Homemade eco dishwasher tablets | Striving for Simple

Eco-friendly homemade dishwasher tablets

Want to make your own eco-friendly, low-waste dishwasher tablets? Here’s the easy recipe I use for sparkling dishes, cutlery, pots, pans and even glasses!

I’ve been making my own natural dishwasher tablets since January 2019 and can honestly say I can’t see me ever going back to using shop-bought tablets.

I’d been gradually working through our household cleaning products, replacing them with eco-friendly alternatives and cutting some things out altogether. I loved the convenience of having a dishwasher but I wanted to reduce the impact this has on the environment. So I decided to start using homemade dishwasher tablets.

Making your own tablets does of course take a bit more time and effort than buying them ready-made but I really enjoy making them. I relish how it makes me slow down and take a break from other things (work, technology etc). Sometimes I’ll listen to music or a podcast as I’m doing it but often, I’ll just use the time to think or drift off into my own world.

Why make your own dishwasher tabs?

Firstly, to have control over what chemicals you are using on your dishes and putting into the water system.

Secondly, shop-bought tablets come in little single-use plastic wrappers, which can’t be recycled. Then there’s the plastic bag most brands of dishwasher tablets are packaged in, which aren’t widely recycled (but there is a Terracycle scheme).

Homemade dishwasher tablets, however, can potentially be plastic free.

Thirdly, if you make your own tablets using this recipe you will save money. It might not be a huge saving but over the course of a year, it certainly adds up! Download my cost comparison sheet to see for yourself.

How eco-friendly are these tablets?

It was very important to me that my homemade dishwasher tablets used all natural, non-toxic ingredients. I looked at various recipes online but most used borax, which I’ve decided not to use to clean my dishes. Here’s a useful article on borax being safe to use or not.

I picked a recipe that seemed straight forward and simply replaced the borax with citric acid, which is found in many food products as a preservative and is therefore, in my opinion, completely safe.

I’ve since played around with the recipe slightly, trying different ratios of the ingredients. I also tried making a loose powder instead of tablets, which I thought would be easier and quicker to make. However, it was just as much effort to make but not as convenient when using it.

Keep reading for the recipe I now use consistently, which I find gives the best results and takes the least effort (though, of course, it does take some effort).

When I first started making the tablets, I managed to get all but one of the ingredients plastic free. I bought the dry ingredients in cardboard boxes. The distilled vinegar came in a plastic bottle, as I couldn’t find it in a glass bottle or at a refill station. I started buying large 5 litre bottles of vinegar to reduce the amount of plastic and save money.

Since then, a shop near me that has a refill station has started supplying distilled vinegar, so I can now make them completely plastic free – hooray!

Homemade eco dishwasher tablets | Striving for Simple

What you need to make the dishwasher tablets

Equipment:

  • small measuring jug
  • mixing bowl
  • tablespoon for mixing
  • ice cube trays
  • teaspoon for packing it down

Ingredients:

  • 2 parts bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 parts citric acid
  • 1/2 part dishwasher salt*
  • 1/2 part distilled white vinegar
  • Few drops of essential oil, e.g. lemon or grapefruit (optional)

*You shouldn’t use salt that we use on food (either table salt or coarse sea salt), as this normally contains anti-caking agents that can interfere with the dishwasher’s mechanical components and promote hard water stains. Make sure you use pure NaCl in coarse granule form, e.g. dishwasher salt.

I make them in batches of 28 (as my ice cube trays have 14 compartments). To make just the right amount for this, 2 parts = 150ml and ½ part = 37.5ml. The number of tablets this recipe makes depends on the size of your ice cube tray compartments.

So what do the ingredients actually do?

White vinegar: It has antibacterial properties. It is also a nonionic (uncharged) surfactant that helps clean your dishes better and makes them dry faster.

Bicarbonate of soda: It’s a mild abrasive, scouring agent and deodoriser that dissolves dirt, tackles odours and cuts through grime.

Citric acid: It helps to clean and rinse your dishes, and prevents water spots on glasses, by removing dissolved minerals such as calcium from the water (calcium can bind with surfactants, such as vinegar, and stop them working effectively).

Salt: Essential for hard water areas, as it acts on the ions in calcium and magnesium, (limescale) to soften the water. It’s also worth using in soft water areas to aid rinsing.

Lemon/grapefruit essential oil: Both have antibacterial properties. Plus, they add a nice fragrance.

How to make the dishwasher tablets

  1. Measure out the dry ingredients and put them in the mixing bowl
    (I used to grind the dishwasher salt in a pestle and mortar first but I no longer do this, as it took too much effort and it does partially dissolve in the vinegar)
  2. Add the vinegar and essential oil
    (the mixture will fizz and expand as the vinegar reacts with the bicarb of soda – this is normal)
  3. Mix thoroughly with the tablespoon and then stir at intervals until the fizzing starts to subside and the mixture starts to clump together
    (this can take a while, so you might want to use this time to make a cup of tea – just keep an eye on the mixture and stir it every so often)
  4. Half fill each ice cube compartment and compact the mixture down with the back of the teaspoon
    (if the mixture is still expanding, keep pressing it back down – keep going, it will stop)
  5. Once the mixture has stopped expanding, put the rest of the mixture in, filling each compartment up to the top
    (it can seem to take a long time for the fizzing to stop and then suddenly it will set quite quickly)
  6. Press down the mixture with the spoon and/or your fingers until it is fully compacted
    (top the compartments up with more of the mixture if necessary)
  7. Once the trays are filled and the mixture is no longer expanding, place the trays somewhere dry and room temperature for a day or overnight to fully set
  8. Transfer the tablets to a container with a lid and store in a dry place

Top tip: If you have any mixture left over, you can use it for cleaning various surfaces in your home, including your bathroom. Store it in a container with a lid in a dry place until you want to use it. As it contains vinegar, you shouldn’t use it on natural stone surfaces.

Homemade eco dishwasher tablets | Striving for Simple

Cost savings

I’ve worked out that these tablets cost me just 5p (0.05 GBP) each to make. Compare that to shop-bought tablets and that’s a saving of 3-15p per tablet (depending on the brand you buy).

Of course, the cost to make the tablets will vary depending on which products you buy to make them. However, I think you’d be hard pushed not to make a saving, even if it’s only a small one.

Download my cost comparison sheet to see for yourself

Using the tablets

As with any dishwasher tablets, you want to be washing your dishes straight away or leaving them to soak before hand if heavily soiled, to get the best results. Likewise, you need to be using the appropriate setting on your dishwasher for the level of soiling on your dishes. Please refer to your dishwasher’s manual.

Theoretically, you don’t need to use rinse aid alongside these tablets, as the vinegar and citric acid should have this covered. My dishes haven’t been dry at the end of each wash but I can’t say I found rinse aid to be much, if any, more effective. Maybe it depends on the dishwasher. Personally, I don’t find it a major inconvenience to have to run a towel over dishes as I put them away. Besides, if you want to make your own tablets for environmental reasons, buying and using rinse aid kinda defeats the object, doesn’t it?

Important: You should never put neat vinegar into the rinse aid compartment, as it’s a strong enough acid to corrode the rubber gaskets in the rinse-aid dispenser [source].

Because salt is included in the tablets, you shouldn’t need to put dishwasher salt in the dedicated compartment too, unless you have very hard water. Try the tablets on their own and, if you see a build up of limescale or water spots on your glasses, try putting salt in the compartment.

 

I hope you’ve found this post helpful. Please comment below if you have any questions or feedback. I’d love to hear how you get on making and using the tablets.

Photos my own, please do not use without permission.

Related Posts

Why you shouldn’t donate your unwanted stuff to charity shops (and what to do instead)

Why you shouldn’t donate your unwanted stuff to charity shops (and what to do instead)

Last week, I walked by one of my local charity shops and saw this.  Just
Top 6 blogs about simple and sustainable living

Top 7 simple, slow and sustainable living blogs

These are the blogs I think you should check out if you're considering or working
How to navigate sustainable living

9 steps to help navigate sustainable living

If you want to reduce your impact on the planet but are feeling overwhelmed by

12 thoughts on “Eco-friendly homemade dishwasher tablets”

  1. I think this is bad advice. There’s a reason the store bought products contain bleach. Vinegar is not a thoroughly effective disinfectant. It does not kill staphylococcus like salmonella. You’re really going to trust some ineffective home made product to kill the bacteria left over from the raw chicken or pork you just had on your knives, bowls, or cutting boards?

    1. Thanks for your comment. I’m interested to know what you do when hand-washing dishes, as washing up liquids don’t contain bleach.

      There are a number of natural cleaning agents that have been shown to be effective against bacteria like staph. I recommend reading this article by microbiologist and staph/MRSA expert: https://www.staph-infection-resources.com/prevention/infection-control/.

      Personally, I prefer to use natural cleaning products that I know aren’t going to harm us or the environment.

      1. Thanks for this and my thoughts exactly re- disinfectant – when did we start being persuaded that we needed to disinfect utensils etc…..? When companies like UNIlever needed to increase their profits by introducing new ‘essential’ products into our cleaning routines persuading us we need to kill 99% of all bacteria (bad or good!) – much more hazardous to our health is the pollution of the rivers and water table by these products.

        1. I couldn’t agree more! Going overboard with sterilisation can have negative effects, preventing build up of natural immunity. Yes we should clean our homes but unless you are in a situation where someone is very ill, has an auto-immune disorder or similar there’s no need to kill 99% of bacteria (especially as, like you say, it kills the good bacteria as well as the bad).

  2. Hi Steph! Thanks for this article.

    I am going to try this and just want to ask if 2 parts bicarbonate of soda is 150g?

    Thanks again!

    1. Hi Alex, Good to hear you’re going to give them a go – I’d love to hear how you get on!

      I measure the ingredients out by volume rather than weight, so 2 parts = 150ml, NOT grams. I use a short glass tumbler that holds 150ml liquid and fill it with bicarb (1 cup = 2 parts) – same for the citric acid. Then quarter-fill it with dishwasher salt (1/4 cup = 1/2 part) – same for the vinegar.

      Hope that makes sense – let me know if not, or if you have any other questions.

    1. Ah yay – so good to hear this! I wish I had cat paw moulds! Not sure they’d fit so well in the dishwasher tablet compartment though 😉

  3. Hi! You should never mix baking soda and vinegar if you want to use them as cleaning product because the result is water, carbon-dioxid and sodium-acetat, non of these will remove any dirt, ever. And this is why I don’t really understand the reason that 99% of the DIY homemade dishwasher tablet recipes say to mix these 2. You must have noticed that this formula does not cut grease, leave your dishwasher dirty, your tablets might be cheap, but maintaining and fixing your dishwasher surely won’t be. As someone mentioned above tablets from the shop made with bleach are better and safer and you can do that also eco-friendly way if you use sodium percarbonate which is the mix of sodium carbonate and hydrogen-peroxide. Here I give you a recipe that should work more effective:

    3 tbsp baking soda
    2 tbsp citric acid
    2 tbsp salt if you dont put any in the dishwasher’s dispenser
    1 tbsp sodium-percarbonate
    1 tbsp sodium-carbonate
    Little bit of water to mix

    Hope this helps 🙂

    1. Interesting point Izabella, thank you for sharing. I don’t use vinegar and bicarb together for any other cleaning for that reason actually, but I thought the reaction between the vinegar and bicarb here is what makes the tablets set. Does your recipe set or stay powdery? I disagree that using tablets containing bleach is safer. I also do find that these do a good job cleaning my dishes, pans etc, including grease. That said, I’m always open to trying new things and improving on things, so I’d be interested in trying out your recipe. Where do you buy the sodium percarbonate and sodium carbonate? Also, do you boil the water first or use it straight from the tap? Thanks 🙂

    2. Out of interest, I tried the recipe you suggested and the tablets didn’t set, so what I suspected about the vinegar being key to making the tablets set does seem to be the case. We also didn’t notice any improvement in results (my recipe does a pretty good job) – if anything, the glasses had more water marks on them (again, I think the vinegar plays a big part as a rinse aid). I’ll be sticking with my recipe but I may experiment with the 2 extra ingredients (sodium carbonate and sodium percarbonate). I appreciate you taking the time to comment and would love to hear if you have any more thoughts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.