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.

Surprise! Monsanto et al. Likely Own Your Seed Companies.

Where do you buy your seeds or seedlings from?  I was not aware until very recently that much of our garden seeds are now produced by companies owned by large pharmaceutical/chemical companies such as Monsanto, Dow and Bayer etc. These aren’t seeds that are genetically modified.  These are the plain old garden seeds you see in many grocery stores and nurseries.   What in the world are bio-tech companies doing buying up seed companies?  One can only speculate.  Control is a big word.  What they own they can potentially genetically modify?  Or, what they own they can eliminate, thereby supplying their own GMO seeds to the farmers who can no longer buy the seeds they used to use?

This chart shows us what seed companies are owned by which of the Big Six companies, the largest being Monsanto.  These seeds are NOT genetically modified.  But the patented seed (for example  Big Beef tomato seeds or plants) come from companies owned by these giants.

An article called Forewarned is Forearmed: Veggies owned by Monsanto by A Garden For The House provides a list of seeds and seedlings that are owned by Monsanto.  Take a look: you will be amazed at the plant names you recognise.  You can also assured that the majority of big box stores will be buying their seeds from these guys.

What can you do?  There are still some smaller seed companies around that are not owned by the Big Six.

Ask you seed supplier.  Do they buy from any of these seed companies?  Look for small, local seed companies who collect and sell their own seed.  I am buying from Salt Spring Seeds.  They grow and collect their own seeds.  Unfortunately they can’t ship to the USA because of customs regulations.  They do ship internationally.   Here is a link to a list of companies that do not buy seeds from any of these companies.  I didn’t make the list so I can’t verify it but it looks like a good place to start.

Look for local seed exchanges.  Don’t buy your seeds at all!  Trade them with other gardeners in your area.  Here is an article with a lot of links to seed exchanges.

Start collecting your own seeds.  Cheapest, safest way, hands down.

Where do YOU buy your seeds?  Can you recommend any seed companies that grow and collect their own seeds or buy only from companies that have no ties to bio tech companies?

This post has been linked up to Natural Parenting Group Blog Hop, Patchwork Living Blog Hop,  Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #16, Our Simple Farm link up, Living Well Blog Hop 31, Real Food Forager’s Fat Tuesday and  Hometead Barn Hop #51.

Wasted. A primer.

No joke, food waste is a huge problem.  40% of American food is lost from the farm to the plate.  That’s almost half!  Much of this food is edible.  It isn’t old, rotten, or damaged.    Restaurants that have to keep prepared food “fresh” end up throwing out large amounts of food that are hours, or even minutes too old.  Best before dates that aren’t appropriate, government regulations making it impossible to give this food to food banks, and marketing schemes that encourage buying bulk all contribute to the problem.   Food over-stock in grocery stores, slightly damaged containers and produce that is the wrong size, shape, color or consistency are just thrown away.

All of these contribute to a horrifying amount of good food being thrown out.  Food is also thrown out at the production level.  Farmers will grow extra to make sure they have the appropriate quantity to fulfill a contract.  If there is extra, the food is simply disposed of.  And in a world where a billion people go hungry everyday, the surplus of food that is being thrown out is unacceptable.

Check out this trailer for a new movie called Taste the Waste.

Food waste in the home is also a problem.  The average American throws away 14% of the food he buys. Buying bulk, buying on a whim (as opposed to a list), and poor planning can be blamed for much of the waste.

Why should you care?   You aren’t starving.

Food waste isn’t just a problem for the starving.  Methane gas is produced by rotting food.  Methane gas is a greenhouse gas that is 23 times worse than carbon dioxide.  Food rotting in the landfills is as much of a problem for you as it is for anyone else.

The billions of dollars the US is putting into the disposal of wasted food is also a problem of yours.  These tax dollars would be better spent just about anywhere else, including feeding hungry people.

And not to be left out, food isn’t the only thing being wasted.  According to TreeHugger, ten trillion gallons of water is wasted to produce the uneaten food in the US.  That’s enough water to meet the needs of 5 million families.

A Solution?

Because of distribution, regulation and efficiency problems, there isn’t an easy fix.  Pushing our government to work together with these companies to find a solution is one of the things the average citizen can do.  Things can be done.  Triplepundit states various ways that businesses could cut back on waste:
  • Less emphasis on the appearance of food. Supermarkets pay premium for vegetables and fruits that look a certain way and are of uniform size. Any produce that does not meet these criteria is often discarded. Shop at farmer’s markets or lobby your local supermarket to have a ‘discarded’ produced aisle.
  • Better supply chains ensure that fresh food is only brought in when needed to ensure less wastage. The best way to find out about supply chains is to speak to your local store manager and find out what they throw out and how much. Then you can find out if the store is willing to donate the wasted food to a homeless shelter etc.
  • Western cultures are encouraged to stockpile on food with offers like “buy one get one free,” “three for two” etc.  This is something that consumers should be aware of – do you really need the extra food?
  • Wasted food can and should be converted to compost wherever possible.
  • Donation of excess or unwanted food is also a good way to control food waste.
These things will need to be dealt with at a government level, though.  If there are no regulations to control it, it will never get any better.
You have much more control about food waste in the home.  Watch for upcoming posts on what you can do at home to waste less food.  You CAN make a difference.
“When I didn’t know, I didn’t care. Now I can’t “un-know”, so I have to care.” -Common Sense Homesteading

Linked to Real Food Forager: Fat Tuesday, Whole New Mom: Whole Food Blog Hop and I Thought I Knew Mama’s Green and Natural Thursdays.