Homemade Dishwasher Soap

Now, I know this blog is usually about food, but this isn't much of a stretch - dishes are part of playing with your food, right? And if you're anything like me, you want the dishwasher to do most of the legwork when it comes to cleaning up your cooking messes. So bear with me on this post. :)

The Mom and I have, for quite a while now, made many of our own cleaning products. However, we've never attempted dishwasher soap. I don't know that I can pinpoint the exact reason for our apprehension with this particular product, but last week, The Mom decided to give it a shot.

After we went to the Farmers' Market last weekend, she sent me home with a little sample of her creation. Since our tiny family of three can easily fill the dishwasher in a day (sometimes multiple times a day, depending on how crazy I get in the kitchen), it wasn't long before I had the chance to test out the new concoction.

The result: fair. The dishes came out with a bit of a film on them. The Man and I have had this problem before, and it's pretty easily solved by adding about a 1/4 c of white vinegar to the bottom of the dishwasher and running it again. When the cycle was complete, the dishes were sparkling!

Needless to say, I'm hooked, and the timing couldn't be more perfect since we've got one packet of dishwasher soap left in the cabinet! So today, I bought the stuff to make my own batch - all of these items can be found either in the laundry or dish soap area at Walmart. Here's The Mom's "recipe" and notes:

(washes 32-64 loads of dishes)

1 cup Baking Soda
1 cup 20 Muleteam Borax
1 - 2 cups Lemi-Shine (**Update: this amount will depend on your water and your dishwasher! Hard water will require more Lemi-Shine, while softened water may not require any at all. Experiment away! And let me know how much you ended up using. Like The Mom said in the comments below, this can greatly affect the price per load, so it's worth playing with.)

Mix all the ingredients together and place in an airtight container.  Done!

Use 1 - 2 Tbsp per load.

****If your dishes feel like they have a powdery film on them, put white vinegar in your "spot-reducer" dispenser of your dishwasher.  You can add more Lemi-Shine, too, if you want.

You can't really see it in the photo above, but I bought A&H Washing Soda today. It's in the laundry aisle right next to giant boxes of baking soda. I haven't yet used my version with the washing soda to see if it works any differently, but I'll let you know! :)

I also went ahead and used 2 c of Lemi-Shine since we have very hard water at our house, and we use Lemi-Shine in every load anyway.

As the "recipe" above suggests, you should use 1-2T per load. I'm going to experiment with this to find out what works for us, and I would suggest you do the same, since all dishwashers are not created equal.

Now let's talk about cost because that's an important factor in our house.

We usually buy the little packets of dishwashing soap, mostly for their convenience, and we've had good luck with them in our crappy dishwasher. A bag of a popular brand of these packets costs $8-$9. To be fair, we'll use $8 for the comparison. This $8 bag washes 32 loads of dishes, just like our mixture if you use 2T per load.

Cost of materials purchased:
1 box Borax - $3.38
1 box Washing Soda - $3.24
1 bottle Lemi-Shine - $3.96

Cost of materials used:
I would estimate the box of Borax would make 8 batches of dishwasher soap, and the box of washing soda will make approximately 6 batches. So...
Borax - $.42
Washing Soda - $.54
Lemi-Shine - $3.96

Total cost per batch: $4.92 (that's about $.15 per load of dishes compared to $.25 per load with the popular brand of packets)

Happy washing!


  1. YAY!!! I'm soooo stoked that you posted this!!! I can't wait to try this!!!!! I've seen different blogs, but I'm so apprehensive, I'm cowardly and want to hear someone else has tried things before I do! Hooray!

    1. I'm stoked about you being so stoked! :) Because you live in town, you may not need as much Lemi-Shine, but you can play with the "recipe" to make it fit your needs. And I'm glad The Mom and I are trustworthy sources for you :) Let me know how it works for you and what, if any, modifications you make.

  2. My dishes came out sparkling, this morning, because I added more Lemi-Shine. I think each person should probably start out with less Lemi-Shine (for cost purposes) and gradually add more, if needed; because as you said, Sis, the results will depend on *their* water and dishwasher. If they have really soft water, they may not need any Lemi-Shine, and the cost drops DRAMATICALLY, at that point.

    At any rate, by adding more Lemi-Shine to my batch, today, the result for my dishes was excellent. No water spots, no food left behind, and no film. It works better than any store-bought detergent I've used through the years. Hallelujah!

    1. That's a good point about the Lemi-Shine, The Mom. I posted an update to this post so everyone will know the amount can be adjusted.

      And I'm so very happy to hear you had sparkling dishes. I'm getting ready to start ours in a few minutes before I head to bed. I hope to wake up to favorable results in the morning! :)

    2. Oh, I meant to ask how much you used for a load of dishes...