Friday, June 6, 2014

DIY Dishwasher Detergent

This post has been a long time coming, but I am happy to be able to finally share this recipe for homemade dishwasher detergent, courtesy of my friend Kim. The good thing about being so busy that I haven't been blogging much is that it's given me a solid two and a half weeks of using this recipe non-stop -- my dishwasher runs an average of once a day. That means you all get my honest-to-goodness opinion on how well this homemade version works (versus the over-the-moon excitement I felt the first time I used it).

Aside from the citric acid, which I purchased on Amazon, these are all ingredients that you can find in any grocery store. This is always something I appreciate in a homemade cleaning solution. Four ingredients is a manageable amount, in my opinion, which is another plus. Everything is reasonably priced, with the citric acid being the priciest component (breakdown of cost to follow).

The main reason for why I wanted to make my own dishwasher detergent wasn't to save money -- although I will do that! The real purpose was to eliminate more chemical crap from the household. This was one area that I have had a hard time finding a good natural alternative to. (I had previously tried a different recipe and it didn't work all that well. In fact, this turned my off from even trying again for a good 18 months or so!) However, my greener spring cleaning series of posts raised the question "What do you use in your dishwasher?" and this prompted me to seek out a better alternative.

Good news, folks! While this one doesn't always remove every single food particle (and let's be honest, your store-bought stuff isn't always up to the tough jobs either, right?), it works pretty darn well -- much better than the previous recipe. (To be fair, the primary reason that I occasionally find stuck-on food is what I will refer to as "operator error." I tend to overload the dishwasher, and that doesn't help it to do its thing in the most efficient way possible -- but I'm stubborn, and I refuse to run it unless it's full, so that's my catch-22.) My conclusion is that it has to be the citric acid that is making this work because that's the only difference from what I had tried before. (On a side note, I've seen some other recipes for dishwasher detergent lately, and many of them call for lemonade mix. My guess is that people have found the citric acid in it to be the magic ingredient that really cleans their dishes. My only thought here is, why use something that has artificial colors, flavors, and other added stuff when you can purchase pure citric acid and get the job done in a more natural way?) Just my two cents.

On the subject of dollars and cents, you may be asking, is homemade dishwasher detergent really a good value? Yup! Breaking this down, I found this to actually be cheaper than the Member's Mark dishwasher pacs we were buying in bulk at Sam's Club. (105 pacs at $9.98 works out to about 10 cents per use.) The Borax and Super Washing Soda are both things I have had at home for years and have been used for many different things including homemade laundry soap and all-purpose cleaner -- and I'm still working from the original boxes. (55 ounces of Super Washing Soda which cost $2.89 when I bought it and 76 ounces of Borax, which was $3.42 at the time. There is no way that you will convince me that these are not good values because even if you don't use them for the dishwasher detergent, you will use them for something.) Honestly, I don't remember how much I paid for my coarse Kosher salt, but I think it was less than $5, so for my calculations I am just going to overestimate and say it was $5 for the 48 ounce box. Again, citric acid was the most expensive at $11.99 for 36 ounces.

So, 55 ounces of Super Washing Soda divided by 8 ounces (per the recipe below) = 6 batches (plus a bit extra, but let's work in whole batches here.) This means that this ingredient costs 48 cents per batch. Borax: 76 divided by 8 = 9 batches, at a cost of 38 cents per batch. Coarse salt (again, I think I overestimated the cost): 48 ounces divided by 4 = 12 batches, at a cost of 42 cents (probably less) per batch. Citric acid: 36 ounces divided by 4 = 9 batches, at a cost of 75 cents per batch. Total cost = $2.03 for 3 cups of homemade detergent. If using the max recommended amount of two tablespoons per load (personally, I have found this to work better than one tablespoon), this works out to 24 uses per batch at a cost of 8 cents per use -- that's 2 cents cheaper than the least expensive store-bought cleaner that we were previously using. Since this only takes a couple of minutes to mix up and it keeps (meaning you don't have to mix up a new batch each time, which can be annoying with some recipes for homemade cleaning products), this is 100% worth your time to make! It's always nice to know exactly what goes into your cleaning products. Here's the recipe.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent
  • 1 cup Borax
  • 1 cup Super Washing Soda
  • 1/2 cup coarse salt (I used Kosher)
  • 1/2 cup citric acid
  1. Mix well. (I stirred mine in a large glass bowl, but Kim puts hers in a container with a lid and shakes it up.) 
  2. Use 1-2 tablespoons per load. 
  3. Optional: You can also add vinegar to the rinse cycle, which I have been doing. This is a natural way to get shiny, spot-free dishes. I just filled the rinse cycle compartment and let the dishwasher dispense it during the rinse cycle.

(Note: Kim suggests storing the detergent in the freezer to prevent clumping, but I have not really had an issue with this. Mine is being stored in an old dishwasher detergent container under my kitchen sink.)

Thanks for reading! This was my 600th blog post. Cue trumpets. Okay, not really. Maybe for my upcoming 4th blogiversary...

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