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. 




  1. Jane said,

    November 16, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Clara, I noticed that has Arm and Hammer Washing Soda as you have pictured above in a 55 oz. container for $2.78. Is that about the same price you paid? I’ve never purchased this before. With free shipping I’m thinking it’s a pretty good deal. They have the borax too. Check out my blog in the next week, I will be doing a $20 giveaway for How about FREE?? 🙂

    Here is the link for

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