Natural Homemade Dishwashing: Dish Soap and Dishwasher Detergent Recipes

July 21st, 2009 - filed under: The Farm » Home


Some of my most popular posts are in relation to cleaning. Who’d of thunk it?! I mean, I know I love me some baking soda, but I didn’t realize the adoration was so widespread!

Next up in our continuing saga of do-it-yourself cleansers, a perfect pair of recipes to meet your dishwashing needs. And, if you already make your own laundry detergent, you should have all the ingredients on hand! First up:

Sayward’s Homemade Dish Soap

1 cup liquid Castile soap

3 tablespoons water

a few drops essential oil (if using unscented Castile soap)

Combine in a vessel of your choice (I use an old vinegar bottle with a metal spout), mix well, and use.

No really. That’s it. TOO EASY.


And for those with gizmos:

Sayward’s Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

1 part borax (see description of borax here)

1 part washing soda (see description of washing soda here)

distilled white vinegar

Combine the powders in a bowl and mix well, breaking apart any clumps. Transfer to an airtight container to store. Use 1 tbsp of mixture per load. Fill your machine’s rinse indicator with white vinegar, for that extra sparkle. Again, SO EASY.


I’ve been using both of these for a while now, and of course they’re working wonders. It’s just so satisfying, knowing that I can accomplish all my cleaning without bringing any strange or nefarious products into my home.



  • Andrew

    Thanks for the tip – this one’s going into the permanent file. My wife made her first batch of homemade laundry detergent a few months ago and loves it.

  • sarah

    Huh, you’ve done it again. Just last night my husband and I were discussing how we are almost out of dishwasher detergent and needed to buy another expensive bottle of Seventh Generation. Well no longer, because I already have the ingredients from my last batch of FANTASTIC laundry detergent and now this ‘secret formula’ from Sayward! Woot!

  • Kirstin

    I’m hooked on your laundry detergent already, and have been using it for months, but now I’m definitely making the dishwasher detergent when I need it!
    Also, you’re a baking soda queen so I thought you would appreciate this: I made a facial treatment with my baking soda the other day! This might be old news to you, but just a little mound in the palm of your hand and a splash of water, make it paste-y and spread it on your face. Leave it for about three minutes or less, then rinse! It feels amazing! All tingly and your face gets exfoliated when rinsed too! Good for clearing up blemishes or just a deep clean.


  • Meghan


    I love Trader Joes dishwashing stuff, but it’s pretty expensive (and Trader Joes is cheap for a “natural” brand!) I’ll have to go buy some borax and washing soda!

  • Sayward

    @ Andrew – Oh yay, I’m so glad the laundry detergent is working for you guys!

    @ sarah – TRIPPY!! We are totally synched! =D

    @ Kirstin – Thanks for the heads up. I’ve heard about a few different baking-soda-skin-treatments, but haven’t begin experimenting for myself. I’ll have to try this!

    @ Meghan – Yay, good luck with it!

  • Meghan

    Soo… borax and washing soda just come from any old store? I’m almost out of dishwasher stuff, so I better get on top of trying to make some!

  • Sayward

    @ Meghan – They should both be in the laundry/cleaning aisle of a larger drugstore. =) I did have to go a few places to find mine, so maybe call around?

  • Meghan

    Okay, this stuff is straight up not working at all. I haven’t been using the vinegar because I haven’t picked any up yet… but is it going to make a huge difference? I’m sad. :-(

  • Sayward

    @ Meghan – Oh no! That’s such a bummer. What sort of dishwasher do you have? Is it a HE model? Mine is an off-brand, about 10 years old, just for reference.

    Also, you definitely used *washing soda*, and not baking soda, right?

    The vinegar’s main purpose is creating a spot-free rinse. It’s definitely a key aspect of getting the dishes sparkly and finished off, but if they’re not even getting clean at all, it probably won’t do much good.

    That’s too bad! I’ve been using mine non-stop for a few weeks, and it’s just been awesome. I wonder what the difference is?

  • new mom

    From what I can tell, whether you have hard or soft water will affect the effectiveness of this formula. In places with soft water, this should work fine. In places with hard water, try this recipe:

  • sarah

    I second the post by “new mom” – without citric acid added to your detergent, dishes will end up with water spots (in areas with hard water). I have been using the formula in her link for quite some time and it works great.

  • Karen

    Thanks again! I’m lovin all of these recipes. I already buy the huge bag of baking soda & the gallon-size of white vinegar at Costco’s … they are favorites of mine. So, these recipes are right as rain for me!

    I’m so glad to find out that I can substitute vinegar for Jet Dry (it crossed my mind b4; but, I wasn’t sure if it would work).

    @New Mom: Thanks for clearing up our confusion! We keep tweaking the use of Costco’s Kirkland Signature environmentally friendly dishwasher detergent b/c our dishes are filmy & don’t look clean (even though we remove food & rinse dishes b4 loading). We will try the recipe you recommended.

  • Karen

    Where can we find …

    (1) washing soda? I have checked grocery stores, Walmart, etc. to no avail.

    (2) citric acid?

  • Karen

    Since this thread relates to cleaning, baking soda & the kitchen … I thought I would share a couple of tips:

    Washing fruits/veggies:
    Cleaning fruits like grape tomatoes, grapes, cherries, etc. can be less cumbersome this way …
    - rinse them in a collander
    - sprinkle them with baking soda
    - lightly turn the fruits/veggies in the damp baking soda (this gently scours them)
    - let sit for a few minutes
    - rinse thoroughly
    Baking soda is great for scrubbing potatoes as well when you want to cook them with the skins on.

    Dishes, pots & pans:
    sprinkle baking soda into that dirty pan, add a little water & let it soak while you eat your meal … less elbow grease will be required when you wash it after dinner.

    All-Purpose Spritz:
    a splash white vinegar with a few drops of essential oil (like tea tree, pepperment, orange or lemongrass) & a bit of liquid castille soap or natural dishwashing liquid in a spray bottle filled with water works wonders while killing germs in the kitchen, bathroom, on mirrors, windows, dashboards, etc. I spray my bathroom counter, faucet & tub with this spritz & let it sit b4 scrubbing with baking soda or Method scrub cream. Great stuff.

    Renee Loux’ book “Easy Green Living”:
    Excellent book. I have checked numerous books at the library & gotten great info. But, this was my favorite resource (besides the internet). I actually found this in brand new condition at Half Price Books. That is where I got the all-purpose spritz recipe as well as other great recipes.

  • Sayward

    @ Karen – Again, I hope others are reading these comments!

    As for washing soda, I found it at a supermarket/drugstore type place in with the cleaning/laundry supplies. It took me some searching though – I went to a few different places. I’m surprised Wal*Mart didn’t have it. There’s always online ordering!

    Citric Acid should be the same – a drugstore or even a hardware store should carry it in with the cleaning supplies.


  • Alahna

    I cant wait to get started on my detergant recipes but, where can I find castile soap. I am on my way out food shopping….and well, on my budget those store bought items are way expensive and just plain old not good for my babies. I love Trader Joe’s but its too far away. Thanks Sayward!!!mwah

  • Sayward

    @ Alahna – Castile soap shouldn’t be *too* hard to find. Maybe not at a grocery or drugstore, but a supermarket like Wal*Mart or Target should carry. Also if there’s a co-op or natural foods market or even a Whole Foods in your town, you’ll definitely find it there. Trader Joe’s always carries it but you said that’s a long haul. You may just want to call around before you head out, so you’re not running all over town. There are other brands of castile soap, but I’ve really only ever seen Dr. Bronner’s, so you can ask for that by name.

    Good luck!

  • http://BonzaiAphrodite Ruby

    I’m worried the borax in the recipes can be harmful, am I mislead about borax?

  • Sayward

    @ Ruby – It looks like there’s some debate on Borax. A lot of natural recipes call for it in a variety of applications, and some women even use borax to douche! Still, some toxicity has been reported, including poisoning in high-dose consumption and skin irritation in high-exposure.

    I guess it’s a matter of choice. I always encourage my readers to do their own research and make their own decisions! =)

  • steph

    Woo Hoo! I’ve used homemade cleaning products for years, and I just switched to homemade laundry detergent. I was so excited to come across this post that I did a little happy dance. Thanks!

    Great blog, I’ll definitely be coming back.

  • Sayward

    @ steph – Yay happy dance! And glad you like the blog. Hope to see you around! =)

  • RC

    These ideas are wonderful… however, borax is mildly toxic, so take care when using it and keep it away from little fingers and mouths. See, eg:

  • sudha

    hey thats really cool…i m trying this

  • Sayward

    @ RC – Yes, borax is to be used with care. I found the first link especially interesting, and I feel safe using this recipe. =)

    @ sudha – Awesome, thank you. Luck!

  • Robin

    Sometimes hard to find cleaning products like the washing soda or castile soap, or fels naptha soap – classics all! – can be found at a hardware store.

  • Kitty

    Hi there, “pH Plus” found in the swimming pool maintenance dept of Home Depot or Lowe’s IS soda ash which IS washing soda. It is about 8 bucks for a 5lb. jug of dry powder. I have been using it to make laundry soap along with bar soap and Borax. Sayward, I am going to try your laundry soap recipe even though mine is working fine..yours just sounds a little easier to deal with than clumpt liquid soap I must shake before using. It’s all fun and so nice to not pay many dollars for this stuff anymore. Do you have a good toothpaste recipe? Mine are all funk and no fun.

  • Sayward

    @ Robin – Yes, hardware stores and pool supply stores, believe it or not!

    @ Kitty – Thanks for the tip. Also, toothpaste recipe here. Luck!

  • Karen

    Happy New Year! Still loving your blog. I finally found the ingredients locally & tried your recipe with citric acid added. My results were the same as with commercial detergent (i.e., sporadic unclean dishes); so, I won’t say your recipe didn’t work. I got the same results using Simplicity (hypoallergenic / non-toxic automatic dishwasher sachets I found at Walmart recently). It must be the actual dishwasher (which came with the home we moved into last year). Ugh! I may try it again with more citric acid after troubleshooting with Whirlpool. Meanwhile, if you have more suggestions, pleeeease … do tell.

  • Sayward

    @ Karen – Hmm, the only thing I can think of is that there may be an issue with hard water. Other readers have said that hard water interacts with this recipe (and some other natural store-bought detergents as well) Do you know if you have hard water?

    Did you add vinegar to the rinse cycle? That is definitely a key step.

    Finally, I do find that I have to empty the ‘scrap catcher’ on my dishwasher more frequently, and when I don’t I’ll end up with bits of food. Perhaps yours could use an emptying?

    Other than that, I’m not sure what to tell you. Sorry! But good luck in finding something that’s natural and that works for your situation. I’m sure the solutions out there. -)

  • Leah

    I’ve been rocking the homemade dishwasher powder for a few months now, and I’d say that my town’s soft water is definitely a plus. My sister tried the same thing in her town (hard water) with no joy.

    Also, would you believe that NOWHERE in this city is washing soda sold??? I even called the manufacturer, and the nice guy on the phone was even surprised.

  • Sayward

    @ Leah – Thanks for another confirmation about the hard versus soft water issue. It’s really good for me to know, though I’m bummed that my recipe isn’t universal. Back to the drawing board!

    Washing soda is such a pain to find, it’s surprising. It can sometimes be found in alternate forms (see above comments), though I don’t have any experience personally. There’s always online shopping . . .

    Glad you like the recipe! =D

  • SoCalMom7

    This stuff not working at all!!! Combination of such harsh chemicals as baking soda and Borax at high temperatures very hard on delicate dishes and silverware but yet leaves food stuck to them. I miss Simplicity (non-toxic, hypoallergenic dishwasher sachets). I used to buy them at Wal-Mart but can’t find any more. That product worked wonders, no pre-wash whatsoever but yet dry, stuck on oatmeal would wash off no problem. :(

  • Sayward

    @ SoCalMom7 – Sorry it didn’t work for you! I guess it’s just not for everyone.

  • Leah

    Just a little update: Even though the powder works pretty well for me, the vinegar rinse is key. I’ve also started adding a few squirts of liquid dish soap (castile liquid soap) in each batch I make.

    It makes the powder turn hard after awhile (I chisel it out with one of the dirty forks), but I think the dishes are consistently cleaner.

  • Sayward

    @ Leah – Yup, it’s all about the vinegar rinse! Did you see my newest post on liquid dishwasher detergent?

  • Leah

    @Sayward: I sure did see the new recipe, but I’m already so in the habit of throwing together the powder that I’ll stick to it unless I ever move somewhere without soft water. Really, it works great down here (southern Louisiana)!

  • T

    I’ve tried that recipe and it left my dishes cloudy and didn’t work well at all. To that recipe, I tried adding 1/2 part of citric acid (found in beer making supplies store, bulk food store) and 1/2 part of sea salt (or kosher salt), and that worked really well for me. The citric acid is supposed to get rid of the cloudy residue! :)

  • Merlin

    Lemon Koolaid packets (without sugar) can be substituted for citric acid — and are easy to find in a pinch.

  • Jeremy

    If you cant find washing soda locally you can make your own. Take a small amount of plain old cheap Baking Soda also called Sodium Bicarbonate (around the amount you will use to make your soap). Spread it on a cookie sheet and bake it at 400 to 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Then turn off the oven and let it cool. The baking changes the chemical make up to soda ash by releasing some of the carbon. Soda Ash is Washing Soda which is also called Sodium Carbonate. BUT NOT BAKING SODA any more. A cheap and easy way to get the materials you need to make the soap.

  • Sayward

    Thanks for all the awesome tips and tweaks everyone! I love hearing how people are making this work for them!

  • emese

    Hi All!
    I looked all over for Borax today and no one even knows what it is! (I’m in Ireland) The one person who did (from studies) said it’s actually very bad for the environment (they use it as a pesticide) and we’d be better off with caustic soda.
    Don’t know what to do… Thanks for any info!

  • Jeremy

    To Emese:
    Borax is a natural occuring mineral also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, sodium tetraborate decahydrate or disodium tetraborate. It has been used for thousands of years for all kinds of things. The Romans used it as a food preservative but I wouldnt recommend it for that now. Includding a natural pesticide (example: equal quantities of sugar and borax mixed together can be used as a roach and ant pesticide sprinkled at the back of a refigerator or washing machine, etc…) that are farily safe to use in PROPERLY REGULATED quantities. But like all other chemicals regardless of what it is in large quantities can be hazardous in some way. Even water can be hazardous if their is too much in one place at one time. Remember a little borax goes a long way. Obviously you dont want a dump truck load dumped in your front yard that would be locally enviromentally detrimental. But a small ammount of borax used in homemade soap is not going to be very harmfull just the opposite. Where I live in west Texas (the edge of the Great Chihuahuan Desert) it’s good to take the used laundry water and pump it to the yard and water the yard with it (in my case the weeds and cactus). Keeps unwanted pests away and greens the grass (I do have some St Augustine) very well and acts like a natural fertilizer. It’s level of hazard compared to other compounds is low.

    You can go to the Borax website ( find all kinds of uses for it. As far as aquiring it in differant countries I cant really help you there. But you might try looking for one of these: sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, sodium tetraborate decahydrate or disodium tetraborate from a source close to where you live.

  • Jeremy

    OOPS! Sorry – link correction:

    Click the “The Many Uses” tab. They even have a PDF file for download. Some good info can be found there.

  • emese

    Thanks Jeremy! I finally found a pharmacy that sells it, but only 100gr and they only had ONE! Dishwasher test running now :)
    Some people suggested baking soda+borax, some washing soda+borax, any preference/difference that anyone knows of?

  • Jeremy

    As far as washing soda vs baking soda or a little of both I wouldnt know what works best for you based upon the water quality in your area. Experimentation is the key. Here in Texas I have super hard water. I have measured it out to be up to 615 gpg of hardness on a good day (ours fluctuates because the city water is piped in from differing well locations many miles away). So I have to add/delete/change things regularly that would allow the water to cut through the grime and cut down on water deposits like citric acid or vinegar, etc. Baking soda and washing soda change the ph and alklinity of the water in differing ways so again it really depends on your water. Water is actually a solvent and adding any kind of chemical that makes water do it’s job better would serve to make “watter wetter” (as my old professor used to say). Actually the more chemicals and minerals or anything in water the more impure water is and the less sovent power it has. The most pure water is Deionized or distilled. Pure distilled water will actually disolve rock given enough time and the changeing out of the water continuously. The water actually dose the cleaning – the “soap’s” we use only help water do better in accomlpishing that task. Water from our tap is not pure water (not to be confused with clean water) it has minerals etc. Soaps tend to help counteract the presence of those minerals without needing to remove them from the water. So their is a point at which we can add to much chemical or soap and overload the waters ability to do it’s job therefore defeating the purpose of adding the soap to begin with. But really the only way to figure out the proper ballance is to experiment.

    I do suggest not to mix up a large batch of homemade soap until I made a few smaller batches and test each one out for a week or two. I made the mistake once of making up a large batch just to find out that after using it for a week and a half that it started to build up on the dishes. It worked great for the first week but after that mineral deposits from the soap I was using began leaving a film. That may have been due in part to the city rotating water pump stations and water conditions changed from one well to the other. I was finally able to use up the soap after some time once the water wells were rotated again. However, If your water quality is consistent then once you have a good recipe you shouldnt have to change it up much. Unless you just want the fun of the experiment again.

    I actually enjoy the experimenting. I often use swimming pool test chemicals sets to do water testing before and after the soaps are added. It’s interesting to see the results of what happens to the water when you add one chemical or another: +/- ph, alklinity, hardness, turbitity, etc… Understanding what’s going on in the washing water chemically is a good way to get a good recipe. My wife looks at me funny when I’m doing all this but then she likes it when we save money by not having to buy expensive commercially made supplies that really dont clean that well to begin with. I havent bought comercially made laundry detergent in a long time (in part due to skin allergies). Here a bottle of detergent runs $16 to $20 dollars for a large bottle that last about a month and a half. For the initial investment of around $10 for the basic supplies we have enough supplies to make several years worth of laundry detergent. That is if we dont use the supplies for anything but laundry detergent. But I usually use them for other cleaners and projects too.

    Hope all my rambeling here helps.

  • Sayward

    Hey guys! I don’t really have anything to add, but just wanted to pop in and say I’m loving all the discussion. Keep it up!

  • emese

    thanks jeremy for all that! tried both (baking s.+borax and washing s.+borax), w.s.+borax worked better for us! plates and cups feel “smooth” instead of squeaky, i like that!

  • Kristin

    Sayward – Do these homemade detergents have any kind of shelf life that you know of? I would love to make a bulk amount so I don’t have to mix it up as frequently, but I don’t want to find out later that it has dried out/gone bad/etc. Any experience with how long these last? Thanks!

  • Bonnie

    I’ve been using your dishwasher detergent recipe and all I have to say is AMAZING! My dishes are as clean and shiny as can be. I’ll never by dishwasher detergent again!

  • Kristin

    I have a powder laundry detergent that I’m using that is 1 part borax, 1 part washing soda, 1 part baking soda, 1 part grated bar soap (all natural vegetable based). Do you think I could use that in my dishwasher too? I just ran out of dishwasher detergent so I’d like to give it a try, not sure if it would work or not or if the bar soap would be too sudsy for the DW. Thanks!