DIY Dishwashing Salts

Let me begin with a promise…I promise that when this cleaning series is over, I will post on something other than cleaning…no spoilers for now, but I will aim for something VERY different.  🙂  However, in my defense, these are the a few of the recipes I am asked for most often, so I thought I would get them out of the way first.

That said, the third recipe in my cleaning series is for dishwashing salts.  The dishwashing salts presented here are similar in purpose and function to commercial dishwasher detergent, but more natural, as you will read in the “science” section below.  We have been using these dishwashing salts for 2 years or so and have been very happy with the results.  In the interest of full disclosure, occasionally (once every few months or so), I will start seeing a white residue on my glassware.  My non-all-natural, but oh-so-easy way of removing the film from my glassware is to load my dishwasher from top to bottom ONLY with my glassware, run a cycle with Finish Quantum Dishwasher Detergent Tablets, and that’s it.  The film is gone for another few months.  Like I said, I usually only do that every few months though, so the un-natural-ness of the Finish Quantum is overshadowed by the simplicity of using it and my desire for crisp, clear, non-filmy glassware.  My all-natural way of removing the film from my glassware is to do a 1:1 vinegar:water soak, followed by some hearty scrubbing.  If I’m in the mood for a workout and less chemicals in my home, that’s the way I go.  Now, let’s make some dishwashing salts.


1 cup Borax (sodium borate)

1 cup washing soda (sodium carbonate) or baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)

1 cup citric acid (if you have soft water, use ½ cup citric acid)

½ cup salt

Preparation and Use

Gather your ingredients, an air-tight container for storing your dishwashing salts, and some measuring cups.

Add 1 cup of borax to your container.

Then, add 1 cup of washing soda or baking soda to your container.

If you have soft water, add 1/2 cup of citric acid to the container.  If you have hard water, add 1 cup of citric acid to your container.

Lastly, add 1/2 cup of (any kind of) salt to your container.

Mix all ingredients together until well combined (sometimes I stir with a spoon…sometimes, I’m feeling a little more aggressive and I put the lid on and shake).

Label the container.  Use 1 Tbsp. per load.  For the best results, also use full strength vinegar in your rinse cycle.  Occasionally, the citric acid in the dishwashing salts will absorb moisture from the air, causing the dishwashing salts to “clump up.”  You can prevent this by making sure you use an “AIR TIGHT” container.  Or, you can just work around it and pound the container against the side of your countertop to break it up (which is what I do because the yogurt container shown in the pictures is not air tight)…or break it up with your fingers or with a cooking utensil.  The clumped up salts will perform just as well as the powdery ones (after all, it’s just a little water that they’ve absorbed), they just don’t always fit in the dishwasher compartment designed to hold the detergent.


Borax (sodium borate) produces a basic (alkaline) solution in water thereby increasing the cleaning and bleaching power of the other cleansing components. Washing soda (sodium carbonate) and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) act as a water softeners as well as removing odors and food particles from dishes.  Washing soda also competes with the magnesium and calcium in hard water, preventing them from inactivating the dishwashing soap and thereby allowing you to use less soap per load. Salt is a natural preservative, abrasive cleanser, and deodorizer.  Citric acid competes with the metals in hard water, preventing them from inactivating the laundry soap thereby allowing you to use less soap per load.  Citric acid will also remove hard water stains from glass without scrubbing.  Vinegar is also acidic and can dissolve mineral deposits from glass and other smooth surfaces.  Vinegar is also anti-bacterial.

Traditional dishwashing detergents are just that, detergents.  Detergents are made from petroleum products and primarily consist of surfactants, foaming agents, and alcohols.  Since these chemicals smell bad, detergents are usually heavily scented with artificial fragrances.  Detergents also contain preservatives and antimicrobials to prevent spoilage.  All of these chemicals are common allergens and skin irritants.  In contrast, all the ingredients in this recipe are salts and work as described to naturally clean dishes.


Depending on how much you pay for dishwasher detergent, rinse aid, etc. and how much of these you use will determine how much you are paying per wash for clean dishes.  The dishwasher salt recipe presented here costs about $0.05 per load or $3 for 28 ounces ($0.24 for 8 ounces of Borax, $0.32 for 8 ounces of washing soda, $0.13 for 4 ounces of salt, $2 for 8 ounces of bulk citric acid, and $0.01 for vinegar).


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