Sunday, December 28, 2014

DIY Dishwasher Detergent

A few months ago I searched for a natural detergent to use in our dishwasher. I have used the little powder packets for years but felt it would be in the beat interest of my family to find something as close to natural as possible. I tried out a few natural line detergents but all were disappointing. Most just flat out didn't fully clean my dishes. Then the sobering reality of the price hit me hard when I was adding up our grocery expenditures for the month. So I decided something had to change and there had to be a solution that was both effective in cost and cleaning power.

I researched many different DIY recipes and techniques. I combined several together. The unique water chemistry of where you live directly affects the amount of each ingredient in your mixture. Hard water has higher concentrations of calcium and magnesium compounds, as well as other metals. I have moderately soft water. If you'd like to learn more about your own water source, please check out the USGS Office of Water Quality.

Many of the recipes I found contained borax. There's some research questioning the safety of using borax near your food so I choose to avoid that ingredient.

Here's the recipe that works best for us.
   2 parts Washing Soda
   1 part Baking Soda
   1 part Citric Acid
1/2 part Salt

You can add several drops of essential oils, such as lemon or lavender, if you want some additional smells.  Some essential oils also have their own cleansing, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties.

I mix this up in very small batches because it has a tendency to draw moisture quickly.  I mix mine and store in a small ziplock bag, so that I can squeeze as much air as possible.

Here's the proportions I use:
1/2 cup Washing Soda
1/4 cup Baking Soda
1/4 cup Citric Acid
1/8 cup Salt

I use roughly 1 1/2 teaspoons per load and this 1 1/8 cup mixture lasts about 12 loads. This lasts 2 - 2.5 weeks in our home. (Your amount may differ.  This is based on the size of my detergent dispenser.)

You can pick up all these ingredients at your local grocery store very inexpensively. Citric acid is usually located with the home canning supplies in a small spice sized shaker container. You can save a lot of money by ordering citric acid in bulk online.

Another natural dishwasher tip is to add vinegar to your rinse aid dispenser for each load.  If you don't have a dispenser or have one that's stubborn to open like mine, you can pour a few glubs (technical term) in the bottom of the dishwasher before you close the door.

If you find that this recipe leaves any film on your clear glasses/dishes, add more vinegar and/or reduce the amount of detergent you are using.  Adding a faint amount more of baking soda and salt can give some extra cleaning power.

(Remember that salt and baking soda are abrasive and you may not want to check this out on your fine or vintage china.)

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