For our first eight years of marriage, we did not have a dishwasher. We managed, but with each move I was hopeful that our next place would have a dishwasher.
When we moved into my in-laws’ basement we installed counters and cabinets that my in-laws got for free years ago when someone else was updating their kitchen. There was a place for a dishwasher, but we didn’t have one. Knowing that they pop up on craigslist and freecycle, I started watching for one. It didn’t take long.
After trying a few different dishwasher detergents and learning about the chemicals in them, I decided to try making my own. I tried and tweaked recipes until I got something that I like.
There is some controversy about Borax being toxic, so while I use it in my homemade laundry soap, I wanted to avoid it in my homemade dishwasher detergent. We don’t eat our clothes, but we do put dishes and utensils (and the food that touches them) in our mouths. Commercial detergents contain toxins that you’d never want to put near your mouth.
Recipe for Dishwasher Detergent
Do you remember back in March’s financial update when I mentioned purchasing some citric acid to split with my mother-in-law? Well I’m finally ready to tell you what that was all about. Citric acid is the only ingredient you might not find at your local grocery store or Walmart (though you might find it near the canning supplies).
- 1 cup Washing Soda (Amazon link, but it’s much cheaper at Walmart)
- 1 cup Sea Salt (Amazon link, but you can get it locally)
- 1/2 cup Baking Soda (just the regular kind you bake with)
- 1/2 cup Citric Acid (Amazon link, buy online)
Combine all four ingredients in a bowl. Pretty simple, right? But don’t stop there, otherwise your mixture will turn rock-hard in your container. Even though there isn’t any liquid in the recipe, the citric acid initiates a cool reaction. Instead of wasting the rock-forming powers of citric acid, we are going to harness them to create dishwasher detergent tabs, which you know are all the rage these days.
If you want a scent to your dishwasher tabs, add some essential oils, otherwise you can leave it fragrance-free (that’s what I do).
Forming Dishwasher Detergent Tabs
I’ve used a plastic ice cube tray in the past, but it can be hard to get the cubes out . The last time I made a batch, I had a flash of inspiration: use an egg carton! A Styrofoam egg carton made popping the dishwasher detergent tabs out so easy. Just push on the bottom of each one from underneath.
For each dishwasher load you’ll be using 1 Tablespoon. You can press the mixture in right away, or you can let it sit in the bowl for a while (an hour or so) to see the consistency change. Some people probably thinks this is what we do instead of watching TV. Let it sit for a day and it should become solid!
When choosing the container you’ll use as your mold, be sure to consider the size of your dishwasher’s soap compartment. The egg-carton-formed dishwasher tabs fit just fine in my dishwasher, but are too wide for my mother-in-law’s dishwasher.
Citric Acid is Cool
Considering how hard the tabs were, I was a little afraid that they wouldn’t dissolve well in the dishwasher. Boy was I wrong! When water hits the rock-hard tab, it starts to bubble and fizz, kind of like Alka-Selzer does, thanks to the citric acid and soda. The tablet breaks down perfectly!
Citric acid has other uses besides DIY dishwasher detergent. You can use it for fun kid experiments, fizzy bath bombs, homemade ice cream, sour candy, canning (instead of using lemon juice or vinegar), and keeping fruit from turning brown, just to name a few.
The 55 oz washing soda has about 6 cups. For the above recipe we’ll use 1/6 of the box (or about $.50). For the sea salt, we’ll use about 8.5 oz (or $.96). For the baking soda, we’ll use 4 oz (or $.12). Five pounds of citric acid is about 9 cups, so it would make 18 batches of my recipe above (or $1 per batch).
Total cost of one batch is about $2.58.
Each batch makes 3 cups of powder and there are 16 Tablespoons in a cup, so each batch will make 48 tabs. The price for each tab is about five cents!
Don’t Want to DIY?
Want to avoid the toxic chemicals in conventional dishwasher soap but you don’t want to go to the effort to make your own? I recommend taking a peek at Grove Co. They carry the natural products you’re looking for and they’ll deliver them right to your door. You’ll even get $10 off your first order as well as a free Mrs. Meyers hand soap. Oh, and free shipping. You do need to get your out-of-pocket cost to be at least $20 after all the discounts, but that’s pretty easy once you see all the great things they carry. Their prices are comparable (often cheaper) than Target, but you don’t even have to leave your house! Win-win!
Note: This post contains affiliate links. For more information see my disclosure policy.
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