These DIY dishwasher pods are a natural, plant-based way to clean dishes. The homemade dishwasher tablets break up grease, grime, and stubborn food residue, leaving you with sparkling dishes. The dish cleaner recipe is fully biodegradable and made with natural, eco-friendly materials that are good for you and the environment.
What are dishwasher pods?
Dishwasher pods are single-use dish cleaners for automatic dishwashers. Commercial dishwasher pods are usually small plastic pouches filled with liquid surfactants. The pod is placed in the detergent dispenser compartment. It dissolves throughout the washing cycle and cleans your dishes.
In this tutorial, you’ll learn to make powder-based dishwasher tabs that are pressed into shape with a mooncake press. We’ll skip over the synthetic, potentially toxic substances and create an effective dish cleaner that is safe for your family and the environment.
The pod formula is based on my homemade dishwashing powder. And for more ways to clean dishes naturally, check out our dish soap recipe, DIY rinse aid, detergent booster, and liquid dishwasher detergent.
Benefits of natural dishwasher pods
I have a feeling you are going to love this dishwasher pod recipe, and here are all the reasons why:
- Sparkling clean dishes: My natural dishwasher detergent tabs leave plates and cutlery sparkling clean without a soapy residue.
- Easy to portion: The single pod formula is pre-portioned and makes no mess.
- Natural ingredients: You don’t have to study any ingredient labels because you know exactly what’s in your cleaning product: natural, plant-derived materials.
- Biodegradable: Each ingredient is eco-friendly and readily biodegrades.
- Non-toxic: The dishwasher recipe is free of artificial perfumes, preservatives, dyes, phthalates, parabens, phosphates, and petrochemicals.
- Borax–free: Borax is controversially discussed in the green cleaning community. I decided to create DIY dishwasher pods without borax.
DIY dishwasher pod ingredients
You’re probably skeptical about this homemade dishwashing detergent. Does it really deliver, or is it just another cleaning fail? To understand how and why my homemade dishwasher tablets perform so well, let’s have a look at the ingredients:
- Washing soda (sodium carbonate) softens water and lifts soil from plates and mugs. Its high alkalinity allows washing soda to act as a solvent to remove greasy build-up and tackle tea and coffee stains. The eco-friendly cleaning supply busts up grease and lifts off food debris.
- Oxygen bleach powder (sodium percarbonate) is the solid form of hydrogen peroxide. The material removes the most stubborn stains and stuck-on gunk. It’s my secret weapon for squeaky clean dishes without that dreaded white film.
- Table salt (sodium chloride) acts as a salt-based water softener and will leave your dishes spotless. Salt is a must for hard water. You can swap fine Kosher salt for table salt if preferred.
- Enzymes (optional) break down stubborn stains and add another layer of cleansing action. Because pure plant-based enzymes are costly, I like to use multienzyme supplements. Simply pop the capsules open and save the powder.
- Lemon essential oil (optional) provides a fresh citrus scent and bacteria-fighting qualities. The oil deodorizes and is surprisingly effective to clean and disinfect dishes.
- Distilled water in a spray bottle is needed tobind the dishwasher pod mixture together.
I used a mooncake press to form my homemade dishwasher tabs. A mooncake press compacts the mixture really well, which is why I prefer it over a silicone mold.
Essential oil dishwasher pods
I simply scented my dishwasher detergent pods with lemon essential oil for a refreshing fragrance. You can also try some of these other scent blends:
- Citrus Fresh: 60 drops grapefruit + 40 drops sweet orange + 40 drops lime
- Super Cleanse: 50 drops cinnamon leaf + 50 drops tea tree + 40 drops clove
- Spring Clean: 80 drops lavender + 40 drops lemon + 20 drops ginger
Lavender, citrus, and spice oils are wonderful choices for cleaning and are said to have antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties. Spice oils are very potent and can be skin sensitizing. Please wear gloves when doing this project and wash your hands afterward.
Of course, you can scent your essential oil dishwasher tablets with any essential oils you like and have available. Just avoid sticky, resinous oils like vanilla or tonka bean.
How to make dishwasher pods
Time to whip up a batch of homemade dishwasher pods! Please handle the ingredients with care and wear gloves. Washing soda and sodium percarbonate can be skin irritating. Avoid direct skin contact and wash your hands after preparing the wash pods.
Step 1: Combine dry ingredients
- Add the washing soda, oxygen bleach powder, salt, and enzymes into a large, non-metallic mixing bowl.
- Whisk to combine and break up clumps.
Step 2: Add scent
- Add the lemon essential oil and incorporate using a whisk or your fingers. Whisk until everything is thoroughly combined, and you no longer see large droplets of essential oil.
- The essential oil acts as a coating and helps to lessen the reaction when we add water in the next step.
Step 3: Moisten mixture
- While stirring continuously, spritz the mixture with distilled water from a spray bottle.
- To avoid a reaction, do 1 spritz and incorporate immediately.
- Continue to add water in small increments and make sure to mix the water in at once, don’t let it sit on the dry mixture.
Step 4: Test consistency
- The mixture should have a consistency similar to damp sand and hold its shape when pressed together.
- To test the texture, squeeze a little mixture in the palm of your hand. If it sticks together, the consistency is perfect.
- If it’s too dry and crumbly, continue to spray the mixture until it holds its shape.
Step 5: Form dishwasher pods
- Firmly press mixture into the opening of a mooncake press. Use your fingers to compact the mixture into the mold.
- Then put the mooncake press on a flat surface and press down the handle hard to shape the dishwasher tablet.
- Slowly pull up the lever to release the pod.
- I recommend releasing the tablets onto a cutting board so you can lift and transport them.
- The DYI dishwasher pods are delicate at this point, so be careful when handling them.
Step 6: Dry
- Allow the dishwasher pods to dry for several hours or overnight.
- Once dry, the pods become solid. Washing soda tends to absorb moisture from the air.
- Try to find a dry place and avoid locations with a lot of moisture or steam, like the kitchen or bathrooms.
- If you live in a high humidity environment, try putting the dishwasher tablets before a dehumidifier.
Step 7: Store
- Store the DIY dishwasher pods in an airtight container or glass jar.
DIY dishwasher detergent pods with a silicone mold
Instead of using a mooncake press, you can also opt for a silicone mold, for example, an ice cube mold or this cylinder mold. Follow steps 1 through 4. Then pack and press the mixture into the cavities of the mold. Let dry overnight before popping the tablets out.
Tips for high humidity
Making homemade dishwasher pods in a humid environment can be a bit tricky. The materials tend to absorb moisture from the air and can expand when you try to dry them. A simple solution is to make dishwasher powder instead. This is what you do:
- Follow steps 1 and 2 according to the instructions.
- Transfer the dry mix into a sealed container and use it as dishwasher powder. Easy!
How to use dishwasher pods
DIY dishwasher pods are incredibly convenient. Let me show you how to use them properly and where to put dishwasher tablets:
- Load dishwasher. Load up the dishwasher and check that nothing is blocking the detergent compartment from opening.
- Add pod. Put a pod into the detergent drawer and close the drawer. Break up the tablets if it’s too big to fit.
- Add rinse aid. Optionally, fill rinse aid into the dispenser.
- Choose cycle. Choose your cycle and let the dishwasher run.
- Empty dishwasher. Once the washing cycle is done, make sure the detergent is fully rinsed away. If the dishes are still damp, let them air dry in an open dishwasher before stowing them away.
Only use the pods with dishwasher-safe items. For the best results, pre-rinse the dishes and remove leftover food. The dishwasher pods are powerful but can’t dissolve solid food remains.
How much do I need?
You need 1 dishwasher tablet per cycle.
Can I put a pod directly into the dishwasher?
No, don’t just throw homemade dishwasher pods into your appliance. Always put into the detergent dispenser chamber. Most programs start with a pre-rinse cycle before the main washing cycle where the detergent is released.
Shelf life and storage
How to store homemade dishwasher tablets
Handmade dishwasher detergent cubes require a dry environment. Moisture in the air can activate them prematurely. Keep your DIY dishwasher tablets in an airtight container to protect them from excess moisture. I store mine in a large clip-top glass jar with a rubber seal.
You can also wrap each pod individually in plastic wrap/clingfilm to seal out any moisture. And be sure to let the tablets fully dry before packaging.
How long do DIY dishwasher tablets last?
I recommend using these DIY dishwasher pods within 1 year. Lemon essential oil has a shelf life of 12 months. The other materials technically don’t expire, but washing soda loses its potency over time.
Dishwasher Tabs FAQ
Why dishwasher pods without citric acid?
Citric acid is acetic (pH 2). Washing soda is alkaline (pH 11). Both are excellent cleaners. But combined together, they’ll cancel each other out, and you end up with salty water that doesn’t have much cleaning power.
You can learn more about formulating homemade cleaners that actually work in my homemade dishwasher detergent recipe.
Do I need to use rinse aid?
Using rinse aid is optional. Water spots and cloudiness are usually caused by hard water. If you live in an area with very hard water, add rinsing aid is a good idea. Try our natural rinse aid recipe for a homemade solution.
Are the pods safe for stainless-steel dishwashers?
Yes, you can use the DIY dishwasher pods in stainless steel dishwashers.
Do these dishwasher pods dissolve completely?
Yes, they should dissolve entirely without leaving any residue, but every dishwasher is different. If the pods aren’t dissolving, check that the nozzles and water heater in your dishwasher are working correctly.
Why didn’t the pod fully dissolve?
There could be a few reasons why you might find detergent residue in the dishwasher. For example, the detergent department was blocked, or the spray arms didn’t spin properly.
Are dishwasher detergent tabs bad for plumping?
No, on the contrary. They dissolve completely and may even clean water pipes. If you’re having plumbing issues, it’s probably coming from food and grease build-up.
Are dishwasher pods safe for the septic system?
Yes, this dishwasher pod recipe is safe for septic and greywater systems.
- 1 2/3 cups / 350 g / 12.3 oz washing soda (sodium carbonate)
- 1 cup / 200 g / 7 oz powdered oxygen bleach (sodium percarbonate)
- 2 tbsp / 35 g / 1.2 oz fine table salt (sodium chloride)
- 1 tbsp / 6 g / 0.2 oz multienzyme supplement (about 10 capsules)
- 140 drops / 7 g / 0.2 oz lemon essential oil
- distilled water
- Combine dry ingredients. Add the washing soda, sodium percarbonate, salt, and enzymes into a large, non-metallic mixing bowl. Whisk to combine and break up clumps.
- Add scent. Add the lemon essential oil and incorporate using a whisk or your fingers. Whisk until everything is thoroughly combined, and you no longer see large droplets of essential oil. The essential oil acts as a coating and helps to lessen the reaction when we add water in the next step.
- Moisten mixture. While stirring continuously, spritz the mixture with distilled water from a spray bottle. To avoid a reaction, do 1 spritz and incorporate immediately. Continue to add water in small increments and make sure to mix the water in at once, don't let it sit on the dry mixture.
- Test consistency. To test the texture, squeeze a little mixture in the palm of your hand. The mixture should have a consistency similar to damp sand and hold its shape when pressed together. If it sticks together, the consistency is perfect. If it's too dry and crumbly, continue to spray the mixture until it holds its shape.
- Form dishwasher pods. Firmly press mixture into the opening of the mooncake press. Use your fingers to compact the mixture into the mold. Then put the mooncake press on a flat surface and press down the handle hard to shape the dishwasher tablet. Slowly pull up the lever to release the pod. I recommend releasing the tablets onto a cutting board so you can lift and transport them. The pods are delicate at this point, so be careful when handling them.
- Dry. Allow the dishwasher pods to dry for several hours or overnight. Once dry, the pods become solid. Washing soda tends to absorb moisture from the air. Try to find a dry place and avoid locations with a lot of moisture or steam, like the kitchen or bathrooms. If you live in a high humidity environment, try putting the dishwashing tabs before a dehumidifier.
- Store. Keep the DIY dishwasher pods in an airtight container or glass jar.