How to Make Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

Making your own homemade dishwasher detergent is an easy way to save money and avoid harsh chemicals found in store-bought varieties. With just a few simple ingredients, you can whip up a powerful cleaner in no time. This article will provide step-by-step instructions for making homemade dishwasher detergent using items you likely already have at home. We’ll also offer tips on customizing the recipe and properly using your detergent for sparkling clean dishes every time. Read on to become a homemade dishwasher detergent expert!

Benefits of Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

Before jumping into the how-to, let’s quickly go over why making your own detergent is worth it:

  • It’s inexpensive. Homemade detergent can cost just pennies per load compared to dollars for commercial brands. You’ll save a ton of money over time.
  • No harsh chemicals. Store-bought detergents often contain artificial fragrances, dyes, preservatives and other questionable ingredients. Homemade allows you to control what goes in the mix.
  • Customizable. Tailor your detergent to suit your needs. Add in ingredients for extra grease-cutting power, shine enhancement or scent.
  • Eco-friendly. You’ll reduce plastic waste from detergent bottles. Many homemade recipes use natural ingredients that are better for the environment.
  • Safe for sensitive skin. If you have allergies or skin sensitivities, homemade detergent likely won’t cause irritation.

For pennies on the dollar compared to commercial cleaners, you can make a custom dishwasher detergent that’s far healthier for your family, dishes and the planet. Keep reading to get started!

How to Make Homemade Dishwasher Detergent


Homemade dishwasher detergent requires just a few simple ingredients you can buy at any grocery store:

  • Borax – Helps to cut grease and soften water. Find it in the laundry aisle.
  • Washing Soda – Removes stuck-on food and cleans away residue. Arm & Hammer brand is readily available.
  • Lemon Juice – Natural degreaser and brightener. Real lemon juice works best, not bottled.
  • Essential Oil (optional) – For scent. Look for lemon, orange or other citrus oils which aid cleaning.
  • Container – A 5-pound plastic bucket with lid works well for mixing and storage.

Tip: For soft water, reduce the amount of borax and washing soda by half. For hard water, add in 1⁄4 cup more of each. Adjust as needed.


Follow these simple steps to whip up the perfect batch of homemade dishwasher detergent:

1. Mix the Dry Ingredients

In a large bowl, combine:

  • 2 cups borax
  • 2 cups washing soda

Use a spoon to stir the borax and washing soda together until well-blended. Break up any clumps.

2. Mix in the Lemon Juice

Add in:

  • 1⁄4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Stir slowly as you pour in the lemon juice. This will start to form a sudsy paste as a reaction occurs between the ingredients.

3. Add Essential Oil (Optional)

Now you can add in:

  • 15-20 drops essential oil (lemon, orange, grapefruit, etc)

Start with 15 drops of your chosen oils, mix in, then smell the scent. Add 5 more drops at a time until you achieve the desired fragrance. The citric oils will also boost cleaning power.

4. Transfer to an Airtight Container

Once fully mixed, transfer the homemade detergent into a sealable 5 pound bucket. Ensure the lid seals tightly.

5. Let the Mixture Settle

Let the container sit undisturbed for 48-72 hours. This allows time for the reaction to finish and any suds to settle.

After settling, your homemade dishwasher detergent is ready for use! It will be a thick, goopy liquid. The lemon juice may separate a bit on top – that’s normal. Give the batch a quick stir before each use.

How to Use Your Homemade Detergent

Using your homemade dish detergent is easy – just follow these tips:

  • Use 2 tablespoons per dishwasher load. Adjust amount as needed.
  • Pour or spoon detergent into the detergent compartment of your dishwasher – not directly onto dishes.
  • Run dishwasher as normal, using your desired cycle and temperature.
  • Make sure to fully dissolve and rinse away all detergent for spotless results.
  • Give very soiled dishes a quick scrub or pre-rinse before washing.
  • Store detergent in a sealed container away from direct sunlight between uses.
  • Make a new batch once detergent runs low or starts getting thick.

With the right amount, your homemade detergent will clean just as effectively as commercial brands – though likely with less suds. Dishes and glassware will come out sparkling when rinsed properly.


If you notice any issues with your homemade detergent, try these troubleshooting tips:

Cloudy residue: Use less detergent or increase water temperature. Ensure detergent dissolves and rinses away fully.

Spotting on dishes: Add a bit more lemon juice to up the grease-cutting power.

Filmy glasses: Rinse at a higher temperature or switch to lemon-scented oil for better shine.

Mineral build-up: Add a cup of white vinegar to the wash to dissolve any scale.

Mold in detergent: Be sure to use a sealed container and make a fresh batch every 2-3 months.

Poor cleaning results: Adjust the amount used up or down. Test water hardness and tweak the borax/washing soda ratio as needed.

Customizing Your Homemade Detergent

One great benefit of homemade dishwasher detergent is you can customize it to fit your exact needs. Here are some easy ways to tailor the recipe:


Essential oils not only scent your detergent, but also boost cleaning power. Try:

  • Lemon – Grease-cutting and antibacterial
  • Orange – Removes stains and leaves a fresh scent
  • Grapefruit – Cuts grease and provides a bright citrus aroma
  • Lime – Disinfects and deodorizes while washing away grime
  • Eucalyptus – Cleansing, antimicrobial properties

Use 15-25 drops of your chosen oils per batch depending on strength of scent desired.

Extra Grease-Fighting Ability

For extra help on greasy, oily messes, add in:

  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice – the acid cuts through grease
  • 1-2 tsp vegetable oil – helps lubricate and lift away grease
  • 1-2 tbsp water – creates more suds to penetrate grime

Extra Rinsing Agents

To help dishes dry spot-free, add:

  • 2-3 tbsp white vinegar – reduces water spots and scale
  • 1-2 tbsp baking soda – removes residue, helps dishes drain

These ingredients will also help combat any mineral buildup from hard water.

For Soft Water

Reduce borax and washing soda amounts by half. Supplement with:

  • Kosher or sea salt – adds abrasion for cleaning
  • Liquid castile soap – extra sudsing ability
  • Hydrogen peroxide – natural whitener and disinfecting

For Hard Water

Increase borax and washing soda to combat mineral scale. Also add:

  • Citric acid – removes existing hard water deposits
  • Borax substitute – softens water without some downsides of borax

Experiment to find the ideal balance of ingredients to make homemade detergent work optimally for any water hardness.

Storing Homemade Detergent

To keep your homemade dishwasher detergent fresh and active for cleaning, be sure to:

  • Store in an airtight container away from direct sunlight. Opaque plastic bucket with sealing lid works best.
  • Keep detergent between 40-90°F. Avoid temperature extremes. Warm areas speed breakdown.
  • Make detergent in small 1-2 month batches. It stays most potent when fresh.
  • Use within 6 months. Effectiveness slowly decreases over time.
  • Keep the container sealed when not in use. Exposure to air can cause it to harden.
  • Use a clean, dry spoon each time detergent is scooped out to avoid contamination.
  • If detergent becomes thick, add in a spoonful of washing soda to restore consistency.

Follow these storage tips and your homemade detergent will remain ready to tackle dishes for months!

Top Tips for Using Homemade Detergent

To get the very best results from your homemade dishwasher detergent every time, we’ll leave you with these pro tips:

  • Give very dirty pans or greasy plates a quick scrub before washing to help the detergent work its best.
  • Run the dishwasher only when full to maximize efficiency. Scrape away large food bits before loading.
  • Use the pre-wash or rinse cycle if washing very soiled dishes to prevent redeposition.
  • Add a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle once per month to remove any mineral buildup and keep dishwasher clean.
  • Use the warmest effective water temperature you can to dissolve detergent and loosen food soils.
  • Make sure dishes and dishwasher are fully rinsed of detergent residue. A vinegar rinse in your final cycle helps.
  • Allow plastics to fully air dry before unloading to prevent water spots.
  • Rub a lemon half inside your empty dishwasher once per month. The acid helps descale and deodorize.
  • Run an empty wash cycle on hot periodically with vinegar to fully clean the dishwasher interior.

By mastering the best practices for loading, washing and rinsing, your homemade detergent will deliver exceptional results load after load. With a bit of experimenting, you’ll hone in on your ideal recipe. Soon you’ll wonder why you ever bought costly store brands!

Frequently Asked Questions

Still have some questions about making your own homemade dishwasher detergent? Here are answers to some commonly asked questions:

Is homemade dishwasher detergent effective?

Yes! With the right ingredients and recipe, homemade detergent can be just as effective as commercial varieties – if not more due to fully customization based on your water hardness and cleaning needs. Borax and washing soda provide potent cleaning power. Lemon juice cuts grease. The ideal blend of ingredients will leave your dishes sparkling!

How long does homemade detergent last?

Expect homemade detergent to remain fully potent for 2-3 months when stored properly in an airtight container. Over time, the cleaning power will decrease slightly but it can be effective for up to 6 months before needing to make a new batch. If detergent becomes thick, add some washing soda to restore consistency.

Can I use essential oils for scent?

Definitely! Not only do essential oils like lemon, orange, or grapefruit add a nice scent, they naturally aid in grease-cutting and disinfecting when washing dishes. Use 15-25 drops per batch depending on strength of scent desired. Citrus oils work best.

Does homemade detergent produce lots of suds?

Homemade detergent made with washing soda, borax and lemon juice will not produce copious amounts of thick, fluffy suds. But rest assured, it is still cleaning effectively! Lack of suds does not indicate poorer performance. Focus instead on how sparkly clean your dishes turn out.

Will homemade detergent scratch my dishes?

Homemade detergent should not scratch dishes when used properly and rinsed thoroughly. Always fully dissolve detergent and do not let it sit directly on dish surfaces. If needed, reduce the amount of washing soda and borax in the recipe for very delicate items.

How can I thicken watery homemade detergent?

If your detergent turns runny or watery, stir in 1-2 tablespoons of washing soda to absorb the excess moisture and thicken it to the proper consistency for dispensing well into your dishwasher.


As you can see, creating your own homemade dishwasher detergent is simple, budget-friendly, and highly customizable for superior results. By using ingredients like borax, washing soda and lemon juice, you can tackle grease, food soils and hard water stains with ease. Adjust the recipe based on scent preferences, water hardness and cleaning needs.

Master proper detergent storage and dishwasher loading techniques. Soon you’ll be amazed at how sparkling clean your dishes can get for just pennies per load, without harsh chemicals. We hope these detailed instructions and tips turn you into a homemade dishwasher detergent pro who will never buy costly store brands again!