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Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

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*Please see notes at the bottom for additional help and tips added by readers.

I don’t have a dishwasher. I’m weird and like to wash my dishes by hand. Most of the time, I want my dishes right after I wash them to use again…especially if I’m in a cooking frenzy. I hate the thought of waiting for them to wash and waiting for them to dry. Good grief. No thanks. There was a dishwasher here when we moved in, but I used it to store cake pans. Finally, I told Barry to get the silly thing out of my house and replace it with something useful – a cabinet for my pans. He did, and now I’m happy. That being said, I know most of you have a dishwasher and I’ve had requests to post a homemade dishwasher soap recipe. So, I did tons of research…and here’s what I found out – it’s hit or miss. Really. Some people like it, and some people don’t. The recipes I found were all similar, so that’s the one I’m going to give to you today. To get it tested, I gave some to three of my friends and they’ll review it for you at the end. It’s a very simple recipe. You’ll only need salt (regular), borax, and baking soda. That’s it. We like to keep it simple here at Stacy Makes Cents. Simplicity is bliss…….it’s also a pattern company.

Grab a mixing bowl and a whisk. You’ll need to measure 1 cup of salt into your bowl. (See note at the bottom about salt.)

Now, add your borax and baking soda – two cups of each. Mix it together……my borax is always clumpy. I ended up mixing it up with my hands. It feels sorta weird. Almost like a face scrub……but, don’t put this on your face. Thank you.

I separated mine out into baggies to take to my laboratory rats…I mean, friends. If you make this at home, you need to store it in an airtight container. Any moisture will cause it to clump up. Clump, clumpy…I’m getting technical today. Store it in a pretty glass jar. Have I ever told you I have a thing for pretty glass jars?

I wrote the instructions on the bag. Use two tablespoons of detergent, then put white vinegar in the rinse compartment. No, your dishes won’t smell like pickles. Remember that white vinegar loses its scent when it evaporates. I clean my whole house with it and I never have someone come in and say “Hmmmm, are you making pickles today?”

All the recipes said to put one tablespoon in each compartment. I have no idea what that means. Maybe you do…, put one tablespoon in each compartment. I sent the baggies on their merry way. Then, I awaited results.

My friend Tia from Sweet T – It’s a Way of Life was my first tester. She’s always looking for a good time, so I knew she wouldn’t freak out if something exploded. The picture is Tia’s “before” photo. Here’s what she said:I used the detergent several times and I was very pleased with it. It seems to get the dishes every bit as clean as the “commercial” stuff. I’m not one to wash my dishes before I wash them, so a load in my dishwasher isn’t an easy feat for the detergent either! It did seem to leave a little bit of residue on the glasses, just kind of a film, but I’m personally not someone who worries about my glasses sparkling in the daylight. And it’s not a BAD residue, just a little. Once when I used it, there was quite a bit of it gunked up in the little dispenser area where you put your detergent, but it only happened the one time, so it doesn’t seem to be a recurring problem. I was a little curious as to whether or not my dishes would all smell like vinegar, but they don’t. All and all, I thought it was very good stuff!

This is Tia’s “after” photo. Wow! Looks pretty clean to me! So, we get a thumbs up from Tia. Thanks to my partner in stockpiling crime! Do you smell pickles?

My second tester was Kim. She’s my neighbor and my guinea pig. Sometimes she gets busy and forgets things THAT I TELL HER TO DO! But anyway, she didn’t take a photo of her dishes. I am retaliating by posting her photo on my blog. I didn’t have anything of her in her PJs with her hair all matted….she’s pretty all the time anyway which makes me want to kick her sometimes – but I love her anyway. Here is what Kim had to say:I will admit that I was a bit skeptical because of the dishwashing detergent being “homemade” and the fact that it took so little for a full load of dishes. Although I always rinse my dishes off before I load them in the dishwasher, to keep down any odors, as it may be 2-3 days before I actually have a full load, I have found that sometimes there will be a fork, spoon, maybe even a bowl that doesn’t come out all the way clean. I was expecting that very same thing with your homemade version of dishwashing detergent. Much to my surprise, I didn’t have any dishes that were not completely clean. I missed adding the 2 Tbsp of vinegar during the rinse cycle and a few dishes were a little spotty but I didn’t do my part, therefore, can’t blame the homemade detergent/version.We get a thumbs up from Kim too! Although she says her dishes were a tad spotty, just like Tia who DID use the vinegar. Hmmmmmm. Thanks Kim! Love ya! 😉

My third tester was my friend and mentor, Lori. She puts up with a lot from me…..because I ask lots of questions and mess up a lot. She is very patient. I am quite sure she qualifies for sainthood. This is Lori’s “before” photo. Here is her take on the detergent:Having used the dishwasher soap for about 6 loads, I have mixed results.  The dishes were just as clean as when I use Electrasol which was my biggest concern.  I refuse to rinse (prewash) my dishes before I wash them in the dishwasher so I wondered if the homemade soap would work with that.  It really did – they came out very clean.  My problem is that after a few washes I began to see a “film” developing on my glasses.  This may have been as a result of the fact that my rinse agent reservoir was already full when I started the experiment and was unable to use the suggested vinegar?

This is her “after” photo (thanks Dana!) and you can see that the dishes are very clean. Once again, we have the spotty issue, but overall the results are good. Thank you Lori! JSo, it seems that the stuff works pretty well. If you don’t mind your glasses not being shiny, this might be an option for you. However, the white vinegar might fix that problem. I’ve heard that it can vary place to place due to the different types of water. It’s cheap enough that you could make some and see if it works for you. Make a half batch to try first. If you do try it, I would love to have your review below for other readers.Thanks to my guinea pigs! :-) I love you guys.

Notes from Readers:

  • From Steffie:

The Lemi Shine is what will make your dishes sparkle and have NO residue. Lemi Shine is comprised of 100% all natural fruit acids and oils. It contains NO phosphates or fillers. Add 1 cup lemi shine to the recipe
Use 2 tablespoons per load and white vinegar in the rinse compartment
Oh and you can get Lemi Shine right in the detergent isle at walmart or krogers. You can go to their website to find a location that sells it near you.

  • From Sue:

I use 10 pkgs lemon kool-aid  per recipe for the citric acid to cut down on film on the glasses

  • From Yvonne:

With the addition of salt in the recipe, you need baking soda, not washing soda. Cut out the salt and you’d use washing soda.

  • From Nancy:

For those with spots, wash your dishes and then run again with a compartment of citric acid. Sparkly clean!

  • From Serena:

You can also add lemon juice instead of vinegar to the rinse aid compartment, if you prefer.

  • From Cheryl:

NOW brands has a 5 lb jar of citric acid that I bought at my natural foods store for $10 or less

This post is linked at Make Your Own Monday at Nourishing Treasures.

Comment Policy: I love hearing your thoughts and input on what I write. Since I write about what works at my house, what pleases my handsome hubby and darling children; I'm sure we'll disagree sometimes. In those cases, do what's right for you and yours. As with any form of communication, please only post comments that move the discussion in a positive direction.

About Stacy

Stacy is the author of Crock On: A Semi-Whole Foods Slow Cooker Cookbook and Keep Crockin': A Poorganic Slow Cooker Cookbook, and a stay-at-home and homeschooling mom to her three children, Annie (June 2009), Andy (August 2012) and Eli (September 2014). After an “awakening” in March 2011, her family switched to a more natural, whole foods diet. She likes to blog about how to live on less than you make and how to eat good food while doing it. Her passion is teaching others how to save money and she tag teams with her husband in this endeavor. At Stacy Makes Cents you’ll find information on how to save money in the kitchen, how to have fun with your kids, and how to be thrifty in all areas of life. Her passion is teaching others how to live debt free. Make sure to follow her on Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest and more to keep up with her daily antics.


  1. Amanda says:

    I wasn’t personally happy with this over time even with using vinegar as the rinse agent. I tried the All You version back in the winter, which is basically the same recipe, and after a couple weeks, my glasses were so dingy and nasty looking that I had to polish them all. I switched back to store bought. I did notice though, that All You listed this as dishwashing soap, and not dish washer soap. Maybe that’s the reason for the spottiness? I’m cuious to know if anyway has found a solution to the spots.

    • Try this instead and you shouldn’t have residue. 2cups Borax, 2 cups Baking Soda, 1 cup Lemi Shine. Use 2 tablespoons per load and white vinegar in the rinse compartment as stated in the recipe you are using. The Lemi Shine is what will make your dishes sparkle and have NO residue. Lemi Shine is comprised of 100% all natural fruit acids and oils. It contains NO phosphates or fillers. Hope this helps.

  2. Kim Anderson says:


    I’m sorry I didn’t take pictures OR use the vinegar. I CERTAINLY didn’t know my picture was going to be on the blog, HA! I’ll be your guine pig ANY time, however, you MUST be nice to me, even if I don’t do EVERYTHING you tell me. Love you!

  3. Angela Tuell says:

    I have heard that you can add citrus oil to this recipe to give it more cleaning power and discourage buildup but I stopped short of ordering the citrus oil and trying it because I could never find any information on whether borax is something that’s healthy to be using on dishes that come in contact with our food.

    • Angela, I did tons of research on borax before I started using it. It IS natural. I use it to do a lot of cleaning around the house. I feel safer with it than with commercial cleaners. The FDA says that it is perfectly safe unless INGESTED in LARGE amounts. Since the water rinses everything off and you’re using hot water, I think it’s pretty safe.

    • Borax has to be better than all the chemicals in storebought detergent, right?

      • Unlike most store bought cleaners, Borax doesn’t have those scary warning labels all over it. Yes, it’s harmful if you eat it in large quantities……but so is chocolate cake. :-)

  4. I found a similar recpie that suggested adding citric acid to the mix to prevent the dinginess on glassware. I have been using this and it seems to work well. I didn’t buy the citric acid, but did get “Lemashine” from Walmart in the same aisle where the other dishwashing detergents are located. For a recpie this size, I used between half to 1 cup of Lemashine. It seems to work just as well as any store-bought brand I’ve tried. The vinegar also helps to keep the dishwasher itself clean too. If your detergent mix clumps, I read somewhere else you can add some dry rice to the mix and it will keep it from clumping. I tried this as well and it worked great, didn’t leave rice on the dishes either…ha ha.

    • Thanks Angel! This Lemonashine was mentioned in the post on FB, but no one posted it here so I am glad you did! :-)

    • You can also use Unsweetened Lemon Flavored Kool-Aid for the citric acid. The Kool-Aid also works well for cleaning out the grime from the dishwasher. Just add about 8 packets to your soap compartment, close and run on a regular cycle.
      Borax may cause your pipes to clog. There is something in it that causes buildup in the plumbing. Something to think about anyway.

  5. I’m gonna try this. I had a dishwasher nightmare recently and have been looking for a new detergent. I have one that is working great but BOY is it expensive! I add vinegar to my rinse holder on my dishwasher so it dispenses all the time (at least I think it does :)).

    • Some have said that using citric acid works better than vinegar. I think you can buy it near the dishwasher stuff? Good luck!

  6. I have a question hear me out. I love the idea of making my own dish detergent. But I do love the smell of lemons. Does any know if I can add something to this so that my dishes smell like lemons?

    • Jackie, you could try adding lemon juice to the rinse agent dispenser. :-) I’m just guessing since I don’t have a dishwasher. Maybe someone else can chime in.

      • You can add an envelope of sugar-free lemonade to your recipe for the lemon smell, and it helps cut down on the accumulated film on the glassware. The harder your water, the more envelopes of lemonade to add to your recipe.

        • Carla, thanks so much for the tip! It’s hard for me to answer these questions since I don’t have a dishwasher. :-)

    • I use 10 pkgs lemon kool-aid Great Value brand is10 cents per pack

  7. Ok, should it not be WASHING SODA ,not Baking soda???

    • Some of the recipes said washing soda, and some said baking soda. I guess it’s just personal preference. :-)

    • With the addition of salt in the recipe, you need baking soda, not washing soda. Cut out the salt and you’d use washing soda.

      • Thanks for the tip. :-)

      • Ok, Can you explain the whole salt versus no salt thing? I have been researching no borax recipes and they call for ksoher salt (no iodine specifically) and they all seem to call for washing soda, not baking soda.

        I concocted my own recipe…. 1 part baking soda, 1 part lemon shine, 1/2 part kosher salt….

        did one run tonight…. so far so good…. but I don’t understand the underlying principle…. when and why to use salt or not…. but I do use white vinegar in my rinse compartment…

        ps. I put the remainder in ice cube trays hop[ing for it to clump so I can use it like the store bought squares….

        • I wish I could answer this for you – but maybe someone else will chime in. I don’t use a dishwasher. I wrote this post for my readers who wanted an alternative to store-bought detergent. I’ve read so many different recipes for dishwasher detergent that my mind gets boggled. :-) I think it has to do with the different types of water that people have….some call for baking soda, some call for washing soda. Some call for salt, some don’t. Some use Borax, some use kool-aid. It’s like a chemistry experiment. :-)

  8. Ok, I was just wondering cause I always see the washing soda in recipes for cleaning stuff

  9. You could try putting some vinegar in the bottom of the dishwasher instead of the rinse compartment. We use vinegar anyway as a rinse agent, and it works very well to keep the film off of everything. It’s the only thing that will work for us, actually, and only poured in the bottom at the beginning of the wash cycle.

  10. So, ran out of detergent and thought I HAD to have the citric acid. Good to hear not required. I will be adding it later, as I do have hard water. For those with spots, wash your dishes and then run again with a compartment of citric acid. Sparkly clean!

  11. I always make homemade dishwasher detergent and LOVE it! However, I prefer washing soda not baking soda. The spotty spots or film won’t stop with vinegar. You need citric acid(lemishine, fruit-fresh). You can also add lemon juice instead of vinegar to the rinse aid compartment, if you prefer. Happy Cleaning!

  12. I’ve been using homemade dishwasher detergent for several years now. I live in an area with very hard water. I do use washing soda in my recipe – it’s stronger than baking soda. I always add citric acid to my mix and vinegar to my rinse agent and get sparkly dishes. For those interested in the savings – NOW brands has a 5 lb jar of citric acid that I bought at my natural foods store for $10 or less (I don’t remember exactly – I’ve been using it for almost 3 yrs now). I use it in with my homemade laundry detergent also – really helps get things clean and leave clothes soft (and I can save my vinegar for things like cleaning and dish washing 😉

  13. I found the lemishine stuff and was so excited to try it, but it said on the bottle to not use on non-stick items (boo). Also, I was looking up on using Borax and read that it’s pretty toxic. Something like 5g ingested can kill a small child, plus exposure can mess up fertility (granted I didn’t see how much exposure was needed, probably something like using it for lotion daily, but still). Ahhh! I wish I could just wiggle my nose and not have to worry about the chemical reactions of stuff!

    • I’ve done tons of research on Borax before I started using it…it’s sort of a weird topic. Some people say it’s fine. Some people say it will kill you. :-) The FDA says it’s only harmful if INGESTED in LARGE amounts…so I feel safe using it on my laundry, knowing that I’m not eating it and it’s getting washed out very well. I’d rather use it than the stuff that sell in the store.

  14. I love the ideas! I haven’t been able to figure out how to keep that nasty film off my dishes and I feel like I’ve tried it ALL! The dishe don’t come clean, either. I guess I will have to break down and get some citric acid.
    As far as the Borax issue goes – make sure you’re not reading ‘Boric Acid’ – which is also referred to as Borax sometimes. Boric acid is very toxic. Borax is about as toxic as swallowing a few bars of soap. There will have to be a warning on any product no matter how small the reaction might be. I, personally, do not think my toddler is going to start eating borax out of the box with a spoon anytime soon – so we’re safe. If you have a family member with an appetite for powdery soap products…you may have to be careful. 😉

    • :-) I get great comfort from the fact there are NO warnings on my Borax box. The only time I’ll be feeding my family soap is if they get the potty mouth. LOL

  15. How much vinegar do you use for the rinse aid? I made this last night and used it and it seemed to work great. Maybe a tiny bit of a film, so I’m going to try adding citric acid, too. I used 2 cups each of Borax and Washing soda, 1 cup lemi shine (in the mix) then vinegar in the rinse department, but my rinse department when you put liquid in it just goes right in (doesn’t sit in the resovour), so I don’t know how much to add. I might try adding 2 tbsp. lemi shine also in the bottom of the washer like someone suggested.

    • Melissa, I don’t have a dishwasher so I’m not sure. I hope someone else will chime in and be able to answer!

  16. Thank you for your submission on Nourishing Treasures’ Make Your Own! Monday link-up.

    Check back later tonight when the new link-up is running to see if you were one of the top 3 featured posts! :)

  17. Ok, I know this post is old, but I’m a little leery on the Lemishine. The ingredients list has “fragrance” as the third ingredient; does anyone know if this is naturally or chemically derived?

    • :-) You can always comment on old posts!
      I’ve never used the Lemishine. Some people say that using vinegar eliminates the need for them to use it. I think it depends on the type of water that you have. Our new home has a dishwasher, so I’m eager to try all these options out instead of farming out my research to my good friends. :-)
      Lemishine states that it’s 100% all natural:
      Hope that helps!!

  18. :( So I made recipe #2 about 5 days ago. It worked great for about 3 days but when I opened the jar yesterday the detergent was hard as a rock…. any tips? did I do something wrong?

    • Sometimes that happens with my box of Borax…but it just gets clumps in it – it isn’t so hard that I can’t stir it. It sounds like some moisture got to it. Was it an airtight container?

  19. Kimberly says:

    I don’t believe my dishwasher has a rinse aid compartment. Just a “main wash” and “pre wash”. Where do I put the vinegar?

    • I don’t think you have a place to put it. :-( I’ve read that those with no compartment have to buy the “solid” rinse aid and it goes in the top rack.

      • Kimberly says:

        I’m an idiot! I’m sorry, I should have checked before I posted. I’ve never used it before so I didn’t notice we had one. To my credit, I was already in bed when I posted that >_<

        • Well, it’s great you have one!! :-) Now you can just use vinegar instead of getting one of those holders for the top rack.

  20. I use this recipe with the addition of Citric Acid. I keep my detergent in an airtight container, but after just a day or 2 it is just one big HARD AS A ROCK clump. What can I do to prevent this? I read the post about the rice, but it would seem to me that the rice would clog my drain!

    • Amanda, I’m not sure…usually things like this clump up when they’re exposed to moisture of some sort. Could you change the location of where you store it to see if that would help?

    • RE: Clumping. I save those little moisture absorbing packets from bottles of vitamins, pills, shoes, what have you. I toss those in the plastic coffee can that I store mine in and it really helps!

      I’m having issues with etching and dullness though, and I’m suspecting that the recipe I used is the culprit, as it called for a large amount of salt along with baking soda, washing soda and borax….oh, and you can get lemon and/or orange essential oils at the health food store and add a few drops. I also shake the can fairly regularly so it helps keep the clumps down.

      Another suggestion I read online was to press the mix into an old ice cube tray and just let it harden – use them like those fancy packets you pay big bucks for at the store.

    • The rice should be put in a coffee filter with a rubber band or string. This allows the rice to absorb moisture while keeping it out of the detergent and, by extension, your dishwasher.

  21. What is the equvilent of lemi shine in australia..this sounds great and effective with people who are suffering cancer that are allowed no toxins…

    • Do you have kool-aid there? Some people said lemon kool-aid worked just as well. Lemishine is also sold on Amazon. Or you can try Citric Acid from Vitacost. :-)

  22. Since you don’t have a dishwasher machine, Do you have a homemade recipe for natural dishwashing soap for washing dishes by hand??

    • Not yet. :-) I’ve been meaning to work on it, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I just use Seventh Generation dish detergent. I buy it at Vitacost. :-)

      • Okay, thanks! I hope you find a recipe and share when you do :)
        I thought about trying Seventh Generation Dish soap myself.

      • Thanks!!
        Maybe a homemade one could be made with Borax, lemon juice, and water ??? just not sure how you woudl get the jelly consistency. Just a thought.

        • I’m hoping to make it work using Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap….we’ll see. :-)

          • Pamela Volentine says:

            i little bit of bronners in a squeeze bottle filled with water works great. it’s very concentrated. put the water first and then add the soap.

  23. The term “natural” can be used on about anything. Dog poo is natural. Read carefully the list of ingredients as well as the marketing terms on product labels.

  24. A. States says:

    New homestead. New dishwasher. New water. Free Cascade “action pacs”. My glasses were spotless; my glasses were not cloudy, etc. I have been using different variations of homemade detergents in my old dishwasher and now in my new dishwasher and known of the concoctions gave me the results of the Cascade. Every recipe used a combination of Borax, washing soda and citric acid, and vinegar in the rinse. Both homes have water softeners, so I don’t include any salt in the mix. I really want to use homemade but not if I can’t get equal results. My new homestead has well water, which is run through a whole house filter, iron out system and a softener. Anyone out there have some suggestions?

  25. I have heard that vinegar is hard on your silverware. Any experience with this?

  26. im having issues with the film on all my plastic ware (kids cups etc, any advice

  27. yes

  28. 1 cup. It’s in place of the Lemi-Shine.

  29. I guess not everyone loves a dishwasher, thanks for the recipe it’s just what I was looking for. I like how the dishwasher technology developed over time and also how the mechanics work. Because of this I wrote a high quality article with all the finer details.

    You may want to take out a min of your day to learn the history and mechanics of the dishwasher and to see the best deals on the latest dishwashers,

    you might just find it very informative and interesting…

    You can do so here:

  30. I realize this might defeat the purpose of homemade, but I had the spotty issue, too, and my “fix” was to mix in a box of cheap bought detergent (Sun, as a matter of fact). It is still WAY cheaper than just using store bought, and it did get rid of the spots. You still use the same small amount of the mix in the dishwasher, but it has easily solved my spots problems, and one box will go a LONG way. I use equal parts baking soda and borax and detergent. I have not put in salt, and it has not been a problem, even before adding in the detergent. Go figure.
    Anyway, just thought I’d put in my two cents worth.

  31. Stacy, you’re a lifesaver this morning. Ran out of Finish. No car in the driveway today. With six big kids in the house we run the machine at least twice a day. Happy I had these ingredients on hand. I even added some lavender drops just because. :-) Thanks for this post. You’re a handy gal to have around!

  32. This worked better than anything I have ever bought. Zero spots on the glasses with the addition of white vinegar to the rinse! Thank you!!

  33. Jackson12882 says:

    Ruined my silverware with a white film… Now i cant get them shiny again. Even used the vinegar…

  34. I was told by my dishwasher repair man to never use detergent or products with lemon (or acids) in my dishwasher. He said the acid eats away/corrodes the inner parts of the dishwasher. He sees it al the time. Thoughts?

  35. Hi Stacy. I used your auto dishwasher soap tonight and got wonderful results. I have one question. Did the dishwasher detergent recipes call for Lemi-Shine Liquid Rinse? or Lemi-Shine Detergent Booster? Thank you.

    • I’m not sure – I didn’t know there were two kinds. Ha ha! I know it was a powder option – because you can use citric acid in place of it.

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