One of the first things we wanted to tackle when we started to de-toxify our home was dishwasher detergent. It’s the item we’re most likely to consume, we use it every single day, and the list of ingredients on most brands is filled with things I cannot pronounce.
“How hard can it be?” we thought. And therein lies what has probably been the greatest saga in our household toward finding a green, chemical-free solution that works as well as the brands we were trying to replace.
Now… it is very important to preface all of this with the following: I believe everyone out there who is posting recipes and sharing tips is doing so in a kind, responsible, honest way. There are so many variables that can impact whether or not a particular recipe works in your household… and so failure as you seek out the best option is nigh unavoidable. I never blame the messenger.
That said… there were decisions we had to make about what ingredients we felt were safest, as well as some nasty-looking bad results along the way (complete with the fear we had forever damaged our dishwasher). It was – and continues to be – an adventure.
First I started doing research. I ruled out recipes that used borax because of the whole residue-consumption concern. We wanted to put something together we could theoretically eat without dying. Maybe that’s silly, but that was our mission. (So if that’s not your mission, try out one of those borax variations and let me know how it goes!)
There are recipes that suggest powdered lemonade or lemon kool-aid or LemiShine (that one scares me to be honest), but I ruled those out because some people noticed stains on their dishes and/or for chemical concerns. It’s worth noting, however, that Courtney Craig over at houselogic ran an interesting experiment and found the lemon kool-aid to be quite effective (as effective as citric acid).
The first recipe I finally tried recommended castile soap and water. It worked horribly. So horribly, in fact, that all of our plastic items turned cloudy, and the dishwasher got this dark, gooky film all over it. We were convinced we had ruined our machine and our tupperware for good.
I added vinegar to the rinse cycle. It still didn’t work. Luckily, I kept digging away and finally came upon a different recipe that worked as well as the 7th Generation powder I had been using (which, incidentally, is the store-brought brand with the best rating from EWG).
My Healthy Green Family had the recipe that finally worked best for us – but! it was the baking soda from the original recipe (the one the author discarded in favor of the version posted) that worked best with our old washer. Once I played with that recipe and added the citrus vinegar rinse, everything worked beautifully.
Then we got a new dishwasher… and now I’m starting the process all over again! Lately, we have a lot of water left at the end of a cycle – but I’m starting to think it’s more the machine than the DIY products being used. But I’ll keep you posted. 😉
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1 cup baking soda
1/3 cup citric acid (you can get food-grade, organic citric acid in bulk on Amazon)
1/3 cup course salt (Kosher salt, for example)
15-16 drops essential oil(s) of your choice… my favorite blend: lemon-eucalyptus
- Put all the ingredients except the essential oil(s) into an airtight container and mix well. (I use an old, glass mason jar… but you can use anything you’ve got on hand: coffee can, yogurt container, instant tea jar, etc.)
- Add the oil or oils. If you’re using two different scents, 8 drops of each works perfectly. Mix well.
- Use 1 heaping Tbsp per load.
- Don’t forget your distilled white or citrus vinegar rinse!