Whole Home Detox: DIY Dishwasher Soap

Whole Home Detox: DIY Dishwasher Soap

Today I was planning on a tutorial post about how to create your own Land of Nod lettered banner (my latest kick).  I decided instead to do a post on my homemade dishwasher soap.  This is per special request from a reader who wanted to know what type of dishwasher detergent I use.  When I told her that I make my own, she said to hurry up and post the recipe because she is running low on soap!   It was a good thing she said something, ’cause I grabbed my dishwasher soap container and I was running low myself!  A blog post, a new batch of soap, and a load of dishes started is my kind of multi-tasking.

(Note: Many of you are landing on this post from the search engines using the term “DIY dish soap.”  I experimented DIY dish soap.  Go here to find out more about what dish soap is and what I recommend!)


Homemade Dishwasher Soap

  • 2 cups Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda
  • 2 cups 20 Mule Team Borax
  • 2 cups  citric acid or Lemi-Shine
  • 1 cup Kosher Salt

Measure out and mix it all up in a bowl!  Then store in a container of your choosing.  The End.  Just kidding, you know I can’t write a post that short.  I have to give you all the deets.

Diy dishwasher soapHomemade dishwasher soap 5 Homemade dishwasher soap 1

The Ingredients

Lemi-Shine/Citric Acid:  Removes hard water spots and grime.  Citric Acid can be ordered online in bulk at places like Mountain Rose Herbs and Bulk Apothecary.  Lemi-Shine can be found in the dish soap/cleaning aisle in your grocery store.

Homemade dishwasher soap 3

Lemi-Shine is basically citric acid.  However, the company will not disclose the specific ingredients in it’s formula.  That is why I prefer plain citric acid.  The only place I could find it was online at Mountain Rose Herbs.  I’m using Lemi-Shine today ’cause it was easy to grab.  Still, it’s a lot better than the chemicals you will find in commercial dishwasher soaps.  As for which one works better, I did not notice any difference between the soap I made with pure citric acid and the soap made with Lemi-Shine.

Borax: Natural disinfectant and mild abrasive.  Borax can be found in the laundry aisle of your grocery store.

Super Washing Soda: Deodorizes and cuts grease.  Super Washing Soda can be found in the laundry aisle of your grocery store.

Salt: Provides scrubbing action and helps with hard water.  Kosher salt can be found in any grocery store.


I store my dishwasher soap in a Rubbermaid container that I picked up from Target.  I measure it out with this nifty scoop I stole from my Oxyclean container.  I think it is probably a little over a tablespoon, which fills the little soap dispenser in my dishwasher.

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As a little bonus tip, I like to label the backs of all my homemade cleaner bottles and containers with the recipes!  It makes refilling so much easier when I don’t have to go and look up the recipe someplace!

Homemade dishwasher soap 4 Does It Work?

Before I found this, I was using an “eco-friendly” liquid soap from Melaleuca.  I was annoyed at the price tag and how fast we were going through it.  It was also leaving spots on my glasses.  (OCD people hate this).  The worst part is, a yucky black sludge had started to fill the bottom of my dishwasher around the drain.  I was wiping it out every few days.   I wish I had a picture, but I’m kind of glad I don’t because…yuck.

The first time I used this homemade soap, I noticed not only that my dishes were shiny clean, but that some of the black sludge had disappeared from around the drain.  By the end of the week it was gone.  The bottom of my dishwasher was white and clean again, and has stayed that way.  And that is how I met and married my homemade dishwasher soap. The end.

Just so you know, I always rinse my dishes really well before putting them in the dishwasher.  That’s ’cause my dishwasher is a cheap-o.  So no, you can’t put a grimy lasagna pan in your dishwasher with this soap and have it come out all sparkly.   It’s not a Cascade Complete Pack, but it works reasonably well if you have removed the food, and that’s all I need!

Another tip: if you are still having trouble with hard water spots, add some vinegar to your rinse container!

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The only negative to my homemade dishwasher soap is that it does tend to clump together in the container.  This is because of the citric acid.  Once in a while I just have to break it up with a butter knife.

Why I Like It

I know exactly what’s in it (no chemicals or preservatives)  It works.  It lasts forever.  And since I make my own laundry soap, I always have Borax and Super Washing Soda on hand, so that makes it really easy to throw together.

Homemade dishwasher soap 2 Cost Break-Down

I DIDN’T DO ONE!  I was in a hurry.  I have let you down, and I am deeply apologetic.  I can tell you that if you purchase all the ingredients for the soap, it will run you about $15.  The Lemi-Shine (the most expensive ingredient) will last you for one batch, and the rest of the ingredients will last you for at least three batches.  (And if you make my easy homemade laundry detergent, you can use the Super Washing Soda and Borax for that too).  I usually make a double batch of this soap.  It lasts a very long time.  This one has lasted me for three months at least!

Commercial Alternativess

What if you do not have time and energy to make your own soap?  In that case, I recommend you try Earth Friendly or Honest Company dishwasher soap.  I normally would not recommend a product that I have never personally used, but I trust almost anything by either of these companies. (I use Earth Friendly hand soap and dish soap.)  Both brands have competitive pricing.  You can purchase it right of their website, or check out Vitacost.com for amazing deals on their products.

Someone asked me if this recipe was septic safe.  I would say no.  For that you need a liquid because this can clump up.  I haven’t looked into a homemade liquid recipe yet, but both of the above-mentioned brands sell a gel, which might be a good option if you are on septic.

So have you ever tried making your own dishwasher detergent?  Or does anyone have a great eco-friendly brand they recommend?