Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

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Have you looked at the price of dishwasher tablets these days? Without a good deal or a coupon, they can be really expensive. Sometimes as high as $0.60 per load which is just insane in my book. That just seems far too expensive to me to wash a load of dishes. If you’re already having problems with your budget failing,  the super expensive prices for things like this can really bust your budget. Making your own cleaning supplies though can be a huge step toward getting your spending under control. Making everything that you can homemade instead of buying is just one of the ways that we personally use to save money on groceries and lower our expenses overall. That’s where this homemade dishwasher detergent comes into the picture.

Tired of spending so much money on dishes? This homemade dishwasher detergent is cheaper, healthier for your family and works even better! You'll never buy store bought again!

This was one of the first products that we stopped buying and started making ourselves in 2015 when we were looking at removing harmful chemical based products from our home. Originally the recipe called to use lemon juice, but in the time since I originally started making it, I have changed that to lemon essential oil. I feel like using actual lemon juice creates a product that is too water far too often so you’re left up in the air as to whether your detergent will actually turn out or not. . If you prefer to use lemon juice instead of essential oil, the amount originally called for was 2 TBSP and it would be added when you simmer the recipe. Instructions for using EO are below.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

This homemade dishwasher detergent has a shelf life of months, but if you plan on storing it for that long, be sure you store it in a dark bottle since light can change the effectiveness of the essential oil. I personally prefer NOW Foods Brand Lemon oil for this one, but you can use any brand that you want. If you don’t want to use lemon oil, you can use any that you prefer however the lemon oil is in this recipe for a reason. Aside from the pleasant scent, lemon has disinfecting properties. Any citrus oil would have those same properties which make oils like lime oil, grapefruit oil, or orange oil a great substitution.

Tired of spending so much money on dishes? This homemade dishwasher detergent is cheaper, healthier for your family and works even better! You'll never buy store bought again!



You Will Need:




Place water in a large heavy bottomed pot and heat on medium-high heat until it boils.




Stir in the washing soda and using a whisk, stir until it it fully dissolved. Don’t use a spoon for this since that can cause the washing soda to cling to the spoon and clump. Also, washing soda is NOT baking soda. It is an entirely different product. If you look in store, you’ll find it in the laundry detergent aisle. Usually it’s pretty close to the Borax. If you don’t see it, look at the bottom or top shelves since sometimes it can be placed away from eye level.

Once the washing soda is fully dissolved, reduce the heat and let it cool down for a minute or two. Add the Borax and stir until it is fully dissolved.




Once the Borax is dissolved, add the soap. If you don’t have liquid Castile on hand, you can use 1/2 Castile bar soap. Grate it before adding and then add here like you would with liquid. Chances are good that it will foam up a bit like shown in the photo above. If you’re concerned that it will foam too much, add the soap a bit at a time allowing time for the shreds to melt if you used bar soap instead of liquid.

Simmer on low for 20 minutes making sure that you stir it with the whisk often. Again, make sure you’re using a whisk and not a spoon to help break up any clumps of powder that might pop up. I’ve never had that happen but since it is possible, I wanted to mention it.

Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Its best to let it cool overnight so be sure to sit it in an area where it won’t be disturbed.


Tired of spending so much money on dishes? This homemade dishwasher detergent is cheaper, healthier for your family and works even better! You'll never buy store bought again!


Once mixture has cooled and sat overnight, it should have a gel consistency. If you’re using essential oils to give it a cleaning or scent boost, add them now then give it a good stir again to combine and transfer to a quart sized mason jar. Do not add the oil while it’s still hot. Heat will kill the majority of the oils properties.

If after making your homemade dishwasher soap, you find that your soap is too thin, you can thicken it by making a salt water solution. Add .5 oz regular table salt to 1.5oz warm distilled water and stir until it is dissolved. Then, in very small amounts (1 ml or less), add to your soap and stir. Continue adding the salt water solution to your soap until you’ve got the consistency that you want. 

If you want to make using this a bit easier, you can pick up a mason jar soap pump to use in place of a lid. That’s how we use it when we’re not storing it and trust me when I say it makes my life so much easier!

To use, add 1-2 tablespoons of the soap mixture to your dishwasher and wash like normal. You can use this for hand washing dishes. Fill your sink 1/4 with water, add the soap then continue running your dishwater like normal. Wash and rinse well.

This homemade cleaning recipe makes 1 quart so if you’re looking to make in bulk, you’ll want to double or triple it. I have never done that though so I can not guarantee that it will turn out correctly if you do. If you try doubling it would you let me know how it works out so that I can update this post to let others know?


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Stacy Ott is the face and brain behind the frugal living and lifestyle blog Six Dollar Family as well as The Genealogy Queen and a few others.By the age of 30, Stacy had overcome an alcohol addiction, a drug addiction, divorce, survived domestic violence, and had built a life for herself and her daughter after spending 10 months in a homeless shelter. Stacy is passionate about homeless advocacy and addiction education.  Her first book, also called Six Dollar Family is available on Amazon.

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  1. Little Patch of Heaven Homestead says:

    When do you add the castile soap and lemon juice? I’d love to make this, but want to make sure I get it right. Thanks!

  2. Do you find this ever leaves a white residue on your dishes?

    • Kelsey, I haven’t had that issue. If you do though, add a bit of white vinegar to your rinse cycle. That should take care of it.

  3. Linda at Mixed Kreations says:

    I’ve been wanting to try and make my own dishwashing detergent as soon as I am out of my store bought. I bought my last couple bags on sale and used coupons so I got a good deal. But when it’s not on sale it’s really expensive. Thanks for the recipe. Pinned!

  4. chelsboots says:

    Could I substitute lemon juice with lime juice?

  5. I make my own Castile soap. I have been wanting to make a liquid dish soap, our dishwasher broke. I am gonna try your recipe with some of my grated Castile soap. Thanks for all the great recipes. Going to make the Laundry detergent too with my Castile soap. I too have always put off making the laundry detergent due to too many ingredients.

    • Love that you make your own! We’ve started to as well since liquid can be expensive. Let me know how things turn our with the homemade version please!

    • I had to go back to your post, ha Heid how do you make castile soap? i love using ot for everything but becoming very expensive and difficult to find. do you have recipe? would love it [please and thank you

  6. Is this recipe compatible with any dishwasher. I just want to make sure it will not clog it. Thanks

    • Chris, I’ve used it with both a portable dishwasher that we used to have as well as my built in one now with no issues. It shouldn’t clog since it is soap based, but if you’re concerned, run a test amount with a smaller amount of the detergent to test.

  7. Do you know the cost per tablespoon? Or load?

  8. Christine says:

    Canny wait to try this! I tried a different recipe I had found for a powdered dishwashing detergent & left my glasses cloudy with a powdery white residue! I put vinegar in my rinse cycle & it didn’t help at all! I’m hoping this will work better! Living on 1 income, I despise wasting $ on soaps & detergents! Been making my own (laundry soap, deodorant, chap sticks, hand lotions) for over a year now & K absolutely love doing it! Thanks so much! I hope this works for me!!!!

    • Try adding a couple of tablespoons of citric acid. I had the same problem and that cleared it right up! (I ended up using lemon concentrate cubes from the freezer because I had a ton of them.)

    • Janet Blatti says:

      Christine, do you have a deodorant reipe that doesn’t leave oil stains on your clothing? I can’t use baking soda as I am very sensitive to it. TIA

  9. Shaunna says:

    What is the super washing soda? Is it the same as baking soda? I can’t find it anywhere!

    • Shaunna, Washing soda is in the laundry aisle. It is not the same as baking soda. It’s with the powdered detergent and Borax. If you can’t find it in the store, I believe I linked to some in the post for folks who have that issue.

  10. Mary Ann Evans says:

    I don’t have a heavy duty pot so I’d like to know if this would work in a regular pasta pot and not ruin it. Thanks

    • Stacy Barr says:

      Mary Ann, it should be fine in a regular pot. I just prefer to use a heavy bottomed one because they usually distribute heat more evenly.

      • Mary Ann Evans says:

        Thanks, also do you think this would be okay stored in a leftover dishwasher bottle. I don’t have any large glass jars and it would be easy to pour. Thanks again for a great idea.

        • Stacy Barr says:

          I think that would be fine. Just keep in mind that if the bottle is light or clear in color, the oils will lose some of their properties. If that’s the case, I would mix it up until that point, store then label reminding myself to add the oils and shake before use.

  11. Tami Paz says:

    Thanks Stacy! I have looked for diy soap recipes. Yours is fantastic! I do add vinegar instead of the outrageously expensive name brand rinsing agents. Nice to know the vinegar is an anti- microbiol as well. ?? ❤️

  12. HI! Thank you for the recipe! I did double your recipe and I let it sit all day.. that end results is that it is just a tad thicker than water ;( definitely not a gel consistency! What did I do wrong? My amounts were right, I let it sit more than overnight… What can I do now??

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

    • Stacy Barr says:

      Kissy, try pouring into a heavy bottom pan and heating it to a simmer. Let it simmer for a few minutes then pour it back into your container to cool. The borax and other ingredients may not have gotten completely melted. You could also try shredding a bar of castile soap until you have the amount called for and melting that into it instead of liquid.

  13. I just wanted to let you know that I’ve doubled the recipe and I’ve had no issues what-so-ever. It filled a large mason jar easily. Just so you know that it can be doubled without any issues! HTH ?

  14. I made this twice – first time I mixed the soda and borax proportions wrong. It came out very thick and grainy but still worked fine. Made it again being extra careful to do it exactly right and it turned out as thick gel. So my question is, do I need to recook it and add more water, andJ if so, how much? I simmered it without a lid on it and wonder if too much evaporated?

    • Stacy Barr says:

      I wouldn’t cook it again. Too much heat will kill the properties of the lemon oil. I would see if you are able to stir more water into it and get it to loosen up without cooking. I’m not sure how big of a batch you made, but if you only made 1 jar, I’d start with 1/4 cup water and add in 1/4 cup increments until I got it where I wanted it. Hope that helps! (and works!)

  15. Love the soap! However, it leaves a white residue on my plastic items in the dishwasher. I have vinegar in the rinse aid. Idk. Thanks!

  16. my mom has the exact same pot you used above.

  17. I just finished this up to the part where you take it off the stove and pour in a jar to cool. Mine seems to be separating, there is a layer on top, I think it is the bar soap. Will this go away? Did I not have it on a high enough heat? I stirred it on the stove for the 20 minutes. Any suggestions? Thanks!

    • OK, so I got angry with it and went at it with my immersion blender. It separated again, but differently, thicker fluffier top layer. So then I took the immersion blender to it yet again and left it again to see what happens. It stayed together and turned the consistency of custard! I am very happy with this end result! I put a spoonful into my dishwasher with a drop of thieves oil and vinegar in the rinse aid container and let the dishwasher rip! OMG, such clean and sparkly dishes!! I haven’t added any essential oils to the whole batch yet. I don’t have any citrus oils on hand and I am curious if I need to add it or if the thieves oil blend would be ok? I am not opposed to buying the citrus oils as I usually have them on hand. Thank you so much for this!

      • Stacy Barr says:

        Thieves will work just fine. It will disinfect as well as lemon or another citrus oil. It won’t have the scent though. Also, I’m glad you figured it out 🙂

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