DIY Dishwasher Detergent: Easy to make and super frugal!

DIY Dishwasher Detergent

 DIY Dishwasher Detergent

This DIY dishwasher detergent recipe was tested in my home for over a year, and I can recommend it: for cost, convenience, and effectiveness.  I love how, when I have this on hand, dishwasher soap is off my list of things I need to deal-hunt for!

Most other recipes out there for homemade dishwasher detergent doubled the quantities in this recipe, but I started with a small batch to make sure it would work in my dishwasher and with my water.  I’d recommend starting with these proportions at first, and if it works well, go ahead and double or triple it for future batches.  I keep mine handy in a 1-quart Ziploc container with a 1 TBSP measuring spoon in it.  Without further ado…

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

  • 1 cup  Borax 
  • 1 cup Washing Soda (see recipe below for how to turn Baking Soda into Washing Soda–they’re not the same thing!)
  • 1/2 cup Kosher Salt
  • 5 packets unsweetened lemonade mix, or around 1/4 cup citric acid (see note later)

Dump all the ingredients into an airtight storage container
(…random shark bike helmet not required! :) )

Seal the lid, and shake until ingredients are thoroughly mixed.  Enlist extra help if necessary ;)

Use 1-2 Tbsp. per load of dishes.  I found that one heaping tablespoon was plenty.  Keep it tightly sealed and avoid getting moisture in.

Moisture may make your dishwasher soap get clumpy (the citric acid causes this).  This is what mine looked like after a few weeks…not too big of a deal right now, but it might be in more humid months.  If clumping is an issue, you can store it with a packet of silica gel (like you sometimes find in medicine packaging or purses), or put a spoonful of rice in a coffee filter, tie it off with a rubber band, and toss it in–the rice will absorb the excess moisture and keep it from solidifying. (Note: after almost a year, I still haven’t had much issue at all with clumping–just make sure your hands are dry when you grab the measuring spoon, and you’ll probably be fine!)

Using vinegar as a rinse aid will eliminate cloudiness on your glassware.  It made a huge difference from doing without.  Just pour it in the rinse aid (Jet Dry) dispenser–it’s supposed to last about a month.  Every once in a while, just top it off, or double-check if you notice your glasses coming out cloudy.

The recipe above yields around 40 loads worth of detergent, depending on how high you heap your heaping tablespoon.  I figure it cost me less than two dollars to make this recipe, probably closer to $1 if you get the generic lemonade packets.

You can also buy citric acid in bulk through Amazon and in the canning aisle or wine-making shops.  It’s cheaper per use, but you have to buy an awful lot at a time–that might be an option for you if you decide to go for bigger batches or if you can share with friends, but when you make your first small trial batch, the lemonade packets are pretty convenient, and certainly don’t break the bank.  Update: I’ve also tried it with Lemi-Shine, and it worked fine…I think I liked it better with the lemonade though!

A few other notes if you want to give this a try:

  • Success seems to depend on the hardness of your water, so if you have really hard water, you might need to adjust the amounts of Kosher salt and/or citric acid to get the best results.
  • This works best if you’re a pre-rinser.  If you want something that’ll scrub a bunch of stuck-on crud off your dishes, this might not be your thing.  I’ve pretty much always been a pre-rinser, so it’s no biggie.  But I noticed that without extra chemicals to dissolve stuck-on food, one or two dishes that didn’t get pre-rinsed came out with some food still stuck on.
  • You NEED to use a rinse agent with this…and guess who comes to the rescue?  Good ol’ Versatile Vinegar–pour some in your rinse aid dispenser and it’ll keep your glassware from coming out cloudy.
  • Some comments from other web sites that had offered various homemade dish detergent recipes cautioned against using citrus on glassware or some silverware, claiming it can cause pitting or etching.  This wasn’t an issue for me (and apparently not for most users of this and similar recipes), but I just wanted to put that out there–you might not want to use it on the “fine china” if it might be a concern.

Let us know what you think if you give this a try, especially if you make adjustments that work for you with hard water.  Hope it works well for you!

Have you tried our other DIY Cleaning recipes?  They’re low in chemicals, super frugal, and do a great job.  Check them out:


Vinegar & Dawn: Soap Scum cleaner, Carpet spot treater, and much more!

stain remover

Dawn, Peroxide, and Baking Soda: Stain Remover and Deodorizer

How to Clean an Oven titleHow to Clean a Dirty Oven Without using Harsh Chemicals

Microwave cleaningEasy Microwave Cleaning with Dawn

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Wrinkle release
Homemade Wrinkle Release Spray

Versatile Vinegar: tons of uses for vinegar all over the house, plus a recipe for great-smelling Orange Infused vinegar

How to make washing soda from baking soda Make your own Washing Soda from Baking Soda!

Natural weed killer
Natural Weed Killer: No Harsh Chemicals!

 Chemical Free Insect Control

Chemical-Free Insect Control

Don’t forget t0 Pin these to save for future use!

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  1. Jenny says

    I have tried this but had problems with clumping. The one that works best with no prep work is 1 tsp of oxi clean, 1/2 tsp of dish soap and vinegar as a rinse agent. Works great and I do not pre rinse.

    • Megan says

      Good to know! I read that shaking or stirring pretty regularly the first couple days can help keep if from clumping in the future too.

    • Megan says

      The vinegar doesn’t get mixed in with the dish soap–it goes in the rinse aid dispenser in your dishwasher. The dishwasher detergent will be powder like in the picture.

      • vicki fletcher says

        Vinegar will cause the rubber gasket’s to crack. I found this out as I was using it in my front loading washing machine. Dilute it befor adding it to any appliance that has rubber. The tech support man warned me that is what caused my seal to crack. A 200$ mistake so please be careful for it is very acidic.

  2. Terra W says

    When I use my dishwasher, which isn’t often, I just throw in about a Tbsp. of Borax & washing soda and some vinegar in the rinse thing. Seems to work just fine for me. As hot as it gets in the dishwasher, I figure it’s disinfected enough!

  3. says

    Thanks for the recipe! A word of warning, though, about putting vinegar in the rinse aid compartment: over time it can ruin the rubber parts inside the dishwasher because it is so acidic. I put a little in a small glass dish (before running the cycle) in the top of my dishwasher instead.

  4. Tammie says

    Hi, all I can find is lemon-lime kool-aid packets…could you please tell me if this will work.
    Thsnk you

    • Megan says

      Honestly, I’m not 100% sure, but the main purpose for the lemonade is the citric acid. I think lemonade is preferable because of the lighter color, but I would guess lemon-lime would do in a pinch. It doesn’t have to be Kool-Aid brand either–any generic powdered lemonade packet would work, or you can find citric acid near the dish soap too (Lemi-shine is one brand.) Good luck!

  5. Glenda says

    my email address means (I’m in Mississippi) :)
    Just wanted to let you know that I am about to make my first batch of dishwasher detergent.using your recipe. Your site is wonderful and I so appreciate it! Thanks!

  6. Katrina A. says

    I’ve been looking for a recipe for this! Thank you. Interesting with the use of koolaid. And love vinegar as a rinsing agent. So handy!

  7. Amy says

    I made this a few months ago, used several times in brand new dishwasher. My black dishes all have white streaks I can’t seem to get off.
    If I soak in vinegar, will this help?

    • Megan says

      It might–I’d try it with one dish first and see how it does. When using this recipe, I always make sure I have vinegar in the rinse aid compartment of the dishwasher, which helped with the glassware not getting cloudy.


  1. […] Homemade Dishwasher Cleaner – For an inexpensive homemade dishwasher cleaner pour a packet of Lemonade Kool­Aid into the detergent dispenser, borax and run the dishwasher on a normal cycle. Two important tips: make sure you only use the lemonade Kool­Aid (other flavors won’t work) and make sure the dishwasher is completely empty. More… […]

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