Homemade Dishwasher Detergent (without Borax)

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Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Without Borax | Real Food RN

Homemade dishwasher detergent might sound crazy, but I am attempting to make everything that we use in our house from scratch. This way I can get the toxins out and save a little cash! Dishwasher detergent was next on my list but after searching for the “recipe” I kept coming up with ingredient lists that included Borax. I do use Borax in my homemade laundry detergent, but something about using it on our dishes just seemed wrong. I looked it up on the Environmental Working Group website and here is what I found:

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent (without Borax) | Real Food RN

Egads! I do not want to bathe our dinnerware in a substance that causes endocrine disruption and that has negative reproductive effects! I just might have to change my laundry detergent formulary too. So, I searched a little more and found a recipe that did NOT include Borax.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent (without Borax) | Real Food RN

Note: if you store your detergent in an area with high moisture, like under your sink, it can clump and even harden. To avoid this, simply put some rice in a sock and put it into the container or put some of these into the container to absorb the moisture and keep it a nice powder.

Here is where you can find the ingredients:

I bet you are wondering what the heck is in the other ingredients. Well, I looked that up too… 

Here is what I found out:

Lemi-Shine: the EWG didnt have a thing on their website and I found the actual Lemi-Shine website not to be very user friendly at all. But, then I found this guy (a chemist) and after much testing and analysis he decided that Lemi-Shine is harmless and, at the end of the day, its just citric acid. I’m cool with that. I took enough chemistry in college to appreciate his effort and take it for what its worth. I do not want to go back to the lab.

Super Washing Soda: harmless, its just sodium carbonate (made from salt and limestone). You can even make your own  washing soda by baking baking soda. The heat causes a chemical change. Pretty neat!

Baking Soda: harmless (c’mon, we put it in our food after all), its just sodium bicarbonate

Sea Salt: harmless, its salt!

So, after much investigation I have decided that this recipe is the one I am sticking with! It also has been getting my dishes super clean….without any endocrine disruption. Win, win!

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  1. Jill Jacobs says

    The dishes were super clean you said…Awesome!!! Did it leave any streaks? Thanks :) Jill

    • says

      No streaks, they come out great. Except when my husband puts them in with half the food dried on. It might be a good dishwasher detergent, but you still have to rinse!

  2. Jill Jacobs says

    The dishes were super clean you said…Awesome!!! Did it leave any streaks? Thanks Jill

  3. Tamara says

    Let us know if you find a replacement for Borax in your laundry detergent. It’s such a small amount, and in no way compares to what’s in the name-brand, store-bought brands, but what an awful side effect!!

    • says

      I have never actually ever made the washing soda from baking soda. I know it can be done. My understanding is that you bake it at 400* until it changes from “grainy” washing soda into “powder” baking soda. Those who have done it say you can tell just by looking at it. Try googling it.

  4. kameren says

    I would take BORAX out of you laundry detergent too – test on borax is that it doesn’t wash away easily. It sticks around, that means it is staying in the clothes and skin all the time! Bleach and borax were poured on the ground in one test i read about and the bleach washed away rather quickly, but the borax stuck around. It is less toxic, but still a toxin! I just use 1 c. baking soda, 1c. washing soda, and 1 ivory bar shaved for my laundry. Love that I can do your recipe for my dishwasher, I have been looking for something! thanks!

  5. Ann says

    I am about to mix up some of this dishwasher detergent. Thanks for the recipe!! I have read that vinegar is good to put in the rinse aid compartment. Know anything about this? Thanks!

    This other blog post link is very helpful in sorting out homemade laundry detergent. It says that Borax is not necessary in powdered detergent and gives a ton of other helpful tips. I am not associated with the site in any way – just wanted to pass it along b/c it has great info. I am now taking Borax out of my homemade laundry detergent.


    • Lisa says

      I’m wondering about the vinegar as a rinse. I had read somewhere that some people had problems with the vinegar breaking down the seal in their dishwashers so that it started to leak and had to be fixed. I’m wondering about just putting a cup of vinegar in the top rack but not sure if I can leave it in from the start or do I have to pay attention to the rinse cycle and put it in then? That would be tough to stick around and catch it….any thoughts?

  6. Amy says

    Why the expensive sea salt as opposed to plain old NaCl: Kosher, pickling or cheap table salt? I consume Celtic, just don’t want to “waste” it on dishes lol

  7. Amanda says

    I made this and it worked great! I even put vinegar in the rinse spot. I mixed this together in a mason jar and stored it under my sink but when my husband went to run the dishwasher the other day and grabbed this stuff, it was rock solid. I couldn’t even pull the tablespoon out of it. Any clue why? Is there something I need to put with it so it stays a powder?

    • says

      I have also run into that issue, and I am trying to figure out how to remedy it. My husband “chopped” it up the day after I made my most recent batch, using a butter knife and it has remained a powder now. Not sure what causes this to happen. I will update my post once I find a fix. Let me know if you solve the problem!

      • Ann says

        I have a solution. You know those little things/packets that come in new purses or shoes that absorb moisture. I threw one of those in my batch of detergent, put it all in an airtight container and it has been working GREAT! I have had no issues with clumps. I read this on another website and happened to have one from a new pair of shoes. Try it! : )

      • jessica says

        I have run into the same issue. My dad suggested wrapping rice with some cheese cloth to absorb the moisture. Occasionally, you’ll see grains of rice in salt shakers at restaurants to absorb moisture. Hopefully it works. Thanks for sharing your recipe!

        • says

          Jessica, thanks for the great tip! I have seen people place their cell phones in rice if they accidentally drop them in water. I am going to use this trick

          • Julie warren says

            I threw in a couple little desiccant bags from my vitamin bottles AND I made a little bag with a sock that I’d lost the match to (clean of course!) along with some dry rice… The combination has kept mine clump free from day one!

  8. jessica says

    I had the same issue with the clumping. My dad suggested wrapping rice in some cheese cloth to absorb the moisture. You’ll see rice in salt shakers at restaurants to absorb the moisture from time to time… hoping it works. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  9. Lisa says

    Do I need the ldmi shine if I have a water filtering system on my house? (Soft water). My understanding is that the product is to prevent hard water spots. Thanks…

  10. Claire Kang says

    Hi Kate! Thank you so much for the great recipe. I just ran my first load and it turned out great! I am so glad I don’t have to use those yucky tablets anymore. Thanks again!

    • says

      Claire, great to hear! Plus, it saves you some cash too! I am actually going to sell some at the farmer’s market this summer!

  11. ilana says

    Hello, I made the dishwashing and the ingredients reacted with each other and spent the next few hours foaming – I did have a very clean sink afterwards though. Once it stopped the mixture is hard and crumbly and works great. Did anyone else get a reaction? I’m trying to work out if my products were contaminated or what went wrong. I used citric acid because I couldn’t find Lemi-shine in Australia but all if then other ingredients were the same.

      • Leilani says

        I’ve also just done the same thing, using citric acid rather than lemishine, and the citric acid and washing soda reacted straight away. I thought perhaps it was because there may have been some little bit of moisture on the bowl, but relieved to see it wasn’t just me, and that I can still use it once it stops foaming away.

  12. Melanie says

    I’ve been using this recipe for a couple of weeks now and my dishes — especially glass and silverware — are cloudy. I think we may have slightly hard water, and I’m wondering how to adjust the recipe to control for harder water. Add more baking soda to soften? Has anyone run into this or have an idea?

    • Ali says

      I had that a few times. My rinse container was empty. I added more Lemishine in the pre wash as that is what I used before with the store bought pods. If my rinse container is full I usually don’t have the problem

    • Lisa says

      I’m in Huntington Beach, CA and my understanding is we have hard water. This detergent has worked great except one time…after my kids had a bath and I ran the dishwasher. I realized that our water heater is pretty small so I think the dishwasher ran with water that either wasn’t hot enough or the hot water ran out part way through. I make sure to run it now with hot water (after the water heater has had time after baths, etc.). I turn on the kitchen sink for a minute until the hot water starts and then I turn on the dishwasher (this way the dishwasher starts from the first moment with hot water). Since I’ve done this the detergent has worked great every time! In fact, my dishes are clearer now than they have been in a long time (even after using a popular “non-toxic” commercial product.

  13. Nancy says

    I am anxious to try this recipe because all the ones I’ve tried with Borax left a nasty cloudy film on the dishes, glasses, & silverware. About the hard water – I always put 1/2 C vinegar in the bottom of the dishwasher before the load starts and this has always helped when using commercial powdered brands. I also use vinegar in the rinse dispenser. I will try a little of this different formula to see about streaks or no streaks. I also found a recipe that added 25 drops of grapefruit essential oil. This may be to increase the acidity of the mix.

    • sh0rtbread says

      Thanks. I was just about to post that I’m giving up on DIY dishwasher detergent because I’m still getting cloudy glassware and dull silverware (porcelain is fine). I think it may have to do with our (only slightly!) hard water. Unfortunately, our dishwasher doesn’t seem to have a rinse dispenser. My last try will be to put vinegar in the bottom of our dishwasher.

  14. Emily says

    Finally something without Borax in it! I will try this as soon as I have a dishwasher (my kitchen is a construction zone and all new appliances are in my dining room). I have read other suggestions to put some original blue dawn in a foaming bottle and add a pump or two, so like a drop, into the dishwasher if you have cloudy issues.

    • says

      Great tip! Vinegar also helps. Too bad your kitchen is a construction zone, I hate waiting for construction work to be done in the house!

  15. Missy says

    My house is on a new type septic system and we’ve had trouble lately. My house (and septic system) are only two years old. I told the septic guy that I make most of my cleaning products and use a lot of baking soda and vinegar. He said to limit the vinegar cuz it could wipe out the beneficial microbes. I use a lot of vinegar. On everything. Anyone else on a septic had any problems?

  16. Bethany says

    I am going to try this! I have been making mine with Borax, too. As far as mixing the Lemishine, I just skip that step and add a half teaspoon to the main compartment as with the rest of the mixture …I currently use a half tablespoon of that, we will see if I need to modify with the change of recipe! Thanks again :)

  17. juliana park says

    when I looked at using vinegar some suggested just putting in a cup on the top rack. if you put it in the rinse aid compartment it can strip away at all of rubber seals. when its on the top rack it gets to all of dishes and drains away safely! can’t wait to try this detergent!

  18. says

    If you were to substitute citric acid for the Lemi-shine – just saying – how much would you add (proportionately). Thx… I have been using the recipe with Borax and understand your concerns. Thx for your post.

  19. janet says

    a great idea for the clumping i saw on another blog make it in a ice cube tray then let it harden and pop them out and then you have your own dishwasher pellet

  20. Jodie says

    Thanks for this recipe, I’ve heard about natural and homemade detergents not cleaning well and containing Borax (-eek!) so I’ve stuck with buying either Honest brand or Seventh Gen. Just ran out of both but I keep all these ingredients around (swear by Lemi Shine) so I’m grateful for this post so I can whip up an inexpensive batch!

  21. Melly says

    Can you make it with out the citric acid? I know my silver ware is not meant to be washed with any citrus detergent. Thanks!

  22. Lara says

    I can’t wait to try this. I have tried a few different DIY dishwasher soaps and everything leaves my dishes covered in a film. I have been having to wash each load twice since my “energy efficient” (insert sarcasm here) dishwasher only has 4 options for washing and we have extremely hard water.

  23. Micheal says

    I found this article on borax powder that seems to address some of the health issues that many people have on borax powder. I think its a matter of education on what borax actually is and that many people tend to get it confused with a type of Boric acid. Also the reproductive issues found was based on a study involving rats that INGESTED high volumes of borax. Borax is not considered to be bio-accumulative so it won’t build up in your system over time. Borax is much like the Lye you would find in laundry bar soap, if its handled with care and respect you should be safe.


  24. Hanna says

    I also use this recipe! I love it! I use citric acid from the canning aisle. My powder doesn’t get chunky or hard. I think it works better than the store bought version. My dishwasher is also a lot cleaner.

  25. Mama2lala says

    Ok so if the Lemi shine is citric acid, overtime having that mixed with baking soda(base) will diminish the effectiveness of both as they react with each other.

  26. says

    Yes you can. Just add some water (about 1cup) at the end. Let it fizz for 1-2 minutes and mix until you can shape tabs. I use 1tbsp of the mix into ice-cube trays.Let stand for 24 hours. Take them out of the tray and keep in a tight jar.

  27. Erin says

    gonna try this … has anyone made it without the lemon shine? could I add lemon juice or just leave the lemon out altogether?

  28. JC says

    Hi! I made a batch of this and it seems to work well at cleaning the dishes but one thing I have noticed, after a period of time our dishes look cloudy & have a film on them. Am I doing something wrong? Or would the vinegar, added to the rinse compartment fix the issue? Thanks! :)

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