Apr 21

Save on Dishwasher Detergent Tablets — Make Your Own!

The dishwasher (machine) is a family member in my household and it gets used and abused–but is loved by all.  It hardly ever gets the recognition it deserves for cleaning the filthy messes we give it and leaving them spotless and sanitized.

But this family member is a little high-maintenance when the cost of operating it is considered.  The Cascade Dishwasher Gel we use costs $7 and gives us about 25-30 loads.  The price per load isn’t too bad, but the ingredients are frightening.  Some of the ingredients have generic names and the actual ingredient isn’t even disclosed.  These are the ingredients (and hazards) for the detergent we formerly used (Source):

Cascade Gel - Toxic

  • STABILIZERHigh Concern: developmental/endocrine/reproductive effects; Some Concern: skin irritation/allergies/damage, respiratory effects; Disclosure Concern: non-specific ingredient
  • BUFFERDisclosure Concern: non-specific ingredient
  • ZINC CARBONATE - High Concern: skin irritation/allergies/damage, chronic aquatic toxicity, acute aquatic toxicity; Some Concern: general systemic/organ effects, damage to vision
  • COLORS - High Concern: general systemic/organ effects, damage to DNA, cancer; Moderate Concern: chronic aquatic toxicity; Some Concern: acute aquatic toxicity, skin irritation/allergies/damage; Disclosure Concern: non-specific ingredient
  • WATER THICKENING AGENTDisclosure Concern: non-specific ingredient
  • SODIUM HYPOCHLORITEModerate Concern: acute aquatic toxicity, respiratory effects; Some Concern: general systemic/organ effects, developmental/endocrine/reproductive effects, cancer, nervous system effects, digestive system effects, kidney and urinary effects, skin irritation/allergies/damage, damage to vision
  • SODIUM POLYACRYLATEModerate Concern: biodegradation
  • FRAGRANCESome Concern: skin irritation/allergies/damage, acute aquatic toxicity, nervous system effects, respiratory effects, biodegradation; Disclosure Concern: non-specific ingredient
  • CROSS-LINKED POLYACRYLATE – No data, some concern
  • NITRIC ACIDSome Concern: respiratory effects, skin irritation/allergies/damage

I’m not sure how you feel, but I don’t want to be eating off of anything that has been blasted with this stuff.

I went through several different homemade dishwasher detergent tablet recipes and settled on this one.  It has 4 ingredients, most of which are also in my easy homemade laundry detergent recipe.Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Tablet Ingredients

I was able to pick up all of these ingredients at the local store for under $10, and you are only going to use a fraction of them for each batch.  Over time, you can make several hundred dishwasher detergent tablets with the one time purchase of these ingredients.  Share some with your neighbors and family–I am sure they will love them.

So, how do we do this?

Step 1: Measure out the dry ingredients

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Tablet Ingredients

Step 2: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the Borax, Super Washing Soda and Epsom salt.  Stir these ingredients until well blendHomemade Dishwasher Detergent Tablet - Mix Ingredients

Step 3: In a smaller bowl, measure out 1 Cup of the mixture from Step 2

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Tablet - Measure 1 CupStep 4: Add in 1/4 Cup of Lemon Juice to the small bowl from Step 3, it will begin foaming

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Tablet - Foaming MixtureStep 5: Stir the foaming mixture thoroughly.  If the mixture is clumpy, add small amounts of lemon juice until smooth, but not runny.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Tablet - Stir ThoroughlyStep 6: Add 1 Tbsp of the mixture to each space in the ice tray and use your fingers to lightly tamp it down into the molds.  If the mixture is sticking to your finger, then you may want to add more lemon juice on the next batch.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Tablet - Fill moldsStep 7: Let the homemade dishwasher detergent tablets dry for 12-24 hours and then release them from the ice-cube tray molds.  Once they are released, let them air dry for another 24 hours.  If there are any rough edges on them, you can use a cheese grater to smooth them up

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Tablet IngredientsHomemade Dishwasher Detergent Tablets - Finished

Use these as you would normally use other products in your dishwasher.  If the tablets do not fit in the detergent compartment, you can crush one into a powder or place one in the bottom of your dish washer.  You can also use an alternate mold to better suit your needs–just make sure that you have at least 1 Tbsp of the detergent in each tablet.

Leave any questions in the comment box below and happy dish washing!



  1. Thanks man for providing this massive list of hazardous chemicals that can be found in the store-bought brands. Scary stuff. Also, your instructions with pictures are second to none. I’ve included a link to this post from my site.

  2. We have a water softener so our water is already soft. Should the Epsom salt be excluded or included anyway?
    Thank you!

    • I would include it as it does help the water do it’s job. I have softened water and use it in my tablets. You can always make a couple tablets without the Epsom salt and see if it affects the performance of the detergent. Please reply to this comment with your results and I will share it with everyone that views this blog. Have a great day!

  3. Is there an alternative for the lemon juice? Our silverware instructions stress not using citrus products:( Would tree tea oil possibly work? Really hope you have an answer…would love to make my own without all those nasty chemicals! Thanks for your research! Melinda

    • Great question and thank you for inquiring Melinda. I have researched your brand of flatware and have found a few things for you to consider.

      First, lemon juice and other acids are most often used in dishwashers to deal with hard water and to break down the minerals contained within. Next, many articles I have found mention that lemon juice is often used to remove stains and rust spots from stainless steel (it removes damage without causing damage).

      The next consideration is that almost every manufacture of lifetime warranted flatware will have very specific instructions on the care, not because they are actually needed–but because it quickly relieves them of any liability should the product fail. They know people will accidentally put some dishwasher detergent with a lemon component in their dishwasher. Some may even go as far as saying that citric acid is the same thing as lemon juice–and citric acid is in all kinds of detergents (even the non-Lemon ones). They want to get rid of their warranty to you as fast as they can.

      I have tried to find the company online and contact their customer support for clarification, but I have not had any luck on the matter.

      To answer your question about tea tree oil, it would only be effective as a sanitizing agent. Tea tree is generally has a neutral pH, where lemon juice is acidic. I don’t believe that tea tree oil would discolor the finish on your flatware, but the mineral buildup (if you have hard water) would.

      The main ingredients in spotting agents like Jet-Dry are all acids, usually citric and sulfamic. Lemon juice and vinegar are natural alternatives and both of them are acids as well.

      My recommendation is to do two things:
      1. Immediately rinse your flatware after eating to prevent any food related acids from causing damage
      2. Test one piece of flatware in your dishwasher with the lemon juice detergent for 20 or more loads. Handwash the other flatware. At the end of the 20 wash period, see if any corrosion has occured–if so, discontinue the lemon juice and wash flatware by hand. If not, then you know the warning was not really necessary.

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

  4. Hi there
    I have made my first batch but when I tried to get them out of the tray, only the top layer came off. Do you think I made them too wet? Have you had this problem?
    this week I have made homemade cream cleaner like Jif, and have some enzyme cleaner brewing away. I also make my own washing powder, so cool to save all that money (and the environment).
    Thanks for your help and advice

    • I usually let them sit in the tray for 2-3 hours and then I dump them out and let them finish air drying. I have made mine wet enough to pour, so I don’t think you did anything wrong. I would love to feature your homemade creations. E-mail me at iam@matthewgustke.com if you are interested.


  5. After measuring out the small bowl, adding lemon juice and putting it in the ice trays. What am I doing with the rest I mixed in the big bowl? Thanks……

    • I just put it in a jar to use later or make another batch later in the day when the first tablets have solidified. Just add lemon juice to it the same way you do the first batch.

  6. Just finished my two ice cube tray batch of dishwasher pellets. Very easy recipe, I did wear disposable gloves. I will let you you know who they work. From taking them out of their moldings to their specific use, how they work in the dishwasher. I must say, I am excited to see it through the entire process.

  7. Just finished my two ice cube tray batch of dishwasher pellets. Very easy recipe, I did wear disposable gloves. I will let you you know who they work. From taking them out of their moldings to their specific use, how they work in the dishwasher. I must say, I am excited to see it through the entire process.

  8. I’m wondering if instead of going to the trouble of making the cubes I could just put a heaping Tablespoonful in the soap dispenser and add a teaspoon of lemon juice to it, and close the door and wash away?


  9. @John – if the mix hardens into tablets, I would imagine it would be difficult to scoop out a tablespoon full each time you want it .. won’t it be too hard?

  10. Great recipe! We have very hard water so I was searching for something to help and have all the ingredients you listed except epsom salt. Would regular table salt work?

    • Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate, where table salt is sodium chloride. While they are both salts, they do have different chemical properties. You can get Epsom salt at your pharmacy, nursery or grocery store.

  11. I use allot of Epsom salts, for roses and soaking baths. One of the cheapest places to buy it is at a feed store. I get 50 lbs for $20.00.

  12. Was wondering if you figured out the cost. I got 32 tablets out of the whole batch, do you think that is correct?

    • I was able to pick up all of these ingredients at the local store for under $10, and you are only going to use a fraction of them for each batch. Over time, you can make several hundred dishwasher detergent tablets with the initial one-time purchase of these ingredients.

  13. Over reaction!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I am sure if the chemicals were so toxic and dangerous a clear pattern on who was sick with such problems written above would simply and clearly point to dishwasher owners showing how truly dangerous the chemicals are! If it was as simple as saying all these chemicals can cause such great harm with continued use will cause you to become sick, by now all manufactures with this knowledge would have no choice but to produce products with nothing but lemon juice, bicarb, essential oils and borax*.
    The dangers with these chemicals written above are next to nil, even people that grow up with such chemicals in their house are just as healthy as everyone else! to get such problems you would need large quantities consumed and/or a preexisting related medical problem! but most things in the world are dangerous in large enough quantities.
    Some of the harm the chemicals can do written above is just so over dramatic or even in conclusive. I also want to point out there has been evidence that borax* can cause miscarriage to pregnant women! so if any chemicals shouldn’t be used it should be Borax* as I rather the remote risk of long term exposure of the chemicals from manufacturers that have safely done clinical trials with their fancy degrees and have every chemical safely balanced to reduce harm if small amounts are consumed, than ricking a unborn child’s life!! – I came across this page to save money or improve hygiene, I honestly trust the chemicals put in to dishwasher tablets as they are tested and if any issues show up they are reduced, removed or governed to ensure minimal harm is done. I bet at least a third of people that stop using tablets for their home made mix are smokers, so you need to ask yourself, “what do i really need to change to improve my life and everyone else around me?”
    – I also would like to point out if you do the home made solution you need to test the PH balance as either to acidic and too much alkaline will damage the rubber seals within the dishwasher (also mixing acid and alkaline just makes a salt solution, as great as it sounds for your water softness, it wont be a pure salt and may clog up your dishwasher as well as it will lose effectiveness to the solution).

    • Thank you for the attack, Anthony J. I appreciate that you have made several claims without any citations or sources for your information. I will continue to believe that products I recommend are better alternatives than chemical laden products from big industries. Big chemical companies are not driven by focusing on your health, they are driven by profit. Most of the chemicals in off-the-shelf detergents are super cheap to produce, and it results in high profit margins. Natural ingredients are not as cheap to produce and are not as profitable–therefore, the chemical companies stay with synthetics. It is the same reason that so much artificial food coloring is used…it is much cheaper and therefore more profitable than natural coloring sources. So go ahead, eat some chemicals–smear them on your skin and bathe in them. Some of us choose not to and we have valid reasons. Coming on to my blog with nothing other than your completely unsubstantiated opinion will not change my views. Bring me facts that show there are less hazards in synthetic detergent ingredients than those in natural ingredients, or don’t post at all.


  14. What would you suggest for someone who is allergic to citrus and to most of the standard dishwasher detergents currently on the market (I am fighting a case of hives right now from the hubs forgetting and buying cascade, which turns me into a pink and red leopard from the breakout)? I would love to get away from the chemical pain, but cannot go with citrus. Is there any other binding agent you can suggest? Thanks!

  15. While I can’t say, I came here to attack you, I did wanna say, I was disappointed in the performance of the homemade dishwasher tabs. I do thoroughly rinse everything, before putting anything in the dishwasher. Mostly because, all my pots & pans have to be hand washed (to protect the screw that holds the handle from corroding) so, it can be about 2 days before, it’s run, and I just don’t want stuck on food, and having to clean it up later, when its harder.

    I’ve been told, if you *don’t* leave food, on your plates, it can cause dishwasher problems, so maybe that’s what happened. But.. I have to say, I was quite disappointed with all the spots, and well, this weird, white sand like substance, that accumulated on the glasses.

    I kinda wonder, if it’s Hard Water, or just the Detergent Mixture itself, that is the white, sandy stuff? But, anyway, I unfortunately, gave up after the 3rd cycle of disappointment. I do have vinegar in the “Rinse Aid” dispenser, in my Bosch. It does recommend “Jet Dry” on the top of the door panel, so maybe, I should try filling it with that, and trying again.

    For now though, I’m gonna, just, stay with my tried & true, Cascade Gel. I know its not great for the environment, but, it *does* work, for me. I might consider trying the Seventh Generation, if i ever make it to Target :)

    I’ll have to try the Homemade Laundry Detergent, though :) I bet it’d work great.

    • Unfortunately it doesn’t work for everyone, my guess is because of specific water chemistry at your location. Sorry you didn’t have any luck :(

      The homemade laundry detergent seems to be very successful for everyone that uses it. I am on my third bucket of it and have zero complaints.

  16. I have had the same experience as Max above. Tried three different recipes besides yours and they all leave a powdery haze on the glasses and some plates and stainless silver ware has to be washed by hand (a second time) most of the time.

    My Chemical Engineer friend says the powder comes from the super heated ingredients by the dishwasher.

    He suggested citric acid but it is super expensive. I think this recipe needs more study by a chemical expert.

    Having your local water analyzed would help. Like having a soil test before you start adding amendments to your garden soil.

    Water make up is crucial to performance of this recipe and should be a major consideration not an afterthought.

  17. Hey Thanks!
    I just got finished taking apart my 3 year old top of the line dishwasher (for the 2nd time since I bought it) to remove all the muck and rubbery crud from the hidden parts. We put our dishes in rinsed clean so I know this is not food, besides we don’t eat rubbery goo.
    I couldn’t understand why the residue from my liquid brand-name dishwasher detergent seemed to be so similar to rubber. I did a little investigating and found that the “polyacrylate” in the ingredients, is yes acryl- as in acrylic. Apparently the same stuff in diapers that makes them capable of absorbing liquid. Why on earth do I need acrylic detergent? It almost looks like a conspiracy to destroy my appliance over time.
    Gonna try your recipe with vinegar. I really don’t want to repeat today’s cleaning performance any time soon.

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