How to Make Dishwashing Detergent in Five Minutes


Yesterday I ran out of my homemade dishwashing detergent and had to mix up a fresh batch. And as I lined up the ingredients on my countertop, it occurred to me some of you good frugal folks might like to know how to make dishwashing detergent in five minutes.

Dishwashing 1

The recipe I use comes courtesy of Courtney Craig at I encourage you to read Courtney’s article since she compares various methods and gives a more precise breakdown of costs per batch. Out of four recipes, one is the clear winner and it’s the one I use. These are the ingredients:

Dishwashing Detergent Recipe

  • 1 cup Borax
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • 5 packets unsweetened lemonade mix

The additional component in my photo is a piece of nylon sock filled with rice. The rice keeps the powder from clumping. You can pick up a cheap pair of nylon socks or pantyhose in a dollar store.

I start by cutting off the foot of a nylon sock. Then I dump the four ingredients into a large bowl and mix with a wooden spoon. After that I put ½ cup of rice in the nylon sock and tie a knot. Next, I fill the container I’m using to store the mixture about half way. I plop the rice-filled sock on top, tamp it down, and pour the rest of the mixture in. I leave a tablespoon in the container for measuring. I use 2 tablespoons per load.

Dishwashing 2

The mixture works just as well as Cascade or any other store brand I’ve bought.

Dishwashing Detergent Cost Breakdown

  • Borax, 76 ounces                    $4
  • Washing soda, 55 ounces       $4
  • Baking soda, 4 lbs                  $2.25
  • Kosher salt, 3 lbs                    $2.08
  • Unsweetened lemonade          $1.79 for 10 packets (Great Value/Walmart brand)

Courtney Craig gets 42 loads out of a batch, at 2 cents a load. She uses 1 tablespoon per load. I use 2 because we only run our dishwasher two or three times a week, and our dinner plates get pretty gunked up. I haven’t kept a precise breakdown of my cost per load. But according to our expense tracker, I purchased the first three ingredients a year ago. And I still have plenty of all three leftover. I’m on my third box of lemonade (each box makes two batches) and second container of kosher salt. But I also use the salt for cooking.

I began my quest for homemade cleaning products partly to save money. But I was also encouraged by my mother-in-law’s do-it-yourself approach to cutting out allergens and chemicals. She gave me a recipe for powdered clothing detergent which I tried, but didn’t like. My clothes just didn’t smell fresh. I even experimented with adding lemon essence oil to the wash (see more about lemon essence below). It gave off a nice fragrance but faded soon after the clothes came out of the dryer.

But since my mother-in-law swears by her homemade laundry detergent, here’s a recipe from DIY Natural.

The Original Homemade Laundry Detergent

  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1 bar (4.5 ounces) soap, shaved. I used Fels-Naptha, but you can use Zote, Kirk’s Castile Soap or Dr. Bronner’s too.

Directions: Stir ingredients and store in a sealed container. Use 1 tablespoon per small load.

Two Bonus Tips

One of my best concoctions is a homemade floor cleaner that’s an excellent substitute for Swiffer Wet Jet Refill. And I love that I was able to repurpose the lemon essence oil I bought for the laundry experiment and use it for this. The lemon essence oil cost $13.95 for four ounces on Amazon. I bought the Skinology brand, which has more than doubled in price since I purchased it. So I’m linking to a similar product made by Majestic. Both brands are 100% pure, cold-pressed lemon oil.

Here’s the recipe:

Swiffer Wet Jet Refill Substitute

  • Fill a 16 ounce spray bottle with 12 ounces warm water
  • Squeeze in a little dish liquid (Joy, Dawn or any brand that isn’t antibacterial)
  • Add a few drops of lemon essence oil
  • Shake bottle

This mixture works great on tile. I use it in the kitchen, bathrooms, and sunroom. The floors smell fresh and look just as clean as when I used the Swiffer refill. And I’m glad to ditch the Swiffer because rumors have been circulating for years about whether it’s safe for pets. I think the rumors have been debunked, but why take a chance?

Reusable Mop Covers

My last tip is for reusable mop covers. We clean our wood floors with Bruce or Bona and a 9 x 15 Quickie mop. The mop came with a terry cloth cover but I bought several more for switching out dirty ones for clean ones. The brand names cost me anywhere from $9 to $12 a piece. But recently, I found an amazing substitute on Amazon called Sh-Wipe Terry Cloth Mop Covers. A package of 6 costs $24.79. The price has gone up a few cents since I bought them, but it’s still a super bargain.

I was pleasantly surprised when the She-Wipe mop covers arrived. They’re nice and thick. They also fit the mop very well and leave a little room to spare. The brand name mop covers are snug. They shrink in the wash and are prone to ripping. The She-Wipe covers are better and cheaper. I’m happy I found them.


My next experiment on the horizon is with Oxiclean. It’s not DIY but I’ve tried various homemade remedies for removing armpit stains from clothing, including baking soda, vinegar, aspirin and salt. Nothing works. Supposedly Oxiclean is the answer. For my first attempt I’ll be soaking a shirt in a bucket of water with Oxiclean for five hours. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Do you have any homemade cleaning products you like?

Have you tried any that didn’t work?

Any other cleaning tricks you want to share?

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    • Mrs. Groovy

      Dryer balls are cool too but they give me flashbacks. The sound of the thuds they make remind me of the time my sweet girl cat (now gone) sneaked into the clothes dryer while I was pulling out items. When I turned it back on I heard that “thud, thud” and thought to myself “I don’t have anything heavy like sneakers in there. OH SH*T!!!.” She was OK, just took one tumble.

      I find the homemade powder works very well in the dishwasher. You still need to use a rinse agent once in a while for glasses but I actually found that in the dollar store. It looks the same as the one I bought for over $4. And you probably can make that yourself too.

  1. I’ve heard of this concept before but it always seemed very complicated. I think it would be fun making it just for fun and to see how it’s made.

    Even though life was hard before the industrial revolution, I feel that people before the industrial revolution, they knew how their things were made and what was actually in them.

    I had to stop using certain laundry products because although I don’t have allergies, a lot of ingredients that are put into products these days are overly perfumed or toxic, and that even affects someone that has zero allergies.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Jaime, mixing this detergent is so easy. Believe, me, I’m not into too much fuss. I also can’t stand things that overly perfumed but I like a fresh scent. And I do have allergies, but nothing in laundry detergent seems to bother me.

  2. I love this! I definitely still have oodles of dishwasher soap/detergent from my crazy couponing days, but I will definitely bookmark this. I use white vinegar for a lot of my cleaning, and I’m definitely trying to switch over to more natural products (I love Target for carrying Seventh Generation and always letting me double my coupons!). I know I should object to the chemicals for my sake, but I’m more of a bleeding heart for all the animal testing that happens to make my soap more sudsy.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      I have to look into coupons. I really don’t use many. Where do you get the ones for Target? I was in the cleaning section at Target recently and was surprised by how many items they carry. And I’m a sucker for the Method grapefruit all purpose cleaner. I haven’t tried Seventh Generation but I’ll be on the lookout for it. Thanks for commenting, Penny.

  3. Not a washing DYI, but my homemade pizza costs me roughly $3.50 for a 12 inch pizza, and is much, much better (and organic) than what you’d get for that kind of price for a frozen pizza 🙂

    • Mrs. Groovy

      You’re right to question the washing soda. I didn’t know what it was either. But when you find it in a store, the box is clearly marked washing soda. Arm and Hammer, which makes baking soda, also makes washing soda. But they’re not interchangeable. The atomic composition is different. It has to do with water and carbon dioxide. There are recipes on line for making washing soda out of baking soda, but they require heating the baking soda in the oven to 400 degrees. I’d just as soon buy it.

  4. If you end up liking the oxiclean, you might try the dollar store version. I was reading the internet’s opinion about dollar store laundry detergent and a lot of comments mentioned that their version of oxiclean works just as well.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Thanks, MissGF. That’s a great tip about the dollar store version. I didn’t know there was a cheap substitute for Oxiclean. I already use the “Awesome” cleaner from the dollar store and it is pretty awesome.

  5. After years of dealing with my hubby’s complaints about toxic cleaning supplies, I’ve started cleaning most surfaces with diluted white vinegar. I’m getting a lot fewer complaints (and frankly, coughing less), but i do think it takes a little more scrubbing. We may need to try your detergent, because we seem to be spending a lot more than we used to on laundry supplies.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      I’m glad to hear you’ve had good results with vinegar, Emily. I used it on my tile floors a few times but I just can’t get past the odor. Laundry supplies can be so expensive, especially if you buy Tide or another brand. I mainly buy Purex and Arm and Hammer, which are cheaper. I even bought the Aldi brand which I haven’t used yet.