DIY Dishwasher Detergent

When I first made my DIY dishwasher soap detergent, it wasn’t as a way to save money. It’s because I’m lazy.

That is, I’d run out of a commercial product, and I didn’t feel like going to the store to buy new.

Sure, I could have ordered dishwasher soap from Amazon and, thanks to my Prime Membership, gotten it two days later.

However, having already successfully made homemade laundry detergent, I figured I already had all of the ingredients on hand.

I was right.

Ingredients for DIY homemade dishwasher soap

As with laundry detergent the two main components are:

  • Borax
  • Washing Soda

Because we have hard water, I’d read that it would be wise to add kosher salt to mix to help soften the water in the dishwasher.

Then I read further that a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid–the kind that you would use for washing pots and pans in the sink–helps make DIY dishwasher detergent work better.

Like when I was making my homemade laundry detergent, I needed to play around with the ratio of elements in order to come up with a recipe that would work, and I think I have.

How to make homemade dishwasher soap

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Here’s how I made my first successful batch of DIY dishwasher soap detergent:

  • 1 cup Borax
  • 1 cup Washing Soda
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • a few drops of Dawn dishwashing liquid

Mix the three powdered ingredients in a resealable container by shaking. Do not add the Dawn.

You will add the Dawn when you are putting the powdered dishwasher detergent in to run a load. Important step to remember!

The first load I ran, I used 1/4 cup of this DIY soap, and that was too much.

Many of my dishes came out coated in gritty residue.

So with the next load, I used 1 tablespoon of the powdered detergent, plus the few drops of dishwashing liquid, and voila!

The dishes and plates came out looking great.

I’ll admit that there was a glass or two on the top rack that still looked dirty, but you know what?

When I was using commercial dishwasher detergent I had this problem from time to time, and often had to rewash my clean dishes.

Since then I’ve run four loads of dishes–I did a lot of batch cooking this weekend–and my plates, cups, bowls and more are definitely clean.

Dealing with cloudy glasses

There is still a cloudy film on some of the glassware and plastic. As I mentioned I’ve had this problem with commercial dishwasher detergent, too.

We have hard water so I know that using a rinse aid can help.

One, I can buy a liquid rinse aid.

Or, two, I can try a powdered kind.

I thought the kosher salt would take care of this problem, but it doesn’t seem to be “strong” enough to fix the problem.

The one I discovered is an acid-based dishwasher additive called Lemi-Shine, which I reviewed here.

Where to buy Lemi Shine

None of the stores near me carry Lemi-Shine. This includes the local hardware store and my local supermarket.

It’s much easier to buy Lemi Shine online. In fact, since I first made my homemade dishwasher detergent mixture, Lemi Shine has expanded its line of products.

All of them are available on Amazon.

Final thoughts on my DIY dishwasher detergent

Like I said, so far so good, as far as cleaning goes.

But here’s the part I love: by my calculations, taking into consideration the price of the ingredients, and how many “washings” I’ll get from them, I’m now spending $.05–five cents–on soap to wash my dishes.

When I was buying the commercial products, I was spending anywhere from $.22 to $.33 per load.

If I run the dishwasher once a day, which isn’t unheard of in this house, especially when I do a lot of cooking, that means that in a year I will have saved between about $62 and $102.

I realize that’s not get rich money, but it is money saved nonetheless.


  1. Thanks for posting! This looks great and I’m going to give it a try as well! Quick question for you on your prices — when you say .05 cost, is that per load or per ounce?

    Just wanted to check – I had a coupon for a name brand detergent and end up paying .04 an ounce.

  2. It has to be the Kool-Aid because there is no sugar added. Lemonade DOES have sugar added to it. How bout adding fresh lemon juice to the mix as well?

  3. Yes, packets of Lemon flavored kool-aid works or any lemon (citrus acid ) powered drink. Just get the power with NO sugar added. that’s the key.

    1. Well, I will have to try this as well. Maybe I’ll do a “taste” test–really a wash test–using the Lemi-Shine versus the Lemon Kool-Aid, comparing not only the quality of the clean dishes but the price per ounce. Stay tuned.

  4. Instead of the Lemi Shine try lemon flavored Kool-Aid. Works for us and at 20 cents a package cost effective. Again play with the ingredients and see how it works for you. It has to be lemon flavored because of the citric acid but we have even cleaned our dishwasher with it by adding one package, turning on an empty dishwasher at the highest heat and let it run for about a minute. Open the door and let it sit for about an hour then resume cleaning cycle. Got rid of all the build-up and gunk in the dishwasher.

    1. Seriously? Lemon Kool Aid? And it doesn’t leave things sticky? Given that I wonder if lemonade mix would work, too!

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