Does DIY all Natural Dishwashing Detergent Really Work?

By Julie Sews - 6:08:00 PM

image found via

I've gone a good chunk of my life without a dishwasher.  I've only had a dishwasher twice in my life for short periods of time.  This fall we remodelled our kitchen (well we're all done except for tearing out the linoleum and refinishing the hardwood underneath) dishwasher. My favourite part of the remodel!  I've been dreaming of a dishwasher for so long.....

The first question I had after having the dishwasher installed was should I buy or make detergent?  I've been playing around with both for the last few months and I think I finally found the cheapest and most effective way to get really clean dishes so of course I had to share it.

When it came time to buy dish-washing detergent I first looked into making my own.  I've learned that there are just a few natural inexpensive products that you need and you can then make just about any cleaning product from it.  Which is nice cause not only is it cheaper but you don't need to have an army of cleaning products for you house.  Just simple stuff you would likely have any ways like vinegar and baking soda.  Upon my research I discovered that you can make your own dish-washing detergent with just borax, vinegar, and baking soda.  All which I already had in our house.   I used a recipe I found on Green and Clean Mom.  I liked it because it was easy to remember and used only stuff I already had.  I eventually altered the recipe by adding a little all natural liquid dish detergent ( I use Seventh Generation) to add a little soap action, (I have seen some recipes use castile soap which also would be a good option just not as cost effective), and after reading a post on   Little House in the Suburbs, I changed the recipe to use washing soda rather than borax or baking soda.  
Vintage GE Ad, image found via Etsy

Below is the recipe I've been using for the last few months.  I make only enough for one cycle by using one of the small bowls or mugs in the dishwasher as my bowl and placed the recipe on the fridge to remember it (even though it's easy to memorize).  If you would prefer to make a big batch of dishwashing tabs instead I would suggest this recipe from One Good Thing by Juliee.  I haven't tried this one myself yet but plan to try it soon. It sounds simple enough and I like the ideal of having a lot ready to go.  

DIY All Natural Dishwashing Detergent Recipe 

Makes enough for one cycle


  • 2 Tablespoon washing soda (if you can't find you can make my own from baking soda, or you can sub borax soap which won't work quite as well as washing soda but will still clean)
  • 1 Tablespoon Vinegar
  • a few drops of natural dishwashing soap
  1.  Mix all of the above in a small bowl or cup already in your dishwasher (no need to create another dirty dish), and pour into your compartment for detergent and close.
How Did my DIY all Natural Detergent Compare to Store Bought detergent?  
I would say 95% of our dishes were clean but not sparkling clean after using my DIY dish detergent .  They often had a residue leftover if you looked really close but all the food stuff was removed from the dishes.  We do also have a high end dishwasher with all stainless steel so it can get to higher temps than some other models, meaning it's possible our dishwasher is more effective by itself than other models so I don't know if others would have the same results as I did or not.

According to Wellness Momma citric acid (basically is the magic ingredient to alleviate  residue leftover on dishes. And according to Little House in the Suburbs citric acid reacts with washing soda by affecting it's PH which can reduce it's cleaning power.  So you can use it together but you need to make sure you have the right proportion they suggest 4 parts washing soda to 1 part citric acid.  You can apparently use lemonade koolaid instead of citric acid if you can't find it.  I found citric acid at my local coop (health food store) in the bulk  section. You can also purchase it online. Hmmmm.......  I will have to try that!  That will be my next experiment, luckily I even have some on hand for bath and body products (acts as a natural preservative).  I also like that this recipe can be made dry and mixed and that's it.  I'll try this recipe next and add an update on here to  you compare soon. 

Since I had nothing to compare it to I figured I'd buy some to compare. So I bought Seventh Generation dishwashing gel ,  I actually did find that it cleaned better, everything was shiner.  My husband made a comment on how everything looked cleaner and shinier. According to Little House in the Suburbs, most store bought detergents are just 50/50 washing soda and sodium silicate. Sodium silicate has a very strong anti sediment function and is not easily available to the consumer (non manufacturing world). 

So Does DIY all Natural Dishwashing Detergent Really Work? 

So far I have concluded that while DIY detergents are likely never be as good as store bought options, if given the right recipe it can come close.  I am still looking for that perfect recipe, and I do not claim that the one I have posted in this post is the best, just the best that I've tried so far.

I have in my research found some great post that can be helpful in finding the best DIY dishwashing detergent recipe.  Little House in the Suburbs had a great article from the prospective of what is in store bought dish-washing detergent and trying to match that up to recipes as close as possible.  She did not like the ideal of using salt, baking soda, or borax in making dishwashing detergent. 

 House Logic has a great article where she tested 6 different DIY Dishwasher Detergent recipes.  She used a glass lid with dried oatmeal on it as her base to see how each recipe did.  She took pictures of each so you can see the results. House logic also breaks down the cost of each recipe per load.  She found a recipe with kosher salt (as a scrubbing agent), lemon kool-aid, washing soda, and borax to be the best recipe.  I  also plan to try Wellness Momma's recipe with citric acid  to see if it is any better.  Of course I'll update when I do.  Have you ever made your own dishwashing detergent?  If so what's your favorite recipe?  I'd love to hear it!

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