DIY – Make Your Own Dishwasher Detergent

A few years ago I bought a new dishwasher.  It was very exciting.  It is super quiet, which is really important to me.  I do so much cooking that there are often two loads a day.  After dinner we like to watch a little TV.  With my old washer I used to have to remember to start the dishwasher as we went to bed.  Otherwise it was so loud we couldn’t hear the TV.  Sometimes I forgot and would wake up to a dishwasher full of dirty dishes. My new dishwasher you have lean in close to tell it is even running.  I also love that it can do quick wash, or for a small load top rack only.  But after a few weeks of dishes I was getting that white film and water spots. And in my brand new, super-duper dishwasher!  It was depressing.   I kept changing detergents trying to see if that was my problem.  After some research I realized my problem was hard water.  That is when I found Finish Powerball Tabs. I purchased it at Costco for $15.69 per 100 tabs.

After seeing this pin from Matt Jabs on DIY natural, I wondered if I could get the same results for less on my own.  Here is how to make your own dishwashing detergent at home:

Make Your Own Dishwasher Detergent
Recipe type: Natural cleaning
  • 1 cup Borax
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • ½ cup Kosher salt
  • ½ cup Lemi Shine (the original instructions call for citric acid which is cheapest when purchased online. Otherwise it is available in the canning aisle during canning season at a higher price. It didn't work very well for me. On their FAQ page they mention that those with hard water problems may like to try Lemi Shine and I found it works perfectly. It is available at Walmart, which I found more convenient than trying to hunt down citric acid. You can play with increasing or decreasing the amount depending on how hard your water is. ½ cup worked for me.)
  1. Mix everything together in a lidded container and shake.
  2. Use 1 TBSP per load.


Pour all these ingredients into a container with a lid and shake.

Use 1 TBSP per load.

So, it works, but is it worth the effort? Here is the cost breakdown:

Borax – $3.38=76 ounces/8 ounces=$0.32 per batch

Washing soda – 3.24=55 ounces/8 ounces=$0.48 per batch

Salt – $1.99=48 ounces/4 ounces=$0.16 per batch

Lemi Shine – $3.66=12 ounces/4 ounces=$1.20 per batch


Cost comparison:

Finish Powerball tabs – $15.69/100 loads = $0.16

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent – $2.16/48 loads = $0.05  Wowie kazowie!  Even if you have to increase how much Lemi Shine you put in it is still a savings.  Um, yeah…

This Pin Rocks!

***Update 3/15/13***

I initially had great results with this dishwasher detergent. After using it for a longer period my dishes were not coming as clean as they should. I have switched back to my favorite detergent. Bummer, but we just gotta keep real. If you do not have any issues with hard water, this may still work for you. Feel free to let us know.



  1. Hi Sherri, I’m assuming you didn’t end up with hard water spots? Hard water issues has been our problem too with the dishwasher. I always add vinegar to the wash and that works beautifully. But for the cost savings you are talking about, it just might be worth the effort, especially if it rocks!

    • That’s right! The Lemi Shine does the trick for making sure you don’t get hard water spots. You can put the vinegar in the rinse dispenser where you would put the rinse agent. That adds to the savings as well. Much less expensive than commercial rinse agents.

      • Will the lemi shine work with my fiesta dishes?

        • Nicole, this is straight from the bottle on Lemi Shine: “Check manufacturer’s cleaning instructions on all dishwasher safe items. Not recommended for painted glassware,painted mugs, aluminum, fine china or any enamel coated cutlery or cookware.”
          This is from the website
          “Is my Fiesta® Dinnerware oven/microwave/dishwasher/freezer safe?
          Yes. Your Fiesta® is fully oven/microwave/dishwasher/and freezer safe. Our products are made to accommodate the food service/hotel industry professional consumer, providing a broad range of functionality. Features such as going from the freezer to the oven, oven to table, table to the dishwasher, and use in the microwave. So do not be afraid to use them!”
          I hope this info helps answer your question.
          Sherri (the Baby of the Family)

  2. I think you just convinced me to try homemade dishwasher detergent! I love this blog, you all do an awesome job! Thanks!

  3. Sarah Gallagher says:

    Can’t wait to try it! I just removed the scum from my glassware by using the 1C bleach in the wash cycle, then cancelling before the dry cycle. Then I C white vinegar in a bowl on the bottom rack and let the dishwasher go – they are like new! Now i will try this as we have hard water and hope to not have to see scum and spots again!!!

  4. I was so excited to try this but I think that maybe our Las Vegas water is just too hard?!? The first couple of times just coated everything in a white film – but that all came off after a couple of vinegar runs. I tried adding more Lemon Shine – since we do add it to our regular detergent as well normally – but it still didn’t work :( I’m jealous of the others success. Thanks!

    • Darn, Sorry to hear it. Are you putting vinegar in your rinse aid dispenser? That works for some people as well. There is a product from Lemi Shine for the rinse dispenser as well. Sorry it didn’t work for you. Darn hard water. Maybe those tips can help. Thank you for commenting.

    • jody burgoyne says:

      Mine came out with a white film too! I used citric acid because I had some on hand. What are we doing wrong??

      • Bummer, right? At first when I used the citric acid it didn’t work well. When I used Lemi Shine I got great results at first, but over time the white film came back. It is a hard water issue. Some have harder water than others. I am still on the hunt for a homemade dish detergent that will work well for those of us who have really hard water. Let me know if you find something that works for you.

        • Tina Hardwick says:

          I too have hard water – to the extreme I think. I resolved this issue by using a dish washer cleaner to rid my machine of old deposits, and then using my natural detergent formula with Lemishine and vinegar in the rinse. I also no do a weekly complete pots and pans cycle without dishes, with vinegar in all the cups. it seems to keep the film at bay

          • Tina, I am glad to hear of your experience. I am testing out everyone’s advice and still tinkering to come up with a solution that will work for everyone. It is really helpful to me to get your feedback. Sherri (the baby of the family)

    • RE that hard water in Las Vegas… I’ve been testing soap recipes from many sites for the last month or so. The white film continued to be a problem. Finally a solution… Using ONLY washing soda in the pre-wash cup – and citric acid of some sort in the main wash cup. The citric acid affects the washing soda, so separating them helped. The citric acid rinses the residue off. The borax was a problem. The washing soda cleans and softens the water. Dishes are really clean with no film now. Now I have to deal with the water drops remaining after the cycle completes. Vinegar doesn’t help. Perhaps the Lemi shine rinse aid.

      • Thanks for taking the time for such a thorough response. It helps to hear what is working and what isn’t Alice.

  5. Thanks for sharing this, I just made a batch up and have my first load going!!! We have such hard water here that I started adding vinegar in the rinse dispenser a while back, it does help tons!! After reading your post I thought since I was already making my own laundry deterent that I wouled give this a try too!! Looking forward to more money saving posts from ya!! Take care and God bless!!

    • I have been using it for a while now and keep getting good results. So glad you came by and took the time to comment.

  6. I wonder if vinegar powder, added to the mixture, would help with hard water?

  7. This sounds awesome!!! I will try it!!!

  8. Borax is a water softener so you may want to increase your ratio of borax to washing soda.

  9. Krista Williams says:

    Question, I like the way it cleans, but it turns hard as a rock in my container. Does anyone else have this problem? If so what do you do? I have tried to put it in 2 different container, and also tried to put in different spot in the kitchen. Don’t know what to do. I do make a big batch when I do it to just save time and use all the lemon shine up, maybe I will try making a small batcht the next time. Please help!! Thanks

    • Krista, First off I am so happy to hear that it is working for you! I make mine in small batches, so I haven’t had any problem with that. A few suggestions I have seen on the web are to put a few tablespoons of rice in the detergent to absorb the moisture. Another is to give it a quick stir it each time you use it. One person I read about makes a batch and leaves it open for a few days, stirring it to prevent clumping. The moisture evaporates and then they put the lid on and have better results. Thank you so much for your feedback and I hope you will come back and let us know which method worked best for you.
      Sherri (the baby of the family)

  10. I had this same problem with homemade detergent that was close to this same recipe. I read somewhere that too much soda will do that, so I cut back the amount of detergent I was using per load (rather than try to remix what I had). The dishes still got just as clean, without the residue. Hope you get it ironed out!

  11. Elizabeth says:

    If you have hard water, vinegar only aggravates the issue and doesn’t always help. I cloth diaper one child and vinegar can be added to your washing machine for issues but have found it makes any issue worse, not better. Once in awhile it’ll help the dishes, but we found not every cycle does it work. We have pretty hard water in South Tx.

    • Hard water can be such a pain, right? I am still experimenting and working on a homemade dish detergent that I can endorse.Wish me luck!

  12. I made this a few weeks ago and have been using it fine but has anyone had the problem of it turning into a hard clump in the container? It’s been sealed and everything but I need an ice pick to break up enough to use it!! Any tips??

    • Hi Thrifty Green Mom. I am thrilled it is working for you. I have heard some people make it in smaller batches, or stir it every day, or make a little sachet bag from cheesecloth and fill it with rice to absorb the moisture. Hope one of those will work for you.

  13. To add to the savings, your Borax and Washing Soda can also be used for your homemade laundry detergent as well. To me, the convenience of buying these ingredients and being able to fully use the boxes up for multiple cleaning supplies saves me precious time…and money!

    • Glad it works for you. I have been wanting to try homemade laundry detergent. It is on my list of things to do. Thanks for letting us know!

  14. I’ve read other recipes that call for Baking Soda instead of Washing Soda. I use the Washing Soda in my laundry detergent recipe, but how do they differ in regards to the dishwasher detergent? Thanks for the post!

    • I have done a little research and this is what I found on the Arm and Hammer website on FAQ. Their answer to your question is: Baking Soda is made of 100% Sodium Bicarbonate. Super Washing Soda is made of 100% Sodium Carbonate. While they sound similar, they are not the same. Both products can be used to improve liquid laundry performance for cleaner, fresher clothes. Both products can also be used for cleaning around the house. Baking Soda can be used in baking, as a dentifrice and as an antacid, Super Washing Soda cannot. Super Washing Soda should never be ingested. Be sure to check product packaging for specific uses and recommendations.

      Here is my two cents – make a small batch of both and see which you like best. I think baking soda is less expensive, so you may find that a great alternative. Good luck!

  15. beingretired says:

    Just read that adding sodium tripolyphosphate takes care of problems associated with hard water in a dishwasher. Trouble is that’s a phosphate banned by many states because it is costly to take out of waste water and, if not, will pollute streams and lakes. Commercial users are allowed to use the product, so you can still buy the chemical and buy restaurant type dishwasher soaps with phosphates. That would be a irresponsible use at home and is why most of us try the eco-friendly soaps and additives on the grocery shelves. We moved to Las Vegas recently and our rental house has a water softener, but we have no idea how to use the thing with the huge bags of salt that must be purchased at the grocery and added to the machine. Our only experience with salt was in the East for ice melting and I thought that was blamed for problems in the waterways, as well. So now wondering if using salt in water softeners is a good idea in Las Vegas and why is it allowed.

    • It is a bit of a confusing mess, isn’t it? We will keep testing and when we find something that works, we will definitely share it. Until then, Finish dishwasher detergent works best for me with our hard water.

  16. Lemi Shine has a detergent now too. You can find it at Walmart and a few regional grocery store chains. I think Albertson’s may have it too? By the way, they have a rinse too. Remember, modern dishwashers have three opportunities to put hard water deposits on your dishes. Two wash cycles and a rinse cycle. The Lemi Shine rinse has some essential citrus oil that help prevent hardwater deposits too. I have used all four of their products, the machine cleaner, detergent, booster and rinse aid too. Really happy with the results :-) Oh, and none of those harsh chemicals are used and no chemical residues like the other big brands have.

  17. Shala Cripps says:

    Thank you Alice I’m gonna have to try this as we have hard water here in Lebanon Tn at least at our house and I keep getting the white residue on everything one thing that I noticed that did help was using Seventh Generation Liquid Dishwashing Detergent with 1/4 of a tab of homemade dishwasher detergent tabs that I mixed up from someone else’s recipe even using vinegar in the rinse dispenser doesn’t help and I’m not sure how long the liquid detergent and the homemade tab will last for spot free dishes. I’m gonna try separating them like you suggested. Also I’ve tried the Hydrogen Peroxide as an alternative to bleach for my whites in the laundry and it’s just not whitening my clothes at all, I have tried baking soda mixed in with the detergent and still nope! I don’t have a clothesline to hang the clothes outside to dry would love one but I don’t know where to put it as we don’t have alot of space left in our yard, ( I heard that helps with the Hydrogen Peroxide whitening that’s why I mentioned ) but does anyone else have any ideas as I don’t want to use bleach but I want white clothes. Also needing a good Homemade Stain Remover Recipe for stains that have remained on clothes that I forgot to check before putting in the dryer Any Suggestions on these things anyone?


  1. […] detergent pinned to my board with the intent of making it one day. Then I saw that my friends at made it and gave it a “This Pin Rocks” stamp of approval. I decided right then and […]

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