Make Your Own Dishwasher Detergent

Our house is in a semi-rural location and is not connected to the main city sewer lines. So like most country-ish folk, we have a septic system. I like to do everything I can to be gentle to her and keep her all natural. In the kitchen, a big part of that is using a detergent for the dishwasher that is all-natural with no harsh chemicals or chlorine.

Here is a recipe that I’ve settled on using some commonly available ingredients. It makes a powdered detergent that we have been using for three years now. I was very skeptical at first about whether it would be as effective as store bought. Well, guess what. It’s worked every bit as good as any major brand.

Oh, and it’s a lot cheaper too. How much cheaper? Well, I’ve figured it out as a cost per load compared to a couple of other popular brands (using prices from Amazon.com). Here’s roughly how it works out.

Finish Powerball Tablets (90-load box, $12,80): $0.14 per load
Cascade Platinum ActionPacs (64-load box, $15.17): $0.24 per load
Cascade Gel (75-ounce bottle, $7.79): $0.10 per load
My Homemade Detergent: $0.07 per load

Bottom line: you save money, the environment and your septic tank.

One drawback, the mixture is definitely hydrophilic. That means it draws in moisture, and it can clump up if it is stored in a humid area. To fight this I keep the detergent in a well-sealed container in the pantry, definitely not under the sink. I also put some of those silica packets I saved up into a tea ball and then inside the jar. This soaks up any stray moisture pretty well. Otherwise, just mix up smaller batches and shake it up from time to time. Small clumps break up easily with a fork.

You just have to use 1 tablespoon per load. You really don’t want to use much more than that or it might not rinse well, although I do put about 1 teaspoon in the pre-wash container. I also use straight white vinegar in the rinse aid receptacle. Our dishes always come out squeaky clean.

Here’s the recipe.

Print Recipe
Homemade Dishwasher Detergent
Dirty dishes in sink
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
loads, or thereabouts
Ingredients
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
loads, or thereabouts
Ingredients
Dirty dishes in sink
Instructions
  1. Mix all of the ingredients together well in a aluminum or plastic mixing bowl.
  2. Pour the detergent mix into a glass or plastic container and seal well. Store in a dry area.
  3. Use about 1 tablespoon per load.

All of the ingredients are pretty common and can be found in your local grocery or hardware store. Citric acid is the only one that might be difficult to find. It’s easy to buy online (I do). I buy Milliard 5-pound bags.