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Can’t find a dishwasher detergent that works…

Have you tried a homemade dishwasher detergent?

When we moved to the hill country, every dishwasher detergent I tried, even those with a cocktail of chemicals, didn’t work!

Most powder detergents left food on our dishes or gunky chalk-like powder in the dispenser. As for the dishwasher pods, I would find each stuck in the dispenser unchanged or with a small hole in the lining, and all of the dishes would still be dirty!

When I tried liquid dishwasher soap, I found it to be messy and always left the glass disgustingly cloudy.

After years, yes, years of trying to find a dishwasher detergent that worked, I discovered something.

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What’s not to love? This recipe for an all natural homemade dishwasher detergent is made from simple, non-toxic ingredients that will keep your dishes clean and sparkly.

Ever heard of phosphates?

Phosphates have been used for decades to rinse away hard water deposits, resulting in crystal-clear glass and a super-clean wash. Search the Environmental Working Group, and you’ll find six pages of studies and reports warning you about the use of phosphates.

It turns out nearly two dozen states have banned the use of phosphates in detergents. Sadly, they were banned not for our health concerns but for the issues they cause in our waterways. Not that isn’t a major problem, either. Sometimes, I wonder what wildlife will be left when my daughter is my age.

Guess what?

Thankfully, many manufacturers have switched to citric acid, a natural cleaning agent, to deliver the same great results without harming our waterways or our health!

Found abundantly in lemons and limes, citric acid is incredibly helpful at removing calcium deposits, hard water stains, lime, rust, and soap scum. I use it to get our clothes clean and scrub our sink.  

Related: 6 Cleaners to Stop Buying

If you’re tired of spending money on dishwasher detergents that don’t work – then make one!

You may have noticed there are quite a few dishwasher detergent recipes out there. I can attest that this zero-waste DIY dishwasher detergent not only works but is also easy to make!

Even my husband was shocked at how well this homemade dishwasher detergent without borax actually worked. He’s even made it a few times when our jar on the kitchen counter went empty!

Open glass jar of homemade dishwasher detergent with a wooden scoop.

How do you make dishwasher detergent without borax?

All you need are a few green living staples that are natural cleaning agents like citric acid. I cover natural cleaning agents in more depth in my book No Nonsense Natural Bathroom Cleaning Methods. I’ll quickly point out the ingredients of this homemade dishwasher detergent.

Washing Soda

What it is: Washing soda, also known as sodium carbonate, is extremely alkaline. It’s actually a PH regulator that helps break down food and grease – in addition to softening the water.

The Purpose: Not only does it work as a solvent or water softener to degrease and lift stains, but it also helps avoid mineral deposits and reduce spots, leaving your glassware sparkly clean.

And get this—washing soda is 50% more effective than borax at cleaning and water-softening!

Citric Acid

What it is: A natural crystalline acid found in citrus fruits like lemons, it is antibacterial and antiseptic.

The Purpose: This natural cleaning agent helps release stuck-on food and lift coffee and tea stains off dishes. Citric acid is additionally effective at keeping mineral deposits off dishes and out of dishwashers.

Baking Soda

What it is: Also known as sodium bicarbonate, baking soda is a naturally occurring substance—best known for its use as a scoring agent and odor absorber.

The Purpose: I include it in homemade dishwasher detergent to fight against grime, grease, and odors. This clean agent alone is a must-have for your cleaning arsenal!

Table Salt

What it is: Hmm, let me think… Ha Ha, salt is a mineral composed primarily of sodium chloride. It’s either mined from mineral halite and rock salt or evaporated from seawater.

The Purpose: Salt softens the water, including hard water deposits, and reduces spotting on glassware.  

Essential Oils

What it is: Antibacterial and antimicrobial in nature, essential oils for cleaning cut through grease for cleaner dishes.

The Purpose: Outside of their cleaning power, essential oils add a natural, non-toxic scent, keeping your dishwasher smelling clean.

You might be wondering can you put essential oils in the dishwasher. What about the dishwasher’s plastic parts? First off, dishwashers have little plastic these days and are normally stainless inside and out.

Secondly, we’re talking about a few teaspoons of essential oil mixed into cups of other ingredients. The minimal amount in the mixture is scooped into ONE tablespoon and added to the dishwasher, which will be diluted into several GALLONS of water. Yeah, we’re good. It’s safe to include essential oils!

Some of my favorites to use for essential oil dishwasher detergent are:

Why wait? Look at all of the benefits of using a homemade dishwasher detergent!

  • The use of natural ingredients means you don’t need to worry about chemical residue on your dishes
  • It’s inexpensive compared to commercial dishwasher detergents
  • Takes 5 minutes or less to make
  • Cut through grease and stuck-on food
  • Removes stains like coffee and tea from dishes
  • More effective than commercial dishwasher detergents
  • Makes glasses sparkling and spot-free
  • Zero waste remedy to wash dishes without creating waste
  • Provides a fresh, bright scent without chemical fragrances
  • Can be made with only a handful of ingredients

Find more essential oil and cleaning resources in the Simple Living Library and shop my favorite sustainable cleaning supplies.

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Photos of a clean kitchen white kitchen and a DIY dishwasher detergent in an open glass jar with a wooden scoop.

How To Use Homemade Dishwasher Detergent:

Scoop one tablespoon of this natural dishwashing powder into the detergent compartment per one load of dishes.

What about a rinse aid? Is a rinse aid necessary in the dishwasher?

Water spots are actually one of the most common complaints about dishwasher use. And this oftentimes has a lot to do with drying. You can open your dishwasher when it’s finished and dry with a towel (the most energy-saving method).

Or you can set the dishes for a drying cycle at the end to avoid water spots.

On the other hand, cloudiness in glassware is caused by hard water deposits. For those of us with very hard water, you may need to use a rinse aid. I have two natural options for you.

  1. Using Vinegar as a Rinse Aid: Place a small glass bowl on the top rack and fill it with a tablespoon or two of distilled vinegar. This will knock out cloudiness and avoid damaging rubber components in your dishwasher.
  2. Make a DIY Rinse Aid: 3% Hydrogen peroxide is a very weak acid and safe to use in the rinse aid compartment of your dishwasher. I like to add 10 to 15 drops of essential oil, such as lemon or lavender, to one cup of hydrogen peroxide. Store this DIY rinse aid in a handy glass, airtight bottle, and fill the rinse aid compartment once every 30 days.

Generally, if you’re not experiencing cloudy glassware or seeing water spots, then you can totally skip it.

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What’s not to love?

This recipe for a homemade dishwasher detergent is made from simple, non-toxic ingredients that will keep your dishes clean and sparkly. That’s right – hard water deposits and grease are no problem for this easy dishwasher detergent and DIY rinse aid. And who doesn’t love that each is a zero-waste hack?

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Ingredients:

Recipe Makes 56 Loads

How to Make Dishwasher Detergent:

In a medium glass bowl, combine one cup of super washing soda, one cup of baking soda, one cup of citric acid, and half a cup of table salt. Stir thoroughly to combine. Washing soda is the heavier of the three and will sit on the bottom unless you stir well.

Next, add 1 teaspoon of lemon essential oil and half a teaspoon of rosemary essential oil (or the combination of essential oils recommended above). Stir again to distribute the oils, then scoop into an airtight jar.

Did you make this?

To share your creation on Instagram, mention @lifenreflection or tag #lifenreflection! What did you love most? Leave a comment below!

What’s not to love? This recipe for an all natural homemade dishwasher detergent is made from simple, non-toxic ingredients that will keep your dishes clean and sparkly.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

Yield: 56 loads
Active Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

This recipe for an all-natural homemade dishwasher detergent is made from simple, non-toxic ingredients that will keep your dishes clean and sparkly.


  • 1 cup super washing soda
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1 cup citric acid
  • ½ cup table salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon essential oil
  • ½ teaspoon rosemary essential oil
  • 1 medium glass airtight jar


  1. In a medium glass bowl combine one cup of super washing soda, one cup of baking soda, one cup of citric acid, and half a cup of table salt. Stir thoroughly to combine.
  2. Next, add 1 teaspoon of lemon essential oil and half a teaspoon of rosemary essential oil. Stir again to distribute oils and scoop into an airtight jar.


  • Super washing soda is the heavier of the three and will sit on the bottom unless you stir well. 

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  1. Hi Kristy, ok I made and tried your recipe for homemade dishwasher detergent today….I was very impressed with the results everything came out sparkling clean ( except the cups ) we are big tea drinkers here and tea stains didn’t come out at all, there could be a couple reasons that I’ll run by you,
    1. We have a fair amount of chlorine in our water 🙁 maybe that is the problem?
    2. Also I made my own washing soda could it be that?
    3. I didn’t add a rinse aid, would that help?
    There you have it….as I said I really like your recipe so hopefully I can overcome the tea stain problem.
    Thank you so much for the dishwasher detergent recipe, greatly appreciate it.
    Hugs Deb.

    1. lifenreflection says:

      Debbie I am big tea drinker too and husband has a cup or two of coffee every day. We haven’t experienced any issues with coffee or tea stains using this dishwasher detergent. I don’t know why chlorine would have anything to do with that and we do buy or washing soda. I can big box here in the states to last me months for 3 bucks. I do use the DIY rinse aid included at the bottom of that recipe in case you didn’t see it. I would start with rinse aid and see that solves it.

  2. Thank you Kristy for getting back to me so quickly on this , yes I’ll give your DIY rinse aid a try and see if that helps, I did notice your recipe for it at the bottom of the page thank you!!
    By the way I’m having great results with your diy clothes washing Recipe.. again my dear friend thank you!!!!

    1. lifenreflection says:

      Your most welcome, glad to hear you’ll loving my laundry soap recipe, we love it too!

  3. Iris Ballard says:

    I have good luck cleaning with baking soda in the tea stained cups. I just pour some into the cup and wipe with a wet rag. Might give that a try.

    1. lifenreflection says:

      Iris, that is a great tip!! Thank you for sharing, simple and nontoxic!

  4. I made this yesterday and it worked perfectly. I made mine without the essential oils this time, but might add them today. The dishes were sparkling clean, glasses also. Super happy! It’s good for us, good for the environment and for the wallet 🙂 I do have one question though: does it make a difference if you use table salt or kosher? I used kosher because of the bigger grains, but table salt would be cheaper, just not sure if it makes a difference? Thank you for sharing.

    1. lifenreflection says:

      Great to hear Helen!! I would recommend table salt or fine grain kosher salt. You want to keep it the same consistency as dishwasher powder, so it works well with the way our dishwashers are designed. We don’t cook or season with table salt, I just buy for my cleaning recipes. And you’re right it’s cheap!

  5. Hi Kristy, I have found out the problem with my diy dishwasher detergent, ( it’s the homemade washing soda that I had made myself) .
    I had also made my own washing soda for the diy laundry detergent.
    Conclusion…No , homemade soda washing does not work for some strange reason,so I will be buying mine from now on!
    Also thank you Iris Ballard for your help on the tea stain much appreciated!!

    1. lifenreflection says:

      Debbie, thank you for keeping me updated. If asks about homemade washing soda, I can tell them your story. We are still using this tried and true recipe to wash our dishes and I’m happy it will be working better for you now too!

  6. Kristal Gilstrap says:

    Hi Kristy, I’m on my second batch of this detergent now and I love it all except it clumps terribly after it sits for a day or two. Do you have any suggestions to combat this?

    1. lifenreflection says:

      Kristal, I’ve only had one batch clump and that was due to my swing top jar not being sealed, allowing moisture in. You might be getting moisture in it too. Is your container airtight? Or did the essential oils not get mixed in well and are causing it to clump? Or is someone getting water in it when the scoop some out for the dishwasher? Or is it sitting in a humid, hot, or wet environment?

  7. Hi Kristy , it been a while since we have chatted , hope everything is going well for you and yours..
    Now let’s talk about hand washing dishes , I was wondering if you or anyone on this site has a good recipe , I do like suds ( lot’s of suds ) in my water lol!!
    Also wondering if I could use ( Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds ) in a recipe for hand washing dishes or would it be to harsh on the hands?
    I hope to get some feedback on this .
    Many thanks,

    1. lifenreflection says:

      Hey Debbie, great to hear from you again! I’ve been filling my refillable glass pump bottle I got at the Grove Collab for dishwashing soap with half Sal Suds and half liquid eucalyptus Castile soap. It’s been working well for us. Sometimes I add a few drops lemon or lavender essential oil to it as well. I love to hear your feedback if you try it.

  8. Katie Mayberger says:

    Hi Debbie, I am looking forward to trying this recipe very soon. My question for you is, how much of this dishwashing powder do you put in your machine before running it? Is it like a 1/4 cup scoop?

    1. lifenreflection says:

      Hi Kaite, you may have missed it. The instructions are under the printable recipe. Scoop one tablespoon into the detergent compartment per one load of dishes. We have used this recipe for years and love it, I hope you will too!

  9. Katie Mayberger says:

    Hi Kristy, sorry for mis-addressing you in my last comment. You have an excellent blog, I stumbled across it today and I am excited to learn more from you!

    1. lifenreflection says:

      No worries Kaite and thank you!

  10. Nicole R. says:

    Hi Kristy. I made this dishwasher detergent without the essential oils because I didn’t have them. However, I noticed that my dishes still came out dirty and some of the glassware had a gritty feel to it. I was wondering if you have had this problem before and have a solution?

    1. lifenreflection says:

      No that has not been my experience and I’ve been using this recipe for years. The essentials are part of the cleaning power and I don’t recommend leaving them out.

  11. I tried this but only used pink Himalayan salt as that’s all I had home. The glasses look cloudy and it not looking great. Where did I go wrong?

    1. lifenreflection says:

      Himalayan salt won’t do. It’s not a great cleaning agent. It’s better used for skincare.

  12. I SO WANTED this to work! My dishes are dull and don’t FEEL clean. Must rinse silverware now BEFORE putting in dishwasher. PLUS the mixture hardens in the glass jar and I’ve had to put some real muscle into breaking it up. DRAT! SO DISAPPOINTED!

    1. lifenreflection says:

      RJ sorry to hear you’ve had that problem. I know what it’s like to have dull dishes. It was one of the many reasons I created this recipe. Most likely your container wasn’t airtight or it wasn’t dry when you filled it. If moisture gets it can cause the mixture to harden.

  13. Baking Soda is a base and the other 2 are acids, do they not interfere with each other or lose effectiveness? I’d love to make this.

    1. lifenreflection says:

      Nope, you’ll find store-bought detergents are a combination of base and acid too. These are just natural ones and it really does work great!

  14. I love all the info you’ve provided. Any chance you have a way to turn this recipe into cubes that can pop into the dishwasher dispenser?

    1. lifenreflection says:

      Thanks, Nicole I haven’t tried that yet. But you might be able to pour the mixture into a silicone ice cube tray and let it sit out for a few days. That will likely make it harden and then you can pop out the cubes. I might try myself, now that you ask!

  15. I made this detergent today and was so excited to try it out but my first round in the dishwasher it just became a solid mass in the dispenser tray. I’m trying it again with the dispenser tray open. Any thoughts or suggestions?

    1. lifenreflection says:

      That hasn’t happened in our dishwasher and we’ve been using this detergent for two years. But dishwashers can vary. Go idea to try it with dispenser open in yours.

  16. Hello!
    Do you have to use essential oils in your recipe? I just find essential oils to be extremely expensive but would love to make my own detergent!

    1. lifenreflection says:

      I highly recommend them, but you could try it without.

  17. Hello! I made your recipe for homemade dishwasher detergent and I absolutely loved it!! It worked so good and my dishes smelled amazing! The next day, the mixture was as hard as a rock!! What can I do to prevent this? And what can i do to use what I’ve made?

    1. lifenreflection says:

      Darn moisture got in it! Store in a cool dry place away from sunlight in an airtight container.

  18. Janet Schmick says:

    Is this safe for stainless steel interiors?

    1. lifenreflection says:

      Yes, our dishwasher is stainless steel inside and out.

  19. I made your dishwasher detergent and dropped a few of those little “moisture absorbing packages” that are always include in a new pair of shoe boxes and in other things. I think they may contain a silicon gel but not sure. These seem to work well to absorb any extra moisture along with a tight seal glass jar. (I have always save them as I am in the process of switching out the few remaining store bought cleaning products.) Thank you for this tried and true recipe.

  20. Hi there! Is this safe to use in any kind of dishwasher? I’ve seen another recipe that says not to use in a stainless steel dishwasher (what else would they be made of though?). Any thoughts on this? Thank you!

    1. lifenreflection says:

      Hey Lily, I get asked this a lot. This recipe is safe to use in a stainless steel dishwasher. We’ve been using it in ours for a few years now and it works great!

  21. Hi, I tried this recipe and it worked great! We finished the end of the jar, but there was so much stuck on the bottom of the jar and all clumped up, so had to keep stirring before each use, any suggestions as to why that happened?

    1. lifenreflection says:

      Moisture got in

  22. Natasha Derksen says:

    Hi, How much should I use per load of dishes? Thanks!

    1. lifenreflection says:

      Natasha, use one tablespoon.

  23. Hello, I just love this dishwasher detergent! Much more than even Cascade! The 1st batch I made was perfect, but for some reason the 2nd batch wasn’t “dry”. It felt kind of like moon sand. The jar was completely dry, i used exactly the same amount of essential oils…. but it just stayed stuck in the detergent spot in the machine. Any ideas for fixing that batch or just precautions so it doesn’t happen again? It was a sealed jar also

    1. lifenreflection says:

      Thank you, Rochelle, we love using it too! You could add more dry ingredients and mix again. May just need to be mixed longer.

  24. I need to make this into 1 tbsp pods so what would you suggest as the binding agent? I was thinking vinegar until thick, then pack into the trays – thoughts?

    1. lifenreflection says:

      Sorry Debbie, I haven’t made dishwasher pods and wouldn’t want to give advice or recommend anything without testing it first.

  25. Lykketone says:

    Hello! I also make my own stuff at home. All cleaning and hygiene stuff – from soap bars to tooth paste. Even my skin care is home made. 😊 It’s not only cheaper and better for me and the environment, but it also is fun making my own stuff. 😊

    I have some ideas for the buds people are asking for. Make the powder assuggested above but instead of putting it in a jar spray it carefully with water or white vinegar. Be carefully, it shouldn’t be wet! Just use enough to make it possible to form it. Barely… Like when you make sand castles on the beach at the most.. Use a mold that holds about 1 TBS (like for pralines, or ice-tray). Let it sit to the next day to dry. Put it in glass jar with an airtight lid.
    I did it like that for my “toilet bombs”.. For my dishwasher I use powder and not essential oils but maybe I’ll try that. You can also drop E.Os straight into the powder after you put it in your washer. Less moisture in the jar… 🙂

    Loved reading your blog and the posts here. 😊 Thank you for sharing. 🙏

    1. lifenreflection says:

      Great idea, thank you for sharing this tip!

  26. Can you use a plastic container? Or only glass

    1. lifenreflection says:

      Laurie, glass is best. The cleaning agents or essential oils might gradually eat through a plastic container over time. The kitchen pantry section in Target has some great glass containers that have room to keep a scoop inside!

  27. Nikole Matthews says:

    I really like this recipe! I messed it up though. I have had cloudy dishes and dishes that aren’t clean. I used pink salt and I saw in another comment that you said that wouldn’t work. Do you think I could salvage this batch by adding table salt to it? I didn’t add it because I’ve not bought it in years and didn’t have it on hand.

    1. lifenreflection says:

      That’s right pink salt won’t work for cleaning dishes. You try adding table salt, so not to waste the other ingredients, but I don’t know that what make enough of a difference.

  28. I made this a few weeks back and the first two loads came out great. I now have a film on all my dishes and some don’t seem clean. I’ve tired shaking up the jar before I use it to remix it and have tried using less. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. lifenreflection says:

      Renee, it sounds like you have hard water, possibly limestone or iron in your water than the average amount. So, double the amount of citric acid in the recipe and that should do it.

  29. Christina says:

    Just want you to know I clicked on your links to purchase some items but the link for citric acid didn’t work. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. lifenreflection says:

      Oh thank you Christina and thanks for letting them know. I’ll fix it.

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