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Improved Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

I posted quite awhile ago about my homemade dish detergent (and why we use it over conventional) and how we were using it in spite of cloudiness. Reader Special765 suggested adding citric acid to the mix to help. That did the trick! It took us some time to get the amounts just right for our water conditions, but I feel like we finally have it perfected. Here is the new and improved recipe:

One Batch of More Green for Less Green Dishwasher Detergent
(Yields about 70 loads)

Dry ingredients:

  • 3 cups baking soda
  • 1 cup borax
  • ¼ cup citric acid*

Wet ingredients:

  • Essential oil (optional)
  • Vinegar

Mix dry ingredients in a container and shake to mix. Keep wet ingredients on-hand for each load of dishes.

Shake dry mix before each use and then open container pointing away from your face. Moisture causes clumping and activates the citric acid so make sure your container is air-tight. We got a container similar to this at a yard sale for $1. For extra protection, consider adding a dried out brown sugar bear (or the like) to absorb any moisture. I suspect any piece of terracotta will do.

For each load, pour the detergent to the lowest line on the dispenser cup (for us this is 1 tablespoon). Most people use too much detergent and go to the top of the cup, but more is not necessarily better— and is probably not what your machine’s user manual suggests. If 1 tablespoon is also the right amount for your machine, one batch of this detergent will last for 70 loads.

I add 2 drops of essential oil per load on top of the dry mix. Generally I use tea tree oil, which has natural antiseptic properties, but if I’ll be in the kitchen I’ll put in a smell I really love like bergamot or sweet orange since the scent will be released in the steam that comes out of the machine.

I’ve stopped using the rinse-aid compartment for vinegar. Instead, I put a healthy squirt of vinegar in the bottom of the dishwasher (between 1/8 and 1/4 cup). I use an old, plastic sports bottle with squeeze top for this. It is so handy to just grab and squirt! Adding more vinegar than the rinse aid dispenses seems to do the job better. My bottle is similar to this. Used ones are abundant and dirt cheap or free, so no need to buy new plastic!

This mixture is just right for the water in my area, but you may need to play with the ratios for water conditions in your area.

*To find citric acid locally check at an Indian grocer (probably the best chance for a good price, since they will likely sell by the bag and not in a pricey brand-name bottle). Also try specialty supply shops that sell things for making cakes, candy, soap, or cheese; or try a health food stores (e.g.Healthway, but it is pricey there). You also can buy it online.

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About More Green for Less Green

Hi, I’m Pamm. Welcome to my little slice of the web! As a progressive Evangelical female pastor and crunchy homeschooling mom, I’m never quite what anyone expects of me. But, hey, that’s what makes blogging interesting, right? Join me as I try to wholeheartedly parent my three little boys, slowly fix up the trashed foreclosure we bought in 2009, and live simply.

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Dawn February 27, 2010, 10:35 pm

    I was wondering if in place of citric acide, if it would be possible to use lemon/lime koolaid as I have seen that as a way to ‘clean’ dishwashers – your thoughts?

  • P February 28, 2010, 2:52 am

    I have heard the same thing–it is worth a try! I’ve heard to get a sugar-free variety, though. Another place to look for the citric acid is Whole Foods’ bulk section. Someone mentioned that to me after I posted.

  • Girl Friday April 23, 2010, 5:14 pm

    I’ve tried your laundry detergent recipe with fantastic results, so now I can’t wait to give this one a go! Thank you so much for posting these wonderful tips.

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