Is hard water staining your dishes and glassware? Then try this homemade detergent booster! It will supercharge your detergent and wash stubborn hard water deposits down the drain. This DIY dishwasher booster is formulated with natural, safe ingredients and makes your dishware and glasses sparkle.
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Why DIY dishwasher booster for hard water?
Got hard water? Then you know how frustrating it is. You run the dishwasher. But instead of clean and refreshed dinnerware, you get water spots, streaky plates, cloudy glasses, and a stubborn white residue. Ugh!
The residue film is caused by mineral deposits from hard water. These deposits aren’t harmful but SUPER ANNOYING. I mean, what’s the point of dishwashing when you end up with hazy glasses and yucky white stuff all over your plates?
This residue film forms when the dishwasher detergent binds with the minerals in hard water and settles on your dishes. No matter what wash cycle you choose or how many times your run your appliance, dishes won’t come out clean.
Dishwasher booster to the rescue!
What is detergent booster?
Dishwasher booster (aka dish detergent booster) is a cleaning supply that softens the water and improves the performance of your dishwasher detergent. It’s not a standalone cleaner but is meant to be used in the wash cycle alongside dishwasher powder and rinse aid.
You may have heard of products like Lemi Shine Detergent Booster or OxiClean Triple Action Booster. But you can easily make your own DIY dish booster, get sparkly dishes, and save some bucks, too.
In case you’re wondering. This dish detergent booster is all-natural, fully biodegradable, non-toxic, and free of phosphates and artificial ingredients.
Sounds intriguing. Tell me more!
Dishwasher booster ingredients
My dishwasher booster recipe is made with two green cleaning staples plus one optional ingredient. Here’s your materials list (the total amounts are in the DIY card below)!
Citric acid is a mild organic acid and natural water softener that blasts away any hard water deposits. The ingredient balances the pH and helps the dish detergent perform better.
Can I tell you a secret? Most commercial dish boosters are made up almost entirely of citric acid, like 99%.
The remaining 1% are a bunch of synthetic fragrances + phthalates, which is why I prefer to make my own version with essential oils. It’s also cheaper to buy pure citric acid and turn it into dishwasher detergent booster.
Colloidal oatmeal (optional)
Colloidal oatmeal is a type of finely milled oatmeal that is fully water-soluble.
Citric acid absorbs moisture from the air, which causes clumping. Colloidal oatmeal ensures that the citric acid stays loose and doesn’t clump together.
It’s only needed if you live in a high humidity environment. Even then, you may omit it.
Grapefruit essential oil
Grapefruit essential oil offers a citrusy freshness and is a potent anti-bacterial, adding another layer of cleaning action.
You can sub grapefruit for lemongrass, lavender, or tea tree, or any others EOs you have and like. I just love the uplifting scent of grapefruit!
Does DIY dishwasher booster powder actually work?
You might be skeptical but let me assure you: This homemade dishwasher booster performs exactly the same as the store-bought stuff – just without the synthetic additives.
Okay, and why does citric acid work so well? Here is what you need to know:
- Hard water is loaded with minerals (like calcium and magnesium) that leave a chalky, white residue on everything the water touches. These minerals occur naturally in the soil and aren’t harmful but can cause havoc on pipes and water-running appliances.
- Water spots and scaling (limescale) are good indications that you live in a region with hard water. Extremely hard water will not only leave water spots, but a white film, and your dishes won’t seem clean after the dishwasher cycle ends.
- Citric acid is a chelating agent and effective natural water softener. It binds the minerals in hard water and flushes them down the drain. Chelators are organic compounds that bind metal ions (calcium ions, magnesium ions). Once bound, these ion clusters become soluble and can no longer settle on surfaces. They simply wash away – and that means clean dishes for you!
How to make detergent booster
Are you ready for the simplest cleaning recipe ever? Making DIY dishwasher booster requires less than 5 minutes prep time and almost zero work. Simply follow these steps:
Step 1: Combine dry ingredients
- Add the citric acid and colloidal oatmeal (if using) into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Stir to combine.
Step 2: Scent mixture
- Drop the grapefruit essential oil on top of the dry mixture from step 1.
Step 3: Mix
- Using a whisk, stir everything together until the essential oil is well distributed throughout. At first, you’ll see clumps of citric acid and oil. Simply break these clumps apart by whisking until the texture looks even.
Step 4: Store
- Transfer the dishwasher booster into an airtight glass jar or storage container. Keep sealed in a dark, dry location at room temperature.
How to use dish detergent booster
Now that you have a batch of homemade detergent booster, how do you use it? I’ll show you several ways how you can use this dish cleaning booster!
Using detergent booster is super easy! Here’s how you do it:
- Load up your dishwasher and ensure that nothing hinders the detergent lid from opening.
- Place the cleaning booster in the main detergent drawer and fill the pre-rinse compartment with dishwasher detergent. You need 2 to 3 tbsp dishwasher booster per cycle.
- Close the dispenser door.
- Chose a cycle and let your dishwasher run as usual.
How does booster work together with dishwasher detergent and rinse aid?
For extra clean and sparkly dishes, you want to use dish detergent + detergent booster + rinse aid. Each product has a unique cleaning purpose, and dishware will come out brighter than if you use detergent alone.
- Dish detergent does the main cleaning job and removes stains and leftover food gunk.
- Dishwasher booster takes care of the mineral deposit haze and the toughest hard water stains.
- Rinse aid flushes away any residue from the detergent and booster and helps dishes dry streak-free and spotless.
Cyna and I developed recipes for homemade dishwasher powder, DIY dishwasher pods, and dishwasher rinse aid that work beautifully with my hard water dishwasher booster. Like this recipe, they are quick, easy, and all-natural.
And for handwashing dishes, check out my homemade dish soap recipe.
I want to use all 3 – where do I put them?
Where you put everything depends on how many detergent drawers your dishwasher has. You can find the detergent drawer on the side of the dishwasher door.
Some dishwashers have 3 compartments (pre-rinse receptacle, main detergent chamber, and rinse aid dispenser), others only 2 chambers (main detergent drawer and rinse aid reservoir).
- Dishwasher with 3 compartments: Fill the pre-wash chamber with dish detergent. Load the main drawer with dish booster, and fill the rinse aid reservoir with rinse aid.
- Dishwasher with 2 compartments: Put the detergent on the floor of the dishwasher. Place the booster in the main detergent compartment and the rinse aid in the rinse aid dispenser.
Hard water can shorten the lifespan of automatic dishwashers. The annoying mineral deposits aren’t just on your dishes. They also accumulate in your dishwasher and can ruin your appliance and clog plumbing.
My dish cleaning booster can help because it makes an effective DIY dishwasher cleaner. This is what you’ll do:
- Sprinkle 1/2 cup detergent booster on the bottom of your empty dishwasher.
- Choose a high-heat cycle and let it run for 5 minutes.
- Turn the dishwasher off and let the citric acid solution soak for 2 to 3 hours. Citric acid needs to loosen and lift limescale and mineral build-up.
- After a few hours, let the cycle continue.
- Repeat every 1 to 2 months to maintain a clean and properly working dishwasher.
You also want to clean your dishwasher if you’re newly transitioning to homemade dish detergents to clear away any residue left from other detergents and mineral deposits.
Other uses for DIY dishwasher booster
I love homemade cleaning recipes that are versatile and multipurpose. You can use my critic acid detergent booster to clean:
- Essential oil diffuser: Diffusers should be cleaned regularly to avoid mold and mildew buildup. Simply add 1/2 cup water and 1 tbsp booster powder into the reservoir and let your diffuser run for 10 minutes. Discard the liquid and wipe dry.
- Bath fixtures: To clean soap scum and water deposits from bath and shower fixtures, fill a spray bottle with warm water and 3 tbsp dish booster. Spray on your fixtures, wait 20 minutes, and rinse away.
- Tiles: To remove grime and mildew from tiles, make a citric acid solution with 3 tbsp detergent booster and 16 oz warm water. Apply to tiles and rinse well.
- Brass and sterling silver: To keep brass fixtures and silver shiny, dissolve 1 tsp detergent booster in 1/2 cup warm water. Spray on your brass or silver. Then rinse and wipe with a dry cloth.
- Get rid of weeds: Solve 2 tbsp citric acid in warm water in a 16-oz spray bottle. Spray onto weeds. Repeat every few days until the weed is gone. Easy and safe!
Please let me know in the comment section if you come up with more clever ways to this dishwasher booster recipe!
Storage instructions and shelf life
As I’ve mentioned earlier, citric acid tends to absorb moisture from the ambiance. Moisture will reduce its potency and can use the citric acid granules to harden.
To ensure that doesn’t happen, keep the hard water booster powder in an airtight, sealed glass jar. Store the jar in a dry, cool location, away from direct sunlight and any heat sources. Room temperature is fine.
I’ve put my dish booster in a beautiful glass canister with a bamboo lid. The lid has a silicone band that locks out any moisture. You can download the printable label you see in the photos at the end of this post.
Citric acid has a shelf life of around 3 years, and grapefruit essential oil lasts for 1 to 2 years. For the best results, I recommend you use your DIY dishwasher booster within 12 months of making.
Dishwasher spot remover FAQ
Is detergent booster a substitute for dishwasher detergent?
No, dishwasher booster isn’t an alternative for dishwasher detergent. It’s a hard water dishwasher additive. Use both for the best cleaning effect.
I have soft water. Should I still add dish detergent booster?
No, chances are you don’t need a dishwasher additive for hard water.
If you experience residue on your dishes, it’s probably not mineral deposits but too much dishwasher detergent. A simple solution could be to reduce the amount of detergent because soft water cleans with less detergent than hard water.
Can I use this recipe as a laundry booster?
Yes! The recipe doubles well as fabric softener powder. Add 1 tbsp to the fabric softener compartment in your washing machine. This compartment is usually located next to the main detergent chamber and marked with a small star or flower icon.
Can I use tapioca starch in place of colloidal oatmeal?
No, starches like tapioca starch, corn starch, or arrowroot powder don’t dissolve in water and can clog your dishwasher. If you can’t find colloidal oatmeal, simply omit it from the recipe.
Colloidal oatmeal is really only meant to avoid clumping in high humidity conditions. The DIY dishwasher boost will work just as fine without it.
So essentially all I need is citric acid?
Hi Kelly! Essentially, yes.