Homemade Dishwasher Tablets

There is a whole debate about whether washing up by hand or using a dishwasher is the most environmentally conscious thing to do, but I will save that for another day…
For now, suffice it to say that we do have a dishwasher, and I have to confess to offering up a little prayer of thanks to it every time I happily shut the door on the dirty dishes, and simply press “On”.

We have been using Ecover dishwasher tablets for the last few years, and have been really happy with the cleaning performance, but they come individually wrapped, and as ridiculous as it sounds, I was starting to feel guilty every time I put one of the wrappers into the bin. The blurb on the packet claims that the packets are biodegradable so for a while I was putting them into our hot composter, but whenever we emptied it out, I was having to fish little empty dishwasher tablet packets out of the soil as I was digging in the compost.

I’ve been scouting around now for a reliable recipe for a homemade version, and if I’m honest, I haven’t quite hit dishwasher tablet gold yet.
I’ve tried three different recipes, but have had some issues-mainly with the process of making them, rather than the dishwashing results.
I’m still persevering with trying to refine these recipes, but wanted to share them with you (and see if anyone else has a failsafe recipe!).

Recipe 1
This is from my soap making ‘Bible’, The Natural and Handmade Soap Book by Sarah Harper of Clovelly Soap.

  • 25g soap, finely grated and dried (use ordinary bar soap, or you could try making your own)
  • 115g citric acid-you can get this from Chemists, but you have to ask at the counter. And be prepared for some strange looks, as I am told one of it’s other uses is ‘cutting’ drugs… Alternatively, you can order it online from places like The Soap Kitchen, or Summer Naturals
  • 225g washing soda-available in Supermarkets, or hardware stores
  • 115g epsom salts
  • water for spritzing
  • 15 drops of essential oils of you choice
  • Mix all the dry ingredients, and the soap together in a large bowl
  • Add your essential oils, one drop at a time and space the drops out. The mixture will start to fix, so get mixing!
  • Use your hands to ‘clump’ a handful of mix together-if it stays together (think making a snowball) then there is enough moisture. If it is still really dry, then either spritz on some water from a spray bottle, or dip your fingers into the water and shake some drops over the mixture, and stir well. Only add teeny bits at a time and mix well, and test again.
  • Once the mixture is clumping, press it into some silicone ice cube moulds, and leave to set for 24hrs.
    Dishwasher tablets in moulds
  • Once dry, pop them out of the moulds, and store in an airtight jar

I’ve tried this recipe three times now.
The first time, the mixture went bonkers and all volcano’d up out of the moulds.

Dishwasher tabs-volcano

I had to use it clean the loos in the end! Sarah from Clovelly Soap suggested that maybe my soap hadn’t been left long enough to dry out.
The second time I dried the soap for a couple of weeks, and didn’t add any additional liquid other than the essential oils. It did start to fizz quite aggresively, but I managed to get it into the moulds, and they did dry out, although it took a good few days in the airing cupboard.

Dishwasher tablets-powder and tabs
The third time I did the same thing again, but had another volcano-no idea why!

Recipe 2
This version is one I found online, from One Good Thing by Jillee.

  • 2 cups of washing soda
  • 2 cups of borax or borax substitute (Borax isn’t readily available in the UK. You can order it online, or buy the substitute from hardware stores
  • 1/2 cup salt (I used rock salt) or epsom salts
  • 1/2 cup vinegar (you can use ordinary white vinegar, or citrus vinegar-if you use citrus vinegar, you probably won’t need the lemon oil)
  • 15-20 drops lemon oil
  • Follow the same instructions as above.

I’ve tried this recipe twice.
The first time, once I got the mix into the moulds, it turned into a kind of gel. Not wanting to waste it, I popped the moulds in the freezer, and we took out a sticky iced gel tablet every time we wanted one!

Dishwasher tablets-gel
The second time, the mix didn’t clump too well, and I ended up with more powder than tablets. It still seemed to work though and I just used a tablespoon or so in the tablet dispenser.
I’m starting to think I might have had a slightly dodgy batch of washing soda for Recipe 1 and for the first attempt at this one.

Recipe 3
This is a recipe that someone posted to the Make Do and Mend-able Facebook group.

  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1/2 cup borax or borax substitute
  • 1/2 cup baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • lemon juice (I used the juice from half a lemon, but I think it could have done with more)
  • Again, follow the instructions for Recipe 1

I’ve had one attempt at these, and as I said, I think I needed a little more liquid. Some of them set, and unmoulded as tablets, but others crumbled, so I have a mix of tablets and powder.

Dishwasher tabs-vinegar

They smell very vinegar-y, and possibly don’t clean quite as well as either of the other two recipes.

I’m going to continue my trials, and might try a version that takes elements of all three recipes, to hopefully produce a foolproof version. I might also try Recipe 1 again with my new bag of washing soda to see if that was the problem. Fortunately we have a ready supply of dirty dishes to experiment on…

Does anyone have a tried and tested, reliable recipe to share?


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  • Reply Things you may never need to buy again. Items 6 - 9 - Thrifty Lesley October 6, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    […] Homemade Dishwasher Tablets […]

  • Reply Robert Hawkins April 11, 2016 at 7:10 pm

    I wonder several things. Is the packaging saved more or less than the packaging of all the ingredients? Suma sell a dishwasher tablet that comes with a soluble packet. Do you still have to use salt and rinse aid? Would an all in one tablet that avoids phosphates be a good solution? It will make me think next time I load the dishwasher.

    • Reply Jen April 12, 2016 at 10:09 am

      Hi Robert
      Great point! Most of the ingredients can be sourced in recyclable packaging, with the exception of washing soda. I tend to have all of the ingredients in the house anyway, so it makes sense for me. But yes, a tablet in a compostable packet would be a good option too. My main issue was that the tablets I was using that were supposed to be compostable weren’t breaking down in our hot composter.

  • Reply Sandy April 11, 2016 at 10:24 am

    My receipe is very good, I think and easy. Half a cup borax, half a cup soda crystals, half a cup bicarbonate of soda, half cup citric acid, 15 drops lavender and ssential oil, 15 drops lemon essential oil a little water mix all dry ingredients together, then add the oils then slowly add water drop by drop until you can make snowballs with the mixture, then place into ice cube trays and let dry for 24 hours, use one per wash.
    Hope this helps

    • Reply Jen April 12, 2016 at 10:09 am

      Fab, thanks Sandy!

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