Homemade Natural Dishwasher Detergent

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When G and I got married, he'd been living without a dishwasher for years.  They just don't have them in Europe (he lived in Rome for 5 years while he attended grad school there) and then his place down in Miami didn't have one, either.  So he was used to hand-washing all his dishes and said he actually enjoyed it, which sounded great to me, since I wasn't fond of the task myself. 

Oooh, he's so green, I'd think as he hand-washed all our dishes each weekend during those first six months of our marriage while he was commuting between here and Miami until the current school year finished up.  

It just seemed to me like hand-washing dishes was a cheaper and more natural option, so we kept it up and I have to admit, I started to enjoy the process as well.

However, one day I was clicking around the web, searching for ways to squeeze even more life out of our pennies and I discovered a fact that surprised me.  It's actually cheaper and better for the environment to wash dishes in the dishwasher, as long as you run full loads. 

While this new knowledge chipped away a bit at my pioneer-woman fa├žade, I was totally on board with switching back to use of the dishwasher to save money (and time).

I was already making most of my own (more natural and cheaper) cleaning products, so I figured there had to be a way to make my own dishwasher detergent, as well.

After Googling myself silly, I came up with lots of options, as well as lots of conflicting information regarding borax and whether it's safe/natural or not.  This information was disturbing, since I already used the stuff in my homemade laundry detergent.  

Ultimately, I determined that the amount of borax we use is safe (for us), especially since we've pretty much made the switch from plastics to glass/stainless steel items in the kitchen.

So here's my current recipe for automatic dishwasher detergent.  I highly recommend using the citric acid, even if it's a bit trickier to find, as it makes a huge difference in removing spots and deposits from your dishes.  You can probably find some in your grocery store, but it's so much cheaper to purchase online.

What You Need

2 cups borax
2 cups washing soda
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup citric acid

* These amounts seem to be just right to create a batch that lasts a decent amount of time, but not so long that everything clumps together in a hard chunk by the time you're at the end of your supply.  You might find you need to make smaller or larger batches, depending on the humidity where you are and how often you run the dishwasher.  Play around with your "batch size" to make what works best for you.  The ratios here are super-easy to half or double or otherwise adjust!  Also, if you can't live without scent, then you can easily add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to this mixture, although I suspect that would make it clump up faster.

What You Do

1.  Measure out your ingredients and dump right into your storage container (as long as it has a tight-fitting lid).  We use an old bulk-sized shaker cheese container.  Not fancy, but it lives under our kitchen sink, so who cares.  You could always pretty it up, if you wanted to.

2.  Close the lid and shake to mix.  Yup.  It's that easy.

3.  Add 1 Tablespoon of this homemade mixture to your dishwasher, right where you'd normally put the detergent.  You don't need more than that to get your dishes clean.

4.  I also fill my rinse aid receptacle with vinegar.  If you don't have a receptacle for this, you could just add vinegar to your dishwasher - probably 1 Tablespoon a load would be good. 

I promise, this is crazy-simple to make, and once you have the ingredients on hand, it's way more convenient to whip up a batch than it is to run to the store.  Besides convenience, it's way cheaper and doesn't contain a bunch of nasty chemicals!  Let me know if you try it!

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