Dishwashing Detergent Hack! Two Ingredients!

I don't know about you, but running out of dishwasher detergent and not being able to do the dishes is just not an option around here. Getting behind on the dishes might be worse than getting behind on the laundry (which happens too often).  But what to do when it's late at night and you go to the cabinet and realize you're out of dishwasher detergent? A late night grocery store run sounds like about the last thing I want to do, and waking up to a mountain of dirty dishes sounds even worse. There has to be a solution. 

Have you seen any of these recipes online for making your own dishwasher detergent?  They sound interesting, but a lot of them call for stuff that I just don't normally keep around my house, or stuff that I'm not sure I'm comfortable putting on my dishes (Borax, Oxy-Clean, etc.), or they require you mixing up some big recipe of stuff, which I'm not doing late at night.

But I saw one recently that called for just dish soap and baking soda.  Things I always have. So of course I had to try it.

We run our dishwasher at least twice a day here, and often three times on weekends. With 6-8 people at every meal, everything homemade, we go through a lot of dishes! And so we also go through a LOT of dishwasher detergent.  I try to buy a more natural brand, because when I open the dishwasher and I am hit in the face with a strong chemical smell, I just don't think that sounds like a good idea. If there's that much strong chemical odor left in the steam that comes out of the dishwasher, then I'm pretty sure that it's on my dishes too, and I just don't like the idea of that. So I try to go for a dishwasher detergent that is a little lighter on the chemicals.  But those kinds are expensive, and for some reason they come in very small packages.  I buy like 4 or 5 packages at a time, just to make sure we don't run out.  


But what if we do run out?  That would be an emergency! So when I came across this idea for running the dishwasher with just regular other household stuff, I had to know if it worked!

I had to.

And you know what?  IT WORKS!!

I've been doing this every day this week.  I run the dishwasher twice a day usually during the week, so I've been doing one load with our regular detergent and one load with this homemade combo.  I've stuck with the regular detergent for the load that we run after dinner, since it's running at night and I'm not keeping an eye on it, and I've tried this new method for the load I run while I am home during the day - just in case I had any kind of over-sudsing incident. 

And I can honestly tell you the results are identical. I haven't noticed any difference in the dishes between the two methods.  The loads with the homemade detergent are just as clean as the loads with the packaged detergent.  I haven't added up the costs yet, but I can pretty much assure you that a bottle of dish soap and a big package of baking soda are going to be a heck of a lot cheaper than the expensive detergent tablets that I've been buying. 

The recipe:

  • A couple tablespoons of baking soda
  • A few drops, or a small squirt, of Dawn dish soap.


Fill your detergent cup with baking soda, you don't have to be precise, but with mine this ends up being a couple of heaping tablespoons. Then add a few drops of dish soap. I have a pump dispenser for my dish soap, so I just put about half a squirt in there. Close the cover, and run dishwasher as usual. That's all. 

I experimented with quantity of dish soap.  The first few recipes I read said just 2 drops, but that just didn't feel like enough to me, to really get a very full load clean.  So I gradually added a little more until I felt comfortable.  I haven't yet found an upper limit, but I haven't pushed it too far.

The baking soda is VERY important here. Don't try this without it! It keeps the soap from forming suds.  The reason they tell you never to use liquid dish soap in your dishwasher is because of the suds - you'll have bubbles all over your floor.  But the baking soda apparently prevents that, so it allows the soap to do the grease cutting and cleaning, without making all those bubbles. I've opened my dishwasher at various points in the cycles to see what's going on in there, and there are no bubbles. I'm not scientist, so I'm not going to try to figure out why any of this happens.  All I know is, my dishes are getting clean and I don't have soap all over my floor and I didn't have to buy dishwasher detergent.

I have not tried this with other brands of dish soap.  I've tried lots of other brands of liquid dish soap for hand washing, and I keep coming back to Dawn, so that is what I used for this.  The more natural and/or less expensive brands just don't work as well.  I found that I was having to use so much more soap to just wash a sink full of dishes, that it just wasn't worth it. 

I pour my dish soap into a pump dispenser that I keep next to my sink.  I like this one because the spout extends out far enough that you can just pump it right into the sink. 

So that's it.  Dish soap & baking soda!  Let me know if you try it!



Lisa Marsh

Mom to two sets of twins.

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