Sunday, February 17, 2013

DIY: Dishwasher Detergent

So as I've mentioned in previous blogs I have really wanting to make my own dishwasher detergent. I am still feeling very blessed to have this portable dishwasher even if it is a bear to push to it's spot before and after a load of dishes (I went many years without a dishwasher). While dish detergent wasn't overly expensive because I always went with the generic I thought the same thing about laundry detergent and boy I was wrong there too.
Now I expect to be experimenting and tweaking this recipe as the time comes for me to make more. I have done 5 loads of dishes since making this mix back on Thursday and taking lots of notes and having test glasses that was holding up to the light and trying to do everything very scientific only changing one thing during each test. Probably too much effort right? Well it's kind of fun to try and figure these things out.

Now here's what my current mix is:
1 Cup Borax
1 Cup Washing Soap
1/4 Cup Table Salt
3 packets of sugarless lemonade
1 Cup Baking Soda

Yours will look more full this is before baking soda.

Use 1 TBSP in the pre-wash and 1 TBSP in the main wash dispenser. Vinegar for the rinse cycle.

Pretty simple right? Well I want to go over some of my findings and then I will go over some of the tweaks I will be testing at a future date.

The first recipe I pulled up suggested everything except the baking soda and suggested Kosher Salt instead of table salt. Well I was working with what I had and Rural King didn't have Kosher Salt at a reasonable price (and seeing how I just got off of work when I went shopping I wasn't about to make another stop). I worked with what I had.
While the dishes did come out clean I hadn't thought of having text glasses so I had to redo this wash as my 5th wash.

So for the second trial to try and get rid of the fog effect I put the 1 TBSP of soap into each place and the vinegar rinse agent (this is the constant for each trial) and now for the change; 1 tsp normal baking soda added to each cup (this works out to about 1 cup per batch I estimate). Glass had a slight fog I had originally thought but after comparison not so much as I originally believed.

I put 1/2 cup of vinegar into the bottom of the washer. The glasses were a bit less foggy but they had lots of water spots. No film on the plastic utensils which was a good thing even my commercially bought cleaner would leave a film on them. I also noticed though that the glass seemed to pick up finger prints extra easy.

Now I mentioned I made this batch on Thursday. By Friday the mix had started clumping together! Another one of those problems I read about and not only that but was firmly affixed to the sides of my jar! I had to break it off and mix it all back up. After this I took some rice (I used instant rice because that is what I had in my house) and cheese cloth (because cheese cloth is awesome stuff) and used twine (always keep twine on hand) and poof I made something to help absorb moisture. I haven't had a big problem with clumping since then.

For the fourth trial I did the standard soap and rinse and then added 1 tsp extra of washing soda into each dish. I was highly unhappy with these dishes and ended up hand washing many of them after this. It was a total no go!

For my fifth try I went back and tried the standard soap with vinegar rinse not adding or subtracting anything. I found the glasses to be foggy. I also noticed because we used more oil than a human should consume in a year (Fried ham in bacon fat and pain fried hashbrown patties) that the areas that had heavy oil when I put them in came away with a white film! And plates I had drained grease on also were not very clean. I'm not sure if this would be the same results with the baking soda but if it is one or two drops of dawn probably would help cut the grease or pre-rinse greasy items.

Over all the dishes with the baking soda seemed to win so that's why I added it in there.

My next experiments will be 1. cutting down on the amount of soap used per wash and 2. when this batch is gone I want to try a very small batch of just baking soda and borax to see how that does. I'm starting to wonder after my washing soda experiment if the washing soda isn't being given enough credit to how foggy dishes are coming out. 3. I may break down and buy some kosher salt just to try it.

As for my mix the cost estimate works out to be (Very rough estimate on the baking soda and salt I'm sure you can find cheeper):
$0.37 Borax
$0.36 Washing Soda
$0.44 Baking Soda
$0.31 Salt
$0.51 Lemonade Packets
= $1.99 For Approx 26 loads if you have to use 2 TBSP per load. Like I said I'm going to try and experiment with 1 TBSP and see how it does for us. 26 loads that cost sounds a little steep but if it's 52 loads then it's worth it in my mind.

**Update: I've started using 1 TBSP with a vinegar rinse. I have about the same cleaning ability but still foggy. I will be messing with this mix some more but I get the distinct feeling this very common problem may be the bane of my existence so the mix would work in a pinch (either money wise or not wanting to go out to the store wise). I'll keep working on it though.


  1. We use the dishwasher tablets and buy them in bulk. I'm not sure I'm ready to try to the homemade dishwasher detergent route quite yet. I would not have thought about adding the lemonade packets to anything. It does seem as if you are having fun with your experiment though and hey, if you can make washing dishes fun :) that's worth it right there.

    1. I'm caught up on dishes and always seem to be waiting on the next load as I try to tweek things. It has definately made me want to stay on top of the dishes :) I put another load in this morning with some heavy gunk and only 1/2 the normal soap I have been using so going to see how that works out. I'm thinking next I'll try using my jet dry instead of vinegar. Cleaning can be such a repeative bore so I am glad to have something to make it more exciting.