See how to make an effective homemade dishwashing detergent in less than 5 minutes! This DIY dishwasher detergent removes grease and food stains, making dishware and glasses sparkling clean. Natural, eco-friendly materials, enzymes, and essential oils fuel this DIY dishwasher powder. Works well in hard water!
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Why a homemade dishwasher detergent?
I don’t know about you, but I hate doing the dishes. It’s kinda gross, it takes up way too much time, and sometimes sticky food is stubborn to remove. Thank goodness for automatic dishwashers!
I’m lucky enough to have a dishwasher that does a great job cleaning dishes. But I had less luck finding a great dishwashing detergent.
Conventional dishwashing detergents are full of harmful chemicals that I don’t want in my home. After all, my family eats their food on these dishes. My husband has become sensitive to certain substances, and I try my best to avoid them. Otherwise, it’s itchy skin and tummy aches.
Ecofriendly commercial products have better ingredients but often come with a hefty price tag. Oh, and some of them do contain potentially harmful chemicals as well – despite being marked as “green cleaners.”
The solution? Make my own DIY dishwashing detergent that performs just as well as commercial ones and doesn’t break the bank! Are you with me?
The homemade dishwashing powder recipe you’ll learn in this tutorial is made with natural, biodegradable materials that are safe for your family and the environment. It removes grease, grime, and stuck-on food and leaves your dishes squeaky clean.
In this post, we talk about the ingredients in dishwashing detergent, how to make and use the product, and how to deal with hard water. I’ll also share a secret ingredient that tackles the most stubborn stains, and you’ll learn why this is a homemade dishwasher detergent without borax and citric acid.
If you just want to see the recipe, jump to the DIY box where you can find the full instructions + ingredient amounts.
What is dishwasher detergent?
Dishwashing detergent is a cleaning product for washing dishes in an automatic dishwasher. It comes in 3 types: powder, gel,and tablets or pods.
Today, you learn how to make homemade dishwasher powder.
Benefits of natural dishwashing powder
I spent weeks researching expert advice and testing different formulas to create this homemade dishwashing detergent. Here’s everything to love about it:
- Amazing cleaning power: Get spotless, sparkling dishes and radiant glasses.
- Natural + eco-friendly: All ingredients are natural, plant-based, eco-friendly, and fully biodegradable.
- No harmful chemicals: This dishwashing powder recipe is free of phosphates, synthetic fragrances, parabens, preservatives, and all the other stuff you don’t want in your home.
- Works in hard water: The recipe performs regardless of water hardness. I’ll share a few tips for dealing with hard water down below.
- Quick + easy: It takes less than 5 minutes to whip up a batch.
- Money-saving: Making your own dishwashing detergent costs less than buying premade.
Dishwasher detergent ingredients
You can find the ingredient amounts in the how-to card at the end of the post. I also explain the purpose of each ingredient in more detail further down. Here is what you’ll need:
- Washing soda (sodium carbonate) is a powerful mineral cleanser and excellent water softener. It removes grease, stains, and leftover food.
- Powdered oxygen bleach (sodium percarbonate) is a strong natural cleaner and de-stainer that whips away the toughest stains. Don’t be mislead by the name bleach. Sodium percarbonate has nothing to do with toxic chlorine-based bleach but is a natural, environment-friendly material.
- Table salt (sodium chloride) is antibacterial, neutralizes bad odors, and adds additional water softening qualities, a must in areas with hard water.
- Enzymes (optional) are my secret ingredient! They dissolve specific food components such as fat or protein and target the most stubborn stuck-on gunk.
- Essential oils (optional) give the DIY dishwashing detergent a lovely natural scent and boost its cleansing properties.
How to make dishwasher detergent
Step 1: Prep
- Washing soda and oxygen bleach are skin sensitizing. I recommend wearing nitrile gloves while you prepare this project and washing your hands afterward.
Step 2: Mix dry ingredients
- Add the washing soda, powdered oxygen bleach, table salt, and enzymes into a large, non-metallic mixing bowl. Whisk to combine.
Step 3: Fragrance mixture
- Add the essential oils and stir until everything is thoroughly combined.
- The essential oils will accumulate in small clusters at first. Keep stirring to break them apart.
Step 4: Store
- Transfer the detergent powder into an airtight glass jar or storing container.
- Store sealed in a dry place, protected from moisture.
How to use dishwashing detergent
Putting powder detergent in an automatic dishwasher is super simple. This is what you do:
- Load the dishwasher and ensure that nothing is blocking the detergent drawer.
- Measure the recommended amount of dishwasher powder (see below).
- Put the dishwashing detergent in the main detergent compartment, located on the inside of the dishwasher door. If you notice moisture in the drawer, wipe it with a kitchen towel. Otherwise, the powder can stick and not release properly.
- Close the drawer lid firmly.
- Chose a wash cycle and let the appliance run.
- For the best result, scrap off large pieces of leftover food and give each dish a quick pre-rinse.
How much do I need?
You need approximately 2 tablespoons per cycle but can add 1/2 tablespoon extra for super dirty dishes. Don’t go overboard here because using too much can lead to a detergent film on your dishes.
How long does it last?
The recipe yields 4 1/2 cups, enough for 36 dishwasher loads.
Should I use a detergent booster and rinse aid?
Using a detergent booster and rinse aid is optional. My DIY dish detergent does a wonderful job on its own. Still, I highly recommend them for the cleanest, sparkliest dishes – especially if you have hard water.
How do I fill the dishwasher compartments?
Okay, you have determined that you want to use all 3 products. Now, where do you put them?
Most dishwashers have 3 compartments: the pre-rinse compartment, the main wash drawer, and the rinse aid reservoir. Here is how to fill them correctly:
- Put the dishwasher powder into the smaller pre-rinse drawer.
- Add the detergent booster to the larger main detergent compartment.
- Fill the rinse-aid dispenser with the rinse aid.
This way, each product is released at the right time during the wash cycle. The dishwasher detergent and detergent booster must be activated separately. Dishwasher detergents are alkaline, and detergent boosters are acidic. They would cancel each other out if used at the same time.
If your dishwasher has only 2 compartments, sprinkle the dishwasher detergent at the bottom of your appliance. Fill the main compartment with detergent booster and the rinse-aid dispenser with your rinse aid.
Tips for hard water
Do you live in a place with hard water and experience water spots and cloudy glasses? First, I do too and feel your pain. Second, you should use a detergent booster and rinse aid in addition to the homemade dishwasher detergent powder.
- The dishwasher detergent will take care of the grease and leftover food gunk.
- The detergent booster binds the mineral deposits in hard water and will get rid of the white film on glasses.
- And the rinse aid helps dishes dry faster and prevents water spots.
How to store natural DIY dishwashing detergent
Keep your DIY dishwasher powder in an airtight glass jar or storage container, in a dark, cool place, for example, a kitchen cupboard. Make sure the storage container is tightly sealed because moisture will affect the quality of the product.
How long does homemade dishwashing detergent keep?
This homemade dish detergent will last for 1 year. Washing soda loses its potency over time, so I recommend using the detergent within 12 months of making it.
Does homemade dishwasher detergent really work?
Yes, my natural dishwasher detergent actually works. Let’s have another look at the ingredients to appreciate why this homemade dishwasher detergent recipe performs so well.
I apologize in advance for getting a bit science-y. Rather than just telling you that this dishwasher powder recipe works, I want to explain how this DIY dish detergent functions.
Washing soda (sodium carbonate) is made from the ashes of burned plants, hence it’s sometimes referred to as soda ash. The ingredient is abrasive on stains + and hard water deposits and creates the optimal water pH for dishwashing.
Okay. And why is the water pH important for dishwashing?
You see, food is often acidic. Sugar, sweeteners, soft drinks, and sweets are highly acidic (pH 3). Meat, protein, tea, coffee, alcohol, milk, cheese and dairy products, wheat, and pasta have medium acidity (pH 4-5). Fish, beans, and rice are slightly acidic (pH 6).
With a pH of 11, washing soda is a strong base. In the dishwasher, washing soda creates a pH of around 10, ideal for washing dishes. Its high alkalinity lifts off any acidic soil and suspends the soil in the wash water, leaving you with clean glasses and dishware.
And there are more benefits. Washing soda is also an effective water softener because it binds the minerals that make water hard. When washing soda dissolves in water, it releases large amounts of carbonate ions. The carbonate ions dissolve calcium icons, which are responsible for the hard water.
Oxygen bleach powder
Sodium percarbonate, aka oxygen bleach, is a wonderful material for cleaning and disinfecting. Added to wash water, sodium carbonate releases hydrogen peroxide (which eventually breaks down into oxygen + water) and soda ash.
Oxygen bleach cleans, disinfects, and deodorizers smelly, dirty dishes. Being a moderately strong oxidizer, it also brightens stained plastic ware and takes care of those pesky tea and coffee stains. Think of it as a natural, eco-friendly bleach alternative.
You can make DIY dishwasher detergent with just washing soda. However, sodium percarbonate is an excellent detergent booster and makes washing soda more effective.
When buying powdered oxygen bleach, make sure it says 97% or 99% sodium percarbonate (the remaining 1% to 3% are water).
This easy homemade dishwasher detergent is powered by another cleaning wonder, table salt (sodium chloride). Salt has been used as a cleaner for thousands of years. It’s an excellent water softener and cleaning agent, not to mention cheap and easy to find.
Salt cuts through grease + grime and lifts all sorts of stains, ranging from coffee to red wine and mineral deposits. It also has an antibacterial and purifying effect, deodorizing and refreshing dirty dishes.
You can substitute table salt for fine Kosher salt for table salt if preferred.
Plant enzymes are proteins that can break down organic materials. They make a great addition to natural cleaning formulations because they cleanse gently and break down debris without being harsh or caustic.
The following enzymes are helpful for DIY dishwasher detergent:
- Amylase removes starches and sugar (think chocolate, tomato sauce, baby food.)
- Protease breaks down protein (think eggs, milk, meat.)
- Lipase dissolves fats (like oil, butter, meat, salad dressing.)
- Pectinase lifts fruit stains (e.g., red wine, fruit juice, berries.)
- Cellulase removes stains from vegetables and plants.
I have never seen another homemade dishwashing recipe suggest enzymes, probably because they’re super expensive as a raw material. But I found an affordable way to include them: multienzyme supplements.
Multienzyme supplements help the body digests better by breaking down the fats and protein in food. So, I thought, why not use them to break down the food soil on plates and cutlery?
The supplement I used contains over 12 enzymes (including the 5 mentioned above) and costs $14.95 for 60 capsules. You need just 10 capsules, which is $2.49.
Are the enzymes supplements as powerful as the ones in commercial dish detergents? Probably not. Do they add extra cleaning power? Absolutely! I think they improve the dishwashing detergent recipe, but they’re optional, and you can omit them.
Last on our list is essential oils. I used a simple blend of orange, lemon, peppermint, and pine. These oils not only provide a refreshing, uplifting scent but also strengthen the cleaning action.
- Orange essential oil has a purifying scent and is an excellent grease fighter.
- Lemon essential oil is antibacterial and helps to dissolve dirt and soil.
- Peppermint essential oil is effective against bacteria and helps to achieve a streak-free shine.
- Scots pine essential oil can help to kill household germs, bacteria, and fungi.
Essential oils are optional. The DIY dishwashing detergent recipe will work without them. However, I love the natural fragrance and the additional benefits, so it’s an essential oil dishwasher detergent for me.
Homemade dishwasher detergent FAQ
Is it septic safe?
Yes, this natural dishwashing powder is safe for septic and greywater systems.
Why DIY dishwasher detergent without borax?
The reason why this is a homemade dishwashing detergent without borax is simple: I live in Ireland, and borax is banned in Europe.
Borax is a controversially discussed ingredient in the natural home community. Some think it poses a health hazard, while others hail it as an effective cleaning agent. But because it isn’t available to me, I never looked much into it.
In any case, you can make a great homemade dishwasher detergent without borax. And oxygen bleach is the perfect substitute for borax in dishwasher detergent.
Why homemade dishwasher detergent without citric acid?
Both washing soda and citric acid are fantastic natural cleaners. Both are needed to achieve sparkly glasses and shiny dinnerware. You’ll find many recipes for homemade dishwasher detergent that use a 1:1 ratio of citric acid and washing soda. However, you need to use them separately from each other so they can do their job properly. Here is why:
- Washing soda is an alkaline base. Remember, the high alkalinity makes washing soda such an effective cleaner.
- Citric acid is acidic.
- What happens if you mix a base and an acid? They neutralize each other and lose their cleaning power. Not what we want!
- For the best result, use them at different stages during the wash cycle. Just follow my advice in the how to use section where I explain what to do.
That being said, all the commercial dishwashing formulas I researched contained a combination of citric acid and washing soda. They include citric acid for its water softening qualities, knowing that a small amount citric acid won’t cancel out the washing soda.
But in our homemade version, it’s better to keep them separate and add salt as a water softener.
Why homemade dishwasher detergent without baking soda?
Washing soda and baking soda may sound similar but have different properties. Both are alkaline, but baking soda has a pH of 8 and is much weaker than washing soda, which has a pH of 11 and is 1000 times more powerful than baking soda.
So, for the best natural dishwasher detergent, stick with washing soda.
Can this DIY dishwasher detergent perform miracles?
Nope, sadly it cannot. Don’t expect heavily stained coffee mugs or cloudy glassware that have gone through a few wash cycles to become miraculously clean again.
To remove existing build-up from mineral deposits or other detergents, soak them in a vinegar solution first and then wash as described.
Can I use vinegar instead of dishwasher detergent?
Maybe you’re wondering what you can use if you run out of dishwasher detergent, or you’re looking for a dishwasher detergent substitute. One question folks are looking up a lot is: Can I use vinegar instead of dishwasher detergent?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. Vinegar isn’t a good substitute for dishwasher detergent because it doesn’t have great cleansing properties. It will deal with hard water and water stains but won’t remove grease and protein properly.
Vinegar is better suited as a natural rinse aid to use alongside your DIY powder dishwasher detergent.