Crazy-Easy DIY Dishwasher Detergent Tablets


Let me just start this post out by saying I’m not suuuuper crafty. When people who know me think of me, I sincerely doubt it is because they’re thinking of anything crafty or do-it-yourself; it’s much more likely they’re thinking of my ridiculous facebook posts or my zany antics with wild hair dye colors, or (no brainer) my amazing ability to create such adorable and funny kids. But since leaving the military and embarking on my domestic adventures in being a stay at home mom, I have more of an interest in attempting pinterest projects, and without my second income I also have the drive to be a bit more thrifty. My point is, even a novice like me could mix up a batch of these babies in less than five minutes, so no, you don’t have to be crafty to accomplish this.

I’d also like to give credit for the recipe I used to make these dishwasher tabs, and since I sort of picked and chose from a couple of sources, I will just say that it’s a mix of the ones I found here, here, and here. All of them were nice and actually damn near the same, really, but didn’t quite seem right for me. so I tweaked them just slightly, and voila! I have a super wonderful dishwasher tab that left my dishes sparkly and clean! The glasses had no spots, the plastic containers didn’t have any hazy film (which we did get from several of the store-bought tabs),  and they smelled clean and fresh without being overly soapy-smelling. That strong soap smell that you sometimes get from “real” detergents creeps me out, I don’t want to eat or drink soap. A whiff of it when I open the dishwasher is one thing, but when I’m tipping a glass of water to my lips, I don’t want to feel like I’m getting a belly full of suds.

So without further ado, here’s the recipe:

1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda
1/2 cup sea, kosher, or other coarse salt
1/2-3/4 cup lemon juice, fresh squeezed or from a bottle

A couple things to note: Washing soda is not the same thing as baking soda. It’s in the laundry aisle, usually conveniently located next to the borax. As far as the salt, any coarse one will do. I used an off brand sea salt because it was cheaper, some of the recipes even used epsom salt, which would likely be even cheaper. I just chose what I happened to have onhand. The salt is used for the abrasive quality and to help soften hard water if that’s an issue where you live, so the type isn’t a deal-breaker.

Mix them all together and it’ll be the consistency of soggy sand. Add the lemon juice slowly, and once you get it to the consistency where it’s easily sticking together, stop. It’ll still work if it’s too wet, but it’ll be messier and harder to form. Next, scoop out tablespoons of the mix. As I scooped it out, I thought I must’ve been doing something wrong because the little half-spheres I was scooping onto my sheet of tin foil seemed a bit crumbly, like they’d fall apart at a touch. Don’t fret, dear reader, your tablets will dry out and somehow become more stuck-together as they do.  I let it stay in the shape of the 1 tablespoon sized scoop and just plopped them out onto the foil, but you can form it into little blocks if you prefer. You might want it to be a different shape to fit just so into your compartment of your dishwasher, it’s up to your preference. I’ve seen several versions where people pressed it into different ice cube trays or even cookie cutter shapes, so go ahead and get creative if you want to. Have an old bachelorette party penis shaped ice mold? Who doesn’t want a little soapy penis to do their dishes? Just make sure there isn’t more than about a tablespoon of the mix in each tab, or you’ll risk having too much detergent, which means that you may end up with soapy film on your dishes. And that would be a bummer, because it defeats the whole purpose of a quick, cheap and easy tab if you have dirty dishes at the end. Who wants to re-run a rinse cycle or some other nonsense? Not this gal. Pay attention and save yourself the headache.

Once you have your own special little creations, let them dry. You can use it immediately but it’ll be mooshy, which means that you can’t store them without them all drying together, becoming one big hunk of hassle requiring an ice pick and a strong arm. If you’ve scooped them out like mine, it takes a few hours for them to dry out. If you put them into an enclosed mold such as an ice cube tray (of any shape, naughty or nice), it may be better to wait a full 24hrs. Let them sit until fully dried out, then place into an airtight container. I reused the container that my old store-bought tabs came in: take that, cascade! This recipe makes 36 tabs 🙂

When I used mine, I just tossed it into the bottom of the dishwasher, because the little compartment wasn’t quite deep enough to fit mine. In the future I could flatten them a bit, but realistically, I doubt I will. That extra few seconds per tab is really not going to matter since they work great the way I am using them, but if you’re the type that will want it to fit, you may want to check that yours do before they dry out.

Also, here’s a shot of the fabulous results:


Ooooooooh, sparkly 🙂

The exact breakdown of the price was about $0.04, yes, just 4 cents per tablet! I factored in everything according to what the actual used amount cost, so to be fair, I did have to spend a bit more upfront than what I actually used, but since those ingredients can easily be used to make subsequent batches, I’m not bothered about it. The store-bought ones we got from Costco were the cheapest we could find locally, and those were a pretty great deal at just $0.19/tab. Some brands at Wal-Mart are as much as .$0.35 each, which means that at the least they’re nearly 5 times less, and depending on the brand, can be almost 9 times less expensive! I get it that these aren’t likely a huge part of your budget, but it all adds up. I’d rather spend my extra money on something a little more fun and exciting than dish soap!

So good luck making your own, and be sure to let me know what you think! Also, feel free to share this link with your friends, family, and even a few strangers 🙂



p.s.- if you’d like to know about the minor disaster in my kitchen as a result of making these, read on!


33 thoughts on “Crazy-Easy DIY Dishwasher Detergent Tablets

  1. Pingback: How to Ruin a Perfect Meal | Raising Heathens

  2. Since you said “Who doesn’t want a soapy little penis to do their dishes?” I’m pretty sure this is the coolest make-your-own-soap-or-whatever post on the internet. I’m going to go follow you on Facebook and Twitter now. And then I’m going to make my own dishwasher tabs. Thanks for the recipe!

  3. This worked super for me for about 6 weeks. Now, I am seeing a film on my glasses. Any thoughts? Initially though, they looked like your picture.

  4. We LOVE this recipe. Only issue we’re having- I made them into the nice little rounded half-balls & then over the course of about 4 weeks, they fell apart into just a whole bunch of powder. So we just used a tablespoon to scoop it out…which worked & was no big deal…but I am wondering if you have any ideas why it may have done this + what we can do to prevent it happening in the future?

    Thanks for the awesome recipe.

    • Were yours stored in an airtight container? if so, maybe they didn’t have enough moisture to begin with? Are you at a weird elevation that changes moisture content? I admit this is all purely guesses, I didn’t have an issue with mine falling apart. However, if that had happened I might try to just re-wet the powdery stuff and see if it would re-form once it was a bit moist? I hope it worked out in the end!

    • I found that the smell seemed weirdly chemical while the mix was wet, but once mine dried they just smelled a bit like lemony soap; not the best thing in the world, but at the least it wasn’t a strange smell for a dish soap. I hope yours worked out for you!

  5. I realize that I’m in the minority here, but these tabs just didn’t work for me. After 3 loads, I’m done with it. Glasses came out with milk rings still on them. I had to hand-wash my cutlery after I sent it through twice. Even pre-rinsing didn’t improve my results. I had cleaner dishes when I used generic dishwasher tabs and no pre-rinsing. 😦

  6. I still use mine but, I also use about 1 tbsp of gel Cascade, which is less than half the amount that would fill the little container. So between the two, my dishes are pretty good. It at least does cut the cost of cascade tremendously by using the other cleaning agents as well.

  7. Pingback: DIY cleaning | College: the environmental way

  8. I recently made these, first use I was very happy with the outcome. Second use I had kind of a dingy white film on everything, I’ve seen a few postings about this and will try vinegar in my next load but do you know what causes that?

  9. Pingback: DIY dishwashing Tabs. Super easy and they really work! | Faith, Love, & Chocolate

  10. I tried this and was left with a horrible film on everything. I ran it again with my normal soap and it wouldn’t take the film off. I really had to scrub each piece by hand. We do have well water. Is that the problem?

    • This happened to me too. Had to use a ton of muscle to scrub the residue off of everything!! I was using vinegar as my rinse agent and we’re on city water, so it’s the tabs that caused it. I’m bummed that it didn’t work😞

  11. I am about to make these, and will replace about 1/2 of the lemon juice with a no name brand sheeting agent. Have used that before with great results. My other recipe doesn’t include the salt and worked very well. Makes me wonder if the salt is the problem. I’m going to do this one just to test my theory. 🙂

  12. Pingback: Homemade Dish Detergent | Lovely and Ludicrous

  13. Thought it almost worked but There’s a brown gunk ring around the inside of my coffee cups so now I have to go buy some real dishwasher tabs and run the dishwasher again. Id send a picture but there’s no place to upload a pic to add to a comment. ☹️ Dissipointed in Belleville Mi.

  14. I made these i& put them in a mini cupcake pan. MISTAKE DO NOT put them in a pan. They become like concrete and I had to flip the pan over and use a hammer on the back 4 different times to get them out. I have NOT tried them in the dishwasher yet but I hope they will dissolve. I’m going to try.

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