How to Make DIY Dishwasher Detergent

A homemade solution that'll leave your dinnerware shining! Learn how to make your own loose powder or dishwasher tabs.

This homemade dishwashing detergent solution is a powerful force against grime and food residue, but it's delicate enough for everyday dirty dishes. If you’re on team powdered detergent, but you've only used commercial products, it's time you put it to the test.

Ingredients combined to make dishwasher detergent powder.

How to Make DIY Dishwasher Detergent

Measure all ingredients.

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

Measure all ingredients.

You'll Need

  • 1 cup washing soda (not baking soda!)
  • 1 cup borax
  • ¼ cup citric acid
  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • food processor

1. Measure Dry Ingredients

  • Washing soda and borax are powerful cleaning agents. We also love them for homemade laundry detergent and laundry stripping. A cup of borax and washing soda is a good ratio for this recipe, matching the power of conventional dishwashing detergent.
  • Citric acid and salt are water softeners. They help break down hard water and neutralize the pH. If your home struggles with hard water deposits, you may want to increase the ratio of these ingredients in your recipe.
  • Keep in mind that you can easily scale this recipe!
DIY dishwasher detergent blended to a fine powder in a food processor.

How to Make DIY Dishwasher Detergent

Pulse powder to remove clumps.

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

Pulse powder to remove clumps.

2. Pulse in a Food Processor

  • Thoroughly combine all ingredients. Pulsing the ingredients for 10 seconds helps to pulverize the salt, reduce clumps and distribute the ingredients throughout the mixture more thoroughly than stirring. You can transfer the dry mixture to a clean glass container.
  • Making homemade detergent tablets? Pulse 1/2 cup of lemon juice so it thoroughly coats the powder. Then, scoop the detergent into ice cube trays, pressing the powder with the back of a spoon to compress the mixture. Once it dries, you can remove the tabs and store them in a clean glass container.
Using a spoon to press dishwasher detergent into ice cube trays with lemon juice to set.

How to Make DIY Dishwasher Detergent

Press dishwasher detergent into ice cube trays with lemon juice to set.

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

Press dishwasher detergent into ice cube trays with lemon juice to set.

3. Test it in Your Dishwasher

  • Test it on a typical load of dishes. We tested one tablespoon of this powder in our dishwasher, and it worked great on a load of “normal” dinnerware, glassware and utensils.
  • Be mindful of manufacturer recommendations. Some high-efficiency models require less detergent. You may need as little as two teaspoons of detergent, or as much as three tablespoons depending on the appliance and the grime factor of your load.

4. Store Remaining Detergent

Following the above recipe, you’ll have 120 teaspoons or 40 tablespoons of detergent for future loads. This calculates to 20 ounces. Store the remaining powder or detergent tabs in a glass jar with a lid.

Tips for a Successful Wash Cycle

  • It's always best to rinse off leftover food before washing. Regardless of detergent, limiting how many bits of food get trapped in the filter helps to ensure a clean wash cycle.
  • Use rinse aid. Adding this solution to your dishwasher once a month can help reduce spots on your glassware. Some manufacturers will allow the use of white vinegar in place of store-bought rinse aid.
Open door of built-in dishwasher. Kitchen with integrated appliances. Plates and dishes in the dishwasher.

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Clean dishes in the dishwasher.

Photo by: Shutterstock/Oxanaso

Shutterstock/Oxanaso

Clean dishes in the dishwasher.

Is it Cheaper to Make Your Own Detergent?

Hypothetically, if the ingredients you used in this recipe cost $3.15, each tablespoon of the homemade dishwasher detergent would cost about 8 cents, and each ounce would cost about 16 cents. Compare that to boxes of store-bought dishwasher detergent, and you might find that it's one-and-a-half to three times more expensive to make your own detergent. The tradeoff? You can eliminate toxic chemicals and choose a ratio of ingredients to suit the needs of your appliance.

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