Homemade Dishwashing Detergent – Cheap and Green with a Free Printable Label

Make your own dishwashing detergent that’s green, all-natural and non-toxic in less than five minutes at home using ingredients found at the grocery store with this easy recipe!

Homemade Dishwashing Detergent Green, Natural and Non-Toxic

For a year now, I’ve been on a mission to make my house as green as possible. I feel like Mr. Clean, only with way more hair (on my head that is!) and sleeker biceps. My mission first began over a year ago when I decided to start making my own shampoo from baking soda – it’s cheap, green, and very gentle on my very dry, curly hair. It has worked very well and has sparked my desire to make more of my own products to continue saving money, the planet, and my family’s health! To see all my green living recipes and posts, click here.

I came across this homemade dishwasher detergent from diynatural.com in my searches and have been using it for almost nine months now. I’ve found it cleans just as well as commercial detergents, and love that it is safe for the environment and our house (many detergents omit gases into your home that can irritate those with asthma and harm ground water and aquatic life). It is also super cheap to make!

Important Information About BORAX

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) no longer recommends Borax (source) as a green cleaning agent claiming it “can cause skin and eye irritation and may disrupt hormones and harm the male reproductive system.” I have written on this blog before on my green cleaning products post that Borax is a controversial ingredient and is easily left out. If you so choose to leave it out, simply increase the kosher salt and citric acid that you use. I really don’t know what my opinion is on this issue. There are many controversial subjects like this in natural, green living (even lavender and tea tree oil have been defamed in one study and I swear by them!), so I have a hard time knowing what to do believe. Crunchy Betty, a green blogger I really like and respect, has the opinion that it’s safe. It’s so hard to know as a consumer, isn’t it? One year new studies show that coffee causes cancer, the next year, they’re telling us that it isn’t true and it’s healthy to have a cup a day! It makes my head spin, but I stick by the simpler and more natural, the better!

Homemade Dishwashing Detergent Ingredients - Borax, Super Washing Soda, Citric Acid and Kosher Salt

Ingredients: Super Washing Soda, Citric Acid, Borax (optional), Kosher Salt

How Cheap Is This Recipe?

Here is a cost breakdown (if you buy the products on Amazon). The closest measurement to these ingredients is sugar, so I’m comparing sugar to use as the weight. So, this an approximate cost breakdown!

  • Super Washing Soda – 4 lbs. for $10.17 and we use 1 cup per batch (2 cups sugar = 1 lb., so there are 8 cups in a box. We use 1 cup for one batch, which is 1/8 of the box, so $10.17/8 = $1.27 per batch
  • 20 Mule Team Borax – 4.8 lbs. for $5.56 and we use 1 cup per batch (2 cups sugar = 1 lb., so there are about 9 cups in a box. We use 1 cup for one batch, which is about 1/9 of the box, so $5.56/9 = $0.62 per batch
  • Citric Acid – 5 lbs for $19.23 and we use 1/2 cup per batch (2 cups sugar = 1 lb. so there are about 10 cups in a box. We use 1/2 cup for one batch, which is about 1/20 of the box, so $19.23/20 = $0.97 per batch
  • Kosher Salt – 3 lbs. for $9.99 and we use 1/2 cup per batch (2 cups sugar = 1 lb. so there are about 6 cups in a box. We use 1/2 cup for one batch, which is about 1/12 of the box, so $9.99/12 = $0.83 per batch
Add that all up:
$3.69 per batch, or 42 loads for option #1, 39 loads for option #2


Compare that to Other Green/Natural Dishwashing Detergents:
  • GrabGreen: $6.39 for 24 loads
  • Seventh Generation Auto Dish Pacs: $4.59 for 20 loads
Now, compared to regular dishwashing detergent like Cascade or Palmolive, there isn’t much of a difference in savings BUT this is 100% natural and eco-friendly for lakes, streams, aquatic life and much safer for your family. Remember, all those chemicals are on all over our dishes, which get ingested as we eat. My opinion is that just a little every now and then isn’t going to harm you, but every single day for years and years? Then it starts to be toxic.

Homemade Dishwashing Detergent Recipe

Homemade Dishwashing Detergent Instructions

I like to recycle containers like this Oxi Clean one to use for my homemade green recipes



There are two options I have found on how to use this recipe because the Citric Acid causes the mixture to harden like a ROCK. Otherwise you will find yourself stabbing at the detergent with an ice pick and cursing all things green living!


Option 1: 

Mix the super washing soda, borax and kosher salt together and keep the citric acid separate. For each load, measure out 1 tablespoon of this mixture and put in the detergent compartment and put 1 teaspoon of Citric Acid (2 if you have hard water) in the pre-wash compartment.

Option 2:

Mix all the dry ingredients together and add 1/2 cup of white rice (I tried brown and it didn’t work, it must be white!). The rice will absorb the moisture from the citric acid and keep it from hardening. I have not found that the rice harms my dishwasher or has any ill effects on the cleaning power of the detergent. In fact, I think it acts as a natural scrubber to get off stuck-on food! But, if adding rice seems strange to you, then go with option #1.

Vinegar as a Rinse Aid

White distilled vinegar makes for a fantastic, natural rinse aid. Just add it to the rinse compartment of your dishwasher (usually it’s on the door with a screw top). For added cleaning power and a wonderful citrus smell, use my recipe for citrus-infused vinegar!

Measure out your ingredients into any container you like, and then either shake it or stir to mix. The citric acid causes the mixture to act like powdered lemonade or Koolaid – it puffs into the air and will irritate your nose and throat, so be careful if you shake it!
While this is way less toxic than commercial dishwashing detergents, I would still be careful around children and keep it out of their reach due to the borax. You probably won’t have to rush off to the emergency room if ingested, but I would call my pediatrician if one of them get a mouthful!


Make Your Own Super Washing Soda

Super Washing Soda is much more expensive that straight up baking soda, and reader Maria reports that you can make your own at home. My good blogging buddy from Nature’s Nurture has an excellent tutorial on how to do just that!

Download and Print A Free Printable Label (click on the label to download)

Homemade Dishwashing Detergent with Free Printable Label
Enjoy a cheaper, 100% green way to clean your dishes! And, while you’re at it, check out my post on making your own green and cheap laundry detergent.
About Sara McFall

Sara is the owner and founder of My Merry Messy Life, which started in 2011 as a way to chronicle her journey to a natural, chemical-free lifestyle and to share her passions of mothering, real food, homeschooling and crochet. She is a mama to three precious and energetic little boys and wife to a university professor who loves to sing, dance ballet and ballroom, and live simply and naturally.


  1. Glad you found us Sara, never stop discovering! Let’s change the world.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Went and checked the green dish washing detergent I made, and sure enough had turned hard. I made it about two days ago and was able to save it by moving it with a plastic knife. I used a recipe like yours. I love the way it does the dishes! Thanks for your tips!

    • Glad you were able to save your’s! It can get very hard. I need to add this to the post but I now add about a 1/2 cup of white rice to the recipe and it does the trick – no hardness! Brown rice doesn’t work for some reason, has to be white.

  3. Can I still use this if I “hand wash” my dishes? We do not have a dishwasher, except for my 12 year old daughter!!! Thanks for ALL your DIY products you post about. I’m going to become a “GREEN” girl as much as possible, Thank you again.


    • Hi Kelly! Oh, you’re so welcome! If you subscribe by email or follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll be able to keep up with the new green posts. Good for you for being as green as you can be :). Now, to use this as a hand wash detergent might work, but it won’t suds up at all. You could try Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soaps – I have a whole post about it as well. It’s made from olive oil.

  4. Renee Ivey says:

    try Lemi Shine for the hard water stains, even for your glasses. worked for me. you can find it at Walmart in the detergent aisle. thanks for your recipe, I will be sure to try it!

  5. Hi Sarah

    Thank you for sharing 🙂
    Do you know that you can make your washing soda at home? Just put baking soda in the oven (400F) for 30 minutes and you will convert it into washing soda. Simple and cheap.
    Two questions, though: 1) what is kosher salt? 2) is there any substitute for borax? I have read so much about its toxicity when people use it in homemade recipes…
    Thanks 🙂
    All the best,


    • I second this. We are a borax free family. Do you know of any alternatives?

      • Hi Megan! I just added a section to this post to address this issue, as I have just read an article from the EWG saying it is toxic. That being said, you can simply omit it and increase the amounts of super washing soda and kosher salt. I will try this combo and report back on this post how well it works!

    • Hi Maria! Yes, I did know that about washing soda! But, I should add it to the post. Thanks so much for sharing! Kosher salt is a lot like sea salt – it’s thicker and chunkier than table salt. There’s a lot more info about it here on foodnetwork.com, but basically, we use a thicker salt to act as a scrubbing agent. And, yes, Borax is quite controversial. I just added a paragraph to this post to address that. Basically, you can simply omit it from the recipe all together and increase the amount of washing soda and salt. I have not yet tried this, but after reading several articles about Borax and it’s toxicity, I will and then will update this post!

  6. I made this recipe and my dishes came out griddy and not so clean. Do you have any suggestions? I tried the Lemi Shine with the detergent but was unsure if you are suppose to use the Lemi Shine rinse aide or the cleanser. If you have any input please let me know. I love the idea of going green but I also want to make sure that we are not ingesting the ingredients. Especially if the borax is suppose to be toxic. Thanks!

    • Hi Laura! Suggestions are to add more citric acid and/or kosher salt and use vinegar as a rinse aid – it goes in the rinse compartment. I didn’t quite understand how you used the Lemi Shine – was it to replace another ingredient? Do you have hard water? Because that would explain a lot, and adding more citric acid and salt should do the trick.

  7. I seen that some were saying that borax is toxic. There are always 2 sides to every story. It is a bit lengthy, but interesting on the contradiction. http://www.health-science-spirit.com/borax.htm

  8. Hi there, Sara,

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Since finding your blog spot/ web sight a month and a half ago, we have changed so many products in our home using the natural substitutes, thanks to your recipes! Shampoo, conditioner, body scrub, body wash, shaving gel/cream, hand soap, laundry soap, fabric softener, and dishwasher rinse aid, to name a few! I even started the orange peel infused vinegar, I only have two days left to wait before I can use it to make my disinfecting wipes! Can you tell how excited I am!!! We have really been going through the citrus fruit, so I keep starting new batches and dating the lids, so I will never run out! Next week, my sister-in-law and I are going to make the lip balm and the body lotion. We are so excited! I have so many questions for you!!! So here I go,

    1. How much extra citric acid and kosher salt should we use to replace the borax in the dish washing detergent? We have water that is on the hard side as well. Any suggestions or measurements that you could give us? Or how much extra should we start with?

    2. How long does the citrus infused vinegar last?

    3. For the dryer balls, how long do they last? How many loads can you get out of them?

    4. Is there any recipe for making a liquid HAND dish washing soap that I could use on my pots and pans that can’t fit in the dishwasher? I don’t really want to soak my hands in the citric acid or use Castile soap (as it kind of make them cloudy looking and not shiny!).

    5. My hair is really long and medium to thick. I really like how the ACV works, but my hair takes so long to air dry, about 4 hours! (I don’t use a hair dryer!) I am kind of tired of the vinegar smell while waiting for my hair to dry! Is it safe to use the citrus infused vinegar as a substitute for the ACV conditioner? Maybe I could infuse the ACV instead of the distilled white vinegar? I have a little dandruff, so I now use the ACV twice per week on my scalp and the rest of the week on only my hair from the nape of my neck down.

    Thank you for your time! Thank you just doesn’t seem to be enough to say for the impact that you are making, and helping others to make for the health of their family and the earth, but thanks all the same!

    Melissa ;())

    • Hi Melissa! Thank you for your sweet comments. Fans like you make this all worthwhile! To answer your questions –

      1. I would equal amounts of both, since they both help to combat hard water and clean the dishes like Borax does.
      2. The citrus infused vinegar should last a very long time, but I really could tell you an exact time. Mine has lasted for several months with no problems.
      3. I’ve read that dryer balls last for 2 years or so – mine have lasted 1 year with no problems at all, so I think they’ll last longer than than 2!
      4. I have been using Seventh Generation’s liquid hand dishwashing liquid as I haven’t tried making my own yet. I agree – I don’t like castile soap for it. But, Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds may also be a good option.
      5. My hair also takes forever to dry, and I do hear ya on the vinegar smell as it dries. I haven’t really come up with a solution for that, except that I do dry it till it’s damp so it doesn’t drive me crazy. Today I actually chopped off my hair because I’m tired of waiting for it to dry! 🙂

      Wow, I’m impressed. You really ARE going green and using all my recipes! Let me know if you need any more help!

  9. Sara,

    Thank you so much for the help and tips! We are going to make the lip balm, dishwasher detergent, and body/hand lotion today! Thanks again!

    Melissa ;())

  10. Hi there. We have been using equal parts washing soda and baking soda with a little lavender EO for dishwasher detergent. I put about 2 T in per wash cycle and so far so good.

  11. Hi Sara, do you have a recipe for liquid dish soap?? I just made my Fabric Stain Remover and Laundry Detergent..Thanks a lot for sharing… :}

    • No, I don’t. I have used Dr. Bronner’s to wash dishes and don’t like it because it is oily and doesn’t bubble up much. However, I have seen recipes for it using the bar soap and grating it, then melting it over the stove with a dash of salt to draw out some of the water. I would like to try that one, but haven’t yet.

  12. Try putting them in ice trays or small mini muffin pan. So when it dries, you have dishwasher pellets. I personally do the same mix but without the citric acid. I use lemon juice, same citric properties. I just put them in ice cub trays, pressed firmly only filling half way. I love making products like you guys do.

    • Hi Malaya! I tried that with this recipe and they never ever hardened. Have you done the ice cube tray with this particular recipe?

    • Dear Malaya! Thank you for posting your response! I was looking for another alternative besides the citric acid bc my Walmart doesn’t have it. And I just can’t wait for it to be mailed in from Amazon (too eager try Sara’s recipe!).

  13. Hello! I just love your website and free printable labels! I am having SO much fun learning from you and going green one step at a time! I have done some research on Borax and the controversy is so confusing! I feel more comfortable to be safe and leave it out of all my cleaners.

    My question to you is: I have read that Borax and Baking Soda has essentially the same cleaning properties. Could I substitute the Borax for Baking Soda in this dishwasher recipe like you suggest in your laundry detergent recipe? What are your thoughts on this?

    Thanks so much!!!!

    • Hi Christine! Oh, absolutely! Just switch it out at a 1:1 ratio. I no longer use borax either, and just substitute with baking soda. My detergent still works just as well as it did before. Plus it’s even cheaper that way!

      • Great!!! Thanks so much, Sara!!!

        One more question – when substituting with baking soda, do you use the original amount of citric acid and kosher salt called for? Or do you increase it? Thank you!

  14. I have used this or a similar recipe for close to a year now and love it. I think it works better than Cascade. What I’ve found to keep it from getting hard is to store in the refrigerator. I shake it up each time before use and I’ve had no issues with clumping. I believe the fridge is less humidity so that stops the citric acid from clumping 🙂

  15. I wonder if you could portion out the mixture into ice cube tray until harden. Then you would have your own dish pods. 🙂 I think this will be this weekends project.

    • Hi Cheri! I did try that, and it was a disaster for me! I couldn’t get them out of the trays and they crumbled all over the place. Maybe you’ll get more creative and come up with a solution to make that work! Let me know if you do!

  16. Walmart has washing soda for between $3 and $4 a box. If you order over a certain $ worth, they’ll ship it free to your house. I recently put in a big order.

  17. I’ve tried this recipe and keep getting the white residue on my dishes… : ( I’ve kept adding salt and citric acid like you said in equal parts, I’m now all 4 ingredient (washing soda, baking soda, salt, citric acid) are equal parts and still white crap on dishes… using the vinegar as well in the rinse too… any ideas??? I didn’t add the white rice yet.

    Please help, I don’t want to lose this battle with my hubby and have to use chemical dish soap…

    • Hi Julie! I had seen your comment, just didn’t get a chance to reply. I think the issue might be that you’re using too much for your dishwasher/type of water. So I’d use less and add more vinegar and see what happens. If that doesn’t work, I also use Seventh Generation’s dishwashing detergent which works really well.

  18. Certainly! Homemade dishwashing detergent is far more practical and save for any skin type. This has been what I use at home for quite some time now.

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