DIY All-Natural Lemon Dishwasher Detergent

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The dishwasher beeps. You open the door and a light blast of steam flows out. You press the button to turn the machine off, then pull the top rack out. Disappointment looms.

The dishwasher is supposed to clean your dishes completely–but there are bits of food residue stuck on the bowls and your glasses are clouded. Time to try yet another new dishwasher detergent. 

Step 1: Ask your Instagram friends what dishwasher detergent they use.

Step 2: Return the current bottle to the store for a refund.

Step 3: Hope the next brand will clean better than the last three you’ve tried.

Does that sound familiar? Are you like that Mama–the one who is worn out from too many dirty dishes coming out of a clean dishwasher? #metoo

After trying countless brands (including the best-rated ones, and the organic ones, and everything in between), you’re still disappointed. Say bye-bye to store-bought dishwasher detergents that aren’t fulfilling their job description. Say hello to homemade dishwasher detergent in less than thirty minutes!

Lemon Dishwasher Detergent Ingredients

You might be thinking, Umm why should I make my own dishwasher detergent? I’m a busy Mama and could be doing so many other things with my time.

And you’re absolutely right! However, this recipe only calls for 4 ingredients and less than thirty minutes of your time. Besides, you probably have these four ingredients in your house already: lemons, white vinegar, salt, and water.

Lemon. The main ingredient in this dishwasher detergent is lemons. Not just lemon juice or lemon essential oils, but the entire lemon (minus the seeds). 

  • Lemon juice straight from a lemon is naturally antibacterial and antiseptic. It even acts as an all-natural form of bleach. 
  • Plus, the citric acid from the fresh lemon juice functions like citric acid, which helps remove mineral deposits (especially helpful if you have hard water). 
  • If you remember high school science class, lemon juice is an acid, and acids act as a degreaser.
  • The lemon rind also contains concentrated lemon oil, which adds another level of antibacterial fighting power.
  • One more bonus reason to include the rind and pith in this recipe: it acts as a thickening agent, making your lemon dishwasher detergent more gel-like than water-like.

White vinegar. Vinegar has long been known as a natural cleaner. In fact, we use it in nearly every single DIY All-Natural household cleaner! Here’s why white vinegar is perfect for your homemade dishwasher detergent:

  • White vinegar is a great degreaser and rinse agent against hard water because it contains acetic acid.

Salt. Kosher salt in particular. This helps get all those nasty bits of leftover food off of your dishes.

  • Salt acts as a scouring agent.
  • Salt is also a mild preservative, meaning you don’t have to make a batch of this lemon dishwasher detergent more than once a month.

Water. Good ol’ water is a staple in this recipe. Get it right from your tap or use bottled water.

If you’re not sold on these ingredients, let me give you a hint: this recipe of all-natural ingredients will even remove the cloudy build up on your glassware. Don’t believe the recipe? Try it yourself! What do you have to lose…a few bucks and half an hour of your time? Consider what you have to gain…an all-natural dishwasher detergent that won’t leave a chemical residue on your dishes, and will work harder and more effectively than traditional dishwasher detergents.

Recipe for DIY All-Natural Lemon Dishwasher Detergent

2 cups lemons, cut into 8 chunks (keep the pith and rind intact), with seeds removed
3½  cups water (divided into 1½ cups and 2 cups)
½ cup white vinegar
1 cup kosher salt

  1. Chop up the lemons, removing the seeds but leaving the pith and rind intact.
  2. Boil 1½ cups of water with the lemon chunks for 20-30 minutes, until the lemons have softened and the mixture has reduced and thickened slightly.
  3. Add the mixture to the blender with an additional 2 cups of water. Blend until completely liquefied. If needed, pass the mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove any remaining rind. P.S. A Vitamix blender will completely blend the mixture!
  4. Return to the pot, and stir in the ½ cup of white vinegar and 1 cup of kosher salt. Stir until the salt has dissolved.
  5. Allow to cool in the pan until room temperature, about 2 hours.
  6. Pour into a container (an old dishwasher detergent bottle is perfect–just make sure that you have thoroughly washed it out). 
  7. Store in the fridge (since this contains no preservatives). Use within 2 months.

To use: Fill up your dishwasher dispenser with approximately 2-3 tablespoons of detergent. If needed, use white vinegar as a rinse aid.

The Cost Comparison

If you run your dishwasher once per day, this recipe should last you approximately one month!

This recipe calls for 7 cups of ingredients, the equivalent to 112 tablespoons. Using three tablespoons per load, you will get approximately 37 loads from this recipe. *Note: The mixture will reduce during cooking, and you will blend together the lemon rind, so this is an approximate measurement. 

At the time of publishing this blog, here’s a breakdown of costs at a typical grocery store.
Non-organic lemons: $0.89 x 4 = $3.56
White vinegar: 4oz = approximately $0.10
Kosher salt: 1 cup = approximately $0.50
Lemon Dishwasher Detergent using non-organic lemons = $4.16 = $0.11/load

If you prefer to use organic lemons (recommended), here’s the cost breakdown:
Organic lemons: $1.29 x 4 = $5.16
White vinegar: 4oz = approximately $0.10
Kosher salt: 1 cup = approximately $0.50
Lemon Dishwasher Detergent using organic lemons = $5.76 = $0.16/load

Cost Comparison:
Finish Powerball = $0.15/load
Amazon Brand = $0.15/load
Seventh Generation = $0.27/load
Grab Green Natural Dishwasher Pods = $0.28/load

To make or to buy?

Although you can buy some brands for a few cents more per load, 

  1. They contain harsh chemicals that you don’t want to ingest…even though the residue lingers on your dishes. 
  2. And they don’t always do the job effectively–like the Mama in our intro story revealed.

Fresh lemon smell in your house and on your dishes

Is it worth the half an hour to make your own homemade dishwasher detergent? Most Mamas will think so. Aside from chopping lemons, you can leave the pot to simmer on standby. After you toss it into your blender, you can let it sit on the counter all day to cool off. It sounds like a win in my opinion!

Bonus: your house will smell like aromatic lemons, and so will your squeaky clean dishes! 

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