots and pans over the dirty dishes to get them cleaner before loading the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. I keep strategically rearranging the dirty dishes so the dirtiest parts get the most water as I clean the big pots.

  5. says

    Thanks for posting all three of these recipes. I will have to try them. We don’t use our portable dishwasher too often though. So it just hasn’t been a priority yet to make my own detergent.

    Thanks for sharing at Romance on a dime! I love to read about what you have made!

  6. says

    Thanks for the recipes. We haven’t been thrilled with our homemade dishwasher detergent. I will try the liquid recipe you posted. Visiting from A Bowl Full of Lemons. Caio!

  7. says

    I might try the liquid recipe one of these days. Right now, I’m working on perfecting a recipe that uses oxygen cleaner and diluted liquid castile soap. It works pretty well EXCEPT on my drinking glasses. It does better if I run an empty cycle once a week w/ Lemi Shine, but I’m still tweaking it and I think I’m getting my system down nicely. Thanks for linking up at Healthy 2Day Wednesday and come back tomorrow to see if you were featured!

    • says

      Hi Anne, I can’t wait to see your recipe. I love to compare and keep making things better. I really like this liquid dishwasher detergent! This recipe doesn’t leave my glasses cloudy, especially when I use enough.

  8. says

    Thanks for sharing all 3 recipes – so very helpful! I’ve used recipe #1 with good success, but would like to try the liquid one some time. Thanks again for linking up at Tiny Tip Tuesday!

  9. Kristen says

    Okay so I tried the 1st & 2nd and everything is very cloudy and all my silverware is dark and no longer shinny…….HELP what do I need to do the glasses are SO very cloudy! We had a BD party and ran out to purchase plastic cups it was not good. ANY advice is a welcome Thanks in advance.

    • says

      HI Kristen, I am sorry that happened. I know some people love those first two recipes. The type of water you have helps or hurts the results. I wasn’t excited about the results either with our water, and I had to wash with a commercial detergent a couple of times, and that seemed to take the cloudiness away. Did you use the vinegar as a rinse aid? That does help. This is why I now use the #3, liquid. I am really excited about the results and think it works for me, just as good as commercial detergent as long as I use enough detergent. Blessings to you!

    • says

      For my high lime water, I found NOT using borax at all helped with the cloudy film. I use: 2 parts citric acid 1 part baking soda (from the feed store) 1 part road salt (cheap rock salt) a few drops orange essential oil…just cause it smells good.

      I use vinegar in the rinse aid compartment.

  10. says

    I’ve never tried making dishwasher detergent, but I make my own baby wipes and laundry soap a lot. It’s amazing how easy it is. Thanks for linking up at Making Space Mondays. I hope we see you there next week! -Tabitha

  11. Krysta N. says

    I’m curious to try the liquid version. We have VERY hard water and the powdered version I had tried before (without citric acid) left my dishes in such a state of awful cloudy nastiness that I am still cleaning it off some of the glasses, months after going back to commercial chemical-laden detergent (I have always used vinegar in the rinse-aid compartment). I will mix up a small batch of the liquid one with lemi shine and see how it does. If anyone is curious what “magical” secret ingredients are in lemi shine, this chemist did a thorough analysis and found that it is nearly 100% citric acid – go figure:

    • says

      Hi Krysta, I really hope this works for you! Making a small batch sounds like a plan. I figured Lemi Shine was some kind of citric acid substitute. That was a great blog link about the Lemi Shine. Thanks so much for sharing!

  12. Kelly says

    I made the liquid #3 recipe. Each load I’ve washed leaves my dishes with a white, cloudy residue. I have my rinse aid compartment filled with vinegar. I have to typically wash my dishes again using only vinegar to remove the residue so I don’t feel like I’m saving money. Any hints? Also, I found several recipes on other sites just like your liquid #3 but they call for 1/2 cup castile soap. Is 2 cups too much? The other ingredients and amounts were exactly the same as yours.

    • says

      Hi Kelly, Everyone’s dishwasher works differently with their different water, so I don’t know exactly what to tell you, but that sounds like a good idea, reducing the amount of soap you use. To remove the residue, I would wash with a commercial dishwasher detergent that’s phosphate free (for environmentally-friendly reasons), and then try your natural alternatives again.

    • Laura says

      Hi, Kelly. Did you try it again with more water? How did it work out? I ran a load of dishes last night with the #3 recipe and had the same problem. I’m about to try it with equal parts water/soap…

  13. Audra says

    I found a dishwasher recipe that I love at You take one teaspoon of a generic version of oxyclean and one half a teaspoon of dawn soap and put it in the soap compartment. Then take a half a cup of vinegar and place it in a cup or small bowl on the top rack of the dishwasher instead of putting it in the rinse aid dispenser. This is the only homemade recipe I have ever liked in my dishwasher.

  14. Morgan says

    Did you use the liquid or powder lemi shine for #3? I am assuming liquid but want to double check.

    • says

      Hi Morgan, I didn’t know there was liquid Lemishine. I used powder. I would definitely try the liquid form in the liquid recipe #3. Where do you get it? Thanks for visiting!

      • Morgan says

        I was wrong! It is lemishine rinse aid that is a liquid. I didn’t read the label very closely-sorry!

  15. says

    I live in Nashville, Tennessee. We have a very diverse population and several “international markets”. I think we have about 11,000 Kurds here. Anyway, Ziyad brand ( “premium citric acid” is in the spice section and it is $2.99 (I think…definitely not more than 3.99) for 10 ounces. My kurdish friend uses it in cooking in place of lemon juice. And, of course, it is used in canning and to keep fruit from discoloring.

  16. says

    I’m pinning this. I’m in the middle of trying to come up with what will work for us. So far we are trying #1, then modified it to be more like #2. Not working. My dishes are cloudy. I think we will have to try #3 next. Thanks so much!

  17. Jessica says

    I feel l should let everyone know that you can’t mix Vinegar and Castile soap in the same recipe. (info at this website They cancel eachother out, which is why a lot of you are having problems. Castile soap is a base (alkaline) and vinegar is an acid. You DO however, use vinegar as a rinse for castile soap.

    • says

      Hi Jessica,

      Thanks for letting me know. Now I am going to try recipe #3 without the vinegar and see if the results are even better. Thanks for the tip and for visiting!

  18. Lynda says

    You must have gotten #1 from the same place I did! :) I’ve been using for over a year now and love. Though, to save money, I experimented and lowered the citric acid to 1/4 c., and for my (hard) water, it works just as well. So I’m even happier. :)

  19. Trae says

    Why was LemiShine dropped? In understand Vinegar & Soap didn’t go we’ll together, so separate the vinegar in Rinse receptacle, but why omit the LemiShine? Just curious? Love, Trae

    • says

      Hi Trae, I dropped the LemiShine because I found that this 3 ingredient recipe worked well without it. The less ingredients recipes have, the more likely people are to try them. I still have LemiShine and will clean my dishwasher with it (without the dishes).

  20. Julie says

    so glad to have found these recipes. thank you for sharing so readily. we’ll be experimenting with them all. now….i’m off to walmart for some soap ingredient shopping :-)

  21. Vickie says

    Hey! I was searching for a dishwasher soap recipe and found yours. I make laundry soap already, so making dishwasher soap with washing soda and borax is right where I need to be. I love the KoolAid idea for citrus but I might try to find a tub of lemonade mix or something else with some volume for convenience (and maybe save a little too). I have lemon juice already (although it’s a bit pricey) and may try to make a sample batch just to see if it will work for me.

    But one thing struck me when I was evaluating the castile soap option. My online searches for castile soap resulted in a 32oz bottle (4 cups) for anywhere from $12 to $15. Adding the water and converting that to tablespoons means you would get 40 loads from a bottle (2 tablespoons is one ounce). That means that each load costs over 30 cents. When I buy the Finish or Cascade tabs, I can stay under 15 cents a load and get it under 10 cents when I coupon. So I was wondering if my math is off or castile soap is cheaper than I found? It just doesn’t seem like much of a bargain unless the results are substantially better or it extends the life of the machine. Please correct me if I missed something.

    • says

      Hi Vickie, I get my Liquid Castile Soap at Trader Joe’s for $9.99/32 oz. bottle, but it only comes in peppermint. The biggest reason I make my own dishwasher detergent is because I can control what ingredients goes in the detergent. That way toxic chemicals like phosphates (which have been banned in several U.S. Cities and States and pollute bodies of water, etc.) are not in my detergent. If you pay for a green dishwasher detergent, you will pay much more than if you make your own, so this is where the true savings come. Thanks for visiting and asking! Hope this helps…

  22. Penny Pincher says

    I just wanted to add that Borax is toxic to the environment. It appears in many DIY cleaning recipes but really should not be used. Please google for information on its environmental credentials and check for yourself. I have stopped using borax in my homemade cleaning products.

  23. says

    Hi, A borax and baking powder that I made made me VERY ILL one time (namely the borax) for the dishwasher. So I don’t suggest that.

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