Live on Less – Homemade Dishwasher Detergent for $.06 a Load {Picture Tutorial}

Marji here with another homemade cleaner recipe, a great way to live on less. I’ve been meaning to try this recipe for a while. Cathy asked if I had tried homemade dishwasher detergent I decided I needed to make it and try it and share it with all you Fabulessly Frugal Readers. There are lots of recipes out there. This is the one that was pretty consistently listed as one that worked really well. One disclaimer though if you have hard water you might have to make some adjustments a little more, like adding more salt or using 2 TBSP instead of 1.

Here are the ingredients for homemade dishwasher detergent:

dish deter

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I had everything on hand but the unsweetened lemonade mix. I got the generic brand for 10 cents a package.

I just added everything to the container I was going to store it in.



I stirred it and broke up some clumps


Then I shook it to get it good and mixed up.



I had to cut some vinyl to label my container. I put the 1 TBSP on so my husband will know how much to put in when he does the dishes. I put a tablespoon in the container for easy dispensing.


If you have a prewash compartment on your washer, put a little of the 1 tbsp. in there, I put about a third of the tablespoon in the smaller compartment.


Another important thing to do to prevent cloudy glasses is to add white vinegar to the rinse aid dispenser.  People with really hard water used Lemi Shine instead of the lemonade or citric acid. Since we don’t have hard water I didn’t try this out.

I read a few things online that people were concerned about using borax to wash the dishes with, I didn’t see anything that I was concerned about. One site did say it can clog up your system so use a store bought detergent once a month to keep it clear.  (Borax isn’t good if it is ingested, but that is true for any dishwasher detergent.  You want keep it and all cleaning products away from kids.)

I have used it a few times and my dishes look great, no cloudy glasses and shiny silverware. The price for the batch (which will do about 80 loads if you use 1 tbsp.) is around $4.50.  I figure it is worth it to try it for a month, it is a savings from what I was spending on the generic brand.


You might also like to learn how to make your own:

Homemade Fabric Softener

Homemade Laundry Detergent


  • Stacy

    Does this mixture clump up when stored? I had read that about some other recipes, but they were using actual citric acid and not a kool aid packet

    • Marji

      I’ve had mine made for about a week and it hasn’t clumped or hardened at all. From what I read it hardened up the first day with the citric acid.

    • Michael

      add a coupla tablespoons of uncooked rice to all of that to reduce clumping. It works like a charm

      • erinshunnies

        ok, so I am sorry if this is a dumb ?
        what happens to the rice, is it small enough to not clog this dishwasher?
        thanks so much! this is my second wash day using diy powder laundry detergent. i am very pleased with how much softer my clothes are and whites are noticeable whiter. looking forward to trying dishwasher detergent, using Finish now works great to costly. Thanks for any tips on the rice ?

        • Jodie

          My GUESS (because I haven’t tried this; mine isn’t clumping) is that the rice would soften in the water, and it wouldn’t get stuck in the drain. But I read further down here that they’re putting a tiny amount of rice in a small piece of cloth, so it won’t actually go into the dishwasher, but rather absorb extra moisture.

        • Denise Martinez

          I love the laundry detergent..I’ve used it several years and it’s awesome…I do add kosher salt to the laundry detergent mix because it really helps soften..

    • LIsa

      I believe placing a piece of chalk in the container will work the same as the rice. Another idea for the rice is to place into an organza bag with a drawstring. At $ tree in the wedding favor isle.

  • Melissa

    ANY Citrus you put in your dishwasher (orange, lime, lemon) WILL ETCH your glasses/glassware. Just fyi!

    • Heather T

      I’ve always been told the same thing–you shouldn’t use any kind of citrus in the dishwasher. It eats through the finish on your silverware–that’s what the spots on it usually are. And it can create little pits in your glasses.

    • Mechelle

      OK so how come we let our kids (and adults) drink this stuff if it will etch glassware?

      • Carol

        I have used the food grade citric acid in my auto dishwashing soap for years, it hasn’t done nothing to my silver wear or glasses except make them clean. I have had issues with clumping though, going to try the rice in a bag.

  • add vinegar as your rinse aide your dishes won’t come out so spotty looking.!

    • Elizabeth

      I did this and it does help however i did this dishwasher mix above and my dishes was NASTY i had to soak my plastics in hot water and scrub them with dawn dish soap!!!! is there another way this can be done or maybe a liquid? So, my dishes are not full of powder?

  • FurgalMT

    What is the total amount of Citric Acid? I have citric acid on hand – and it’s in my kitchen in a tightly sealed container – thus it doesn’t harden do to exposure to moisture.

  • Wendy

    There is citric acid in the kool aid.

  • Jessica

    Do u even need the citric acid? What purpose does it hold?

    • Marji

      i found this about why Citric acid: found in citrus fruits like lemons, has a bleaching effect, dissolves grease and hard water particles, and prevents clouding.

    • TinaC

      If you don’t use the citric acid your dishes will come out with a cloudy residue. I’ve tried it with and without, and greatly prefer it “with”. I have used it for some time now and have no pitting or etching on my glasses or wearing on my flatware as others have reported. Maybe it’s related to the type of flatware/glasses you have, I don’t know.

  • mary

    What size pks. of Kool Aid do you use? How many oz. .?

    • Marji

      Just the little packets of unsweetened lemonade, it says .17 oz on the packet.

      • Beidget

        FYI….it doesn’t have to be just lemonade kool-aid. it doesn’t matter if it’s strawberry, all flavors of kool-aid has the same amount of citric acid added to each packet.

  • Rachel

    Why do you use kosher salt?

  • Teresa

    Add three or four drops of dish soap. It will make a complete difference in the way the dishes look. I have been using homemade since November. Started adding dish liquid in December. It was ok before but with dish soap ( I use dawn or Gain) I will never go back. I have used Castile but I do not like it as well.

    • CASSIE

      you add the dish soap to the dry powder or 3-4 drops in the dishwasher with each wash?

      • Jodie

        I *think* they meant per-load. I’ve seen where people have added a few drops Dawn or whatever and a handful of baking soda, which stops the foaming. I don’t know how well this works, but I do recall reading it, so I think she’s just adding the drops of Dawn/Gain after she throws in the dry powder into the dishwasher. (Sorry so wordy!)

  • brook

    I have hard water and would use Lemi Shine. Do they say how much they are using of the Lemi Shine in the recipe? Can’t wait to try this. I do not like paying for laundry or dish detergent! Thanks for the tips.

    • Marji

      from what I read, they use the whole bottle of Lemishine instead of the lemonade packets or citric acid. I’ve seen LemiShine at Wal-mart and target for around $3.50.

  • angela terilli

    Do you add the 4 or 5 drops of dish soap to the whole batch or each load?

  • Connie

    A family friend of ours is a whirlpool brand repairman and he said very specifically that borax is wonderful to use in your dishwasher. It is safe for the machine and for eating off of (that’s what the rinse cycle is for!)

    • Cathy

      I always use Borax in my dishwasher. It cleared up my clouding issues. Works great in the washer too. Safeway carries it as well as hardware stores. Check it out, and you will find out it has many uses.

  • Tammy E

    If you search online for 20 mule team borax( i believe it is, then go to their customer feedback email and write them that you like their products (I use the fels-naptha and 20 mule team borax) they will send you coupons in the mail for which ever products you list that you use. I generally get 3 coupons for each that expire in 3 months! More savings!

  • Angela S

    Where did you buy the 20 Mule Team Borax?

    • Danna

      I have purchased 20 Mule Team Borax both at my local grocery store and at Target. It is typically located in the laundry aisle, it’s not always easy to find, usually on a top or bottom shelf.

      • Keri

        You can also usually find the Borax and the washing soda at the hardware store. If they don’t have it, ask them if they can special order it for you. Make sure you get WASHING soda and not BAKING soda. They’re not the same thing!

        • Jodie

          Although … I’ve been wondering if I can bake my baking soda in the oven for an hour at 350 and use that as a substitute for washing soda. I’ve done that in the past with laundry soap, so I don’t see why not with dishwasher. (Baking soda is much cheaper, and when baked, it changed the molecular make-up of the soda, turning it into washing soda.)

  • Brenda

    I made dish washing powder today and after about 4 hours it’s already clumping up. What can I do to prevent this?

    • try tossing a piece of bread in with the mixture like you would with brown sugar!

      • kursenbach

        I have stopped the clumping by tying about a tablespoon of rice in small piece of cloth and putting it into the detergent container, it absorbs the extra moisture which is causing the clumping

    • Lita

      Move to someplace arid, like SW Idaho! lol

      • jen

        Ha! That’s where I live! (Does that mean it won’t clump here?)
        ON A SERIOUS NOTE…WARNING: LOADED QUESTIONS HERE… Does anybody know if I need Lemi-Shine in Nampa? ALSO, I’m trying to decide if the price would be worth it for me. Usually a big, $4 container of Cascade or Finish makes it one month. Since this costs about $4, is it worth it? OR does this make a lot more than those big bottles? We keep going back-and-forth on whether we need something like Lemi-Shine, or if I just need to turn up the hot water heater. I tend to keep it down, because our grandson comes here a lot. My husband says that the washer needs hotter water for it to do a better job on glass. Is that true?

    • I have had a problemwith the detergent clumping up, I have to put it in the microwave to get it to loosen up, otherwise it works really well. I stored mine in a glass jar, I would have thought it wouldn’t clump being in a glass jar, any hints on what to do?

    • Deb

      Try keeping one of those silica gel packets that come in electronic packages, handbags, shoeboxes, etc. Keep them in their packet so the chemicals don’t get into the detergent. I keep several packets in a bag of rice to dry out electronics.

    • Nancy

      I have just recently tried using some of those little packets that you might find in some shoe boxes and other places used to reduce humidity in my containers of homemade detergent. I throw in about 2 little packets. Have not had a problem with clumping since.

  • anne

    Hi, I was wondering if anyone knew how to convert this dishwasher soap to a liquid? I make liquid laundry soap. We have a septic system and cannot use powder. I figured I could measure the dry ingredients and add the same amount of hot water to disolve, then use 2 tablespoons?

  • Heidi

    I made a batch of the soap a couple of weeks ago. I think the dishes are clean, but they often feel like they have a powdery residue on them after they dry. If you rub it, nothing comes off on your hands. I was just wondering this happened to anyone else. I read the previous posts and I think I will try adding a few drops of dish soap to the next load. I do feel like the glasses are cloudy. Thanks! Heidi

    • Rhonda

      Set a small bowl of white vinegar on the bottom rack of the dishwasher each time you run you cycle. This will get rid of the spots and grime and cloudiness. It took me months to figure this out. I was at the point that I was going to buy a new dishwasher and came across this tip online. It is amazing!! Leaves you dishes sparkling.

    • Dixie

      I made a huge batch of this and loved how clean the dishes were….but I still am having clouding issues, I have tried as much as a cup of vinegar in each load. I don’t understand and am frustrated that I can’t use it now….any suggestions y’all?

    • Nancy

      I added a bit more citric acid to the batch and also squeeze about 1/3 cup of white vinegar to each load. I found a squirt bottle and now keep my vinegar in it for the dishes exclusively.This made the difference with my cloudy and filmy dishware.

  • Stephani

    For anyone near a 99c only store…I found the detergent pods for the dishwasher in an obscure isle. My sis & I ordered 2 cases of these…99c for 22 of them! If they stop making them I will try this recipe but for now…and the containers are pretty nice for storage…sending them out to the new garage for my Hunny. 🙂

  • A recipe I found several years ago said to use baking soda, not washing soda. It works well, but we do not like the smell. And my recipe did not call for citric acid. I usually mix half home-made and half store-brand detergent together to get a little better smell. I still have about half a bag of baking soda left and don’t feel comfortable using it for baking. Should I switch to washing soda?

  • Sheri Powelson

    I made this recipe yesterday & tried it today. This works BETTER than any store-bought dishwasher detergent that I have ever used! Thank you so much for not only saving me a TON of money, but also for sharing something that works!

  • Christina

    I am not sure what I did wrong but i made the detergent following this recipe exactly and all my glasses have etching in them. Now I have to go buy new glasses. Could this be from the citric acid?

  • JayJay

    I undo the packet tea comes in, pour rice in, staple and keep that in my canisters, etc.
    This may help prevent clumping.

  • Stacey

    Does it have to be kosher salt or can it just be regular salt? Also, does the vinegar in the rinse aid dispenser a replacement for something like OxiClean Booster?

  • I am trying to switch to all homemade cleaners. This post is definitely going to be Pinned and bookmarked so I can easily refer back to it! Thanks so much for all the useful tips.

  • Rachel

    Do I have to use the borax or would it work without it?

  • Kaye

    We have been using this recipe for well over a year with excellent results. We always use white vinegar as a rinse agent and I use 1 c citric acid due to hard water along with 1/2 c kosher salt. We never have puts, etching or powdery residue or clumping.

  • coreen

    Started useing this last week i followed the directions and the first few days dish loads were fine noe they have a white residue on them bowls,dishes,cups and my silverwear look to get getting tarnished.anyone else have this happen?i am useing vinegar for a rinse aid and i’ve even put an extra 1-2 tbsp in bottom of dishwasher before starting it.Any suggestions?could i have hard water? thanks

  • perri

    Do you have a recipe for dish soap, or would this work in a sink full too? I do not have a dishwasher, and have yet to find a recipe for dish soap.

  • A. States

    I have well water, but it goes through a whole house filter, iron out system and a water softener. I have tried many different “recipes” for dishwasher detergent. My dishes are clean but my glassware and clear glass bowls are cloudy. I use vinegar in the rinse aid compartment. Help.

  • EGabel

    The Arm and Hammer Website also carries $1.00 off coupons for thier products.

  • lauren

    Honestly, I’ve tried this recipe with epsom salt and the white vinegar as a rinse aid, and my clear glasses turn out after a few washes cloudy as all getout – although do you think that the regular salt will make a difference since it doesn’t contain magnesium (the suspicious cloud-er)

  • Karen

    Please forgive me for not reading through all the comments-my glasses and silverware (cheap walmart) are cloudy. I’d really like to salvage this as store brands are so expensive and I have a large family. Any suggestions? I’m not really sure how hard our water is-I’m assuming it’s in between hard and soft.

  • Raven

    Does anyone know if it will work without the citric acid? I got the wrong kind at the site and I was wondering if I could still run it with just borax, washing soda and kosher salt.

  • Susan

    Hi Have tried this recipe and other similar ones with just OK results. However I have found it isn’t necessarily cheaper. US prices: Washing soda costs 7.2 cents per ounce and borax about 5 cents per oz. Average 6 cents per ounce if using just those 2 main ingredients and no citric acid. Powdered Cascade dishwasher detergent is 5 cents per ounce at Walmart. We have hard water and I fill the dispenser fully which weighs in at about 2 ounces of either homemade or cascade powder, therefore 10 cents per load for cascade. At walmart the 200 load size of cascade rinse aid is $6 = 3 cents per load.
    Canadian prices (where I am): Washing soda 6.4 cents per ounce borax 8.5 cents per ounce. Therefore homemade mixture=$7.4 cents per ounce. Cascade powder at bulk store $10 for 5.1 kg = 5.5 cents per ounce. Cascade rinse agent 200 load size at costco $5 = 2 cents per load.
    I like the results of the cascade combo a lot better (they come out fabulously shiny clean) and it costs about the same. 13 CAD cents a load if filling the dispensers right full.

  • Barbara Buckwalter

    We have really hardwater. If I add Lemi Shine to the homemade dishwasher soap, how much would I use. I am so tired of cloudy glasses and in between fork tines.
    Thanks for your help.

  • Bobbi

    This didn’t work well for me. I ran the dishwasher twice and I still had dirty dishes. The rest of the batch went in the garbage! I will continue to look for alternatives to expensive products.

    • That stinks… i know when my dishes aren’t coming clean it’s usually the dishwasher food traps being full, thanks to little helpers loading the dishwasher… I would make sure those are empty, and maybe run a load of just vinegar to see if that clears things out for you! I bet you’d love this detergent then!

  • Mrs P.

    I mixed
    2 cups of Borax
    2 cups of washing soda
    1 cup of citric acid

    Once mixed if foamed and became wet and gloopy.,.. What did I do wrong? I never put salt in as I had put salt in the dishwasher when I bought it recently. How do I get a dry powder?

    • Becky

      Is it possible your container was slightly damp? Or did you possibly use a liquid version of one of the ingredients instead?

      • Mrs P

        no. I empty the washing soda crystals into a small plastic bucket with a snap on lid. The same with the citric acid and borax and store them under the sink. I put the mix in a dry bowl and then mixed them by hand. It was then that it started to foam, slightly at first and then got gloopier as I went on. I have put the gloop into ice cube thingies and now the ‘solids’ have settled on the bottom while a thick gel like liquid floats on top. I will have to spoon each one out to put it in my machine. I so much wanted a dry powder. I use 1 tablespoon each of Borax, washing soda and citric acid with 1 teaspoon of unscented Surcare washing up liquid in 1 pint of hot water to dissolve and after it foamed and cooled down, I put it in a spay bottle and it is a wonderful leaner and removes limescale beautifully. I don’t understand the dishwasher mix as they are all powders.

        • Becky

          I don’t know either 🙁 I’m so sorry!

          • Mrs P

            I have taken all the powders out from under the sink and am leaving them for a while to see if they ‘dry out’. I will feel the texture in a few days. It is possible that being under the sink is a not so dry atmosphere for some reason. then I will try again and let you know. The gloop i made did clean beautifully though. It doesn’t clean the burned on brown oily bits off my pyrex dish though but it is softened. I am determined to get this right.

        • Mrs P

          I have taken the powders out from under the sink to see if they would be any drier in a few days then I will test the recipe again. It is possible that the undersink environment is not as dry as it should be. I will let you know how i get on with it . I am dertermined to get it right as the gloop cleans so beautifully even though it doesn’t get rid of the brown burnt on oi off my pyrex dish.


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