Frugal DIY: How to Make Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

 This very popular post was screaming for some more attention, so here you go!

Recently we shared a recipe to make your own Homemade Laundry Detergent, today we’re sharing a recipe for Homemade Dishwasher Detergent. Have you ever tried to make this?   We’d love to hear your experiences and/or variations to the recipe too!

Dishwasher Detergent ingredients: (Walmart Pricing)

  • 1 box Borax -(4lbs 12 oz or 76 oz ) $2.98 – found in the detergent isle
  • 1 box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda – (55 oz or 3 lbs 7 oz) $3.24 – found in the detergent isle
  • 24 packages of unsweetened lemonade drink mix, or 1/2 cup citric acid –  $ 6.00 (*Note: lemonade will stain soap dispenser yellow, another option would be to use citric acid instead of lemonade. You can usually find citric acid in the canning isle.)
  • 3 cups Epsom Salt or Kosher Salt – $3.28
Combine all ingredients and mix well. (You will need a very large container to hold all the ingredients.)  Use 1 tablespoon per wash cycle. It has no fillers so you do not have to use nearly as much to get the job done!

Rinse Aid if you use it…

  • White Vinegar (super cheap!) or Lemi Shine – $3.66 (found on the dishwasher detergent aisle).

Here are a few more tips…

This detergent will clump because of the citric acid. Here are a few ways to make it clump less:

  • Add a tsp of rice to the detergent to help absorb moisture.
  • After combining ingredients, leave mixture out and stir several times each day for a day or two. (This is how we do it.)
  • Add citric acid separately to each dishwasher load rather than adding it to the detergent.

If your dishwasher will accept blocks of detergent you can form blocks by using ice cube trays. Simply place desired amount of detergent into trays immediately after combining ingredients. Use 1 block for each load.


  1. Kristy Reyes Antonacci via Facebook says

    Does it work well? We have hard water & need phosphates (sp).
    If you do not use koolaid how much of the other do you use?

  2. Cheryl Drace Torres via Facebook says

    I made this about a week ago with kool aid and it works GREAT! No water spots or anything! I’m sold!

  3. Sara Clary Failla via Facebook says

    I have been using this for a couple of months but I have learned that I need to use more than just 2 Tbsp or my dishes don’t get thoroughly cleaned. Even with using more, it’s still more economical than buying the prepackaged stuff!

  4. Jaime says

    Sounds great! Just curious, about how many loads do you get per batch of soap? My head isn’t wrapping around the numbers right now!

    • Emily says

      Do you put the white vinegar right into the spot where you put the jet dry? Do you use full strength or dilute the viegar?

      • Erin says

        Yes-I just got a dishwasher and was looking online for a natural rinse aid, so many site said use white vinegar and so I did. Works great, no chemicals and my dishes don’t smell like vinegar.

        I use Biokleen dishwasher detergent though, I would make my own from this recipe, but I won’t use Kool-Aid. All that artificial color and staining my new dishwasher-no thanks.

  5. Rebecca Pope via Facebook says

    Make sure you don’t leave out the koolaid or citric acid. The dishes will look so dirty without it.

    • Janelle says

      Does anybody know if I can sub fresh lemon juice for the koolaid/citric acid/lemishine? We have plenty of lemons on hand! Thanks for any replies.

      • maria says

        Janelle, apparently the citric acid content of lemon juice is not high enough to make the detergent do its job. For your detergent to work well, it is best to use citric qcid or Lemi-Shine. However you could use the lemon juice as a rinse aid! Let me know how that works for you :)

  6. Christina says

    I’m SO excited to give this a try! I’m also going to try the homemade laundry detergent. My husband started reading this and is willing to help. :-)
    I do have a question for you: what can I use in place of citric acid? Do I have to have it? (I do not buy dishwasher detergent with Lemon because it ruins my good silverware).

  7. Kam says

    I have a smaller batch recipe (didn’t have enough salt to do this recipe:)
    1/2 c borax
    1/2 c soda
    1/4 c citric acid
    1/4 c kosher salt
    shake well – this will leave you enough borax & soda to make laundry soap also:) Thanks so much!!

  8. Holly says

    Been making the homemade laundry soap for almost 3 yrs. LOVE it!!! Won’t go back to store bought, and it’s been great for my daughter and mine eczema.
    Does anyone know how much it costs per dishwasher load of this detergent? I know that the laundry soap is less that 2 cents, but I wonder if the dishwasher soap is comparable to store bought.

  9. Cheryl Drace Torres via Facebook says

    I make my own dishwasher detergent using Borax, Super Washing Soda, Kosher Salt, and Lemonade Kool-Aid. It’s FABULOUS and works better than Cascade ever did…plus…SO MUCH CHEAPER!

  10. Denise says

    It has to be lemon koolaide. It doesn’t stain and has more citric acid than the others. However you could buy lemishine and use it instead and it doesn’t clump on us. It’s a bit more expensive but still making the whole batches, it is less expensive than the store bought stuff by far.

  11. leslie says

    I understand that it is less expensive to use this dishwasher recipe. But does anyone know how much per load? And is it cheaper than say Finish at $1.67 per box of 20 loads, which is 8 cents a load.


  12. Kelly says

    I made this and it did not clean the dishes. Not sure if it is from us having well water, but everything also had spots even when using the vinegar. It is not like we leave a lot of food on the dishes, but they looked horrible. Any thoughts as to what I can change on the recipe to try to make it better? LOVE the laundry detergent and would LOVE to make dishwasher detergent that cleaned.

    • Dina says

      I had the same problem. We have hard water from a well and I noticed the detergent left a griitty feeling on all our dishes; even with vinegar in the rinse aid holder. I even followed someones suggestion of blending te detergent so it is a finer powder. that didn’t work :( right now I have a very large amount of this waiting for another suggestion to make it work,

      • Diana says

        Dina have you tried putting a half cup of vinegar in the bottom of your dishwasher ? I hear that works haven’t tried but I will this week.

          • Andrew says

            Instead of Kool Aid, you can get a product called Lemi Shine. It’s sold at Wal-Mart. Add one cup of Lemi Shine to the detergent mixture. Lemi Shine is a Citric Acid formula that can be used in diswashers. If you are concerned about Phosphates, you can also get Tri Sodium Phosphate from any place that sells paint products. Make sure you buy the real TSP, not the TSP-PF (the PF stands for “Phosphate Free”) Use TSP alongside your regular dishwasher detergent (about one tablespoon in the detergent cup should do).

  13. Noreen Ordista via Facebook says

    Thanks for this! We’re moving into a place that has a dishwasher and I was wondering if I could start making my own dishwasher detergent.

  14. Brittany says

    The only citric acid I could find at our store is Fruit Fresh (or something to that effect). Does anyone know how much citric acid I need to use if I’m not doing the Lemon Kool-aid?

    Also, if you use Lemishine, do you also need the citric acid?

  15. Kelly Diddens Persichetti via Facebook says

    So I posted a question for those using this a while back and never got any feedback. The film on my dishes is awful & it is leaving little bits of food on dishes. I am having to wash them before putting them in then they still have the film. Any suggestions???

    • Teresa says

      I had a retired plumber tell me that my new dishwasher needed to be “cleaned” every 20 or so loads by placing a bowl with approximately 1-2 cups of distilled vinegar in it on the bottom shelf and run the dishwasher on the hottest and longest setting. This cleans the inside of the workings of the dishwasher, thus making it able to clean my dishes better. This also will extend the life on my dishwasher. He also told me that if my old dishwasher had lost its cleaning ability I could use CLR this way. The culprit to many dishwasher “ailments is calcium/limestone. It clogs up the inner workings of our water appliances and shortens their life.

      • Anonymous says

        Thanks for the info, I live in the country and have well water with lime and calcium, I dread to see what the elements look like in our hotwater heater, but this should help to keep my dishwasher in great condition, I have tried the vinegar before but not the CLR, I am running it thru at this very moment!! I do make my own dishwasher detergent and laundry soap, I’m sensitive to scented soaps, being that I have fibromyalgia, I am expecting a great result, this advice makes great since! Also for you folks that have septic tanks, this should really help on the breakdown in the tank as well, also a plumber told us to just use a package of yeast with 1 qt hot water, once a month, Thanks again!

  16. Jaci Berntzen Knittel via Facebook says

    Kelly, I’m having the same problem. It started off working pretty well when I first made it but, now that I’m at the end of my first batch, it’s leaving food/film on everything. Seriously considering going back to the store-bought stuff.

  17. Bevel says

    I made the big batch and used citric acid which I guessed on (1 cup?) instead of the Koolaid. I usually use liquid soap and I may go back. I find my plastics are a bit dull with this (which is fine), but there is also a smell when I open door after a cycle (I don’t think it is a bad smell, but it is distinct… maybe it’s a bad smell?). I also think I’ve seen more food bits in the dishwasher but I haven’t been loading so it could be user error.

    Does anyone have any suggestions for me?

  18. kelly says

    Does anyone know if you can sub regular baking soda for the super washing soda? I can’t find it anywhere. And I have a ton of baking soda left from cloth diapers. Thanks!

    • Shannon says

      You can make your own by baking the baking soda on a sheet pan for 30 minutes at 400 degrees turning once or twice in the process.

    • Amy says

      Washing soda is made from baking soda- you can bake it in the oven! there are how-tos all over the place to do this, i’ve never done it myself.

  19. Pam says

    @Kelly, no, you can’t use baking soda, you have to use washing soda. Baking soda isn’t the same thing. They usually carry the washing soda at Wal-mart, or even Home Depot or Lowes. Arm and Hammer makes it. You can go onto the Arm and Hammer website and they have a store locator for their products.

    I have a question about making the blocks in the freezer: Once they are frozen, can you take them out and store them? Or do you need to keep them in the freezer until you are ready to use them. Thanks!

  20. sheri a. says

    If your having problems with a film on your dishes or if you have hard water or well water you need to increase the citric acid or use 1cup Lemishine, which is made for hard water.

  21. Mom of three says

    I just made a batch of this (with only 20 kool-aid packets because that is all I had), and if my math is correct, it made 228 Tbs. So depending on how much the ingredients cost in your area, I think that is a huge savings. This will probably last me a year.

  22. Terri says

    For anyone having the bad spots left on dishes or food particles, I highly recommend trying the Lemishine. I found it at a publix supermarket. First load I did with it came out fabulous. I put my normal homemade detergent in the predawn cup and put 2 tbsp of the Lemishine in the wash cup. It is all natural and safe for septics, and doesn’t dye your dishwasher yellow. Since then I just added 1 cup of it to the original ingredients and haven’t had any more problems. Even with adding the Lemishine this recipe still comes out way cheaper then the Cascade complete I had to use since even the Finish or regular Cascade would leave spots and food on my dishes. Hope this helps!

  23. Tennie says

    I have been using this too. I first started with the kool ade then added the lemi shine because of the dull film on my glasses. I put the whole thing of lemi shine in the mix and it still has the film. Could it need more salt? I tried using a couple of squirts of dish liquid and no help. Any ideas? I use the 2 tbsp of mix.

    • Jenny says

      It could be your water softner if you have hard water. I ran into this problem a couple months back. Couldn’t figure why everything was so gritty. I ckd the softner and we were low on salt. Ater a few cycles. It started to work great. I also use Finish tablet once a month to help keep inside clean.
      @ Kelly…..You can use baking soda, washing soda, and lemonaid packets to make detergent. I only had a problem with the above comment…other than that, it works great.

  24. Cassie says

    I am about to make this dishwasher detergent recipe, have never tried homemade before but do use homemade laundry detergent. I noticed some comments about cloudy and filmy dishes. During my research for dishwasher recipes, I found some additional tips on another site that might help. She uses 3 drops of liquid dish soap (Dawn) in dispenser with the homemade detergent for each load. Also I read that Borax can clog drains and it’s recommended to use store bought detergent once a month. I hope that helps. Below is the link where I found these tips.

  25. Erica W says

    For anybody w/hard water, I did not have any success w/any homemade detergent I tried for the dishwasher (laundry, yes, but not for the dishwasher). I suggest to try to use way less (2 tsp or maybe 3 in 1st compartment & maybe 2 in the 2nd compartment), vinegar in the rinse compartment, & air dry only.

    Plastics should not be washed in the dishwasher… it causes them to break down & release all kinds of toxins, even the BPA free stuff. We use very little plastic, but I hand wash any we do use to avoid that issue.

    Oh, and I was told if people scrape dishes of all food bits it will cause the detergent (I don’t know about homemade, but def commercial detergent) to actually etch the glass because the detergent is meant to break down food bits & w/out any food bits to break down, the glass gets attacked.

    I found a recipe that called for 2 C LemiShine & I found that to be exorbitant ($4 just for the LS)… if I am going to pay that kind of money, I will just buy Ecover & be done with it… it is eco-friendly/safe & works VERY well w/all kinds of water… & I can make a box last a long time so it works out to be even cheaper that the recipes I have found so far. I am not sure how it would compare this THIS recipe, but so far, I know the homemade ones are way more expensive for me due to to having to use so much citric acid/kool-aid/LemiShine to combat the hard water. I feel the grief it causes me by the disappointment of yet another expensive home made detergent that has failed & the extra work of having to then hand wash glasses, etc. just isn’t worth it for me.

    I have had a lot of friends whom find success, but they have soft water… we do have a softener & it makes zero difference.

    As far as Borax clogging drains, I read that liquid auto dish detergent is better all the way around because ANY powder clogs drains, even Cascade, etc.

    I may give this recipe a shot making a very tiny test batch, but using LemiShine instead of citric acid or kool-aid… maybe increasing the LS will help… I bought for tiny bags of citcic acid from a healthfood store & that alone was $5 & I had to use ALL of the bags :(.

  26. Jenny says

    I have hard water too and it left a cloudy film on my dishes. After playing around, it was our water softner, it was low on salt. I use 1 tablet of Finish 1/mos. to help with inside maintence of dishwasher. I had to add more like 2 or 3 tsp to actually get dishes to come clean, but it seems to be doing the trick. Try it again and use a little more detergent to each cycle and see what happens.

  27. Kyra says

    I am thinking of trying this recipe as it can’t be any worse than the spots left by regular detergent. We have hard water but its only been a problem since they stopped using phosphates in the detergent. I’ve started using vinegar in the rinse cycle but am curious if the citric acid or Lemishine will work.

  28. Amy says

    We had a big problem with white residue left on dishes. We solved the problem by 1) cleaning our dishwasher with some lemshine dishwasher cleaner. 2) Adding about twice as much salt as recommended and 3) putting a tiny blob of dawn in the detergent before we switch the machine on.
    We now have great clean shiny dishes better than the shop bought detergent!

  29. Leslie says

    I am wanting to make this and I have bought all the ingredients. I decided to use the citric acid but I could only find it in 7.5 oz containers at walmart. How much should I use? If I wanted to add the citric acid separately, how much should I add to each load of dishes? Thanks for your help!!

  30. Leanne Schoenike says

    I plan to try the smaller batch listed and am wondering about the 1/4 cup citric acid.. I want to try koolaid first.. do I use 1/4 cup of koolaid then.. does it translate the same? Thanks for your help. Love the laundry detergent as well!

  31. Heather says

    How did the poster who pays $1.97 for 20 tabs find them at that price? Even watching for sales I can’t get them at that. . . more like $.14-.15c tab

    The problem I see with this one is that it is not that frugal. It would be if you could use the 1tbsp, but those who are doubling and tripling are also doubling and tripling the price LOL. The “frugal” option has now turned into .18c per load which is the same as storebought without working for it.
    I love frugal, and I am more into healthy and safe alternatives, but homemade for the sake of it when it costs as much good alternatives I don’t do so much *G*.

    I have to have time for all the other frugal things I do!

  32. Meems says

    I have a friend who absolutely loves making her own cleansers and has found that with her dishwashing detergent its easier to measure it out and store it in ice c ube trays and when they are clumped she pops them out and into a plastic strage bags. Come out to the same size as the commercial type pods and works amazingly for her.

  33. pam says

    I used this formula and I substituted a bottle of lemi-shine instead of citric acid, because I have hard water. My glasses are coming out cloudy. I use vinegar as a rinse-aid. What else can I add to make my glasses come out clear?

    Thanks –

  34. Pam says

    Is there a difference between kosher salt and epsom salt? I used kosher salt. Should I use the epsom salt next time or can I add it to the mixture I already made? Would using to much salt in the detergent be a bad thing?

    Thanks again –

  35. Barbara Hartley says

    Sorry to say this “recipe” did not perform up to expectations. The inside of coffee cups retained a stained appearance, glasses never looked clean. We threw away the remaining jar and went back to the grocery store for Cascade. Our dishes are finally clean again!


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