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Dishes are the bane of my existence. For real; I hate them and if I could afford it, I would probably just toss all of them every time I used one. Okay, not really since that would be really wasteful, but a girl can dream, right? Because I hate dishes so much, I love the fact that I have a dishwasher. It saves me so much time and mental anguish over my dishes. I hate paying so much for dishwasher detergent though which is why I came up with this homemade dishwasher detergent a few years ago. This DIY dishwasher detergent works just as well as the more expensive stuff but is so much cheaper to make! It’s one of my favorite homemade cleaning products hands down actually!
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. As far as the brand of essential oil goes, you can use any brand that is pure essential oil. Contrary to popular belief, there is no federal grading system to quantify whether something is “therapeutic grade” or not. This means that anyone can call an essential oil therapeutic grade even if it isn’t. As long as you are using pure essential oils that are not cut with anything, you will be just fine. I personally prefer to use Plant Therapy Essential Oils or Now Foods Brands essential oils.
Homemade Dishwasher Detergent
This DIY dishwasher detergent uses lemon essential oil. Lemon is not only pleasant smelling, but it also has disinfecting properties that will help kill germs on your dishes and in your dishwasher. If you aren’t fond of lemon, you can use any citrus essential oil in it’s place. Grapefruit essential oil or orange essential oil would both work well as substitutes.
When this recipe was first created, it was one of the first 30 things I stopped buying to make homemade. Originally the recipe called for 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 watery far too often so you’re left up in the air as to whether your detergent will actually turn out or not. If you would like to use lemon juice, I have included those instructions as well.
The Difference Between Baking Soda and Washing Soda
This DIY dishwasher detergent uses washing soda. Please do not confuse this product with baking soda. Washing soda is not baking soda. It is an entirely different product. If you are trying to find it in stores, it is usually in the laundry detergent aisle near the Borax. If you still can’t find it, look near the top of bottom shelves since it can sometimes be placed out of the line of sight.
Ingredients for DIY Dishwasher Detergent
- 10-15 drops lemon essential oil or 2 tbsp lemon juice
- ¾ cup Super Washing Soda
- ½ cup Borax
- ¼ cup liquid unscented Castile soap (or make your own liquid homemade Castile soap)
- 4 cups water
DIY Dishwasher Detergent
To start making your homemade dishwasher detergent, place water in a large heavy bottomed pot and heat on medium-high heat until it boils. You’ll want to make sure you use a heavy bottom pot because it will help distribute the heat better. Stir the washing soda into the boiling water with a wire whisk. Do not use a spoon. Doing so can cause the washing soda to cling to the spoon and create clumps.
Once the washing soda is fully dissolved, reduce the heat and allow the mixture to cool for a minute or two. Add the Borax and stir until it is fully dissolved.
Once the Borax has fully dissolved, add the liquid Castile soap. If you don’t have liquid Castile on hand, you can use 1/2 Castile bar soap. Grate it with a fine cheese grater 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.
Castile soap can be expensive if you don’t buy it in the right place. I personally prefer to buy my Castile soap from Grove.co. Their prices, both for liquid and bar are great! Plus, if you’re a new Grove member, you’ll score a FREE 5-piece Mrs. Meyers cleaning set when you sign up for a Grove account with THIS link. Thrive Market is another place to get a good price on Castile. You can get a free 30-day trial to Thrive Market right HERE.
Homemade Dishwasher Detergent with Essential Oils
Once the washing soda and borax are dissolved, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes makign sure you whisk it often. If you are using lemon juice instead of lemon essential oil, add the 2 TBSP lemon juice now and whisk it into the mixture. Do not add essential oils yet if you are using them.
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.
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 then 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 1.5 oz 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!
How to Use Your Homemade Dishwasher Soap
To use for running a dishwasher, add 1-2 tablespoons of the soap mixture to your dishwasher and wash like normal. This DIY dishwasher soap can also be used 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.
*Originally published in 2015. Updated June 2019.