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How to Make Your Own Dish Detergent

When we first found out there were toxic ingredients in our dishwasher detergents and soaps, we were pretty pissed off. I mean, it’s soap! It’s supposed to be clean; not harm the person using it! And, to think we ate off of the plates washed with these toxic chemicals (yuck)!

making your own dish detergent

Needless to say, the rest of that dish detergent went straight into the garbage can! From that day forward, we started making our own and will never go back to any other way.

What You’ll Need:

You can choose to use either citric acid or lemonade Kool-Aid packets. Since there’s no sugar in the Kool-Aid packets themselves, it is mostly citric acid with lemon flavoring (it does make the detergent smell nice). Depending on the availability of citric acid and the price, you may choose to use Kool-Aid packets, as we have in the past.

OPTIONAL: Another option is to add essential oils into the detergent mix. You could use lemon or orange or another scent that you’d like.

How to Make Your Own Dish Detergent:

  1. With all of the ingredient ready to go, you simply need to funnel the washing soda, borax, and citric acid into your airtight container. This is also where you would add any essential oils.
  2. Once everything is added, give the jar a good shake and store under the kitchen sink.
  3. When you’re ready to do some dishes, simply scoop a tablespoon into the detergent slot. For added cleaning power, you can fill the rinse aid slot with white vinegar. This is especially helpful if you have hard water at your home.

What Happens When You Have Hard Water? 

Hard water and DIY dish detergent can be a difficult mix, at least on the surface. One of the best solutions for hard water spots on dishes is also the simplest: using a rinse aid. There are plenty of brand-name rinses on the market. However, these are generally loaded with unusual chemicals and fragrances. The truth is, there’s a great, inexpensive rinse aid that will handle the mineral deposits from hard water with ease.

For those of us who already make our own dish detergent, simpler is better. And it turns out that white vinegar is one of the best ways to deal with these stains. If you think about it, you already know how good vinegar is for this application. Vinegar is the best choice for cleaning hard water marks from windows and mirrors. They’re glass. So it makes sense that vinegar would also be the best rinse aid when it comes to cleaning hard water marks from glassware and dishes.

The best thing about this solution is how effective and efficient it is. Hard water and DIY dish detergent can sound like a difficult problem to fix. But vinegar typically costs just $2-3 per 48 oz container. And it only takes an ounce or so of vinegar to work this magic. In fact, the vinegar can be added right to the rinse-aid dispenser of the dishwasher. The difference when using this trick is remarkable. It helps to clear up glasses, porcelain dishes, and even Tupperware. Things that were formerly cloudy become much clearer.

DIY just not for you?

If you’re simply not a do-it-yourselfer and would prefer to purchase detergent, there are some good options out there that work really well. However, you need to do your due diligence as a consumer and be on the lookout for toxic ingredients in your dish detergent.

What toxic ingredient should I look for in store-bought dish detergents?

Many of the common and store brand detergents are chalked full of ingredients that you either can’t pronounce or are harmful to us and our planet.

Below you’ll find a list of some of the most common ingredients to avoid when purchasing dish detergent for your home:

  • Ammonia: While dish detergents usually only have small amounts, ammonia is known to be a toxic chemical and if you’re not careful, it can cause irritation on the skin, as well as in the eyes or respiratory tract. Additionally, as the water eventually makes its way to the ocean, the toxicity of ammonia can harm marine life.
  • Chlorine: Another chemical that can be extremely toxic to marine life and has been listed on the EPA’s Community Right-To-Know.
  • DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (monoethanolamine), TEA (triethanolamine): This group of chemicals has been found to disrupt the hormones within the body, as well as possibly cause cancer. Again, marine life is also harmed from these chemicals.
  • Formaldehyde: This will most likely be found in your detergent but under a different name such as methanol, methyl aldehyde or methylene oxide. It is added to prolong the shelf life of the detergent by preventing bacterial growth. As a known carcinogen, formaldehyde can cause a host of physical ailments.
  • Fragrance: These lovely creatures are what makes your detergent smell so nice. What you may not realize is that fragrance in your one bottle of detergent is filled with thousands of different chemicals. Do you know what’s worse? Over time, these fragrances coat themselves onto your dishware (Ewww!). So, be sure to find a detergent that uses natural essential oils or no fragrance at all.
  • Phosphates: With already high levels of phosphate, we don’t need to be adding any more to the environment. Typically added to help soften water, it actually can cause a reduction the available oxygen for marine life, which results in toxic algae growth.
  • Sulfates: Unfortunately, you’ll have to really read the label for these ones, as there a number of different names used. Everything from sulfuric acid to sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate and more. And, they’re all horrible – for us and the environment. Exposure over time can contribute to cancer, skin rashes, and respiratory issues.
  • Triclosan: Probably the most commonly added toxic ingredient in dish detergents is triclosan. With negative effects to the endocrine and nervous system, this chemical bioaccumulates in the human body meaning that over time it becomes concentrated within the body to toxic levels. The chemical has also been shown to cause cancer, damage one’s vision, as well as negative effects on the immune, circulatory, and digestive systems. Of course, with this many negative effects, it also impacts marine life negatively.

Yeah, that’s a lot to remember when looking for the best dish detergent out there, which is why we choose to make our own.

Of course, we understand not everyone has time for that and maybe you don’t even have time to read the ingredients. If that’s you, it’s okay! Here are a few all-natural options that we have tried before: Mrs. Myer’s or Ecover.