Feb 28, 2013

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

Long before I ever got all crunchy I used to notice the film that was occasionally left on dishes washed in a dishwasher and wonder if it was safe to consume.

You see, in Africa where I grew up we didn't have a dishwasher (well, actually, we had several...their names were John-Mark, Melodie, Nathan...) so all our dishes were washed by hand and rinsed in clean hot water. In the States grandma had an automatic dishwasher and when we visited we'd marvel at the inventions of modern man. Yet there was sometimes a little detergent residue stuck to the dishes...

Turns out normal dishwashing detergent isn't really that safe after all. Here's a list of harmful chemicals found in most dishwasher detergents (sourced from this website):

  • Chlorine bleach; a common respiratory tract irritant that also finds its way into the environment and forms toxic compounds stored in the fatty tissue of animals. 
  • Sodium hydroxide; a severe skin irritant that can cause blindness if it comes into contact with your eyes, but is commonly added to dishwasher detergent as a degreaser.
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate; might be one of the most common detergents found in the home and is prevalent in shampoo and hand soap, making worrying about it in your dishwashing detergent seem a little pointless. According to the Journal of the American College of Toxicology, laboratories around the world use it as a skin irritant.
  • Propylene glycol; might help soften baked-on foods and allow the other chemicals in your dishwasher detergent to do their jobs. But it's also a carcinogen that alters skin structure, helping those same chemicals to penetrate your skin and find their way into your bloodstream.

While you might think these chemicals aren't affecting you because you're not touching them, even the best dishwasher leaves a thin film of residue on your dishes, so you might be exposing  yourself to more than you think when you eat from them.

This isn't healthy for anyone, but especially little babies.

Additionally, if you google the dangers of dishwasher detergent, you will find countless reports of children ingesting this substance. The cute little individual packs are the most tempting for a little kid to pop into his or her mouth. 

Part of my reasoning in moving towards more natural cleaning products is to not have these dangerous cleaning products around at all, as I have a very curious one year old. During my time as a missionary in Liberia I worked with some children who had accidentally swallowed caustic substances and were near death due to the horrific consequences of this. Thankfully we were able to help many of them, but every one of these children will face lifelong medical issues because of these injuries. 

Completely natural dishwashing detergent kept in a locked cupboard is one step I can take to keep my little boy safe, from when I serve him food, to when he wonders into the kitchen alone.

Making homemade dishwashing detergent was my second DIY natural home care product after my laundry detergent. This recipe comes from my friend Ashley from college. She has a lovely blog where she shares her journey into a more natural life and celebrates the growth of her children. Those looking for more DIY natural home and body care products should definitely check out her blog!

Ashley did all the work to test this one out, I just followed her instructions. I'm happy to say this recipe has been great and I have no complaints! And there is no residue either, not even on the glasses.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

2 cups washing soda
1 cup borax
1 cup baking soda

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. You may want to sift it through a sieve to remove any lumps. Store in a large container with a lid. Keep a one tablespoon measuring spoon inside the container. You will need 2 tablespoons of detergent for every load.

Some people may need a rinsing agent depending on their water types. I do not, but I wanted to share a rinsing tip I've heard others use.

Note: Washing soda, borax, and bulk packages of baking soda can all be found in the laundry detergent section of Wal-Mart and most grocery stores.

Rinse Agent: Place 1/4 cup white vinegar in a small shallow container on the top wrack of the dishwasher. Run the load as usual. Do NOT put the vinegar in the compartment in the door designed for store-bought rinse agents. The plastic is not made for vinegar and you can damage your washing machine by using it in this way.

For other great homemade dishwasher detergent recipes check out this website here.

Do you make your own dishwashing detergent? How does your recipe compare to mine?


  1. Woops that last comment from Jason was me... didn't realize I was logged in as him;) Wanted to say that we just got our first dishwasher a few days ago, and am very excited to try this!!! All about the DIY cleaners!!! Thanks for sharing!:)

  2. Thanks for the recipe. I have made laundry detergent with these ingredients in a liquid formula. I haven't made any dish detergent yet but have the stuff on hand. Thanks for researching the ingredients in regular dish detergent.

  3. Thanks for the recipe!
    My folks still don't use a dishwasher (apart from us kids that is) and neither do the hubby and I but I have friends who would love this recipe for a homemade alternative for dishwasher detergent!

  4. Thanks for sharing this on Wildcrafting Wednesday! I still a haven't found a homemade dishwasher soap that works well. I am going to try your suggestion! Do you use white vinegar with this as a rinse aid?

    1. Thanks for your comment! I do not need a rinse aid with my water, but white vinegar is the suggested kind for those who need one.

  5. We don't make our own though I'm often tempted. I should make some just in case we run out.

    Thanks for linking up at Fabulously Frugal Thursday. Hope to see you next time.

  6. I have been making my own for over a year and use one part Borax to one part washing soda, adding 2 tablespoons with each wash. The walls of my dishwasher tend to look dirtier with this recipe than store bought detergent, but my dishes are clean. I will try adding Baking Soda to the mix to see if that helps.

  7. I have tried it and i Am damn happy with the wash as i get my cloths like they are new and without any color loss and all the stain are vanished to know more about it Click Here

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  9. Thank you for pointing out the potential dangers of dishwasher detergent if ingested by small children. This is definitely something I need to add to my site... http://howtomakedishwasherdetergent.com

  10. How to make dishwasher detergent :
    Some people with hard water in their homes find that homemade detergent works well at first, but then need to add some vinegar, to their loads (in the Jet-dry receptacle) to keep the effectiveness level up. The benefit of making your own dish detergent is that you can tailor it to your specific needs

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  12. Aseado commercial foodservice dishwashers, Aseado pass through, undercounter, potwashers, rack conveyors and glasswashers are manufactured in Europe to the highest specifications. Designed specifically to suit the Australian market. Models are Watermark approved.