Once I made homemade laundry detergent, I realized I could easily make my own dishwasher detergent and rinse aid as well. It is super simple to mix this recipe (minus the water) as a simple powder you could scoop into your dispenser, but I thought it would be fun to mold them into handy tablets. I was right! It is fun…if you’re into this sort of thing.
I also knew I wanted to use citric acid after I used it to make bath salts and bath fizzies as gifts. It’s foaming action seemed like the perfect addition. I did not want to use borax…mostly because I didn’t have it on hand. Also, because there is a little debate out on – although I feel it is much safer than most of the ingredients in store-bought detergents. Which leads to my obligatory ‘why you should avoid *insert product here*…
The two big questions I ask about every product in my life is:
1) Is it safe for my family, including a toddler, to put on/in our bodies?
2) Is it environmentally friendly?
My answer for most store-bought items is a big, fat NO to both. If I can’t safely eat it, I don’t use it on us. If it is going to add harmful chemicals and additives into our Earth’s water and soil supplies, I don’t want it.
Most commercial dishwasher soaps are loaded with questionable chemicals. Search for the brand you’re using here to get it’s rating by the Environmental Working Group. 70% of them score a D or F meaning they are “potentially significant” dangers to yourself and/or nature. Especially aquatic life, in this case. Dishwasher detergents are created synthetically in a laboratory. In order to achieve that, there are many toxic by-products created as well. Dioxane and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS or SLES) are a few to avoid. Lab creations also mean that preservatives need added in order to make it last forever. This is where parabens come in, which can be disruptive to the reproductive and endocrine systems. You can be sure your detergent has preservatives in it if “water” is listed FIRST on its ingredients list.
Ideally, dishwashing soap should be free of parabens, phosphates, phlatates, glycol, petrochemicals, 1,4 dioxane, dyes, and synthetic fragrances (ironically often known as a secret blend of “natural fragrances”). Go ahead and check yours now…I’ll wait…
Oh, that’s right…you may not be finding anything on your really, really, thick plastic bottle (Why such strong plastic anyway? Hmm…) because many of the store-bought dish soaps do not even list their ingredients. Isn’t that very odd that we have no clue what is in a product that is coating all of our plates, cups, and utensils?
Turns out, it is pretty easy to make your own dishwasher soap that won’t steam off volatile compounds into your kitchen air. These tablets work better for me than store-bought and…are you ready?….cost LESS than a dubious detergent as well. They are even safe enough for my son to help me place one into the compartment.
DIY LEMON TEA TREE DISHWASHER TABLETS
- 1/3 cup washing soda (degreaser and disinfectant)
- 1/3 cup baking soda (degreaser)
- 1/3 cup citric acid (a NATURAL preservative that fizzes with water and is safe for cosmetic and culinary use; can find in local natural stores like MOM’s or Whole Foods as well)
- 1/3 cup salt (fine sea, rock, kosher…just NOT Epsom; reduces hard water build-up)
- 10 drops Lemon Essential Oil (antiseptic, anti-fungal, antiviral; degreasing and will eliminate any spots)*
- 10 drops Tea Tree Oil (aka Melaleuca Alternifolia – antimicrobial, antiseptic, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic)*
- Mix all of the ingredients together well to distribute the essential oils and powders. You can stop now and use this powder mixture in your compartment if you prefer.
- For tablets, add 1 tablespoon of water. Call the kids to watch this part, as it will foam up and be a super cool impromptu science experiment.
- Pack tightly into silicone mold shapes that will fit into your dispenser. Ice cube trays work well, and sometimes I simply use a teaspoon or tablespoon to scoop out and plop a circle on a cookie sheet. *Tablets will rise like a marshmallow as they dry, so consider their expansion to make sure they still fit.
- Let dry on the counter for 12-24 hours, then carefully remove from molds and store in an air-tight container.
This recipe yields approximately 30-40 homemade dishwasher tablets. I find the humidity affects the way they puff up. If they are expanding too much, sometimes I have to scrape some off while they are still wet to create a couple of new tablets. This recipe is easily doubled or tripled to make ahead or as gifts.
I use this with my Homemade Citrus Rinse Aid for best results.
I also make a homemade dessicant by putting some bentonite clay in an old baby sock and tying in a knot. This keeps an appropriate amount of moisture in to avoid cracking or sweating. You do NOT have to do this and please don’t let it keep you from attempting these. I’m just nuts. Go for it if you are, too.
*I can only attest to therapeutic-grade essential oils that contain these properties. Lesser fragrance or synthetic oils are not of equal quality and may not have disinfecting constituents.
Young Living Lemon Oil costs 5 cents per drop, so 50 cents total in this recipe.
Young Living Tea Tree Oil is 12 cents a drop so $1.20 here.
Salt is about 25 cents worth in this. (
Heck, steal a couple of salt packets from somewhere…I don’t condone stealing.)
The citric acid cost can range between $1.15 and $1.65 for this amount.
About 50 cents worth of baking soda.
Around 45 cents for this much washing soda.
For a grand total of $4.55 for 30-40 tablets, and that’s using the high-end of things. This turns out to be about $0.12-0.15 cents per cute little tab. A quick Amazon search reveals those store-bought dishwasher tabs to range anywhere from 19 cents each to over 30 cents per tablet.
Adding in the math on my Homemade Citrus Rinse Aid, and it turns out to cost less than a quarter total every time I run the dishwasher.
And I didn’t even have to wear a laboratory suit to make it.
*As far as I know, this is my own recipe. When I make a homemade products based off of another website, I absolutely give them proper credit, so I ask if you share mine to help a crunchy momma out and give me a shout out please. Granted, it is nothing spectacular so I figure somebody else has likely used these amounts and combinations of ingredients. I looked up the usual too-many blogs, couldn’t find any that fit what I wanted to do, got frustrated, then finally just decided to attempt my own using some general guidelines I learned from others. That’s the beauty of making your own products…you can do whatever you want until you get it just the way you want it.
Please let me know how it works for you!
This is my necessary disclaimer that this blog is not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure. I am only a mom with an education background. I must let you know that any essential oils statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. I simply approve for myself and family of such things that I deem safe, effective, and positively life-transformative. I encourage you all to be informed and empowered with your health. Also, some of my posts may contain affiliate links. When you click them, you help me to cover a small portion of the cost of this blog. I appreciate your support so that I can continue to do what I love. Please note that I only ever endorse products that are in alignment with Odds & Evans’ ideals, my personal use, and those I believe would be of value to my readers.