Homemade Dishwasher Soap Recipe without Borax

I’ve tried this for about a week now and am pretty happy with the recipe.  I will admit my glassware is a little foggy looking but this is a fair trade off we have decided.  Everything else comes out clean and I know they have all been through a high heat rinse so that’s good enough for us.  I am sure they won’t meet my mom’s standard of shininess but oh well.  See my new update below.

I found that vinegar is a crucial part of the system, and since it can’t be added to the soap because it will turn it back into oil, it needs to be part of the rinse cycle.  Because I am too lazy to wait around until the dishwasher hits the rinse cycle I just put a few glugs into the bottom of the washer.  Also if you fill the rinse aid dispenser that will be released during the rinse cycle as well.  It’s not enough to do the job though, that’s why I add more.

As for the cleaning agents I decided to try my two part method that I developed for the laundry detergent.  First I add the liquid soap mix and then I pour in some of the powdered mix.  Think of it like those little packets of detergent that have soap on one side and powder on the other.

Liquid Soap Mixture:

1 part liquid castile soap

1 part water

I put this into an empty dishwasher soap container that I had on hand.

Powdered Mixture:

3 parts washing soda

1 part salt

Put into clean, dry jar.  Don’t waste a canning jar, use a jar that you can’t can with to be extra frugal.

For each load: Use 2 teaspoons dry mix, approximately 3 teaspoons liquid soap mix and a tiny squeeze of dish soap (my newest discovery, see update below).  Pour a glug of vinegar into the bottom of the dishwasher too.  The amounts don’t have to be exact just measure it once and then eyeball it after that.

Also, fill up the rinse aid with vinegar.  It only releases a small amount each load but it’s better than nothing.

If you find this isn’t working for your unique water requirements then just experiment.  I read an article that said less soap is better than more soap.  The soap is what causes the soap scum on the glasses.  So adding more won’t make matters better.  Try less soap, instead.  Maybe more dry mix would be a better option.  Hopefully you find something that works for your family.

Another thing to think about is that I have heard, not sure where, but that putting soap into the dishwasher is not advised.  Detergent is apparently different than soap.  I take this to mean, no dish soap, especially dish soap alone, but I thought I would mention it so you can decide for yourselves.

Update:  I have been using this dishwasher soap now for about 2 months and I think I have worked out some more of the kinks.  My discovery came with the addition of plain ol’ dish soap (I have some natural brand in a giant bottle from Costco).  I use the same amounts posted above but then I add a tiny squeeze of dishwasher soap into the dispenser.  It makes my glasses come out shiny now.  It’s perfect.  Several steps I admit but natural and nearly equal to the old stuff.


Thanks, Courtney

25 responses to “Homemade Dishwasher Soap Recipe without Borax

  1. Pingback: Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe Without Borax | His and Hers Homesteading

  2. Maybe we should all go back to hand washing the dishes… I have fond memories of cleaning up after a great meal in my grandmother’s kitchen with my mom, and aunt…washing, drying, laughing and talking. The glasses were always sparkling, the plates were too, everything was put away and the floor was swept….

  3. How about the extra rinse button? Will that release more rinse agent?

  4. That is a good idea. I don’t happen to have an extra rinse cycle but that would likely help. Give it a try!

  5. Pingback: Homemade Dishwasher Soap Disaster #1 | His and Hers Homesteading

  6. Awesome. I’m going to try your plan this week.

    Thank you for persevering and perfecting!


  7. Thank you! I’m trying to come up with a green cleaning presentation for my library and was thrown for a loop this morning when I found out that Borax is NOT green. Your recipes for laundry soap and dishwasher detergent are the first recipes that I’ve found without Borax! Thank you so much for experimenting and sharing 🙂

    • I did some more research for borax-free recipes and found this one with lemi shine (http://www.theecofriendlyfamily.com/2011/10/diy-dishwasher-detergent-without-borax.html). Found lemi shine for $5 at one store in town, and about $3.50 at another, so not quite as cheap a recipe as I was hoping for. I’ve also seen a recipe with washing soda, baking soda, borax, and packages of lemon kool-aid. I made that recipe before reading more about Borax and it seemed to work well, but my husband won’t touch it with a 10 foot pole after I told him about possible health effects. One poster suggested just substituting 1/4 cup citric acid for the 1 cup borax in that recipe. Have you tried either of these recipes? What were your results? I want to give people a couple of options at my green cleaning program.

      • Whoops – I forgot to mention that I did not use the lemon kool-aid. I’m not sure if it’s just in the recipe to add scent, but I left it out.

      • Emily – I haven’t tried the Lemi Shine, never heard of it actually. I took at look at the MSDS and the ingredients are proprietary, so I have no clue what it’s made of. It could be citric acid. The reason I left citric acid out of the recipe was because it is an acid and when added to the castile soap I was concerned it would turn it back into an oily mess like when you add vinegar to the soap. It is worth a try though. I probably will skip the Lemi Shine simply for the added cost. We do have some powdery film on our plastics but it doesn’t bother us enough to do anything about it. But I have citric acid and will try to get around to testing that out, one of these days.

      • Thank you, Courtney! I will be testing a load with the citric acid this week. We have such hard water here, and the recipe I was using with borax leaves my glasses so foggy. I agree – I don’t know how to tell if Lemi Shine is really “green,” and the cost is extreme. I’m proud of the math I’ve done for the past couple of weeks, so here is my cost comparison per load of dishwasher detergent, IF my math is correct – homemade dishwasher detergent with Lemi Shine is $0.15/load, 7th Generation dishwasher detergent is $0.08/load, homemade powder with citric acid (remove borax) is $0.06/load, regular Cascade (not green) is $0.6/load, and homemade powder with borax is $0.02/load. With the high cost of liquid castile soap here in my smallish town, and no way to buy it in bulk, your recipe with wet and dry mixes is $0.12/load. If you can get Dr. Brommer’s in a big jug, the price might be much, much cheaper where you live than the dinky bottles of Kirk’s liquid castile at my grocery store. Alright – I’m done with my math for today – whew! If you can give me the price and quantity of what you purchase, I can figure up the cost for you…

      • That is very interesting. We went through the similar exercise for laundry detergent, but I can’t remember it all now. I get my castile soap from Bramble Berry soaps. I bought a 5 gallon bucket for $96. I use this for our laundry detergent, hand soap, body soap, and dishwasher detergent so it’s a good purchase for us. I agree Dr. Bronner’s is expensive, plus it’s hard to find the baby – unscented kind, even when you do see it on sale.

  8. We tried this recipe and were wondering how you deal with any film on your dishes? Our’s had a cloudy film all over them and it was “powdery” on our fingers when we wiped it off. We’re wondering if you think it might be from the castile soap or from the powder mix? We also were wondering how much is a “tiny squeeze” of dish soap? Our first time with this home made recipe was a bit of a sister, first of all, because I think we used the wrong castile soap. We wanted to buy Dr. Bronner’s but we didn’t particularly want to spend $17 on the 32 oz bottle that is sold in our area, (that’s the only size that we could fine at the time). So, we found Kirk’s Pure Castile soap in the laundry detergent isle at our local grocery store. We thought it was a bit thick, (like normal liquid hand soap consistency), and boy did we ever have a surprise! It was like out of the episode of I Love Lucy where she puts too much soap in the wash machine! We had suds spilling out EVERYWHERE!!! Haha! So, needless to say, we will not be using Kirk’s Castile again for dishwasher soap.
    Any advice on getting rid of the white film would be appreciated!!

    • Andrea, Yes there is a powdery residue but usually only on plastic items. We don’t use much plastic but it does show up on our resusable sippy cups. I have found that the vinegar is the key to avoiding a lot of powdery residue. And then the rest we just live with and chalk it up to going natural. It drives my mom crazy when she visits but we don’t mind. Every once and a while I do use regular ol’ detergent and that cleans off the powdery residue. As far as the amount of dish soap I would say less than a teaspoon. And bummer about the Kirk’s Castile soap disaster. The castile soap I use has almost no suds, we actually wished it made more suds. So it must the Kirk’s or maybe it depends on the hardness of your water too. I hope round 2 goes better for you!

      • Melissa

        The citric acid gets rid of that film. And if you’re using dishwasher soap at all beware it suds a ton and the I love Lucy reference is about right. Try just mixing some powdered citric acid wih washing soda. I use the kool aid packets because I can’t find citric acid anywhere else. It worked great where we used to live but the water here is so different I can’t get the mix right and resorted to cheap store brand that does just fine and costs a cent more than my mix did

    • Andrea – Robert reminded me that, even though it seems counter intuitive, the less soap you use the better job at washing it does and they less residue. I have read this is true for the regular store bought detergent as well. So try using less, not more. Weird I know.

      • I just tried this for the first time and we also had white powdery stuff, but it left a film on everything (I don’t put plastic in the dishwasher). We ran the load again with regular soap, but it’s still there. My husband even hand-washed a pie plate to see if it would take the film away and it wouldn’t. We’re off to the store tonight to buy a big jug of vinegar to soak everything in. Hopefully that works to remove the film, otherwise we’ll be buying all new glassware. 😦 Oh, and I was on the conservative side when I put the soap in because I had read this comment. Next time I experiment with a homemade soap, I think I’ll run a really small load first to see how it works for me! I was thinking – maybe I didn’t put enough vinegar in the bottom of the dishwasher. How much would you estimate that you put in there? Also, doesn’t it just go down the drain when you pour it in? Mine seemed to just disappear down the holes…

  9. Pingback: Borax Free Homemade Laundry and Dishwasher Soap | His and Hers Homesteading

  10. Newbie here, I just have a quick question for the Laundry detergent..Is this OK for High Efficiency wash machines? Thanks

    • Hmmm, I think it should be okay. I used Charlie’s soap in a high efficiency washer and I think my formulation is pretty similar. Castille soap doesn’t make much suds, if that’s the concern with high efficiency washers. Let us know what ya think.

      • Thanks for the reply.. I’ll give it a try then.. I was just happy to find something without Borax in it as my children are allergic to it! Thanks again!

  11. Ladies, I have been a long-time maker of my own dishwasher/laundry detergents. I need to advise you of a couple of things. 1. The film is from the things you’re using not breaking down or being rinsed away. 2. DO NOT USE DISH DETERGENT IN THE DISHWASHER!!!!!!!!! I cannot stress this enough. You are destroying the seals on your dishwasher and will come home (or wake up) one day to find that you have flooded your kitchen. This is extremely harmful and unless you can afford to replace your kitchen floors and cabinets, DON’T DO IT! 3. Don’t use any soaps in the dishwasher. A combination of washing soda, baking soda, citric acid (which is why some recipes call for Lemi Shine or lemon Kool-Aid), and salt will get your dishes clean and eliminate that weird film. 4. If you use the right combination of things, you will find that the amount of vinegar released into the rinse cycle is plenty to do the job. Please feel free to visit my blog for more information: http://pr4ctic411ygr33n.blogspot.com.

  12. Pingback: Update for Homemade Dishwasher Detergent | His and Hers Homesteading

  13. so if you use store bought dishwashing liquid to add to your mixture, how do you know it doesn’t contain cancerious surfectants, lye or borax? Whats the point of doing it if youre using store bought soaps? I use washing soda, two packs of unsweetened lemonade powder mix from the juice isle and coarse salt and vinegar in the rinse.

  14. Pingback: Getting Clean

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