Monday, January 24, 2011

Try, Try Again: My Second Attempt at Homemade Dishwasher Powder

Almost exactly a year ago (didn't plan that at all..weird), I wrote about my disappointing experiment with homemade dishwasher powder. I'd read in a book that you could use a mixture of baking soda and borax and that would work like the storebought dishwasher powder. I really wanted it to work because I buy the natural, eco-friendly stuff and it's kind of spendy.  So I tried it. Nope. The baking soda-borax mix left a crusty film all over my dishes, especially on my glasses. I was thoroughly unimpressed. I figured it had to be due, in part, to my old dishwasher and I consigned myself to buying yet another box of the storebought stuff.

Then, about a week ago, I came across link to a blog post about homemade dishwasher detergent. I was curious (and dubious) so I checked it out and, sure enough, the recipe featured baking soda and borax.  As previously mentioned, it didn't work for me, but I decided to look at the comment section and see if anyone had similar results to mine. I came across one of the comments that said not to use baking soda but washing soda instead. It just so happened that I had some washing soda on hand and I also happened to be out of dishwasher powder. So I gave it a try and mixed the washing soda with the borax. 

You know what? It worked! Granted, my glasses were still a little foggy (blame our hard water for that one), but everything else was shining and clean. They looked just as good as if I'd used my regular storebought powder.  I've used the combination a few times since that initial test with the same results as the first. I'm converted.

To make your own batch of homemade dishwasher powder, all you need to do is mix equal parts of borax and washing soda.  Once it's all mixed together, store in an airtight container (I got the one pictured for like 25 cents at the thrift store). When you're ready to run a load of dishes through the dishwasher, put 1-2 tablespoons in the dispenser. 

One other helpful dishwasher tip I've been using the past couple months: instead of using a storebought rinse aid, fill the rinse aid dispenser with white vinegar. It helps with the spots and keeps things shining. Ah, vinegar -- what can't you do?

Borax and washing soda can both be found in the laundry aisle of stores. You can find borax at most stores, including big chains like Walmart. Washing soda is a little trickier to find -- I bought mine at Ace Hardware.

When I bought both boxes (when I started making laundry detergent this past summer), each box cost around $4. I used to spend anywhere from $4-5 on a 48-oz. box of my usual diswasher detergent. You can buy a 76-oz. box of borax for around $4 and a 55-oz. box of washing soda for the same price.  If you used the entire box of each for dishwasher detergent exlusively, you'd have around 131 oz. of dishwasher powder for $8. If you break the prices down, the storebought dishwasher powder I used cost around 10 cents per ounce; the homemade powder is about 6 cents per ounce.

In the end, homemade dishwasher powder costs less than the stuff I used to buy. It works pretty well, too. It's all-natural and eco-friendly like the other stuff.  I love it when frugal experiments work.

{Update: May 7, 2012 - I just wanted to mention that I'm not using this all the time. It cleans the dishes, but still leaves bit of a foggy film on glasses and some residue on my dishes. I'm chalking that up to our hard water. So, I mostly use this when I'm in a pinch. Most of the time, I use my old stand-by, BioKleen dish powder. Just thought I'd mention it. Test the homemade stuff out a few times (I'd say at least 4-5 times -- the problems I had didn't show up until around then) and see if it works for you before making a huge batch.}


Angela V said...

Let me start by saying I really enjoy your blog. It seems we write about similar stuff. :)
Your homemade dishwashing detergent is missing one thing, citric acid! That should help with the foggy film. I make mine with washing soda, borax citric acid and salt.

I hope that helps!

Heather said...

Thanks so much for the tip -- I've got some citric acid on hand (I use it for canning occasionally), so I'll give it a try!

judith said...

I swear you are secretly living in my kitchen! I too make my own dishwasher detergent. I too had problems, boy did I! Long story short, go to my blog and read how I was channeling Lucy. What a mess. But... I'm still using it and it's working. The recipe I found said to use 10 pkgs of lemon koolaid! I have since learned that you can use Lemishine, that's found in the dishwashing detergent isle. BUT, the key ingredient for me, cuz our water is SO hard, is 3 drops of Dawn! NO more than 3 drops or you'll have a Lucy moment! The Dawn acts as a surfactant and helps the water be wetter. I know it sounds weird but just try it. Along with the vinegar in the rinse cycle, everything is spotless!!!

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