Dishwashing Detergent

We’ve been buying Costco’s two pack of liquid dish detergent for years… as long as we’ve had a dishwasher.  Let me say, I am very pleased with their brands and if money weren’t tight at my house, I’d LOVE the ease of buying more.

As an aside, a while back, the State of Washington outlawed phosphates.  Phosphates really help get dishes clean.  My empty bottle says, “If the letter in the date code printed on this package is a ‘Z’, the product does not contain phosphorus other than trace or incidental amounts. ”  With the less than stellar review of non-phosphorus detergents, we were already planning to call my husband’s uncle and ask him to get us “the good stuff” in Oregon before he heads up here for Thanksgiving.   I mean, we’ve got 3 children 3 and under and #4 arriving in Spring… the last thing we have time for is dirty dishes. 

As an aside to that aside, I have not done any research about the dangers of phosphates to the environment.  There is probably a reason it is outlawed (and sometimes those reasons are overstated).  I look forward to the ingenuity of my fellow Americans to produce a safer alternative that actually works for those of you who can afford them.

We, like many of you, are trying to save money in every way possible.   So this morning when the dishwasher reached capacity, I reached for my homemade alternative.  I was a bit leary because of all of the bad reviews online and from friends and family.  Like I said, I don’t have time for dirty dishes!!!   But I rinsed my dishes like I usually do, and I added my new CHEAP detergent and… they look great!

So let me say, there are A LOT of different recipes available online and from your friend’s sister-in-law and many of them got bad reviews.  There are several possible factors here:

  • User error.  Washing Soda is quite different than Baking Soda.  Both are from Arm and Hammer, but please be sure you’re using (and criticizing) the right product.
  • Dishwashers.  All dishwashers are different.  Ours is only a year old.  It has been a great dishwasher anyway, but if yours is not great (like our last one… oh, don’t get me started), then you may not get great results no matter what you use.
  • Water hardness.  Our water is pretty middle of the road, neither hard nor soft.  Commercial dishwasher detergents are formulated for any water type (which might be why they’re so stinkin’ expensive).  If your water is hard or soft, dig a little deeper on your own… I’m kind of busy ;). 

But that’s enough from me, here’s what I did…

Dishwasher Detergent Powder:

  1. I mixed equal parts Borax with Washing SODA in to a container with a lid (I used an empty baby formula can and took the paper label off of the outside AND labeled the lid… no mistakes at our house). 
  2. I shook said container.
  3. I put ~2 tbsp detergent into my dishwasher’s detergent trap (using the formula scoop).
  4. I filled the rinse agent reservoir with white vinegar.
  5. I started the dishwasher.

I was shocked at how easy it was and I don’t mind that it’s a two step instead of a one step process to add soap.   If you’re nervous about the results (as I certainly was),  turn off the dry function or listen for it to stop washing and start drying so you can double check to be sure they’re clean. 

Let us also be sure to mention that you’ll be saving a trip to the store!  If  you don’t already have Borax and Washing Soda on hand, they’re available on the laundry detergent aisle.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

20 Mule Team Borax, Washing Soda, and Vinegar

“But CnC, you didn’t give me any reasons not to save my family money.”  I know, dear reader, I know. 

And just think, with all of the money you’re saving this upcoming Holiday season, you’ll have extra share with your neighbors in need. 




I posted, not long ago, about Foamy Soap.  A key ingredient is, of course, liquid soap.   Well, guess what we’re almost out of… you got it, liquid soap.   Considering we bought a gallon at Costco about 6 years ago, it’s about time we ran out!  I decided to make some myself…

“But, CnC, you’re crazy!  You can’t make your own soap.”  Fear not dear reader, I already did!

While  looking for liquid soap recipes, I found one on this great website (and I’ll be trying a lot more of their recipes!).  The thing I love is that you aren’t actually making soap, you’re remaking bar soap into liquid soap.  The recipe I used is for “Liquid Soap” and it’s about 1/3 of the way down on the page. 

Here’s what I did differently… I used my food processor to grate the plain Dove soap.  It’s just soap, and it’s going to rinse of in the dishwasher just fine! 

I put  3 c of water in a saucepan and boiled it on the stove intstead of using my microwave.  I also threw in an herbal tea bag… a pomegranate one, to be exact.  You’ll need two or three bags to overpower the Dove’s smell which isn’t my personal favorite.  Steep the tea in the boiling water for a minute or two then fish out the tea bag.  

Make sure you have your venthood on and start adding the soap flakes to the boiling water (it’s got a powerful smell).   Add a small amount each time and wait for it to dissolve.  Once you’ve got all the soap dissolved, allow it to boil for a little while and thicken up a little.  Then, you’re done. 

I also added a drop of red food coloring to give it a prettier color.  Be careful with food coloring in this use… you don’t want red or blue hands!   I put a small amount in my foamy soap container and added water, shake shake shake – I’ve got homemade foamy handsoap now!  I’m storing the leftovers in a leftover vinegar bottle (I don’t throw things away, usually).

I’m going to try it in my shower as a shower gel as well… why not!?!  And, if I can find some inexpensive bottles, I might just give it as gifts. 


PS… I bought my 14 pack of Dove soap at an estate sale this summer for $2.  Keep your eyes peeled for deals like that!!!