Amazing home made dishwasher tabs!

I haven’t blogged in a while – the last post was the one that set me off on my journey doing craft fairs, and I just didn’t have enough energy to do that as well as blog.  Since then I decided to sell more online as a more productive use of my time, and so I’m back with the first in a backlog of entries.  I have a few more home made chemical free replacements, some snacks, and odd bits and bobs to come.  Keep popping back, I will add them over the next few weeks.

My latest endeavour is home made dishwasher tablets.  I’d seen these online and thought I would have a go at my own recipe as I knew I didn’t have enough of some ingredients for any of the recipes to follow them exactly, so I’ve adapted it to what I had.  I really want to keep down the amount of chemicals I use in the home, and I am happy to use all of these in this form.  At least I know what’s in them, unlike the store bought ones – which I also find always seem to leave a residue.  These ones don’t, they just leave sparkling dishes!


You will need these ingredients:

1/2 cup citric acid (“East End” brand do it)
1/2 cup salt – table salt is okay
1/2 cup borax (eBay or online – like hen’s teeth in European shops since they brought out new legislation for it – the last pack I got was from the Chinese Wholesale Supermarket)
1 cup bicarbonate of soda (cheaper in bulk online – called “baking soda” in the US)
1 cup soda crystals (proper name “sodium carbonate”, “soda ash” or “soda crystals”, I get this one:
A splash of orange extract – I used the stuff for cooking with from the supermarket.  I figure it’s a food item, and that’s what goes in there stuck to plates, so why not?!

You will need these items:

A mixing bowl of some kind
A spoon or spatula to mix with (you might want to use one you won’t use with food, although silicone washes up just fine)
An ice cube tray.  I used a silicone one with a separate solid base
A silicone pastry brush, although this isn’t essential
A container to put the finished tablets (or powder) in


Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well.  At this point you can just decant it all into a tub and put a scoop full in with every dishwasher load.  But if you want the convenience of grabbing a tab, read on….


Tip into an ice cube tray, silicone if you have one:


Tamp down firmly with a teaspoon or whatever fits:


Use a pastry brush (if you’re so inclined) to get rid of stray bits:


Then use a dropper or a straw to drop a few drops of filtered water on each one. I did seven ish:


Leave to dry/set in a warm place for a few hours, then pop out of the mould and place in an airtight container.  I made a sort of tent around it and the radiator to keep the heat in as it’s winter here, and the heat escapes easily.

If you’re used to making bath bombs, you might have a better way of setting these up, feel free to let us know in the comments below, and I will try it with the next batch.

Use one per wash and be amazed at how well they clean compared to bought products!

The tray holds 32 and there was enough powder left over to make that up to anywhere from 36-40. But I just put the left over powder in an old Oxy (laundry additive) tub so I can just use the scoop that came with it:


I’d guesstimate the cost at maybe £2.50-3.00 for somewhere around 40 washes. But that’s guessing how much “a cup” of stuff costs. I will be able to be more accurate next time as I’ll keep hold of receipts and weigh what I use.  I think I used maybe 100g to get a half cup of the borax and citric acid, just to give you a rough idea, which cost me.  The washing soda crystals are £1 for a 1kg bag, and you maybe use 200g for this.

Finish powerball tabs are £12 for 39. Fairy clean and fresh are £6 for 20. Tescos own are £4 for 28. Ecover £4.70 for 25. So it comes out a good amount cheaper, which is nice – and they work better, which is amazing, and they’re “nasty” chemical free, which is awesome!


If I was going to make any amendment to the recipe, I might add some of the baking additive, cream of tartar (essentially “potassium”).  I have read lately about its amazing cleaning powers on slow cooker stoneware, pans, glass casserole dishes and so on, where the residue just refuses to lift off.  Just a sprinkle and water to cover, leave for a while, and when you come back, it will swipe off easily with a scourer.  So I might try adding some of that to a portion of the next batch, see how it goes.

If you try this recipe, do let me know how you get on in the comments?



5 thoughts on “Amazing home made dishwasher tabs!

  1. What is the point in adding citric acid? It will neutralize some of the alkaline ingredients (soda and bicarbonate). Also, soda and bicarbonate are similar, but soda is more powerful. If you have both, there is no need to use bicarbonate. I would skip the citric acid, and in return, skip the bicarbonate, and maybe add 1/4 cup more soda. There are various estimations of the toxicity of borax — traditionally it has been claimed to be only as toxic as table salt, while the European Union has deemed it harmful for reproduction, but the reasons are not very clear. Anyway, you rinse it off so it is more a problem for the fish, but it’s probably harmless. What you lack are enzymes, so your product may not be so efficient in removing starch and fat, you may ned to rinse your dishes before putting them in the machine. Also, I wonder if your mix is any more gentle than common detergent? It sounds pretty alkaline, but you’ll notice after a while if your glassware gets damaged. Commercial dishwasher detergent has developed a lot and is not necessarily bad. And, at least in my country, this DIY recipe is not cheaper than cheap brands of commercial detergent. But soda is a good and cheap household chemical!

    • Hi Casper, thanks for the comment!

      The citric acid is to stop glassware getting a cloudy film on, and it definitely works – the glassware came out sparkling clean, unlike it has with some of the commercial tablets.

      Regarding borax, I believe, since we actually need a small amount of boron in our bodies, (you can buy it as a supplement) that it’s not going to be toxic in the amounts that might be left behind after rinsing. I would rather have a naturally occurring mineral like that on my crockery than god only knows what chemicals you get in commercial rinse agents and tablets that I’m sure are labelled as toxic if ingested.

      Also, since I am now running a low/no chem household, the amount of chemicals I release into the water system is far lower than the average household, so I am less worried about that. Plus it will be diluted in several litres of water when it leaves, and diluted further at the water treatment plant. I am doing far less harm to the environment than most people.

      I’m not a chemist by any means, and I don’t know as much as you do about the mix of ingredients. Maybe it would be better to add the citric acid to water and use it as rinse aid? Lots of people use vinegar for rinse aid. I haven’t tried that yet. Maybe vinegar and citric acid, with them both being acids (right?), would work best. I will be experimenting!

      • Need to say I am not a chemistry expert either.

        Yes, citric acid works fine when rinsing, I have tried it myself.

        I have sometimes used a mix of sodium bicarbonate and sodium hydroxide (soda lye) when I was out of common dishwasher detergent. I have also used this in my mother’s dishwasher when the filter was clogged from paper pulp, coming from labels on glassware. The soda lye was a bit tough and left residues inside the machine. But running a cycle with some citric acid would remove it.

        If your recipe works fine, you may have found a good balance between the ingredients. Maybe you should stick to it, despite chemists’ advice. 🙂

        It would be smart to add the acid in the end, but as you mention, it needs to be fluid. VInegar or citric acid dissolved in water might do it. Citric acid dissolves very easily and 100 ml of water can take 59 grams of citric acid.

  2. Pingback: Amazing home made dishwasher tabs! | Paula's blog

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