Homemade Borax-Free Dishwasher Detergent

I have tried many different “eco-friendly” dishwasher detergents over the years.  From 7th Generation to Ecos, Method to Ecover, I just couldn’t find one that worked very well.  And with a price as high as those, I certainly wanted something that worked.

Eventually I came across a recipe to make my own dishwasher detergent.  It contained washing soda, borax, salt and citric acid.  It worked… somewhat.  I wasn’t satisfied with the results and neither was I satisfied with the ingredient Borax.  I am not convinced Borax is safe, especially when used on eating utensils etc.  After discussing the homemade recipe with some others, the thought came up “what if we just removed the Borax?”  So when I ran out of my detergent I did just that.  I removed the Borax.   I also added white distilled vinegar as a rinse aid.  The combination provides great results!!

So here is my borax-free dishwasher detergent recipe:

  • 1 cup washing soda (old recipe used  baking soda)
  • 1/4 c. citric acid
  • 1/4 c. coarse salt
  • 10-15 drops of citrus essential oil (Optional.  Orange, grapefruit, or lemon essential oils have great cleaning as well as antibacterial properties.)
  • Distilled white vinegar (in the rinse aid compartment)

Mix first 3 ingredients well in an air tight container. Add essential oil.  Mix again.  Fill your rinse aid compartment with undiluted white distilled vinegar.

Use 1 tsp. detergent for average loads.
Use 1 tbsp. detergent for extra greasy, dirty loads.

UPDATE:  More is not better!  If you are having any build up issues use less! 

Where to find ingredients:
Citric acid is easily purchased in bulk at  U-Brew  stores.  You may find it at grocery stores near the canning supplies, or in the bulk section.  You can also buy it at Mountain Rose Herbs Co.   Some people use plain, uncolored koolaid and get the same effects.  (Make sure you use the colorless koolaid or you will dye your dishwasher!) This is because koolaid is very high in citric acid.  I don’t like the other ingredients in koolaid though so I choose not to use it.  Lemi Shine is also sometimes used to replace citric acid.  I feel the same way about lemi shine as I do about koolaid.
Coarse salt: same as pickling salt.  Found in most grocery stores or purchase coarse sea salt online at Mountain Rose Herbs.  Don’t use regular table salt because of the iodine content.
Baking Soda: We all know where to find it!
Essential Oil: Found in most natural food stores or online at Mountain Rose Herbs.

  • I rinse off my dishes reasonably well ever since I switched to chemical-free dishwasher detergents.  Rinsing off grease and baked-on food will help any cleaner, not just a homemade one.
  • Hard water: I don’t know if this would work in hard water or not because my water is soft.  However, my own research indicates that citric acid is often used in addition to regular dishwasher detergents to help prevent mineral deposits on the dishes.  Try it out and let me know!
  • I placed one glass in the dishwasher and left it in for many loads as my tester.  I have done over 30 loads with this recipe to date.

Cost: (based on Mountain Rose Herbs prices)
5 lb. of citric acid is $20.
5 lb. of baking soda is $11.75.
5 lb. of coarse sea salt is $15.
Essential oil (optional) varies in price..

Is it worth it to make your own?
Based on the prices above (not including essential oils), and the fact that there are 36 tbsp. of sugar in a lb. (similar texture and weight to this detergent), I worked this detergent out to cost $0.08 a load. 

7th Generation dishwashing tabs (about 1 tbsp. each) are $6.99 for 20. (based on online price from London Drugs)  So 7th Generation dishwashing tabs cost $0.35 cents a load.   

You’ll be saving a lot of money (not to mention your health and the environment) by making your own eco-friendly detergent.

This post has been linked to Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #25, Simple Living Wednesday, Homestead Helps Wednesday #5, Homestead Revival Barn Hop #61MorrisTribe’s Homesteading Blog Carnival #6, Whole Foods Wednesday #56 and  Fat Tuesday.

Treasure Hunting: Why Secondhand Shopping is Sustainable.

When I was young I was a treasure hunter.  I grew up on a diet of Enid Blyton books filled with exciting adventures and discoveries of ancient treasures.  I made up my own treasure maps and buried them in the ground.  I trailed behind my older neighbour friend who had a metal detector, to watch him find treasure.  I searched through jars of pennies to find old ones.  I dug through 100 year old dumps to look for ancient (albeit broken) china.  I searched through bags of hand-me-downs with thrills of excitement.  And I would shop at the only old antique/junk store my tiny town had, looking for fantastic finds.  I blame it in part on my reading, in part on my frugal parents, and in part on my aunt who could kick start excitement in any child while touring ghost towns and antique shops. 

Today I still treasure hunt.  I don’t bury or search for ancient treasure maps anymore.  I don’t bother with a metal detector.  And you will no longer find me peering into old, abandoned houses with my aunt.  But you WILL find me wandering through thrift stores with my radar on high.  Treasure doesn’t mean buried gold ingots anymore.  It means unique decorating ideas, clothes that were never worn out, and kitchen utensils that most people think they will use and never do, like clay baking dishes and canning jars.  Treasure means old Fisher Price toys that I grew up playing with and that are still around because they were made well.  Ice skates for my children’s ever-growing feet.  Old story tapes that my kids will listen to over and over and over.  And so on. 

Treasure hunting serves a variety of “green” and “frugal” purposes.

  • First and perhaps most importantly, you are reusing, instead of buying new.  There is so much unwanted STUFF in our landfills.  New furniture is cheap, and with payment options and deferrals, most people buy new rather than secondhand. Buying secondhand gives these items a new life and keeps them out of the landfill for longer.  Our disposable society can only last so long.  Already over-full landfills are causing huge problems.  Buying secondhand is one way of keeping something else from heading to the dump. 
  • Secondhand shopping saves you money.  Ever looked on craigslist?  There are SO MANY of the same kind of things there, that the price HAS to be low or it won’t sell.  I know someone who bought new furniture, kept it for about a month, and then decided she didn’t like how it looked in the house so she bought MORE new furniture.  Her items were available on craigslist for a fraction of the initial cost and it was basically brand new.  Baby and child items are a great thing to find secondhand, since they aren’t always over-used.  I buy almost all our kids books at thrift stores because they are cheap, and it doesn’t matter as much if a page gets torn out. 
  • Secondhand shopping reduces your carbon footprint.  Secondhand items have already been made, packaged, shipped and sold.  That means that the item you are buying does not have to use up valuable natural resources, add extra pollutants to the environment during its manufacturing, or jeopardise the health of over-seas labourers who are working under pathetic conditions.    The money will not go into the pocket of big business. 
  • Secondhand shopping gives you the opportunity to find things that aren’t even available anymore.  Antiques are a good example of this.  Vintage clothing and toys.  Old books that are no longer published.  And if you are sentimental like me you’ll find things you had when you were growing up that you think are better than their later replacements. 
  • And finally, if you are shopping at thrift stores a portion of your money will go to a charitable organisation to help others.  Ask your thrift store to find out who benefits from their sales. 

There is still a bit of a stigma attached to secondhand shopping and I am doing my best to eradicate it. I know people who refuse to set foot in secondhand stores because they are above buying people’s old things.  The thing is, thrift stores aren’t just for poor people who can’t afford anything else.  They are for shoppers who want to make a difference.  Who want to green their purchases and reuse things that have absolutely nothing wrong with them. 

My love of treasure hunting has been passed on to my own children.  Secondhand shopping is a regular part of their life.  I hope that my children will never be looked down upon for it.  And I hope that secondhand shopping will develop into an integral part of the REDUCE REUSE RECYCLE mantra so we as a society can make better use of our purchases and live in a more sustainable manner. 

Common sense requires buyers to beware:  do your research.  You don’t want to end up with a recalled car seat or crib, or toys so old they are painted with lead paint.  Also, bedbugs are a growing concern in secondhand stores just as they are in hotels and other areas. 

This post has been linked to The Prairie Homestead’s Homestead Barn Hop. Frugally Sustainable’s Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Attainable Sustainable’s Patchwork Living, I Thought I Knew Mama’s Green and Natural Link Up, Common Sense Homesteading’s Living Well Blog Hop #26, Our Simple Farm’s Simple Living Linky and Natural Parenting Group: Monday Blog Hop.