Thursday, November 6, 2008

Insane and Unheard of: How to make your own Automatic Dishwashing Detergent

After you have tried making your own toothpaste, there is just no way back. You are on the path to utter money saving insanity. You really start looking at every item on your shopping list in a new way. Do I really have to buy this, or is there a way I could make this myself and save a bundle? I have to admit that dishwashing detergent had me stumped for a while, and then of course the solution was super simple.

Two things first, my dishwasher sucks! I am sorry to say it is an expensive German model and I have tried to defend it up and down, to the not very printable things it has been called by both my husband and my son. Even the repairman, who came in to repair my refrigerator, which was upset with me because I crammed it full with my lovely CSA produce, gave me a look, that was very non approving, a la “How could you spend this much money on such a piece of junk….”
Also, our water which is wonderful well water, that tastes great, is actually very hard, chock full of minerals, which leaves a whitish deposit on everything from the tea kettle to the wine glasses. So, the odds were stacked heavily against being able to get away with a homemade detergent, but, as usual, homemade beat the pants out of everything else I have bought in the store. I should have had a revelation, when I started getting sparkling glasses, an event in my house, with a simple vinegar rinse. But I guess I wanted to remain faithful to my Seventh Generation detergent, even though it costs way too much.
However, after the toothpaste incident, I was determined to give the expensive cleaner the boot, and I did a little research.

What I found was baking soda’s older, stronger brother “washing soda” or sodium carbonate, as it is called by Seventh Generation as the main ingredient in their automatic dishwashing detergent. Figures!
I paired this with Borax, which is a bit of a controversial cleaner. It is all natural, but of course that does not mean much, since poisons, such as arsenic are technically all natural too. After reading an health study conducted by the EPA, I have concluded that for me it does not represent a risk, but of course I would like you to make your own mind. You can find the EPA article here. Given the choice of having to swallow a shot glass worth of Cascade™ or my homemade borax - washing soda mix, I would chose my mix any day!

So here is the recipe:

1 tablespoon washing soda ( Not baking soda)
1 tablespoon Borax

1 cup vinegar as a rinse in a seperate rinse cycle - or filled directly into the rinse dispenser, or both.

This works wonders for me, despite the lame dishwasher and the hard water.
You may have to experiment a bit - you can double the amounts of either, or both the washing soda and the borax. Make sure everything is rinsed off well. I usually run the rinse cycle twice and add the vinegar to the last cycle.

Borax and Washing Soda can be found in the laundry aisle of your supermarket. You will have to buy it about once a year.
I paid $4.39 for 76 oz of Borax and
$2.99 for 55 oz of Washing Soda.

The white vinegar varies in price. I have found some supermarket store brands as low as $1.00 per gallon. Needless to say that although it is a great bargain as an all around house cleaner, I definitely do not consider this vinegar to be food. It is just awful and should never be used to eat - only to clean!

So, all in all your dishwashing detergent is down to cents per load - another expensive item eliminated from your shopping list for good!


Teresa said...

Mm, very interesting post. I think it's a cool idea though for city folks like me, it will be an extreme challenge! I use an organic detergent and thank God, it lasts a long, long time.

Great blog and I have '5' it.

Anonymous said...

A low cost, green eco friendly, healthy natural way to make a homemade liquid cleaner is from soapberry which grows on the Chinaberry tree and has been used for thousands of years. It works very effectively.

moni said...

Yeah - i just saw soapberries for the first time in my health food store the other day. How do you use them in the dishwasher? I thought they were for laundry only..

vegan Rican said...

What a great blog!!!
thanks a lot for sharing this wonderful idea with us...
GReen PeACe

Rose said...

Question: Is the rinse dispenser the place set aside for the Jet Dry?

I just moved into a place with the worst dishwaster er um... dishwasher. Stuff soaked overnight still had food baked on it! Hard water is a problem here too.

moni said...

Hi Rose!

Yep the dispenser that usually holds the jet dry would be were the vinegar goes. If the dishwasher is old and works poorly I would suggest you do a couple of just straight vinegar rinses - up to two cups directly into the empty dishwasher and run it on the longest cycle - do that at least twice, and don't forget to see if the spray arms are clogged - you might have to scrape out debris with a needle or sometimes soaking removable parts in vinegar gets the mineral deposits to give. Hope this helps!

Rose said...

Thanks! I'll try your suggestions. :D

abetterjulie said...

I am concerned with the amount of water you would be using with extra rinsing. That doesn't seem too earth-friendly.

moni said...

Hey abetterjulie!

THat was just a suggestion for Rose who was fighting with an old dishwasher with a lot of buildup from very hard water. Generally I only use a regular cycle and a normal rinse with vinegar.