Homemade dish cleaner, that works

I grew up using Dawn dish soap. I was raised to believe this was the best product to use. As an adult and mother, I did some digging to learn what was in Dawn and decided I could do better. Why would I want to eat off of plates and utensils and put my filtered water in a glass that was washed with this stuff. I was on a mission to find a better way to do dishes. I found it a few months ago.

I found a few eco-friendly brands, preferring Seventh Generation to the others and stuck with that for a few years.

Then searching the wonderful web, I cam upon an article that gave a homemade recipe that I just had to try, with a minor adjustment to the recipe,  and I will never go back to liquid dish soap again.

This recipe is used in the home and created by Daryl Thompson a food scientist with Florida’s Global Research and Discovery Group.

Home made dish soap

mix equal parts of the following 3 ingredients.  I keep mine in a glass jar.

  • borax
  • baking soda
  • citric acid (or it’s noted you could use powdered lemonade mix)

That’s it.  So easy and much cheaper than any bottled dish soap.  Plus there is no plastic packaging.

My magic ingredient for so much

Now what did I change?  I eliminated the borax.  I have had trouble using borax in the past, it bothers my breathing.  I’m not sure yet if it is a serious problem or why, but I don’t like having to hold my breath around the powder and need to leave the room while it airs out.

So my recipe is even cheaper, it’s simply baking soda and citric acid.  If I run out of citric acid, I simply add a little hydrogen peroxide to my water.  Simple and easy.  To answer your next question NO, I never tried powdered lemonade mix that just sounded wrong. 🙂

Why these three ingredients?  You can read the article here, but I will paraphrase for you:

  • Borax and baking soda are gentle abrasives
  • adding citric acid with water and baking soda softens the water and allows dirt and grease to more easily dissolve
  • the reaction of borax with HOT water creates Hydrogen Peroxide a mild bleach. (so you could add peroxide and eliminate the borax.)

Let me know if you try this and what you think.  If you have a favorite dish soap recipe please share it in the comments.



  1. I tried various similar concoctions, but ended up making peace with the dishwasher and now I seldom do dishes by hand. I’ve got myself convinced that it’s a good eco trade-off because the dishwasher uses so much less water than doing them by hand… but in all honesty it’s mostly just that I HATE washing dishes.

    I couldn’t hack the borax because the stuff literally ate my skin… I had to wear gloves all the time or suffer cracked and bleeding hands. But I’ve heard that it’s been banned in some places in Europe… and I think it was something about it causing breathing problems for the workers who mined it (is borax mined?) Well, anyhow, that’s what my little brain remembers – all in all I think you did well by skipping it!


    • That’s one compromise, a dishwasher is nice, but I hate unloading it I’d rather do the dishes.

      As for the borax,I would guess it’s mined as it’s a mineral salt, but I never gave it much thought before. Talk about a reaction, the only time my hands cracked and bled was when they were around the chemicals in a salon and water all day. In my first life I was a hairdresser. Talk about painful.


  2. I’m still looking for the right dishsoap too – I have a problem getting past the mind set that it needs to suds up. I’ve just been using a green brand soap, knowing full well that the whole green labelling is just a marketing ploy.


    • LOL I too had a problem with the idea that there should be suds. Growing up, the moment the suds were gone we were told it was time to change the water for fresh. I also remember plenty of commercials that compared which brands suds lasted the longest, maybe it was pounded into our heads too long.


  3. This is interesting. You used this for hand washing dishes? It sounds a lot like recipes for machine washed, too. As for lemonade drink mix, I would think you’d use the lemonade Kool-Aid powder that has no sugar yet (the ones for about 20c, and you have to add your own sugar). I’ve used Kool-Aid to dye fabric before and it didn’t feel food-like at all, so added to a “detergent” mixture I think I could get over it being something sold as “food”.

    The old way to “soap” your water was just to use homemade soap made from wood ash water and fat.

    It’s funny that we’ve been “sold” this idea that we need something special to wash dishes.


    • Yes, I use this for hand washing. I actually hate dishwashers so even the few times I had a dishwasher I never used it. You are probably right about using the unsweetened lemonade powder. I’ve never tried koo-aid to dye fabrics (only hair) how do you do that?

      Wood ash for washing? That doesn’t sound all that clean to me 🙂 but in the old days they used a lot of things I wouldn’t, like lye.

      Isn’t is funny that we are told we have to use a different product for everything we clean? There are so many wonderful people out there proving that this isn’t so, if only the word would go out to everyone. Although I think there are a lot of people who would continue to use the products they already use out of “convenience” or the ingrained belief that the commercial way is better.


  4. Thanks for sharing your washing up recipe! Once I’ve mastered my current eco/frugal challenges (yogurt making and bean sprouting) I intend to tackle the cleaning products again. The hardware shop where I buy my bicarb of soda sells a borax substitute. I’ve not idea what it is though.


    • I’d love to hear more about your borax substitute when you get it. Good luck with your yogurt making and bean sprouting. I should really sprout some myself as I refuse to buy it at the prices at the store, so instead I just go with out. I love sprouts on salads so I only deprive myself by not trying this.


  5. I’ve been searching for quite some time for a dish washing combination. Oh and before I forget to add this, I read the comments above and the lemon flavored drink mix that they use in the recipes is unsweetened kool-aid mix, so no sugar to make a mess, I know one person wondered about that.

    I tried a recipe that called for borax, washing soda, citric acid (or kool-aid in it’s place), lemon juice and I think there was something else. I tried it and have a bunch made up… but it ate my hands alive! They cracked and bled. I do use gloves occasionally, but it’s not an option for me when I do dishes because I already have enough nerve damage in my neck, arms and hands that I have a hard time feeling what I’m holding onto (hence, many broken dishes), so if I add gloves to the nerve damage, I definitely am not feeling anything, ha ha!

    I have a question for you and I haven’t asked anyone else because I’d be embarrassed with anyone but you… Where is citric acid found? What am I looking for and in what aisle? I’ve never bought it so I don’t know how it’s packaged, etc. I need a step by step purchasing guide LOL!!!

    Thanks for the idea/recipe in this post, I really needed some advice in this area! I think I even wrote about it in a blog post a few weeks ago… I just needed a tried and true recipe. We seem to be in sync a lot, don’t we? 😀


    • First I buy my citric acid at the pharmacy. Most pharmacies around here sell it, just ask as your local pharmacy. You can also buy it online if you don’t find it locally.

      We so are going through similar things, it is strange, but nice to know I’m not alone with these kinds of problems as well, I definitely understand the nerve damage. You wouldn’t believe how many times I have forgotten to grab pot holders when taking something out of the oven and it’s not until I am in a spot in the kitchen that it’s not possible to quickly set some thing down that I begin to feel the heat and pain from the burns. That or I am holding something and it will suddenly fall out of my hands because the muscles don’t get the message to continue to hold on to it. It’s crazy but I try to find some humor in it or I’d go nuts.

      It was probably the borax that ate your hands up. EcoCatLady mentioned that the Borax will eat her skin up as well.


  6. Make your own soap from just oil and caustic soda (aka lye)this is how they did it for years before dishwash detergents. Thing is we are all so sold on suds, while that’s not even necessary for cleaning. Good pr work there!
    When you dont have citric acid a squirt of lemon juice works the same…..



    • Thank you for your information, I can’t use lye it’s too damaging to my skin but you are right, people made their own detergents for years before companies realized they could make a huge profit off of us. I’ll remember the lemon juice.


      • When you make soap from oil and lye the right way there wil be no lye left in the soap. Lye is never to be used on skin, it wil burn it! (sorry for not making that clear)

        You could also buy a good bar of soap like castile or marseille they work nice for your dishes, just go over it with your sponge and clean like you would with your nomal dishsoap.



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