I have been using my recipe for dishwasher detergent for about 6 months. Sometimes my dishes had a dull film on them (as report on other sites). To fix this, I used Seventh Generation dishwasher detergent once per week. It seemed to keep things under control, but I wanted to create a formula that worked all on its own. I read about using citric acid and finally ordered some from Mountain Rose. The citric acid was THE ANSWER!! After using my new and improved dishwasher formula one time, the inside of my dishwasher was white and clean. And my dishes were sparkling!! I have been using it all week with excellent results – no film, only squeaky clean dishes. I am very excited!!

  • 1  cups borax
  • 3/4 cup baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons citric acid
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of ground castile bar soap

Pour borax, baking soda, and citric acid into a glass jar. Shake to mix. Add soap and shake to mix again. Use about 2 TB per load.

I have soft water. I have read other recipes that call for about 1/4 cup salt, which may help for hard water areas.

Notes about soap: I use a food processor shredder attachment to shred Dr. Bronner’s bar soap (any flavor) and then I use the regular food processor blade to mince it into a powder.

**Update 2/16/09: I have been using this recipe now for over 3 months, and it still works extremely well, better than other natrual detergents that I have purchased. It seems to work best when fresh so I reduced the size of the recipe (changes are shown above).

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I was so happy with my homemade vegan laundry detergent, that I decided to try a similar formula for dishwasher detergent.

1/2 bar Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap (any flavor)
1 cup Borax
1 cup baking soda

Grate the soap with a carrot grater or food processor. Place all ingredients in an airtight container and shake. Use 2 tablespoons per load. I have been using this recipe for a week now, and I am pleased with the results.

Notes: I used baking soda instead of washing soda because washing soda is not meant to be used on aluminum surfaces. Some recipes for dish detergent just call for Borax and baking soda – that combination alone did not thoroughly clean the oil off my dishes, but the addition of a little soap made it work well. We have an old dishwasher so we rinse our dishes before putting them in the dishwasher; I would be interested to see how this formula works in newer dishwashers without rinsing the dishes.

UPDATE 07/08/08: After using this for a few months, I have found that less soap flakes works better. I am now using 1 cup fluffy shredded flakes (or 1/2 cup compact food processed soap), 1 cup borax, and 1 cup baking soda. I think it 1 cup of shredded soap is about 1/4 of a bar.

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Most laundry detergents contain chemicals that are bad for the planet and bad for our health (see GreenGuide for more info). I had been using Biokleen Laundry Powder, I believe that it is safe, and I am happy with how it works. But to cut costs and harsh ingredients, and be gentle on the planet, I decided to make homemade laundry detergent. Most online recipes call for Fels Naptha Laundry Bar Soap. I emailed the manufacturer to inquire about the ingredients. Response: “[Fels Naptha] is a tallow based bar, and the source of the tallow is beef or pork.” Yum! Who wants cow and pig fat smeared all over their clothes?! So no Fels Naptha for me – bummer cause it is cheap!

Small Batch (18 loads)
½ cup Borax
½ cup Washing Soda
½ bar of Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Organic Pure-Castile Soap grated

Grate the soap with a carrot grater or food processor. Place all ingredients in an airtight container and shake. Use 1 tablespoon per load.

I found that this formula worked fabulously, but I believe results may vary depending on your laundry circumstances. We have soft water and a high-efficiency washer. For hard water and top loading machines, you may need to adjust the recipe and amount used.


Borax – also called sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, disodium tetraborate, is a naturally occurring mineral composed of sodium, boron, oxygen, and water. You can find 20 Mule Team Borax in the laundry section of your grocery store. Borax is an ingredient in Mrs. Myer’s and Seventh Generation laundry products and many other brands. Info on safety: Skin Deep, About.com, and Greenfootsteps.
Washing Soda – also called sodium carbonate or soda ash, is made from common salt and limestone or found as natural deposits. You can find Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda in the laundry section of your grocery store. Info on safety: Skin Deep and Greenfootsteps.

Grated Soap – many sources state that you can use any bar soap in this recipe, I just like the purity and veganess of Dr. Bronner’s, and Fels Naptha is not vegan.

Cost – cheap, 10¢ per load! Borax $2.95 for 25 batches, Washing Soda $1.79 for 12 batches, and Dr. Bronner’s soap $2.91 for 2 batches. The 5 pound box of Biokleen says that it washes 50 loads (although I am skeptical), at $10.19 for the box that is 20¢ per load. Homemade is at least half the cost.

Scary Stuff – If you read all the info on Borax and Washing Soda, you may decide that this recipe seems too toxic, but if you research every single ingredient in commercial detergent (that is if they fully disclose the ingredients – most don’t), you will find lots of bad stuff. I believe everyone should be an informed consumer, and I am happy with my three little ingredients. If you have a safer laundry suggestion, please comment.

Update 2/16/09: I have cut back on the soap in this recipe a bit. Now, I grate the soap, then process it to a powder using a food processor, which yields about 1 1/4 cups of powdered soap per bar. I use 3/4 cups of this powdered soap to 1 cup Borax and 1 cup washing soda.

Update 5/10/10: Still using and loving this recipe!

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