I've been using homemade dishwasher detergent for a little over a month, and it's taught me a few things.
When we moved into our new apartment at the end of February, I decided to try to make as many cleaning products as I can, rather than buying them. As we use up a commercial cleaner, it gets replaced with a batch of homemade, and it just so happened that the dishwasher detergent was the first to run out.
If you've read about or are already using homemade cleaning products, you already know they can be a huge cost-savings, and I also feel good reducing the amount of packaging waste my household creates. Win-win!
There are a lot of recipes for dry/granulated dishwasher detergent, but I have always found better results from using liquid detergent. That wasn't going to change when I went homemade, so I used (and have been very happy) with this recipe from Sayward Rebhal of Bonzai Aphrodite.
After a month of going it homemade, I've learned a few things that I wish someone had told me in the beginning. In case you're thinking about (or perhaps already using) homemade dishwasher detergent, I'm passing those lessons on to you. Free of charge.
- Follow the instructions carefully when making your homemade cleaner. If you leave something out, your final product will suffer.
- Rinse major food particles from your dishes before loading them in the dishwasher.
- Use a rinse agent of some kind. Since I'm going DIY on the dishwasher, I use plain white vinegar in the rinse agent container. Some people add food coloring so they can see it better to check the level.
- Experiment with scents. I love a combination of lavender and sweet orange. Oregano and mint are also really fresh and lovely together.
- Share your dishwasher detergent recipe with your friends! Or even better, mix up a double batch and give some away!
- Expect your dishes to come out any cleaner than they did when you used commercially produced detergent. Homemade cleaner is not going to improve the performance of your dishwasher.
- Overload your dishwasher. Avoid stacking things on top of one another, which prevents water (and therefore soap) from getting to all surfaces of your dishes.
- Forget to shake your detergent before measuring it out. It settles!
- Use too much detergent. While 2-3 Tbsp is the typical recommendation, I found my dishwasher works best with a scant 2 Tbsp. If you end up with "soap scum" on your dishes, cut back on detergent!
- Look back. One batch of homemade detergent will last you about twice as long as commercial detergent (because you use less of it). It's easy to make in large quantities if needed, so there's no reason to go back to expensive commercial products!