The BEST Homemade Dishwasher Detergent {In My Humble Opinion}

OK folks. First of all, before we get to the good stuff (i.e., the dishwasher detergent recipe… if you want to call it that), I have a disclaimer. Actually two.

Disclaimer #1: Those are not my dishes in the above picture. That is not actually my picture. The reason being that my kitchen has absolutely NO natural light and the only pictures I could take of my dishwasher were dull, lifeless and dark. Not a pretty start to the blog post, so I borrowed a photo from a gentleman named David Locke. Thanks, David!

Disclaimer #2: Just because *I* think it is the best dishwasher detergent recipe EH-VEHR does not necessarily mean that you will agree. You will just have to try it and see!

Now… on to the good stuff. This post has actually been a long time coming; in fact, I think I’ve been tweaking my dishwasher routine for as long as 2 years! This is what I’ve settled on and it works the best of any concoction I have tried. This homemade dishwasher detergent even works better than store-bought natural detergents I have tried (the one exception being Ecover)!

I was originally inspired by Jillee of One Good Thing’s “Dishwasher Triple Threat”. The simplicity of her system and the fact that there was no mixing, stirring, clumping, or any other difficulties involved in the procedure totally appealed to me! However, I wanted something that was totally chemical-free, so I took her basic recipe and started tweaking.

What I eventually came up with was this:

See the terrible pictures I get in my kitchen?!

Super Simple Homemade Dishwasher Detergent


  • 1 tsp. oxygen bleach
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp liquid castile soap
  • 3-5 drops lemon essential oil


  1. Place the ingredients in the main detergent cavity of your machine. Operate the dishwasher as usual.

A few notes:

  1. Do not use either too much oxygen bleach or too much liquid castile soap. The one will leave your glasses cloudy, and the other will gunk up your plastic. (Don’t ask me how I know.)
  2. Make sure your oxygen bleach does not have any added chemicals to it. I’ve personally been using Tropical Traditions Oxygen Bleach.
  3. Dr. Bronner’s Citrus Orange liquid castile soap is a great choice for this!
  4. Do thoroughly rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.
  5. You can try adding vinegar as a rinse aid for even better results. I’ve heard mixed reviews about whether or not this is actually helpful, and I haven’t actually tried it myself because the rinse aid dispenser on my previous machine didn’t work (and I haven’t tried it with my current one yet).
  6. I do use Lemi-Shine in conjunction with this recipe on occasion (no rhyme or reason really, just when I feel like it!). It’s particularly good if you have hard water.
  7. Lemon essential oil is truly the best oil to use. I’ve tried others – even other citrus oils – and they just don’t cut it like the lemon does.
  8. I don’t even measure anymore, I just eyeball everything. I’m just careful not to put too much of any one ingredient in there.

The million-dollar question is, of course, does this concoction really work?! My short answer is “Yes!”.

These are my dishes, and this is my dishwasher.

My long answer is this:

Like I said, if I use too much oxygen bleach or castile soap, either the glass or the plastic gets cloudy and filmy. And to be perfectly honest, certain types of glass can end up cloudy in any case (which is why I occasionally use Lemi-Shine, which helps). My Pyrex bowls and measuring cups always come out sparkling clean, but my drinking glasses (especially one particular kind) can get cloudy. I’m not sure if the reason is because of their cylindrical shape (making them more difficult to rinse out thoroughly, perhaps?) or the type of glass they are made with, but I will admit that I occasionally just wash them by hand. However, I will also say that with the exception of Ecover (of which I’ve only used samples), which I mentioned earlier, all the natural dishwasher detergents I have tried have left my dishes with the same exact cloudy residue (and were stinkin’ expensive to boot!).

In my experience, if you consistently want dishes that have absolutely no residue on them, you will have to compromise with some chemicals. Here are some options that may or may not be better than just plain old Finish or Cascade:

  • The oxygen bleach at The Dollar Tree (LA’s Totally Awesome Oxygen) works perfectly, even by itself. However, it smells like chemicals and I couldn’t find out exactly what they added to the oxygen bleach, so I stopped using it. If you’re comfortable with mystery chemicals that may or may not have been approved even by the FDA for dishwasher use, then go for it (keeping in mind that the FDA has outlawed certain chemicals for use in dishwasher detergents).
  • Dawn (or presumably other mainstream dishwashing liquid) works very well in place of the liquid castile soap and doesn’t leave behind any residue.

For myself, I’ve been very pleased with this recipe, and have been using it consistently for 6 months or more. Dealing with some cloudiness on certain types of dishes, or occasionally re-washing dishes by hand, is totally worth it to me since I am satisfied that our dishes have been cleaned without the use of any potentially harmful chemicals. It’s a trade-off, and one I’m personally willing to make. If you’re mostly interested in saving money rather than reducing chemical exposure, then I recommend going with options I mentioned above. But if reducing chemical exposure is important to you, I think you will be excited to give this dishwasher detergent a try!

 The other burning question on your mind is, “Is it cost effective?”. A valid question! Here’s what I figure:

  • I pay about $10 locally for a 16oz bottle of Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap, which has approximately 384 uses with this recipe. That means it’s about $0.03/use.
  • Tropical Traditions oxygen bleach currently costs $16.75 for 6 lbs, which comes out to 576 uses, once again about $0.03/use.
  • Using Young Living Essential Oils Lemon Oil at the distributor price of $11.25 ranges anywhere from $0.08-$0.17/use, depending on how many drops in the bottle and how many drops you use each time. (And, of course, you can use the health store lemon essential oil which is cheaper. I’ve used both, and I can see a significant difference with the YLEO! The dishes get much cleaner, and one or two drops usually suffice.)
  • Bottom line: It comes down to a maximum of $0.23/use. That’s figuring on the high end with the essential oils, when in all likelihood, the total figure is probably closer to $0.15/use. Compare that to Ecover, which is currently available on for $0.27/use. If you use your dishwasher once a day, then that’s a savings of at least $15/year (or as much as $45!), and it doesn’t take any more time or effort.

If you’re interested in a super simple, cost-effective, all-natural way to clean  your dishes in the dishwasher, then you should definitely try this method! And when you do – let me know! Did it work for you?



  1. This is awesome Anne, thanks for sharing!! :)

  2. Can this be made in advance in bulk? Or do you mix it each time? My husband would never take the time to do this unless I had it pre-mixed for him. He doesn’t do the dishes often, but I like to encourage rather than discourage!

    • I don’t make it in bulk, no. I imagine that making it in bulk would result in the clumping issues many people have with dishwashing powder recipes. it’s really super easy to do, though! My husband does it when he has to, but I totally understand the hesitation, lol. He definitely prefers ready-made stuff.

  3. Anne, this is a great recipe!

  4. I have made my own dishwasher detergent (the powdered kind) but want to try this. Thank you for sharing the fruit of your experiments.

  5. Kristie says:

    I was wondering if you had done any research on the safety of Lemi-shine. I have hard water, but am kind of picky what kind of stuff I put on dishes I am going to eat off of! :)

  6. David Locke says:

    You’re welcome Anne, I’m happy you liked my photo…and my dishes I hope, I’m very proud of them!

  7. Great tip! I am going to combine oxygen bleach with essential oil. I have never heard of this mixture but it sounds amazing. The essential oil will make the whole kitchen smells fantastic. Thank you for sharing your great tip. Best regards!


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