[New! Updated with recipes shared by readers] Have you run out of dishwashing detergent and you’re in a pinch to run a load until you can get to the store and buy some more? Or are you looking to whip up a few batches to save yourself a bit money? This is the page you’re looking for!
I have a few DIY/homemade mixes you can try (for both powder and liquid versions), as well as some rinse agent suggestions to help get dishes sparkling clean.
I’ve also updated the page with plenty of tips, recipes and advice shared by readers.
This article is over 12 years old and still going strong with feedback from those who have tried these out, made some tweaks and did some troubleshooting…lots of good information here for you to browse through, have fun!
C. = cup; TBS = Tablespoon; tsp = teaspoon
1 C. Washing Soda
1 C. Borax
1 C. Baking Soda
1 C. Borax
For the above two mixes:
- Blend thoroughly and store in a plastic container, use approximately 2 TBS per load.
- Use vinegar in the rinse compartment as an agent to help prevent residue.
- Try adding 2-3 drops essential oil.
1/4 C. Washing Soda
1 TBS Liquid Dish Soap
Use the above for each load you run.
1 part baking soda
1 part borax
1 part water
1 drop lemon or orange essential oil per cup of detergent
- Mix the ingredients thoroughly and store in a sealable jug.
- Use 2 to 3 TBS per load.
Dealing With Residue
If you’re having a cloudy residue problem::
- Try adding a few drops of liquid dishsoap to the detegent compartment when you add the powder (just 2 or 3 drops will do).
- You could also try cutting back on the amount used (ie. if you’re using 2 TBS, try cutting it back to 1 – 1 1/2 TBS).
- Make sure to use vinegar in the rinse cycle.
Updates & Troubleshooting Tips
Update #1: There are several comments from readers reporting both success and problems (namely complaining about cloudy residue issues). I don’t know why there’s a discrepancy, but it may have something to do with water temperature (not hot enough) or water quality (too hard, etc.). My dishwasher is still going strong with no problems, items are consistently clean with no trace left behind and it’s about 20 years old–good old Maytag!
Because these recipes are at least 20 years old (I’m going from memory here), the problem might be isolated to newer appliances? How much water is used rinsing/washing the items? I’m not sure. I would suggest you watch carefully when first trying them to see if they leave a powdery trace (there are tips below that might help with that).
Update #2: Lots of readers have offered their tried-and-true recipes and shared tips in the comments area, here are several that stand out:
MK Whittenburg advises that the etching/cloudiness problem is solved by adding citric acid, she recommends this recipe:
1 (55 oz) box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
1 (76 oz) box of 20 Mule Team Borax
1 (48 oz) boxes of coarse Kosher Salt
1 (2 oz) container of food-grade Citric Acid (or substitute with 10 to 15 envelopes of Unsweetened Lemon Kool-Aid)
- Liv uses the Powdered Version #2 above (baking soda and borax) but added 2 packets of unsweetened lemon Kool-Aid and this did the trick to eliminate the slight film her first attempts gave.
- TL shares this recipe: 1 TBS grated Zote soap, 1 TBS borax and 1 TBS washing soda.
- Gina says she has good success with using just 1 to 2 TBS of Borax in the dispenser then white vinegar as a rinse agent.
- Susan says she uses 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt and a wee pinch of dish soap (non-bleach) per load.
- Sue says she just tosses in 1/2 C. of baking soda and 1/2 C. of vinegar, shuts the door, turns the machine on and this works fine for her.
- Wendy uses 2 parts baking soda, 1 part castille soap and fills the rinse compartment with white distilled vinegar and no longer has a problem with film. The baking soda cuts the castille from becoming too bubbly/foaming.
- Jacklen uses 1/2 C. washing soda, 1/2 C. borax, 1/4 C. Kosher salt, 1/4 C. citric acid…just 1 tablespoon a load will do the trick and make sure to fill the rinse aid reservoir with vinegar.
- Gloria grates a bar of Zote soap and mixes it with water to melt, puts it in an old squeeze bottle and shakes each time she uses it. She also runs a load with 1/4 cup bleach at the bottom of the dishwasher.
- Shelby claims great success with 2 to 3 drops of Sunlight (divided into each compartment) and 2 tablespoons of baking soda (one in each compartment). Vinegar for the rinse agent.
- Megan shares her tried & true: 76 oz Borax, 55 oz Washing Soda, 1 1/3 C. TSP, 4 oz Citric Acid, 2 C. Vaseline IC moisturizing beads and 4 pounds Canning Salt. Use 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons per load.
- Rick uses 1 C. each of washing soda and borax, 1/2 C. each of citric acid and SLS powder. Mix well and use 1 tablespoon in the main compartment and 1/2 tablespoon in the prewash compartment.
Reader tips for fighting film/residue:
- Valerie found cutting the baking soda by 1/4 to 1/2 less solved the problem.
- Lori said she solved the problem by mixing equal parts DIY mix with commercial detergent, not 100% homemade but still saves money.
- Suz advises that adding a couple drops of regular handwashing dish soap to the dispenser should be added before putting in the homemade stuff does the trick, and use vinegar as a rinse agent.
- Gina recommends adding salt to the batch to help with cloudiness, though no amount specified so play with this a bit to see how it works out for you (helps soften the hard water). Sarah recommends using Kosher or pickling salt.
- Marty advises that by cutting the amount used by half may help (since the mix is too strong or concentrated if you’re getting a white film problem).
- Kristina recommends that you run an empty load with a bowl full of vinegar on the bottom of the dishwasher every once in awhile to help clear things up and get better (non-cloudy) results. TL found good results by running a load with a 2 C. measuring cup filled to the top with white vinegar, placed on the upper rack.
Thanks so much to everyone for sharing, Tipnut readers are the best!
I feel it’s worthwhile experimenting and finding a solution that works best for you and your machine. Making your own detergent is inexpensive, effective and environmentally friendly (with no harsh chemicals required). They are effective stain removers, natural disinfectants and santitizers and it’s quite satisfying when you find one that works just right. Good luck and feel free to share your experiences below!