I love to stay as natural as possible for household items. Sometimes it is hard to do. For example, I haven’t been able to stop using bleach for the toilet. I just can’t find a good natural replacement!
However, dishwasher soap is one area that I have found can be replaced very easily with store cupboard items and still get (almost) as good a wash as you would get using a shop-bought dishwasher tablet.
So, if you have arrived at this post because you want to ditch your usual dishwasher tablet, or you have simply run out of detergent, here are three options for you.
I have tried all of them, and I give you a score to help you decide the best one for you.
If you don’t have time to read. Here is my top pick. Read on for more detail:
Add three drops of ordinary dish soap into your dispenser drawer. Then fill the drawer two-thirds full with baking soda, and then follow with salt until almost full. This combination washes your dishes very effectively without producing too many suds.
I sometimes use affiliate links. When you click these links and make a purchase, I may get a small commission. It won’t cost you anything but it helps me to run this site.
Method 1 - Dish soap, baking soda and salt
Sometimes I forget to add dishwasher detergent to the drawer. As I found, dishes still get cleaned. Washing in hot water alone is fine for the odd cycle because it can’t do any harm to your dishwasher. But, dishwasher detergent is necessary. It's not just for cleaning dishes, but also for keeping your dishwasher clean, and stopping it from smelling. So, it is important not to keep forgetting it!
Most of the time, I like to use a homemade dishwasher detergent and dish soap because it is very simple and uses items that I don’t have to buy especially for this purpose.
I find this recipe works just as well as the shop-bought detergent (with one issue – find out later), plus all the ingredients are to hand in my cupboard.
- Dish soap (regular or eco-friendly)
- Baking soda
- Add your dishes as normal (removing excess food first).
- Add three drops of regular dish soap to the dishwasher soap dispenser.
- Fill the dispenser two-thirds full of baking soda or bicarbonate of soda.
- Add salt until the dispenser is almost full.
- Close the dispenser.
- Start the cycle as normal.
Be careful not to use too much dish soap. All you need is three drops at most. Otherwise, there will be too many suds and your dishes won’t wash so well. Any kind of dish soap will do, so you have the option to go for any eco-friendly type too.
This is an effective and convenient way to make your own dishwasher detergent. I took away one point because it does not remove the tea stains from cups.
Method 2 - Castile soap, vinegar and citric acid
This next recipe for homemade liquid detergent is one that I found when doing my research. So naturally, I tried it out for myself. The last thing I would want to do is recommend something that doesn’t work.
I liked the idea of this recipe because it is all-natural, plus there is no requirement for borax. For some reason, the UK government where I live have banned it.
- 2 cups of liquid Castile soap
- 1/2 cup of water
- 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon of citric acid
- A few drops of essential oils of your choice, such as lemon/orange
Add the above to a glass jar and give it a good shake. To use it in your dishwasher, add two tablespoons to each load.
After giving it a good shake, here’s what I finished up with:
As you can see, it is a big fail.
The soap separated into water and clumps of soap-like curds and whey! There was no way I was going to put that gunky stuff in my dishwasher!
The ingredients that made it separate were the vinegar and the citric acid. In my view, both of those should be left out of the recipe. So, what you have left is plain Castile soap which has been fragranced with a few drops of essential oil.
Would Castile soap alone work to clean dishes?
I guess it would, as Castile is a soap, like any other. However, I didn’t want to take the risk of using it in my dishwasher. The thought of it separating inside the pipes and blocking everything up doesn’t bear thinking about.
This method did not work at all and could potentially damage your machine. I won't be trying it again!
Method 3 - Lemons and vinegar
If you love the smell of lemons as I do, then this is a perfect one for you! Lemons are great for cleaning your house because they are naturally antibacterial and are natural grease-busters too.
Bottled lemon juice is very useful for cleaning your house, and you can also use it to make your own dishwasher detergent.
I’ve looked at recipes using real lemons but to be quite honest, I wasn’t keen on the fact that the recipe has a shelf life plus you have to boil up the whole lemons and strain them. So, it is a bit of a faff.
The great thing too about using bottled lemon juice instead of whole lemons is that the bottled kind has preservatives in it, which means you don’t have to rush into using it up as you do with the fresh lemon recipe.
For this recipe, you need the kind of juice that is meant for use in cooking as a replacement for a freshly squeezed lemon, like this one:
- 1 cup bottled lemon juice
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
- 1 cup salt
Simply combine all the ingredients into a bottle and pour about two tablespoons into the detergent compartment of your dishwasher.
How to make your own homemade dishwasher detergent without borax
This method works well and smells gorgeous. I scored it down because it is expensive to use every day.