Home » Bella Liberta » Homemade Dishwasher Detergent? Ya, Seriously!

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent? Ya, Seriously!

I did not come from June Cleaver’s family.  (For you young’ens, she was the picture-perfect model of wife, mother, woman, etc.)  My mom was a single mom.  We ate lots of mac and cheese and ground beef patties.  She did not use salt, pepper, or spices (having kids, I understand this better as they never agree on what is good).  Eating out was at Burger King.  Flame broiled was better than fried, of course.  Mom wasn’t the crafty type.  My dad worked.  A lot.  He didn’t quit until the job was done.  Granddaddy loved to cook and feed people.  He made things from old discarded stuff.  He up-cycled before the term existed.  Once he built a scooter from an old lawnmower.  He liked it better than the ones sold in the stores because he put a seat on the back for his wife!  Nana cooked and cleaned.  She kept a perfect house.  She sewed, read books, and watched basketball.  She ironed.  My granddad died when I was young, but from what I know, he worked on cars and was handy.  Mamaw was a good southern cook, but she preferred anything pre-made.  She didn’t believe in all this “back-to-basics” nonsense.  She lived in a time when she made everything from scratch.  Hamburger Helper was just fine, even if you couldn’t pronounce the ingredients.  Why does this matter?  Because, like you, who I am was formed from a variety of people.  I want the clean and pristine house like my Nana’s home.  I love cooking and experimenting, though I hardly have enough time to.  I wish I could make things and sew.  I’m not crafty.  In fact, crafts are scary.  I’d rather have dinner with Freddy Kruger than figure out the latest craft with my daughter.  I also picked up a little of the “why make it if you can buy it?” attitude from Mamaw.  Not so much with foods.  I prefer real, live food.  Beyond food, I can do without making things.

So why in the world would I make dishwasher detergent?

Some history, first.  I hate grocery stores.  The ones that are nice are too expensive.  As much as I love the ambient lighting, organized shelves, and the pleasant smell of higher end stores, I can’t justify paying 10% to 30% more just for the shopping experience.   The middle of the road stores are a bit more tolerable for my budget.  Most of the prices are decent.  On average, maybe 5% to 15 % more than Wally World.  It’s decently organized and they still give wine samples to frazzled moms.  They tend to be a bit more crowded than the finer stores.  And then there is Wal-Mart.  Most of the time, I can’t beat the prices.  But its crowded.  Always.  And the clientele can be iffy sometimes.  Think I’m pretentious?  There are entire websites dedicated to those who shop at Wal-Mart.  We’ve had several bad experiences at Wal-Mart in regards to being a transracial family.  So every time I need groceries and household items, I go through the mental debate.  The pricey store would be so nice and I’ll still be sane at the end of the trip.  But which family member will need to fast this week so I can afford it?  The mid-grade store is ok, but if I’m going to deal with the crowds, I might as well go all out and survive Wal-Mart.  With the money I save, we can eat at a restaurant.  I won’t be sane enough to cook anyway.

When I realized we were almost out of dishwasher detergent and I’d already been to Wal-Mart three times in the last 10 days, I knew something had to give.  So I analyzed the situation.  Am I happy with the detergent I buy?  Sort of.  I pre-rinse the dishes and most of them come clean in the dishwasher.  These stupid high-efficiency dishwashers are crappy, so what does the soap really matter anyway?  Or maybe my water is too hard. Or too cold.  Heck, it’s way too complicated.  My glasses aren’t clear anymore.  Besides the people who buy new glasses every year, we all have cloudy glasses, right?  What about price?  I hate spending money, so it’s too much.

So I got on Pinterest and found a nice little recipe.  Of course, its powder.  I hate powder.  I always had chucks of powder stuff in soap dispenser that I need a knife to dig out.  And then I’d find powder on my dishes.  Who wants to eat soap?  Or rinse all the dishes again?  Needless to say, I was skeptical.  But alas, I had enough dirty dishes to fill two dishwashers and was now out of soap.  It was Wal-Mart or make the powder.  I gave in and made my little batch of detergent, crammed the dishwasher as full as possible, and away we went!  Dishes were clean.  Glasses were still cloudy, but not as much.  No powder on the dishes or chunks in the dispenser.  It seems to dissolve better.  The detergent was way cheaper (some estimate 1/2 to 1/3 the cost of store bought soap).  Best part by far, it was freaking easy to make.

So here you go:

  • 2 cups of 20 Mule Team Borax
  • 2 cups of Washing Soda
  • 1 cup of Kosher Salt
  • 1-2 cups of Lemi Shine or Citric Acid

Borax, Washing Soda, Kosher Salt

Put it in a jar.  Close the lid.  Shake it up.  1 TBS (tablespoon for the non cooking types) per load (your soap dispenser won’t be full).  Fill your rinse aid dispenser with white vinegar.  There ya go!

Lemi Shine

Other tips.  If you have hard water, use more Lemi Shine/Citric Acid.  My bottle of Lemi Shine didn’t list ingredients which annoys me.  So I looked for alternatives.  Lots of people recommend Citric Acid.  You can buy food grade citric acid on Amazon for a decent price.  Buy in bulk and save (5 or 10 pounds).  I found some with free shipping.  And Amazon doesn’t charge sales tax, making them one of my favorite retailers!  I have hard water, but only used 1 1/2 cups of Lemi Shine, as that was all I had.  It did the job.

My opinion on rinse aids.  Honestly, I quit using them when our last dishwasher exploded.  Yes, it exploded.  A good deal of dishwashers have been recalled due to the rinse aid dispensers leaking in the door.  When they leak, they fry the electrical components in the door.  The result of this depends on what is damaged.  Our heating element exploded, blew a hole through the side of the dishwasher and melted the door.  Whatever component shuts off the heating element when it gets too hot probably shorted out.  It overheated and exploded.  However, for the sake of following instructions, I used the vinegar.  My gut feeling is I’ll regret it someday.  Just something to keep in mind regarding rinse aids.  I was pretty sick that I was spending $4 a bottle on a product that would eventually lead to a rather unsettling explosion and the demise of a 4 year old dishwasher.

Where to find this stuff?  Kosher Salt is on the baking aisle with the other salts.  Borax and washing soda should be in the laundry aisle and Lemi Shine near the dishwashing detergents. I emphasize should because my local Wal-Mart had them in weird places.  They also only had baking soda, which is NOT the same as washing soda.  You can order all of it from Amazon and have it delivered to your home and avoid the dreaded stores!

Some people use cutesy letters and put the recipe on the jar.  Good idea.  Maybe someday.  Also, you can add a small stick-on hook to the jar for your measuring spoon.  Someday.  Today I have dishwasher detergent, and I’m content.

Kosher salt box for size comparison

Did it work for you?  Better ideas?  I’d love to hear them!

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