16 Thrifty Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Recipes

[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!

SprayI 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

Powder Versions


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!

Related Posts


    • bek yip

    hi I wanted to say thankyou for all the discussion on dishwasher powder. I’ve switched all my cleaning and beauty products to homemade. I’ve not had any problems with recipes off the internet for anything except the dishwasher one ( it was so reassuring to know i wasn’t the only one) i live in a soft water area of the uk the mixture of borax, bicarb, salt and citric acid is perfect i am so happy to not have to buy any dishwasher tablets any more.

    • Karen

    I have a septic tank. Will any of this mixture kill the good bacteria in the tank? Thanks for any info

    • Sandy

    I use this recipe: 1 part washing soda, 1 part borax, 1 part pickling salt (least expensive per #). Vinegar in the rinse. This has worked well for years and I have well water with a lot of iron. Without the salt it didn’t work. I use about a tsp per load.

    • Becky

    ok I have baking soda vinigar liquid dawn and arm and hammer laundry soap liquid I have no dishwasher liquid or powder I need to wash dishes what can I use out of them can u help

    • Dawn

    O.k. I tried the liquid dish soap recipe this afternon. I opened up the mason jar to use it on tonight’s supper dishes, and I have a white detergent rock in my jar. I can’t find what I have done wrong. Any ideas? I can’t even chip it out with a knife 🙁

    • Gerri

    I made the 1st recipe for my dishwasher the other day and used it that day! And it worked great! The next day I opened the container and it appeared to be fine. But today I opened it and it was HARD! Please let me know what I can do to keep it from hardening. I heated it a little in the microwave and it melted a little but not much. Has this happened to anyone else? If so what did you do to fix it? HELP!

    • Gerri

    Actually it wasn’t the fist recipe, it was the liquid dishwasher recipe! Thanks

    • Anne

    I’ve found that any time I have problems with clouding on dishes, just adding 1/2 cup to 1 cup of vinegar in the bottom of the dishwasher really helps.

    • Sara

    I don’t understand why anyone is fussing over using Borax in the dishwasher because it is “toxic.” Isn’t regular dishwasher detergent JUST as “toxic?” Call me crazy, but I wouldn’t eat either!

    • Rick

    One cup each of washing soda and borax.

    One-half cup each of citric acid and SLS powder.

    Mix well together and use 1TBL in main soap compartment and 1/2TBL in prewash compartment.

    • Kathy

    I have used this recipe for years:

    2 c 20 mule team
    2 cups baking soda
    1/8 Tbls table salt I have used kosher salt, but table works, too.

    Haven’t died yet, not even sick! If you run the rinse cycle(s), any “poison” will be rinsed away. However, I would recommend you don’t “lick” the dishes at any point as even commercially bought cleaners may leave a residue as well! And, one nice side line, my homemade cleaner works great. We have a whole house water softner because we have a well. Therefore, don’t know about the cloudy stuff. Try it, you may like the results.

    • Veterkins

    I have a Fisher-Paykel Dish drawer (which is manufactured in Australia). I was having issues with food residue in the washer. They told me to use about 1/2 c. to 1 c. of Tang in my washer to thoroughly clean the interior. They also told me the repairman who told me I had to completely rinse my dishes BEFORE putting them in the dishwasher was an idiot. LOVE THOSE AUSTRALIANS~

    I would say this was equivalent to using lemonade powder – so I’m going to use it in my mix since it was manufacturer recommended, LOL. I just finished the last of my Cascade and will now be using self concocted dish detergent!~

      • Veterkins

      PS. If you think Borax is “lethal” then don’t make your own soaps.

    • annette

    would liquid lemon juice work?

    • MrsDiGiacomo

    I’ve been wanting to make this for while and finally got all the ingredients to make it. I tried the liquid soap first and after only one night in the bottle it crystallized so hard that even my husband cannot shake it loose! Is this supposed to happen? Any suggestion on how to keep this from happening.
    I did just notice that I accidentally used washing soda instead of baking soda in the liquid detergent. Could this be the problem?

    • Jane

    For about the past year my dishwasher seems to have started with the white residue on my silverware and a film on plastic containers. First of all, I never, ever put aluminum in the dishwasher nor do I put in my pots and pans – they take up too much room and rarely come clean. I have a water softner and we have great, soft water. Why the film?? The detergent no longer contains phosphates. I have done research and found that the reformulated Cascade and other detergents just don’t work well. I still have some Cascade liquid left and some Cascade “action packs with Dawn”. I have been adding about 3/4 tsp. of TSP to the dishwasher and that has almost totally fixed the problem. I am going to make the formula mentioned above by Megan. I will forgo the calgon and the salt because both will soften the water and I already have soft water which should bring the cost down. Yes, I know TSP (phosphates) have been banned by the government and Big Brother because it’s bad for the environment but fertilizer runoff is even worse and I don’t see them banning fertilizer yet. I’m tired of all the tree huggers trying to regulate my life. No, I don’t feel guilty about using TSP. It’s still for sale so it’s not banned entirely – just in commercial cleaning products. No, I don’t think Borax is toxic – no worse than all the chemicals you feed your kids in all that boxed crap you give them because you are too lazy to cook real food for them. Sorry – I’m an old grandmother and I’m feeling particularly crabby tonight – I apologize. Back on topic. I spoke to a person who sells appliances and they said to use a product called “affresh” to clean the dishwasher. It’s ingredients are Citric Acid and Sodium Bisulfate. I think it’s similar to the Tang thing – she explained that over time the sprayer arms get clogged/coated on the inside with residue and it starts to clog the sprayers so this will clean it out. She said to use a double dose (it comes in tablets) one goes in the bottom of the dishwasher and one goes in the dispenser door. I imagine running about a quart of vinegar or a container of Tang might do the same thing. I figure Tang is about the same price as the Affresh which was about $8. and should do about 4 cleanings. Let you know what happens.

    • Kat

    From reading alllll of the comments, I’m wondering if the salt/salt-like baking soda is etching the glass. Also, it makes sense that if Borax forms little hard balls in cold water, these “balls” would etch the glass too. I’m gonna try the recipe with washing soda and run the hot water before starting the dishwasher. Keeping my fingers crossed!

    • Janice

    Running water hot in the sink before starting the dishwasher does make a big difference. The soap dissolves much better. Tang has been great for cleaning. Every couple of months run hot water into empty pdishwasher, open and sprinkle 1/2 jar of Tang into water, close door, let run thru cycle. Tang is citric acid basically! As mentioned, do not fill the cups with soap, just about 1/2 TBS or less is all that is needed. With very hard water, the Tang and hot water ideas seem to help. I try to put all glassware on the top to prevent etching. One other hint…the foamy soap dispensers can be refilled. I buy the $1.00 hand or dish soap and use 1/3 soap to 2/3 water. Works great! Thanks for all of the ideas!

      • carolyn

      You need to be careful about how often you reuse the containers without washing and letting them dry. They have found that they breed bacteria by being reused.

    • Sandy

    I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one who made the Liquid Recipe and wound up with a hard rock in my jar!! I’m wondering now if I should have used HOT water in the recipe?? The rock is slowly dissolving in my jar but so far I haven’t been able to use any of it!

    • Carol

    To Shana. Vinegar is an acid. Lye is a base. Lye is strong and can cause a burn, but vinegar will nutralize it.

    • Lu

    As a professional house cleaner, who owns a stainless steel dishwasher and HATES it. I’ve always used unsweetened Lemonaid Kool Aid in mine. Cheap (generic works) and it does the job. Removes all the residue and grime off the SS. When it starts to build up, I put one pkg in each side of the soap dispensers and run a regular wash cycle as if I was doing a load of dishes. I’ve passed this trick on to all of my clients and they love the idea as well.
    I’m not one to like the smell of vinegar lingering thru my house. Salt will also scratch glass, I use a combo of ice cubes and salt to clean the glass carafes to coffee pots. Leaves them like brand new.





    • margaret

    I’ve noticed with regular dishwasher powders, it smells like there is bleach in it. Would there be anything wrong with adding bleach to homemade powders?

    • Valerie

    This all sounds like a mess. I prefer to just handwash my dishes. I started washing dishes with my grandma when I was a litle girl and was so happy I got to do it. Then, at home, we had a dishwasher and I HATED loading that thing. I had to rinse them off very well before they could be put into the dishwasher. I thought, “might as well wash them by hand.” Then, I lived with someone who uses the homemade dishwashing soap and the glasses were cloudy at times and the dishes didn’t always come out clean. So, washing by hand, for me, is the best way to go. I hope you all find what works for you. 🙂

    • Richard Fries

    What everyone is playing with is basic chemistry and the unknown “water”. With everyone spread across the country and possibly world the water and what is in it will play a big factor. A lot of additions and subtractions of these chemicals will change water PH, can dissolve the minerals in the water or may actually combine with minerals to drop them out as a powder or residue. Unless everyone uses distilled water in their dishwasher, no one recipe will fit anyone. There will be people on town water or well water. This is where the commercial chemist have researched and come up with a combination of chemicals that will work mostly across the major water factors. In reading through some of these, I haven’t seen any one toss in a bit of “water softening agent”. This chemical generally helps dissolve most chemicals and soaps into the water and my create a more consistent home made recipe. Those with a little chemistry learning from school may have their water tested and find what major minerals they need to contend with. Richard Friese, Mundelein, IL

    • Kim

    My recipe: 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup washing soda, 1/2 cup citric acid, 1/2 cup salt. Use 1 tablespoon per load, with white vinegar as rince aid. Works great, no borax.

      • Renée

      This is exactly the recipe I use. I infuse the vinegar first with orange peels. I also have a water softener. I have been using this for 9 months and my dishes come out great!

    • Vkke

    Vinegar is used as a rinse aid because it cuts through any left over soap.


    Vinegar and Bleach will have a severe and toxic chemical reaction if used at same time.

    If you use bleach, DO NOT USE VINEGAR !!!

    • Laurie

    When I was still using Cascade and having no problems with residue on my dishes, I had a plumber fix a problem in my shower, and he told me my water was too hot. I turned it down, and after a dishwasher load or two I began to get the white residue. I thought it was the dishwasher and CLR’ed it. No help at all. I had the same problem with my homemade recipe. I turned the water temp back up a bit, and now I don’t have a problem. I have very hard water so I’m using the recipe with washing soda, borax, citric acid and kosher salt, and I add about 1/2 cup of vinegar when I start the load. Everything sparkles even better than it did with Cascade, and I’m a whole-hearted convert to homemade dishwasher detergent! My dishwasher is probably 20 yrs old – installed when the house was built – and as long as my water is hot enough it cleans like a new one.

    • EEEEMommy

    I have read through so many of these comments. I made up a batch of #1 with an added koolaid packet and added salt. I’ve used the vinegar. We have hard water, but the salt was just refilled on our water softener. I’ve run the washer on extra hot, sanitary.
    We still have cloudiness. I’m not sure about whether it’s worth it to spend the money on the citric acid.

    I’ve also read the debate about Borax. I use it to make laundry detergent, and that hasn’t bothered me. What bothers me is that this cloudiness on our dishes is Borax, and because it’s not being rinsed off, we’re ingesting it. So, for all the people who say it won’t hurt, it WILL if it’s not being removed properly, which it isn’t…at least by my dishwasher.

    • Heidi LeSueur

    When I ran out of dishwasher detergent, I decided to make my own. Since I already make my own laundry detergent, I had borax and washing soda on hand. I used the recipe that called for equal parts of borax and washing soda, plus a little salt. I added a few drops of dish soap to each load to help get rid of grease. I used vinegar in the rinse. I noticed right away, that my dishwasher and dishes didn’t have that yucky smell anymore, but I was unimpressed with the cleanliness of the dishes. The silverware did not come very clean, and they were covered with a chalky residue. I tried the detergent for a couple weeks to give it a chance, but eventually went back to using the Finish Gel pacs. It was nice to have clean silverware again. I will say though, that if you are in a pinch and need something, you could probably get by with just putting some borax in the machine. It’s better than washing a large load by hand. Borax is also effective at getting rid of that yucky odor your dishwasher may get.

    • momofthree

    The Borax might not kill you but the radon in your water might!

    • Cheryl

    I found that TSP (tri sodium phosphate), 1/4 tsp, will help with film and left over food particles. You can get it at Home Depot, Lowes etc, or from Amazon. I also use vinegar in rinse.

    • Nanette

    After making my own laundry det. And softener, both great successes and saving megabucks, I’m excited to try dishwasher detergent. I already use 1/2 water 1/2 vinegar in my rinse dispenser. After 3-4 loads my dishwasher sparkles and dishes very clean…squeaky clean. Having decent water and all components to make dishwasher soap, will give it a try. Cannot believe how much money i have saved on laundry products alone using homemade. I do many loads due to pet blankets and such. So far, all my homeade stuff has worked very well, if not better, than specialized cleaners. My favorite, a spray bottle with 3-4 pumps of regular dawn det. Mixed with water. Cleans everything, including windows and carpet spots. How economical can u get?

    • Teri

    I had read somewhere that you can use hydrogen peroxide in homemade dishwasher detergent. Has anyone tried that? If so, what was your recipe?

    • Jo Jo

    Hello everyone,
    In my research I found the use for kosher salt is for softening hard water. You can use epsom salt instead. I don’t much about kosher salt, but no doubt regular table salt will leave serious residue. If you don’t have hard water you don’t have to use salt, but I would say Epsom salt would be better..imo

    • Victoria

    Well……powder #3….I tried the washing soda and a TBL spoon of liquid dish soap……may I recommend reading ALL the instructions FIRST. 🙂 otherwise you may use a TBLsp of store bought liquid dish soap …and spend some time washing the kitchen floor with ALL THOSE BUBBLES! Hahaha

    • Jen

    I had an idea and wanted to know what everyone thinks of it. Let me first say that my washer has Pot Scrubber, which basically offers an extra wash at the beginning, then will drain and start the Regular Load and Light Load – although that just related to how long that wash will last.
    Based on various recipes I’ve read, I was thinking of starting the washer at Pot Scrubber, using simply Borax and Baking Soda; then, when it’s almost done washing (since I’ve read that the film is b/c the detergent hasn’t gotten completely off), turn it back and add some white vinegar; what do you think?

    • Ashley

    Omigosh Help!
    I LOVE this site! I have made powdered and liquid, but couldnt remember my fav liquid # ao I wne t with the biggest…
    So I made recipe #1 with Ivory. I followed the directions to a T, but had a little lack of patience and had a few dime sized chunks of soap. I continued to cook on low, adding the w.soda and borax. I got my 40lb empty cat littler container wih lid and handle ( someone elses GREAT idea!!) and stirred the dickens pit of the mixture. I added the extra 2gallons of water and have a 2 in thick layer of glop! I have no idea how to fi this. After about 2 hours on the stove it disnt incorporate at all! Lots of heat and stiring involved.
    I added one more gallon so I have a total of 3 gallons in my soap!

    • Ruth

    I have found the best recipe is one part borax, one part washing soda, and one part citric acid. You can use lemishine if you can’t find citric acid, but it doesn’t seem to work as well. I use vinegar for the rise and the pot scrubber option.

    • Debra Mathews

    I was completely happy using vinegar in my rinse aid dispenser until I read in my manual that it eventually caused streaks in the aluminum tubs of dishwashers. I immediately bought a bottle of Cascade Rinse Aid and now have spots on my dishes! Is this a scare tactic used to promote commercially made rinse aids? What are the odds of me developing streaks inside my new dishwasher?

    • sue

    Hi. I like the recipes and discussion.

    One thing that has not been mentioned is that borax often has arsenic in it, enough to be concerned about. Look it up. Type in “borax arsenic” in your search engine.


    • sue

    I just read online that 20 Mule Team borax mine in California is one of the most environmentally friendly mines, and that their borax doesn’t have the arsenic. I can’t confirm that fact, though. I just read it. You can research it, though.


    • JMan

    I have watched a friend SAVE money on these homemade remedies. The glasses have a film on them, the plates don’t look clean, the silverware have spots, AND you could definitely go on Lawrence Welk and bubble up the place with the suds. Now, we are supposed to EAT from these utensils? Really?

    • Zeenie

    I read somewhere else when using bar soap to microwave it and it crumbles. Much better than grating.
    Gave it a try and whoopeeee. In my 1000w microwave did 2 minutes, worked pretty good, small centre bit was hard to crumble so next time will 2 1/2 minute it. Centre still crumbled ok in the mortar and pestle, outside crumbled beautifully in my hand. Dosen’t effect the soap at all!

    • Angelgirl

    I made up some detergent using 1 cup washing soda, 1 cup borax and 1/2 cup kosher salt then added 2 packets of lemonade Koolaide to the mix. I used 1 TBSP last night and vinegar for the rinse aid. Now my dishes have a residue on them. They look clean but you can feel the residue on them. What should I do?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *