Homemade Natural Dishwasher Detergent on the Cheap

by Carissa Carrington
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Are you as conscientious about protecting the environment as you are about your budget? You can help keep chemicals out of the water supply while keeping more dollars in your pocket with these recipes.

Years ago, a consumer report said that any brand of dishwashing soap would work well, as long as it contained “enzymes.” I was still using the store brand, saving over $5 a month on the national brand in the green box.

Commercials urge you to buy a rinse-aid product for getting that shiny finish, but I’ve been using white vinegar for years. So I thought I was pretty frugal in the dishwasher soap category.

Then the government banned phosphates from dishwashing soap back in 2010. They realized that dumping chemicals into our water supply was probably not the best idea. This spawned a rash of “miracle products” to get your dishes shiny clean without that cloudy film. The trouble is that it’s just throwing more chemicals at a problem that is not that hard to overcome, and at even greater savings.

The solution is homemade dishwasher detergent. There are two formulas: team powder and team liquid. I’ve always been a powder girl, so I’ll start with that one.

Powdered Dishwasher Detergent/Scouring Powder

This recipe came from Jillee Nystul’s website at OneGoodThingByJillee.com.

1 cup washing soda or baking soda
1 cup borax (natural disinfectants and mild abrasive)
1/4 cup kosher salt (reduces the effects of hard water)
1/4 cup citric acid (Available at brewing places or Amazon, or as an alternative, you can use the same amount of Fruit Fresh or two packets of Lemonade-Flavored Kool-Aid, ONLY lemon and ONLY unsweetened!)

Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of this mixture to your dishwasher detergent compartment along with 3 drops of dishwashing liquid. Do not use more than three drops. The dishwasher will overflow if you use too much dish soap!

Then splash 1/2 to 1 cup of white vinegar into the bottom of the dishwasher and start the machine.

“I have now used this combination of ingredients at least a dozen times with consistent results. I can’t tell you what a great feeling it is to open the dishwasher and be greeted by squeaky clean dishes washed with my own homemade mix.” ~ Jillee Nystul

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Liquid Dishwasher Detergent

Not to leave out the liquid lovers, here is a recipe for liquid dishwasher soap.

2 cups vegetable-based castile soap (such as Vermont Soap Organics or Dr. Bronner’s)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3 drops essential oil of your choice

Pour ingredients into a plastic bottle with a squirt-top and shake until thoroughly incorporated. Before using, shake the liquid well and measure out 2 tablespoons per load.

Besides getting our dishes clean, the overall savings is impressive, too. Using receipts from the past month as a comparison, using either of these homemade dishwasher soap recipes saves approximately $9.50 per month, doubling my initial savings of just using the regular store brand!

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The initial expense of buying unfamiliar products might be off-putting to some people, but if you stick with it, the savings start adding up with each load. Assuming each batch lasts about a month, you can wash your dishes for less than 7 cents a load! You can also be on the lookout for sales, coupons, or good old price matching on each ingredient.

There is another great reason to give homemade dishwasher soap a try. If you are like me, you may be concerned with reducing the amounts of excessive chemicals in your household cleaners. Anyone with allergies or sensitive skin would highly benefit as well.

So whip up a batch of homemade dishwasher detergent and give it a try. Let’s start a movement to get clean the natural way.

Reviewed February 2023

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