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2011 Do-It-Yourself Experiment #2: Homemade Dishwashing Detergent

Homemade Dishwashing Detergent gets mixed reviews, but I decided to try it anyway.

I’ve been using the Tropical Traditions Powdered Dish Detergent for the past four weeks because they sent it to me. It’s very similar to the homemade version and so far, I’ve been liking it quite a bit. I’ve noticed that some of our plastic dishware is sometimes cloudy, but it’s not been a huge issue.

Homemade Dishwashing Detergent Recipe

  • 1 cup baking soda or washing soda
  • 1 cup borax
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup citric acid

Mix together. Use 1 Tablespoon per load. Add some vinegar to the rinse aid compartment of your dishwasher to help prevent clouding.

I bought all the ingredients but the borax from Amazon with Swagbucks. The borax cost me $4.55.

If I was paying out of pocket for all the ingredients, I am not convinced that this recipe would really be less expensive than buying dishwashing detergent with coupons — especially since I can occasionally get it for free at Target and elsewhere. (If you typically pay full price for dishwashing detergent, though, making your own is less expensive per this cost breakdown.)

However, it was fun to try my hand at making something I’ve never made before.

And in case you missed it, here’s the list of the 12 Do-It-Yourself Projects I Plan to Try in 2011:

January: Make From-Scratch Chai Tea

February: Make Homemade Dishwashing Detergent

March: Make Homemade Hamburger Buns

April: Make Homemade Laundry Soap (I did attempt this one time before, but it was with a pre-made mix someone gave me. So I’m going to try again — this time completely from scratch!)

May: Make Appliqued Flower Tee

June: Make Homemade Hummus

July: Make Freezer Jam

August: Make Homemade Soap

September: Sew a Rag Quilt

October: Make Homemade Apple Butter

November: Make Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

December: Make Homemade Marshmallows

Have you attempted any new do-it-yourself projects recently? I’d love to hear how they went!

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  • Meredith says:

    I make a homemade dishwasher soap. It’s way easier and a whole lot cheaper. Save a gallon milk jug. Rinse it out well. In the bottom put 2 tsp. baking powder and 4 tsp. dishsoap. Add water to fill to the top. Shake well. When using, fill both cups in your dishwasher to the top (so be generous with it!). Be sure to shake it before each use.

    I find this works really well. I also use vinegar in my rinse aid compartment. Seriously, this is way easier and I didn’t have to purchase any special ingredients to make it.

  • jennifer says:

    I am making my second batch of homemade laundry soap this weekend. With our family and how dirty my boys and husband get, I am tweeking the recipe a bit. I use 4 cups borax, 2 cups washing soda, 1 bar fels naptha, and 2 gallons water. I had my recipe with double the water and less borax and it didnt clean as good. I ended up adding more borax. My oldest son has severe eczema and have seen a huge difference in his skin. This recipe even got out finger nail polish off my brand new throw pillows:) best of luck!

  • Amie says:

    Just FYI: I usually get Borax for half that price at my local Wal-Mart (and I think Target is about the same).

    Also, this is probably a dumb question, but… I’ve been hearing a lot lately about people using vinegar in the dishwasher as a rinse aid. Do you put it into the special compartment used for commercial rinsing agents?? or do you simply pour it into the machine during the rinse cycle? Anyone??

    • Crystal says:

      Thank you for letting me know. Next time I won’t buy it at my grocery store! And as far as the vinegar, someone else who has used it longer than me will likely be able to tell you better than me. But I think it might depend upon your dishwasher and how it’s set up. I think most of the newer dishwashers have a special compartment for rinse aids, which is where, as far as I understand, you’re supposed to put the vinegar.

      (If I’m wrong, someone please correct me. I’m just trying to figure this out myself!)

      • Lisa says:

        I put vinegar the compartment for the rinse aid. Works great. I have been doing that for about a year now. It seems to run out a little quicker than the rinse aid did, but still far less expensive. No smell and has kept all our dishes as nice as any rinse aid – no spots, no clouds, etc.

  • shannon w says:

    Mine was hard too. 1st I thought it was because of moisture. So I made a rice bag to but in it. That helped a little but it is still hard. I don’t know what the problem is.

  • Nicole B says:

    I wanted to comment and say I enjoy getting the newsletters from your site. They give me good ideas of things I should be doing and trying. Thank you!
    I have a good recipe for homemade marshmallows when you get to December!
    This past week I made homemade yogurt in a crockpot. I was pretty proud of myself since it actually turned out and it was easy (which is probably why I could do it so well!) LOL I posted about it on my blog.
    I’d love for you to visit my blog at if you get the chance. Thanks!

    • Crystal says:

      You’re welcome; thank you for your kind encouragement!

      And way to go on making yogurt. I’ve done that a few times and loved it — though I really should get into the habit of making it all the time!

      Thanks for sharing your blog. I’m off to check it out!

  • Julie says:

    When my commercial dishwashing detergent quit doing the job I started researching why. A lot of the manufacturers have removed the phosphate from their formulas, which as another poster mentioned, caused the white residue on dishes.

    I started making the homemade detergent about six month ago but was still getting the residue on my dishes. I recently read that adding a little TSP (trisodium phosphate) with your detergent will take care of the problem. I added about 1/2 tsp. along with the usual per load amount of detergent and viola, no more white residue. TSP is available at home improvement stores in the painting supplies dept.

  • Megan Camp says:

    Many people’s dishes are cloudy with both store-bought and homemade detergents. My dad is an appliance repairman and wrote an article about what you should use to solve this problem and to make your dishwasher last longer. I use it with both my homemade detergent and store bought and it leaves my dishes sparkling clean with both. You can read his article here if you’re interested.

    • Shirley says:

      Thanks for sharing. I was thinking of getting a new dishwasher, and it is only 6 yrs old. I knew about the change in detergents and now that I think about it that is when I really started having trouble. He has a lot of common sense that sometimes we forget. I’m going to see if can find Lemi Shine around here!

  • Matt Jabs says:

    Hey all,
    Crystal linked to my article for the dishwasher detergent cost savings breakdown. My wife and I have been making it for over a year now and are incredibly happy. Crystal mentions not saving as much as buying a product with a coupon, but the cost savings 100% (half as much as store-bought,) you can make it in your home in a matter of minutes, and the ingredients aren’t harmful to your family like a lot of store-bought detergents.

    We also make homemade laundry detergent and many other homemade products… check them all out at

    God bless!

  • Tabatha says:

    Ok so mine isn’t completely homemade BUT what I do is 1 cup borax, 1 cup baking soda, and 1 cup store bought powder- mix and use about a tablespoon per load. I never find the store bought powder on sale worth my time so I buy the DG brand for something like $3 and it lasts me probably 2-3 months. When mixing the store bought powder with the other two, I never have any cloudiness. Just a thought for someone who might just want to make their store bought powder last longer.

  • Dianne says:

    I’ve used the homemade laundry soap for years and still love it. I’d like to make dishwasher soap, but I prefer liquid. I saw someone say that they basically used water and regular dish soap, but it’s hard to imagine 4 tsp of dish soap to be enough for a gallon of water. I guess I should try it. Do you know of any other liquid soap recipes?

  • I LOVE your list of Do-It-Yourself Experiments! What great goals for the year. Have been making our own laundry detergent for a few years and tried dishwasher detergent, but didn’t like the cloudiness. Will try some things that Megan’s dad talked about. I’m glad you posted about this. Will try to make more using your recipe. My family LOVES home made burger buns – I used one from King Arthur Flour Company. The marshmallows are tasty and a little messy, but my kids really liked making and eating them. I tried rag quilt this last year and it lead to expanding my horizons – great one! I can’t wait to see your post with the rest of your list!

  • Angie says:

    I have used this recipe & wasn’t unhappy with it until the detergent all became one gigantic lump! I can’t break it apart. I also used a bit of vinegar to help with the clean rinse.

  • tara says:

    I am new to the website. On the homemade laundry detergent, I use cloth diapers and its wonderful getting the stains out! It makes my clothes feel softer without the use of fabric softener. Also my husband works offshore and its good about getting the diesel smell out of his clothes.

  • Tricia K. says:

    We tried making our own dish washing detergent… the exact same recipe and it ruined our nylon spatulas(Pampered Chef) . It left a cloudy, white film that won’t come off. We have gone back to the Finish tabs and all our problems have gone away except for the spatulas.

  • Liz says:

    I have made the homemade dishwashing detergent for the last few months. I’m using the same recipe you have, except I’m using washing soda, not baking soda, and using 2 tablespoons, with vinegar as a rinse aid. I’ve also been using Ball’s “Fresh Fruit” produce protector from the canning aisle, but will be switching to powdered lemonade (never thought of that!). We have extremely hard well water here and I’ve never had a problem. My dishes come out just as clean as if I’m using store-bought.

  • Jennifer says:

    I just wanted to let you know about a product called Lemi Shine. We have extremely hard water, our dishes were all looking bad and so was our dishwasher. I was trying every type of dish washing soap and nothing was working. I was beginning to toss out dishes and glasses and getting ready to get a new dishwasher when I found Lemi Shine. It works GREAT! The dishes that I was going to toss have all returned to their normal non-cloudy state and the inside of the dishwasher looks new (it took a few loads, each time a little more the buildup would come off). I have been telling and showing all our neighbors and family who live nearby and are having the same problem and some of them have now begun to use it too! Just wanted to share our experience, maybe it will help someone else too!

  • I am currently using laundry detergent I make myself. My family enjoys homemade bread though I do not make it every week….too many kids and not enough time. I have tried to use dishwashing detergent that I’ve made myself with the same trouble as others report.

    Homemade freezer jam is my favorite on your list. There is nothing like freezer jam. I grew up eating it. It is so simple to make and so delicious. My one word of warning is that it uses a LOT of sugar. I use the recipes inside the Sure-Jell box found in the canning section. Strawberry jam made with fresh strawberries is my favorite.

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