Homemade Natural Dishwasher Detergent (Easy, Effective, Healthy and Only .05 Per Load)

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by Cassie

Join us for our Spring Cleaning Challenge to Organize and Clean for a Thrifty and Healthy Home!

*This homemade dishwashing detergent works very well with our Homemade Jet Dry (rinse aid) HERE

So yesterday I mentioned that I was going to share my super spiffy window/glass cleaner (which is also FANTASTIC on stainless steel) but…. I lied. Really I didn’t, I just changed my mind on the order of sharing things!

So I am sharing my super awesome (one that Alex raves about) Homemade Natural Dishwasher Detergent.  I decided to share this first as I just shared the laundry detergents again yesterday, and this recipe uses many of the same ingredients, so while you have those ingredients out, how about whip up a batch of this awesome, and very frugal dishwasher detergent?  This is my own recipe (like all of these recipes).  I developed them after researching what natural household products can do and what they can be used for and then mixing them and testing and then using them for a while.  I haven’t purchased dishwasher tabs, detergent, etc. from the store for a very long time.  I did buy some clearance 7th Generation that ended up being  pretty cheap with coupons I had, but since I can’t get a deal on the natural store normally, making my own is so fantastic because it is CHEAP, EFFECTIVE and NATURAL! All things I love!! Let’s not forget to mention that it is really quick to put together.  Think of making this as simple as pulling out the premade muffin mixes, adding your water and egg and pouring in a bread pan.  And that is just how simple it is to make it from scratch!

Isn’t thriftiness so convenient and easy??  It really is.  Once you have stocked your shelf with this list of items that we posted previously, your life will be simple, thrifty, and healthy!  There is no way coupon usage can replace this kind of ease in living! And I have the right to say that this trumps couponing because I was an extreme couponer for many years with many years of experience!   THIS is easier, cheaper and healthier!

As a reminder, I use essential oils for many things, including cleaning. These are the “secret” ingredients to make these cleaners have their “antibacterial effect.”  Read up on the top oils for cleaning and how to get them cheap HERE!

Here’s the simple recipe and ingredients needed:

  • 1 cup of Borax
  • 1 cup of washing soda
  • *1 packet of unsweetened citrus Kool-Aid (generic is a lot cheaper) OR purchase a bottle of citric acid and add 2 TBSP.
  • 1/4 cup of coarse salt
  • 10 drops of lemon essential oil (or other citrus essential oil.  I have been making mine orange scented, but lemon is nice too!)

*Many ask about the kool-aid and so we wanted to mention that this is for the citric acid in the citrus kool-aid.  Only citrus will work. This is an easy, cheap, pre-measured form of citric acid.  You can also buy citric acid instead, but it is more expensive this way, but also totally fine.

Step #1 – Add all of the dry ingredients and mix until well blended. The borax has a tendency to be lumpy from the box, I use a fork to mix as it breaks up the lumps nicely!

Step#2 – Add your 10 drops of lemon or other citrus oil and the mix thoroughly.

Step #3 – Pour into your container.  I have a supply of very affordable BPA-free plastic containers from IKEA.

Step#4- Label and provide instructions on use.  Your dishwasher could be different, but I add 1 TBSP to the closed compartment and 1/2 TBSP to the open compartment.  You may need to adjust these measurements accordingly.  This is about a three-weeks worth of detergent for us, exactly 23 loads!

Also, be watching for the super sweet partner to this mix….my homemade natural JetDry!! The two of these together are a powerhouse of healthy clean dishes!

Here’s the cost breakdown:

  • Borax with the cost of $3.38 (for a 78 oz. box which is nearly 10 cups) = $0.35 per 1-cup for each laundry batch
  • Super Washing Soda with the cost per box of $3.24 (for a 55 oz. box which is nearly 7 cups) = $0.47 per 1-cup for each batch
  • Generic Kool-Aid packet at .12 = .12
  • Coarse Kosher Salt $1.68 for 48 oz. (this will make 24 batches) = .07
  • Lavender Essential Oil around $6 a bottle  which will last for a LONG time (ours has lasted forever) so we will estimate around $0.25 to be conservative?

TOTAL per batch = $1.26 per 23 load batch or .05 per load! AND it is natural too!

Here’s a printable recipe that you can put in your home binder:

Homemade Natural Dishwasher Detergent (Easy, Effective, Healthy and Only .05 Per Load)
3.8 from 4 reviews
Print
Author:
Prep time:
Total time:
Ingredients
  • 1 cup of Borax
  • 1 cup of washing soda
  • 1 packet of unsweetened Kool-Aid (generic is a lot cheaper)
  • ¼ cup of coarse salt
  • 10 drops of lemon essential oil (or other citrus essential oil. I have been making mine orange scented, but lemon is nice too!)
Instructions
  1. Add all of the dry ingredients and mix until well blended. The borax has a tendency to be lumpy from the box, I use a fork to mix as it breaks up the lumps nicely!
  2. Add your 10 drops of lemon or other citrus oil and the mix thoroughly.
  3. Pour into your container. I have a supply of very affordable BPA-free plastic containers from IKEA.
  4. Label and provide instructions on use. Your dishwasher could be different, but I add 1 TBSP to the closed compartment and ½ TBSP to the open compartment. You may need to adjust these measurements accordingly. This is about a three-weeks worth of detergent for us, exactly 23 loads!
Notes
Here’s the cost breakdown:
• Borax with the cost of $3.38 (for a 78 oz. box which is nearly 10 cups) = $0.35 per 1-cup for each laundry batch
• Super Washing Soda with the cost per box of $3.24 (for a 55 oz. box which is nearly 7 cups) = $0.47 per 1-cup for each batch
• Generic Kool-Aid packet at .12 = .12
• Coarse Kosher Salt $1.68 for 48 oz. (this will make 24 batches) = .07
• Lavender Essential Oil around $6 a bottle  which will last for a LONG time (ours has lasted forever) so we will estimate around $0.25 to be conservative?
<strong>TOTAL per batch = $1.26 23 load batch or .05 per load! AND it is natural too!</strong>See more homemade, natural and frugal cleaning products at <strong>TheThriftyCouple.com/SpringCleaning</strong>

We also HIGHLY recommend that you put this in your home binder along with many more things we will be sharing! See all of the information on this in our previous post HERE about Put Together Your Home Binder with Free Downloads.

Finally, use this new thrifty and healthy cleaning product as part of our Spring Cleaning Challenge.

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Alex & Cassie
 

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Angie W March 26, 2013 at 5:38 pm

What is the purpose of the kool aid? Is it just to add scent? Or does it have a cleaning purpose?

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Cassie March 27, 2013 at 8:17 am

Hi Angie – Cheryl is right. It is for the citric acid. When I was researching what ingredients are in store-bought natural dishwasher detergent, citric acid was one of the ingredients consistently in all of them. I also then discovered that citrus Kool-Aid drink mixes have the same thing, but they also make the load/house smell nice, they are cheap, they are pre-measured, and very convenient. I found that one packet was just enough, not too much and not too little. I also wait for like the 10 for $1 or 12 for $1 sales on them and stock-up on lemon and orange. We do not drink Kool-Aid, but it works well for this purpose :)

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Cheryl March 26, 2013 at 5:47 pm

The KoolAid is citric acid, which aids in cleaning the dishes.

Does anyone have a liquid version for the dishwasher? I used this recipe for a while and I like to switch off. If I continually use powder in my dishwasher, it makes too much noise.

Thank you.

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Cassie March 27, 2013 at 8:22 am

Hi Cheryl, I haven’t researched/developed/tested a liquid cleaner. I have some ideas on what I could do based on other recipes I use. I don’t want to say yet without testing/trying myself.

I do have a super funny story for you though! I think back on it and it makes me laugh so hard!! When we were first married, I ran out of dishwasher soap and I thought why can’t you just use dish soap. So, I squirted some dish soap in the compartments and ran the dishwasher. Oh my….. my floor was covered in soap suds and I was skating through my kitchen and some suds were up to my shins! Let’s just say that everything in the kitchen got a soapy clean ;) It was hilarious and I wish I had taken pictures of it, but as young newlywed trying to be wife and housekeeper on her own, I learned a lesson! WAAAAY to sudsy!

So that would be my concern with liquid…finding the right combination that is not too sudsy.

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Cindy March 26, 2013 at 10:11 pm

We have very hard water and a friend told me that it doesn’t do well with hard water. The only thing I can use consistantly is Finish gel pacs. Everything else leaves the dishes filmy/cloudy. Will this work? I’d love to switch, but I am leary of trusting anything else. Has anyone tried this that has hard water?

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Cassie March 27, 2013 at 8:28 am

Cindy, I don’t know for sure, but note that because this is not filled with harsh cleaning chemicals, I do find that I need to pre-rinse my dishes. It isn’t a replacement to those chemically-powered spiffy tabs where you can literally put the dishes in right from the table. But my goal is both health and thrift. I would like to tell a story sometime on some personal health issues regarding my family that after research (I love research ;)) determined that chemicals in cleaners had much to do with it. So I don’t mind pre-rinsing my dishes and using a more natural option. BUT…I would also like to add…..It wasn’t until I also added my homemade natural JetDry that the combo of the detergent and the JetDry that makes harmoniously clean and healthy dishes :) I am sharing that tomorrow!

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Cassie April 22, 2013 at 8:34 am

Hi Cindy…what doesn’t do well with hard water? The salt is supposed to help soften the water as well as have a “scrubbing” affect on the dishes. As far as the cloudy affect, I have heard this from this recipe and many others. I have concluded that it could be the type of water…?? We don’t have this problem ourselves. So..it could be a matter of adding more salt if the water is hard?? We do have a water softener, so that is what my recipe was tested with. Also, they Homemade JetDry was the perfect finishing touch as it helped the dishes to have that sparkly clean look! http://thethriftycouple.com/2013/04/01/homemade-natural-jet-dry-rinse-agent-2-ingredients-5-minutes-and-30-per-bottle/

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Shannon H March 27, 2013 at 7:30 am

I’ve read that lemon or citrus in dishwasher detergent is bad for silverware; it will cause pits in it. Because of this, I never buy lemon or orange scented detergents. Do you know if this is a myth? Or do you wash your silverware by hand instead of putting it in the dishwasher? I would love to make my own, and get rid of the chemicals, but I’m not sure of the cleaning power without the kool-aid. Thanks for sharing all of your personal recipes with us.

Reply

Cassie March 27, 2013 at 8:34 am

Hmmm…. either I have really cheap non-silver silverware or this is a myth :) I am not sure and I can’t say definitively either way. If it is lemon or orange specifically, you can always try buying just citric acid and adding a tablespoon to the mix instead. I am not sure if it is the lemon/orange that your references are referring to or the citric acid. You can always try omitting the lemon/orange and citric acid all together and give it a whirl. I add the salt to mine as well as this helps to soften the water, but also have an additional scrubbing effect for double-scrub duty with the citric acid/Kool-Aid. So the salt might be just enough anyway. And when you say pits….do you literally mean little tiny holes/dents? Hope that helps!

Reply

Shannon H March 28, 2013 at 4:01 pm

I did a little research and found my info on the Oneida website (that’s the brand of silverware I have). It says that foods with high salt content can cause pitting and that lemon or orange scented detergents are not recommended. On another website, I read that any citrus scented detergents could cause corrosion on stainless steel flatware. The funny thing about the salt is that it also says that hard water can cause the pitting. But, if salt reduces the hardness of the water, then it seems like salt would be a good thing. Guess I have some decisions to make. Thanks so much for the info and the reply!

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Cassie April 22, 2013 at 8:27 am

Hi Again Shannon, you can also just use any of the other oils instead. I just like the citrus in my own kitchen, but they would all be fine. Lavender, peppermint or cinnamon would smell good too!

Vanessa March 29, 2013 at 7:58 am

This is so awesome. I mentioned this to my mom and she got way excited about the idea of cheap and functional dish washing detergent. So much so, that I believe I will make some for her as her birthday gift. (Cheap and useful are the best gifts to give and receive!)

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REBEKA April 1, 2013 at 1:46 pm

I DONT HAVE A DISHWASHER BUT HAVE TWO LITTLE ONES RUNNING AROUND THE HOUSE. DO YOU KNOW OF A HOMEMADE DISH SOAP THAT IS SAFE FOR BOTTLES THAT IS LIQUID OR POWDER THAT COULD ADD TO A FULL SINK OF DISHES. THANK YOU

Reply

Cassie April 1, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Hi Rebeka, Yes..it is on our list of 23 homemade cleaning products to share sometime in the next couple of weeks, so keep an eye out for it :)

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Hollie A April 3, 2013 at 12:41 pm

I’ve tried this recipe and substituted the Kosher salt for table salt. I’ve also used the expensive citric acid instead of the kool aid and no matter what I do my plastic come out with a thick film :( The liquid Cascade does the same thing. I hate that I can’t find a natural recipie to use – the cheap store brand powder is the only one I’ve found that doesn’t leave a film. Any idea on what I can do? I use jet dry as a rinse aid already.

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Cassie April 3, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Hmm…Maybe coarse salt instead of table salt as this is the “scrubbing” and table salt dissolves too quickly to be effective and maybe perhaps Kool-Aid as well as this combination that I shared above works well for me. Maybe try it with out making substitutions. Grabbing both the coarse salt and a packet of Kool-Aid will be around $1.70 (and the salt will make many batches of detergent). The shopping list with prices is here: http://thethriftycouple.com/2013/03/15/make-23-homemade-natural-cleaning-products-for-around-12-printable-shopping-list-too/

Also, make sure you are using washing soda and not baking soda (I say it only because many confuse the two ;)).

What kind of water do you have?

Maybe that would help!

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Lindy February 12, 2014 at 4:04 pm

the coarse salt has nothing to do with the scrubbing. The salt dissolves instantly in the hot water. Just mix a teaspoon of salt in a glass of hot water, stir and observe.

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Cassie February 12, 2014 at 7:31 pm

Hi Lindy, This is why it is very important that it is coarse salt! There are 2 important things you need to consider: 1. it needs to do it’s job and do it quickly, 2. it needs to be able to dissolve after a few minutes so it is good for the dishwasher. Table salt will do nothing but dissolve instantly.

Jamie April 9, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Hi, I just saw something today that said that Borax is/could be harmful. I know that you have researched and I know that health is one of your reasons for coming up with these recipes, so I was wondering what your feelings are on this issue? What purpose does the Borax serve? Can this be made without it and still have clean dishes? Thanks for any insight! I just want to “do the right thing”, but it can get really confusing!!

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Cassie April 22, 2013 at 8:13 am

Hi Jamie – I have been researching this since I saw your comment and I hope to do a post this week on the safety of Borax. Borax is very safe, it is as safe as salt or baking soda. All three of these are harmful in large quantities (as most anything would be) and so that is the only risk, but we are not even consuming it anyway like we would salt/baking soda – just cleaning with it. I think the confusion comes in with a product called Boric Acid. Many people think that this is a product derived from Boric Acid, but this is not the case at all. It is a totally separate product. The internet can be a confusing and inaccurate thing as people can just post whatever they want. You did have me concerned there for a bit until I got to the bottom of it :) Thank you for your question!

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Jamie April 22, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Thanks so much for clearing that up!

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Lindy February 12, 2014 at 4:08 pm

borax is a poison for ants. Look it up.

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Cassie February 12, 2014 at 5:12 pm

It’s Boric Acid that is used to kill ants :)

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Cassie February 12, 2014 at 7:30 pm
Leslie May 14, 2013 at 5:31 pm

I’ve been making this for several years now, but my recipe calls for regular baking soda. I’ve also tried it with citric acid from the canning section at Wal-Mart (cheap).
The best combo I’ve found is with citric acid and double the salt. This formula seems not to clump and solidify so badly in the container. Also, I’ve been using straight vinegar as a rinse agent for a long time and it works very well. I hope that helps.

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Cathy December 19, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Can I leave the essential oil out?

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Hillary February 26, 2014 at 5:29 pm

Do you think I could use Epsom salt rather than coarse salt?
Do you have a more natural alternative to the kool aid?
Thank you ! I’m excited to try this. I’ve just made another recipe which works ok but always looking to improve. So happy to have removed the nasty chemicals from my kitchen!
Thanks again!

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Sarah March 12, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Do you have problems with it clumping? I use a recipe that is almost identical, that calls for Lemi-shine instead of the kool aid. I keep the mixture on a airtight container but still have problems with it clumping.

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Laurie Pearsall May 1, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Hi Just an FYI… When I click on any of the links to print this recipe, it takes me to the featured ad, not the printable. I tried the highlighted link above and included in the text without any luck…

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Cassie May 1, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Hi Laurie, I am so sorry about the confusion. The print button is located in the top right of the recipe box. I just clicked on it a couple of times to make sure it is working and it is. It will pop-up for you to select your print options. Let me know if that worked! Thanks!

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Linda May 2, 2014 at 10:21 pm

Do you have some suggestions on the best places to purchase Borax? I have to admit, I’ve never shopped for it before and don’t want to have to dedicate a lot of time to trying to find it. Any helpful suggestions you could provide would be greatly appreciated :)

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Cassie May 3, 2014 at 10:02 am

Hi Linda,

Walmart actually carries it for a great price. Here’s a shopping list with the prices and details at Walmart and it includes Borax! Hope that helps! http://thethriftycouple.com/2013/03/15/make-23-homemade-natural-cleaning-products-for-around-12-printable-shopping-list-too/

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Rachel May 25, 2014 at 10:08 pm

Could lemonade mix and tang mix be used instead of the packets of kool aid? Both were on a super sale a few weeks ago which would bring the cost of the detergent doen greatly for me.

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Jennifer June 18, 2014 at 8:24 am

It’s probably a good recipe if all you want is a cheap soap but Borax and Kool-aid are not natural ingredients so it’s not the healthiest way to clean your dishes.

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Cassie June 18, 2014 at 8:40 am

Hi Jennifer,

Here’s information on Borax: http://thethriftycouple.com/2013/05/16/is-borax-safe-or-not-and-should-it-really-be-used-in-homemade-natural-cleaners/

Kool-Aid is just for the citric acid and without the sugar that you add, there is really not much else in it besides salt and calcium phosphate (which is often taken as a supplement on it’s own)- yes, it does have artificial color and flavor, but you are not eating it. We personally don’t eat foods with artificial color or flavor and so I buy it for this as it is a cheap form of the citric acid and been making it for years this way, but would never drink it. However, you can just use citric acid alone as well as a replacement with no question and then you don’t have to worry about that. Hopefully that helps.

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Tracy June 18, 2014 at 1:39 pm

I made this a few months ago and have had the worst experience with it for plastics. It does work great on glass or ceramic but horrible on plastic. I just read if you have a lot of plastic to use half the borax so I took out my container and added more salt and washing soap. Going to keep trying because we love our other homemade cleaners.

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Cassie June 18, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Hi Tracy,

Yes, it is not great for plastics. It may leave a film on them. So certainly trying the half Borax thing. We don’t use many plastics and this is great for glass and ceramics. Hopefully that change will help!

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kacy August 27, 2014 at 7:25 am

I purchased ice cream salt by mistake. It is big rock salt. Do you think if I blend it up it will still work? Or do I need to go find coarse salt? Please help.

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Cassie August 28, 2014 at 9:03 pm

Hi Kacy,

Yes, that is just fine and actually what I used for a while as I had a lot of it. Just grind it so it is a lot finer. Hopefully that helps.

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