Natural Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

Posted by on Oct 26, 2012 in Homemade Natural Products, Journal | 24 Comments

Furthering my quest of going toxic free and natural, I discovered that dishwashing detergent, even ‘claimed’ eco friendly, still have toxins in them. I was getting a little frustrated while looking for a suitable store natural brand because each one either had PEG’s or SLS’s or other toxins.
I looked on pinterest for a homemade recipie but they all had Borax in it. Borax is a very posionus substance if ingested so why would I use that on dishes or anything else in my house?
I’m not sure how I came across  this posting I think one of my friends sent it to me and I thought, why not try it?

So I edited the base of what she posted and then added my own variations as follows:

  • 1 cup minus 1 tbsp of aluminum free baking soda
  • 1/3 generous cup of citric acid (really full ‘mound on top’ cup)
  • 1/3 under generous cup of  coarse salt (just under full cup)
  • 20 drops of organic essential lemon oil
  • white vinegar with 3 drops of organic essential lemon oil

I combined the dry ingredients in a bowl, then I added the drops of essential oil and mixed them again, I used a wooden spoon.
As Dr. David Suzuki suggests to use vinegar as a rinse agent, thats what I did, but added 3 drops of essential lemon oil. I’m sure you could use more or less.

I used 2 tbsps of the mix for my HE dishwasher that was full to the brim with dirty dishes and pots.

Make sure you store this in an air tight  glass container, the one below I laying around in my cupboard.

This morning (as we run our appliances at night to be more efficient and cost effective)  when I looked at the dishes, they came out clean, streak free and smelled great.  I’ll keep posting how this goes for me, updates on when I have heavy dish loads  or really greasy and see how it holds up.

My machine is a Bosch energy star high efficiency dishwasher.

***Update April 8, 2013***
I’m sorry for the late approval on comments, I was not receiving my proper email notifications but have now fixed that.

Some of the main questions is about the citric acid and essential oils; I found and researched these for myself, please don’t take my word or anyone’s word for products you are going to use. Look at the products yourself, investigate and come up with your own variation, then share with me what you find.

I’ve found that when my water softener wasn’t full, and not ‘softening’ the water, the solution didn’t work as well. I also found that regular vinegar worked a bit better than the orange peel/vinegar solution.

I am now alternating every other load, using the home made solution one load and then using  Seventh Generation Automatic Dishwasher Detergent on the next, I picked Seventh Generation because (taken from site) has these awesome things about it;

  • Now contains enzymes for more cleaning power
  • Chlorine free
  • Phosphate free
  • Non-toxic
  • Plant-derived enzymes
  • Biodegradable formula
  • Scent derived from whole essential oils & botanical extracts (Lemon)

I’m not being paid by them nor have I received any promotional products or free things from them, I just discovered them at our health food store last week, when I ran out of my homemade solution.

I also take out the food trap and appliance and wash and clean separately every week, to keep the washer working as best as possible.

All the best!


  1. Brenda Scott
    October 28, 2012

    Cannot believe my dishes this am …used your dish washing sample last nite and woke up to some very clean dishes…we are on well, with a water the country..I used two tablespoons full ..and wow…what a great result!
    Thanks Amanda ..will be making some this week..xo mom

  2. Amanda
    October 28, 2012

    thanks mom!

  3. Mary Corbo
    January 21, 2013

    What do you do with the vinegar and how much?

  4. Amanda
    January 22, 2013

    Hi Mary,
    I have a solution that I make up, it takes about two – to – three weeks to cure. I take rinds from oranges, grapefruit and lemons and place them in a sealable jar. I then fill the jar up with white vinager. After the two weeks, i strain the solution into a bottle. I will use this for cleaning etc. This solution is what you can pour into the ‘finishing rinse’ compartment of your dishwasher, should yours have that. Dr. Suzuki also suggests that plain white vinegar also works. (I also add a few drops of grapefruit, lemon and orange essential oils too).
    *disclaimer: I am not responsible if this messes up your or anyone’s dishwasher in anyway. It has never done anything to mine and I’m just sharing what I do.*

  5. rebecca
    January 28, 2013

    i have a dishwasher that the manufacturer recommends using a dishwasher tablet that is NOT phosphate free. we have used some that are phosphate free and it just does not work. is your recipe good for that?

  6. Amanda
    January 29, 2013

    This does not contain phosphates, I’m not sure why they would recommend that?
    I use a Bosch stainless steel dishwasher brand new (1 year is old) and its HE this works great with it. My mother has an older model of dishwasher and she swears by this.
    I think its all relative but I would want to research before making the decision on what to go with.
    I wanted toxin-free solution and that is what I experimented with and found.

  7. Emily
    February 2, 2013

    I made my own with a different recipe that uses washing soda not baking soda (although I made my own washing soda by baking the baking soda) and I’m wondering why you used baking soda not washing soda in this recipe. I’ve been having trouble with rinsing & streaking with my current recipe.

  8. Amanda
    February 4, 2013

    Hi Emily,
    I used baking soda because I couldn’t find any washing soda locally at the time (I have since found some) but I didn’t notice a difference between the two.
    I did get streaking on my dishes when my water softener was out of salt. Once we filled the salt, the spots went away.
    Not sure if this helps.
    This is just a base recipe, and really it just takes playing with I find. My mother who lives on a well, swears by it as is.

    Try using the ‘vinegar’ mixture – where you ferment/infuse orange rinds in vinegar for a few weeks. Then strain the mixture into a jar. Use this mixture in your rinse aid. Dr. Suzuki recommends plain vinegar works well too.

    again its all just tweaking to how your water conditions, your washer, etc.

    Good luck!

  9. DimensionXer
    February 17, 2013

    I am so glad I stumbled across your recipe on Pinterest!!!!
    I have been scouring the pun intended..for a borax free Dishwashing Detergent.
    I felt the same way about using the Borax around my family….I mean if I’m using it as a way to kill my unwanted ant “guests” in the summer then why would I use it on the foodie utensils and dishes my loved ones will be eating off of…Hello?? McFly?? Anyhoo…
    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. :D
    I’m looking for a laundry detergent that doesn’t use Borax too. That search still continues for that. Lol

    Quick question….could I use lemon juice instead of citric acid? Not sure where to find cheap citric acid around here. It’s also hard to find it around here when it’s not canning season. Oy.

    Many thanks again,
    Mandy :)

  10. Rachel
    February 20, 2013

    Is the lemon oil required for cleaning, or is it just for smell?

  11. Kari
    March 18, 2013

    Does the essential oil do something for the cleaning or to just smell pretty?

  12. Clover
    March 25, 2013

    I’ve actually been looking for a place to buy citric acid to make my own dishwasher detergent. Where did you get yours?

  13. Jen
    March 27, 2013

    Hi..this sounds great am going to give it a try. The only thing is I am going to use something called LemiShine instead of the citric acid. My uncle is a plumber and he said the acid could cause damage over a period of time. Good thing is the LemiShine is also phosphate free and can get 12 oz for $3.50 at Walmart.

  14. Rosr
    April 4, 2013

    What does “1/3under a generous cup” mean?? I’ve read it several times and still cant figure it out.

  15. Sonia Munson
    April 4, 2013

    I did make a dishwasher detergent with boxax, baking soda, and koolaid instead of citric acid. I thought it was working ok but after a few days a black residue showed up on my plates. I’m going to try yours. Salt and citric acid sounds good. And I was wondering instead of lemon, orange or grapefruit if teatree would be good for the antiseptic properties.

  16. Amanda
    April 8, 2013

    Hi Mandy,
    Thank you for your comment.
    You can find Citric acid at most health food stores, sometimes in the vitamin isle, sometimes in the baking isle or a specialty flour baking shop.
    I’ve ‘googled’ a few searches for the difference between using powdered citric acid and lemon juice for cleaning. Here is the wiki post about details of Citric Acid – in particular the section on Cleaning and chelating agent.
    I’m going to say lemon juice isn’t the same chemical makeup as powdered citric acid but please do not take my word for it. Do some research and come up with something that will work for you.

  17. Amanda
    April 8, 2013

    There are some studies that claim Lemon Oil has disinfectant qualities, I’ve looked at many sites and scientific studies online but who’s to say they aren’t lying?
    I do like the smell but me personally I add for both qualities.

  18. Amanda
    April 8, 2013

    There are some studies that claim Lemon Oil has disinfectant qualities, I’ve looked at many sites and scientific studies online but who’s to say they aren’t lying?
    I do like the smell but me personally I add for both qualities.

  19. Amanda
    April 8, 2013

    I’ve purchased mine at a grocery store, a health food store and drug store. I just keep my eye out for it and look and keep tabs. You can also find at bulk barn here in Ontario Canada.

  20. Amanda
    April 8, 2013

    Here is a chemist doing a breakdown of his findings on LemiShine and concluded Citric acid would do just the same thing.
    The Citric Acid is found it all or most detergents anyways and there are more harsh and corrosive chemicals in normal toxic dish-washing detergent, so I’m not sure how he comes to that conclusion. Specially if he’s saying more so over harsher and toxic detergents… but I’m not a plumber or a chemist, maybe he’s right.
    I’m also apprehensive in this product as the company will not disclose the full ingredient list, even for their MSDS pages; claiming “Trade Secret Ingredient”
    Also reading the toxicology report in these documents, it really doesn’t seem like a natural non-toxic product to me.

  21. Amanda
    April 8, 2013

    I eyeball ingredients sometimes but when I measure out the ingredients instead of the 1/3 measuring cup having a ‘heaping generous’ totally full measure, which would create a mound of ingredient in the measuring cup. I don’t, it isn’t quite a full 1/3 of a cup, shy about 1-2 tablespoons. Again I find this works best for my water type and machine, its all a matter of finding what can work for you.

  22. Amanda
    April 8, 2013

    Watch Teatree; in some reports people claim it should not be eaten. Lavender and Mint are great essential oils, research the properties of these and see if they might be a better fit.

  23. Laura Mohr
    April 13, 2013

    SHAKLEE… the only natural and non-toxic and 100% green company around. Their entire GET CLEAN line. 100% NON- TOXIC and 100% SAFE FOR CHILDREN. It is also by far cheaper than vinegar and any other product you will buy at any store.

  24. Amanda
    April 30, 2013

    Thanks Laura, i’ll have to have a look at them!

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