Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

Last year sometime I read an article about chemicals in our homes and how children get accidentally poisoned.  One of number one “poisons” was automatic dishwasher detergent.   Considering that I run my dishwasher two to three times per day (with all the cakes I’m baking) and some dishwasher detergents are looking a lot like candy (have you seen the rectangle tabs and the power balls?), this caught my attention.

The article pointed out that if a child ingested one of those little bricks of dishwasher detergent or even a piece of one, there was a good chance that child would die.  That surely got my attention!   I don’t know where I originally read the article, but in searching today, I found this…

…automatic dishwashing detergent is in the same league as drain cleaner. A report from Johns Hopkins University calls automatic dishwashing detergent “among the most dangerous products in the home.” These detergents are extremely caustic, especially the liquid varieties. Just a few drops in a child’s mouth or eyes can cause serious damage. If you think your child has swallowed automatic dishwasher detergent, wipe off any remaining detergent, give him or her some water or milk to drink, and get the child to an emergency room immediately. If even a small amount of the detergent gets in the child’s eyes, flush the eyes with water for at least 15 minutes and get immediate medical help. via HealthDay

 You can also read more about it here.

So, I started searching for alternatives to automatic dishwashing detergent and by combining a few ideas, I came up with my “recipe”.  I’ve been using it for several months and honestly, it works just as well as the store-bought stuff.

I did notice that sometimes my stainless steel has a white residue on it, but that’s a minor inconvenience considering that my detergent is no longer fatally toxic and it doesn’t look like candy to my children.

So, here’s what I use:

In a larger Tupperware container, mix the following ingredients (I found them all at Walmart):

  • 2 cups of Borax
  • 2 cups of Baking Soda
  • 1 cup Kosher Salt
  • 1 cup Fruit Fresh (you can use plain citric acid if you can find it, or even several packets of Lemon flavored Kool-Aid packets for the citric acid with the bonus of a nice lemony scent) 

I keep a Tablespoon measuring spoon in my container and use one “scoop” per load.   I’ve read lots of articles on it and it seems that this works perfectly for a lot of people, but not so great for others.  I’m guessing it’s a matter of water quality (hard water vs. soft water, or well water vs. public water, etc.).  If you want to try it but not in such a large quantity, cut this recipe in half or even do a fourth of it to give it a try!

I also recommend that you continue to use a rinse agent (like Cascade Crystal Clear) or even white vinegar (if you want to go completely non-toxic) to help prevent the residue.

One other tip :: be sure to keep it in an airtight container.  The first time I made this, the lid didn’t get sealed back on and it absorbed moisture in the air and turned into huge yellowish chunks.  I was still able to use it but it wasn’t as easy to scoop… I actually had to break off pieces to put in the dishwasher!

I wish I could give you a cost breakdown, but I keep forgetting to add it up and do all the math when I buy ingredients.  I honestly believe it’s probably cheaper than buying full-price dishwasher detergent, but if you do deals and get yours cheap or free, you might come out even or this might be slightly pricier, but again, it’s non-toxic and that’s worth alot to me with small children in the house!!

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  1. I wish I could tell you Keli, but I honestly don't know. We have city water from our small local community, but that's about as much as I can tell you!

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