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.



  • Bonnie

    I’m using the half borax/ half washing soda with the vinegar rinse and it is working like a champ.

    Just my opinion, but I’m thinking that the grated soap might be too “foamy” for the dishwasher and could cause problems.

    It doesn’t really foam up in the washer, but I think it is diluted with more water in there. I think I’d be nervous to try it.

  • Jeremy

    You might try to see how the detergent acts by putting around 2 to 4 inches deep(4 to 6 inches for older dw’s) of water in the sink (which should be fairly close to the amount of water your DW uses). Then add the amount of your detergent you would use in your dishwasher into the water. Then agitate it by quickly shaking your fully open hand back and forth in the water to simulate the DW impellers on the DW pump. See if it foams up and how quickly the foam breaks up almost immediately after you stop agitating it. If the foam starts to break down rapidly as soon as you stop agitating it or if it dosent foam up at all it should not hurt to run it in the dishwasher (but keep an eye on the soap scum like build up). However if you still have a lot of foam standing after around 45 seconds or longer I wouldnt try it in the dishwasher – Unless you wish to use the foam that billows out from beneath the DW as a slippery floor mopping soultion.

    Also since your detergent has soap in it you will want to turn off the heated dry function. Otherwise your dishes and the inside of your dishwasher WILL build up a baked on soap scum that is REALLY hard to get off. (Been there done that!) Think about what happens on your shower doors and walls after regular use of bar soaps over time. In a dishwasher this effect is multiplied because of the soap being sprayed around and then being baked on with the heat dry. The only thing that helps get rid of this is an elevated ph water by adding citric acid (a really mild acid granule that looks like sugar often used in foods like sour apple candy to give it a tangy or sour kick). Vinegar also helps but is not as strong as citric acid and it takes longer and more runs to clean out the soap scum.

  • Sayward

    @ kristin – I think you’ve gotten some great advice here. I love the little discussion that broke out! So awesome!

  • http://none Monie

    If you are having trouble finding “washing soda” (my area stores no longer carry it), go to ALICE.COM the have it and it’s always free shipping!

  • Anne

    Great tips here. I was out of dishwasher detergent this week and couldn’t get to the store. So I used a teeny amount (1/8 t.) of my 7th Generation regular liquid dish soap in dishwasher’s two compartments. This seems to work well and uses almost no soap. Are there any drawbacks to doing this? For example, would it hurt my dishwasher? Thanks!

  • Sayward

    @ Anne – Well I’m certainly no expert but I don’t see why it would hurt. If it seems to work well I say go for it!

  • Lisa B.

    Hi! I just stumbled across your extremely informative blog post. I discovered that both 7th Generation and Ecover dishwashing liquid contains toxic substances such as sodium lauryl sulfates. Question: Do you recommend any particular Dr. Bonner liquid soap for dish washing, such as their peppermint or lavender, or do you think it doesn’t really matter? Which do you prefer? My concern is that some of their liquid soaps contains oil or ingredients that may be toxic if consumed, since there may be a slight residue left on dishes. I know they make a tea tree oil liquid soap, for example, which I’ve heard shouldn’t be ingested (tea tree oil). Thanks!

  • Sayward

    @ Lisa B. – I’ve used both peppermint and lavender and enjoy them both – I don’t think either of those are harmful if eaten, are they? I’d just say avoid the ones that worry you (like tea tree), but otherwise all of them are fantastic. I <3 Dr Bronner’s!

  • A Moms Choice

    Where do you find the castile soap for the dish soap?

  • Sayward

    @ A Moms Choice – Castile soap is sold at Trader Joe’s, if you have one of those near you. If not, any health food store or Whole Foods should carry something – Dr Bronner’s is the most common brand. Also, there’s always my Amazon store! (under “Cleaning/DIY”)

  • Ashley

    Just tried the dishwasher detergent today. It worked everything came out clean but my glasses had a film on them, the correlle plates came out wonderful. I couldnt use the vinegar as a rinse aid which made me very sad, because I dont have a rinse aid compartment apparently my dinosaur of a dishwasher uses only solid rinse aids. Any ideas or suggestions?

  • Sayward

    @Ashley – I’d say try my liquid detergent instead, as it includes vinegar and lemon juice right in the recipe, which will help with the film. Luck!

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  • Happy Home

    I know this is almost two years after your original post but I had to share my discovery with you and all the hard water people! I was mixing up a batch of the powder detergent and accidentally mixed washing soda and baking soda instead of borax. Cursing myself for wasting precious BS, I grumbled on and on. Then I remembered that I use BS to soften my water in the laundry. . . so I went ahead and added the borax. My ratios were all 1:1:1. In the name of science (and because I had a lemon in the fridge) I squeezed a tablespoon of lemon juice into a mixing cup, added a bunch of the powder-mix and let it fizz away. Added vinegar to my rinse cycle and waited. Such awesome results! Can’t believe it! I wasn’t into the effort of cooking up the liquid dishwasher detergent so this was sort of an experiment that totally worked and I couldn’t believe it! My guess is I could make it even easier (all powder) by using citric acid in powder form. But no pans to wash, no shaking to do. Next time I plan on putting the lemon juice in the detergent cup, adding the powder and hitting start. Also, if this matters to anyone, my dishwasher is fairly old, not energy efficient (boo) but it worked like a charm. Happy cleaning and thank you for your site!!!!

  • Sue

    4 packets of lemonade koolaid take care of the citric acid, I am told.

  • Sayward

    @ Happy Home – Thanks! I’m gonna try that next time!

  • LeAnn

    I just started using this recipe and found that I definitely need citric acid and kosher salt. I don’t have that cloudy film anymore. However, I noticed now that something seems to be etching my glassware. Could it be that I have TOO much citric acid now??? Thanks for your help!

  • Sayward

    @ LeAnn – You know, it seems like everybody’s machine and water is so different, your best bet is probably just to play around with the proportions and find what works for your situation. Luck!

  • Will

    do you have a recipe for liquid or gel detergent? mostly natural or as natural as possible, I never use powder detergents they gunk up my machine and also get dirty gritty stuff all over the bottoms of my glasses and cups. I really need a recipe for inexpensive liquid detergent preferably natural based.

  • Sayward

    @ Will – I do have a liquid detergent recipe, here. Cheers!

  • Kaela Green

    I have loved not having to buy dishwashing detergent, but the WS+Borax isn’t working for us. I’ve tried adding white vin to where the rinse aid goes and our dishes come out feeling very dusty and the clear glasses are so cloudy. I’m about ready to go back to regular detergent, but thought I’d see what your suggestions are…I’m wondering if our rinse aid is plugged or something. I add just a touch of vinegar and it overflows almost immediately-is there a way that could get plugged. What are your thoughts?

  • Sayward

    @ Kaela Green – The cloudy dishes is a really common problem for those with hard water. The best thing seems to be adding citric acid. You can buy it as citric acid or you can actually just by Kool Aid and use that! (crazy, I know, but apparently it works!)

    Give it a try, I bet it will work. Luck!

  • Kaela Green

    Kool Aid?? Seriously? That’s so funny! Do I use the plain colored or does it matter? I’ll try it and report back:)

  • Will

    Wait I have cloudy dishes and hard water does not exist in this part of my state, please first try running an extra rinse cycle mine is from not getting rinsed good or at least look into if u have hard water or not. Also never use any koolade unless its not red blue or purple color yellow might be ok or white but always test a bit with water first see what color dye is in it if white changes to blue or purple or red not a good idea to use it will stain all your dishes that same color

  • Will

    When I ran an extra rinse my dishes came out sparkling no more cloudy film it was just my rinse cycle was not strong enough to get it the first time which makes me wonder how incredibly not clean the commercial stuff was getting my dishes if their soap was not strong enough to stay behind and need an extra rinse as well.

  • Sayward

    Any kool-aid should work, but get a non-colored one. Just so long as it has citric acid, it should be good!

  • Dreamy Vinyl

    Has anyone used this or any others NOT in a dishwasher? I dont have a dishwasher, but really want my own soap…

  • Will

    I haven’t used this for hand washing, but it should work either way although u could always google natural dish soap recipe there is plenty of them out there

  • Sayward

    @ Dreamy Vinyl – The first recipe (just the diluted castile) is not for a dishwasher. I use that as dish soap for my hand washed dishes, and also use it as an all-purpose and hand soap. Castile is amazing!

  • Pingback: Let’s get natural (pt 2.) « Happy as a Bee … the ventures of a wannabe crafter

  • Charmaine

    Thanks for the recipe – I made this today! So easy, I loved it! Posted about it and linked back to you, FYI :)

  • Lauren

    So I’ve been meaning to research recipes for dishwashing detergent, but it got put on the back burner…I ran out of my normal “eco friendly” stuff yesterday and didn’t feel like running to the store so I googled away and you my dear showed up. I think instead of googling anymore I’m just going to Bonzai Aphrodite it! I used 1 part each of washing soda, baking soda and borax, and vinegar in the rinse cycle, worked wonderfully! Going to try the liquid version soon. Thanks for being such a great resource! <3

  • Jessie Jones Mayer

    Is there a way to convert castile bar soap to liquid? the liquid is so expensive, so I thought maybe using the bar would be cheaper. Any thoughts/ideas? Thanks!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    The liquid is expensive, but a little goes a reeeeeally long way. That said, I’ve heard of people grating the bar soap and then boiling it in water to create liquid soap. Unfortunately I don’t know the proportions. Sorry!

  • Elisa A

    Great info..I’m in Texas too…I sincerely dislike the hard water. Wreaks havoc on my scalp. I have made homemade laundry detergent (recipe on my blog) and that seems to work great because washing soda helps make the hard water softer. I’m eager to try the dishwasher soap…I have a really hard time getting clean dishes. We’ll see!

  • Bethanymiller2002

    Do these recipes work well on washing dishes by hand (old fashioned way)? Most of these seems to say dishwashing………..

  • EmmaPeel

    it’s the salt, not the citric acid, that’s etching.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    These are dishwasher recipes. For hand washing I just use diluted csatile soap.

  • Carylynn71463

    Dishwasher soap works absolutely great!

  • Thatiscool

    Thank you

  • Marcy

    I made the dishwasher soap, but with Lemi shine and Baking soda also, the first time I used it it seemed to work great, but the next time I put the white vinegar in my rinse dispenser and my dishes had a terible film all over them. I don’t have real hard water, so I am just woundering if I even needed the vinegar. Any thoughts?

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Hmm, that’s really weird! You know honestly, it seems like this recipe acts really differently in different people’s machines, so I don’t really have any advice. Sorry!

  • Glenda_Simpson

    Tried the recipe this evening and it cleaned the dishes… Didn’t take long to make either

  • Moogirl1705

    just made some! To make it even easier I put a little plastic dose cup in from some old cough syrup we had. I leave it right in the jar!! easy! Thanks!

  • Larkiz

    we used to clean our house windows with vinager and water using newspapers for wash cloths. The newspapers gave it a boost in shine from the lead in the ink, but now I think the papers are printed with soy ink, but just the vinager works too.

  • Shaunnna2011

    Use these baking soda and borax mixture for smelly shoes as well

  • Sarah Crews

    God, you’re sexy. :)

  • Tiffany

    To make a creamy liquid hand soap, you grate one 4-ounce bar of soap into one gallon of boiled water and mix with a hand mixer. You boil the water, remove from heat, add grated soap, and mix. I don’t know if the same recipe would work for liquid dish soap, nor do I know how it would work with castile bar soap.

  • Lilady271974

    Remember anytime you are grating and mixing with water start with a low amount of water you can always add water you can’t take it out.

  • Roy6047

    ace hardware