Homemade Dishwasher Detergent – DIY Dishwasher Detergent

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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!


Skip the store and make this homemade dishwasher detergent instead! This DIY dishwasher detergent will have your dishes sanitized and clean just like the expensive stuff. All for pennies per batch!

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


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


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 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.


  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. 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

  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. 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 🙂

  18. Carol Clevenger says

    Just don’t put vinegar into the rinse container, it can mess up the dishwasher. Put it in separately each time.

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