Homemade dishwasher detergent, how to beat hardwater!

Feb 23 2016
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Over the years I’ve turned myself completely over to living and cleaning as naturally as possible in my home. For one it has saved us a ton of money and, for the other, I feel I am healthier for it. I went through several recipes I found online for homemade dishwasher detergent and settled on one that I just loved and use daily. The following recipe I picked up at Wellness Mama so I can’t take total credit for this one.

However, when I moved into Grandma’s House it just wasn’t cutting it because I opted out of adding a water softener when I renovated this old farm house. 

(I’ve read many things on how the water is not very good for you to drink after salt has been added to “soften it” as well as the idea of my water being stripped of all those good minerals that I need just bothers me.)

I was also short on money so I decided to forgo the water softener and crossed my fingers and figured if I absolutely HAD to, I could always add one later.

Homemade dishwasher detergent and how to beat hard water and white stuff on your dishes!

Here’s the awesome Recipe for homemade dishwasher detergent from Wellness Mama:

So, I moved in and then ran my first load of dishes and I was absolutely horrified!

For those of you with hard water you already know what I’m talking about: my dishes were absolutely covered in white horror, they even FELT dirty. So then I panicked and tried everything and nothing helped. All those reviews on amazon about Lemi Shine had me really hopeful, my hard water laughed at it.

And it all really bothered me because I hated that I wasn’t the one who was making it! So, I did a little more research, headed back to Wellness mama and spotted it “You can also add white vinegar as the rinse agent…” Of course!!! Duh!!

Homemade dishwasher detergent and how to beat hard water and white stuff on your dishes!Homemade dishwasher detergent and how to beat hard water and white stuff on your dishes!

So, instead of using my dishwasher’s little compartment for rinsing (I knew just looking at it that it wouldn’t be big enough for the amount of vinegar I was going to probably need) I just grabbed a little mason jar and filled it up halfway and put it in the top rack.

The difference was absolutely amazing! After three loads with half a cup of vinegar added you couldn’t tell I had hard water anymore! Between the vinegar and my homemade dishwasher detergent, I beat my hard water naturally!

And, all in, the entire cost per load is around 10 cents!

UPDATE: A few folks mentioned that there is a rather scary rumor going around that vinegar will somehow “destroy” your dishwasher. So, I did some serious research and found what I suspected: most of what you’ve heard has been blown entirely out of proportion.

But, like most things, there is a seed of truth to this.

The place in your dishwasher that is labeled for a “rinse agent” to be added, is not built to hold vinegar. This is where the rumors came from. Don’t put vinegar in the little spot that is meant for rinse agents, it is not meant for that!

Instead, just put it in a little cup (right side up of course) in your top rack and you’re good to go!

Homemade diy do it yourself save money green frugal cheap dishwasher detergent use vinegar to beat hard water


    April 10, 2016 at 10:13 am

    Hi, how much of this do you use or do you just fill the soap compartment?
    Many thanks.

    • April 10, 2016 at 5:43 pm

      Yup I just fill up the little soap compartment. It translates to less then 2 tablespoons 🙂

  2. April 10, 2016 at 11:42 am

    This sounds great! I don’t have hard water (municipal water) but I hate using all the chemicals. Silly question though – do you put the mason jar sitting upright in the top rack? How does the vinegar get mixed with the water for the rinse cycle? I might not have had enough caffeine yet so sorry if this is a dense question!

    • April 10, 2016 at 5:46 pm

      Hey there that’s not a stupid question at all! The Mason jar I use is a little one (probably a jelly jar) and I put it in the top rack, right side up and then put in about half a cup of vinegar. By the end of the cycle the venegar has been used and the little jar is full of water so I just empty it for the next cycle and repeat the process 🙂

  3. April 10, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    Hello — How much of the dry mix do you put in your dishwasher? Do you always put vinegar in the load? If so, where and how much? Thanks.

    • April 10, 2016 at 5:50 pm

      I fill the soap compartment up with the dry mix which translates to less then 2 tablespoons. The half a cup of vinegar I put in a jelly jar (a little Mason jar with a wide mouth) that I put right side up in the top rack. When the cycle is completed the jar is full of water and all the vinegar has been used. Thanks!

  4. Mary
    April 19, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    I can’t seem to find citric acid – will it be affected to leave it out? I will let you know how it turns out… My water is very hard and my dishes look awful.

    • April 19, 2016 at 4:53 pm

      Hi Mary, yes it will not work as well without Citric acid – you can order it on Amazon or go check out the canning area at your local grocery store and you should be able to find it no problem. Thanks!

  5. Jen
    April 28, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    Does the salt have to be kosher salt?

    • April 28, 2016 at 3:53 pm

      Hi Jen, I use Kosher salt that is a rougher grind (not so fine as regular table salt) and it seems to work a little better however I think it is just because it is not so fine so I don’t think it matters whether it is kosher or not. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Jody
    April 28, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    I have been making dishwasher pods but I do not think my dishes get as clean as store bought ones. And – they are expensive. So I am going to try this. No hard water but city that I do not like the taste of so will include vinegar, the miracle worker of our ancestor’s. Was doing the same for the washing machine. Now am on a liquid but for 4 gallons for that money shall be using your recipe also. Just a hint but I use fels napa soap for the washer. Grates and has no odor. Was making my own fabric softener but vinegar works for me.

    Thanks. This is not my beloved grandma’s house but I found one close to being hers and the house I grew up in in E. Cleveland via Oshkosh. A 1910 that everyday makes me feel I am home.

    • April 28, 2016 at 4:38 pm

      Hi Jody! I posted about our laundry detergent too, we also use vinegar for fabric softener 🙂 For awhile I actually turned this powder recipe into pods by adding water, jamming the resulting wet “sand” into ice cube trays and then letting them dry for a couple of days. It worked ok but and I ended up just using it like this in powder form, a lot less work!

  7. Jada
    April 28, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    Do you also have a recipe for liquid dish soap and mopping tile floors? Thank you

    • April 28, 2016 at 6:02 pm

      I don’t yet! However, I would really suggest checking out http://wellnessmama.com/ because that website is awesome when it comes to making homemade soaps, detergents, etc.

  8. Jada
    April 28, 2016 at 6:11 pm

    Great thank you

    • April 28, 2016 at 6:16 pm

      No problem! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  9. Liz
    April 28, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    The “washing soda” called for in this recipe, would that be the same as the Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda?

    • April 28, 2016 at 9:09 pm

      Yes, that would be Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda 🙂

  10. May 1, 2016 at 7:57 pm

    You had me at hard water! Lol. I am definitely pinning this for later. Thank you!

    • May 2, 2016 at 2:46 pm

      I hope it works as good for you as it did for us! Thanks for stopping by!

  11. July 12, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    Good recipe – I am familiar with Wellness Mama, she does have great recipes.

  12. July 15, 2016 at 1:28 am

    I totally have hard water and it’s been driving me nuts! I just got some citric acid and will definitely need to give this a try. Pinned for later!

    • July 15, 2016 at 2:31 pm

      Gina, let me know if it works for you! I almost gave up and figured we would just have to live with the white film! This worked SO well.

  13. Helen
    August 12, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    No website. I live with my son & wife and I’ve shown her a lot of how=to’s ! She just shrugs them off. But, I’m hoping this will do it. They have city water but still get the “scale” deposits on glasses for sure.. But, I’d have to buy a small amount and just use it and then show her what it does. I am going to tell her about the rinse agent for clothes washing. They don’t use softners because my son is highly allergic to the scents. Some of them bother me as well. but I’m going to tell her about that. Thank you so much.

    • August 14, 2016 at 4:26 pm

      Hey Helen, yes try this recipe, a lot of the commercial soaps and things really bother my skin but this recipe is so cheap and easy to make and it doesn’t bother my skin at all!

  14. Sue
    August 22, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    I’m wondering if you know if it’s possible to adjust this recipe to use for bathing..Thanks for the recipe, hate the white residue! I’ve used vinegar for years for clothes but never thought to add to the dishwasher~it’s also a fantastic hair rinse, leaves my hair super soft and shiny!

    • August 22, 2016 at 4:44 pm

      Hello Sue, I guess I never considered trying it for bathing but I would think you could certainly use it! The ingredients are gentle enough I would think I’d start off small for a full bathtub using maybe half a cup. Thanks!

  15. Kate
    August 24, 2016 at 2:48 pm

    I live in Mexico and cannot find “Washing Soda”. Will ordinary baking soda work?

  16. Teresa Sole
    August 30, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    Ooooh!!!! Can’t wait to try this!!! We have very hard water here in New Mexico. I have tried another “recipe” but it turned into a rock in the container! Have you noticed this happening with yours? I have all of the ingredients so am ready to try this. Thank you for all of this info!

    • August 30, 2016 at 6:17 pm

      Hi Teresa! So far it hasn’t been a problem but I started using a courser salt (pink Himalayan salt I buy in bulk off of Amazon) so I’m thinking that might help in keeping it from clumping, I also have it in a water proof container that seals really well! Thanks for coming by!

  17. September 1, 2016 at 1:40 am

    I have the hardest water ever – legit I checked with my local water provider – and I just may try this recipe. I also tried in vain with the Lemi Shine and such, just didn’t cut it. I use the overturned cup of vinegar once in awhile while running an empty load to clean out the dishwasher as well. Thanks for sharing this recipe, found you at Show and Tell!

    • September 1, 2016 at 2:29 pm

      Hey Katie, this helped SO SO much! You almost can’t tell we have hard water using this recipe but, from time to time, I do still hand wash some of our dishes and I’m told its because of the hard water. Our white coffee cups, for example, did a scrub every now again because it just doesn’t seem to get the coffee stains out of them. I also soak the real bad pots after using them baking ,dried on cheese etc. just won’t come off. But I do wonder if that’s not a common problem for everyone lol regardless of hard water. Otherwise, my gosh, its hard to believe we have hard water when you see how clean our glasses come out 🙂 Thanks for coming by!

  18. September 2, 2016 at 6:11 pm

    We would save so much money using this

    Thanks for linking up with Welcome Home Wednesdays! Live every Wednesday at 7AM CT.

    liz @ j for joiner

    • September 2, 2016 at 7:08 pm

      It saves us a fortune! And it works great, thanks for coming by!

  19. September 10, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    Thanks for sharing on the Pleasures of the NW’s DIY party-and don’t forget to leave a comment at the party – Next week’s features that also leave a comment get pinned and tweeted!

    • September 10, 2016 at 3:03 pm

      Thanks Helen, will do!

      • September 11, 2016 at 12:23 pm

        Check out this week’s party – you’ve been featured! Thanks for joining the party!

        • September 11, 2016 at 6:51 pm

          Oh Helen thank you so much!!

  20. September 11, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    I’d love to try to make this dishwasher detergent! i don’t think we have Borax in Europe, but I’m sure I’ll find a substitute!

    • September 11, 2016 at 6:52 pm

      Katrin, yup there are substitutes out here I wonder if you can order it? Thanks!!

  21. September 24, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    This is such a great idea. I like the fact that overall it will help save someone money.

    Thank you for sharing this with us on the #HomeMattersParty. We hope to see you again next week when we open our doors at 12AM EST on Friday.

  22. Jann Olson
    September 25, 2016 at 3:06 am

    Thanks for sharing his with SYC. Sounds like a great dishwasher detergent.

  23. September 26, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    I’m glad you found something that worked, we have hard water here too. Thanks for the tips.

    • September 26, 2016 at 9:13 pm

      Thanks I’m so glad we found something that worked too! I panicked lol

  24. September 30, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    What a fantastic tip! White vinegar has so many uses, and is also great for killing bacteria. Thanks so much for sharing at the #happynowlinkup!

  25. October 1, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    What a neat idea! I’ll have to try this!

    I would love for you to share this with my Facebook Group for recipes, crafts, tips, and tricks: https://www.facebook.com/groups/pluckyrecipescraftstips/

    Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J!

  26. October 4, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    Tarah, kudos to you for going all natural! I have used naturals cleaners for years and I’ll never go back … I don’t have a dishwasher because I’m one of those people who like hand washing dishes lol there’s something therapeutic about it to me … but you can also use this same recipe for the laundry too! xo

    • October 4, 2016 at 3:20 pm

      Yup, little by little we’ve gone all natural with just about everything. We still have all of our bathroom stuff to tackle, as soon as I finally run out of shampoo I’m switching to an all natural shampoo bar. I want to eventually try using vinegar as a rinse for conditioner but I haven’t had the courage yet!

  27. October 8, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    What an amazing idea! Love that it’s natural 🙂

    Edye | http://gracefulcoffee.wordpress.com

  28. October 25, 2016 at 8:26 pm

    Yea!!!! We are about to buy a dishwasher and I planned on making a healthy detergent and now I have the recipe. I held out for years without a dishwasher and I can’t wait to join the modern world! Good article!

    • October 26, 2016 at 2:59 pm

      Hey Diana, good for you! So far we’re really happy with our dishwasher detergent and I love that when I run out I just mix up another batch!

  29. October 30, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    I should try out this recipe! The last homemade one I tried didn’t work hardly at all. I’ve had a lot of success using baking soda and vinegar to clean my dishwasher so I could see the vinegar making a great rinse agent!

    • October 31, 2016 at 4:29 pm

      Hey Pam, after some tweaking this recipe is what ended up working for us but it seems like everyone’s water is really different!

  30. March 8, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Thanks for sharing! A few years back I tried a homemade dishwasher soap and it clouded my glassware. Does this do that?

    • March 8, 2017 at 4:01 pm

      Hi Nartia, the key is the vinegar! That rinse is definitely what makes everything spotless but everyone’s water is different and that has a lot to do with it too! Thanks for coming by!

  31. Janice G
    March 11, 2017 at 11:27 pm

    I love your site. My husband & I, needing to cut back some are going to try your laundry detergent. I’ll be checking out your other money savers also.

    Thanks, Janice G

    • March 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm

      Awesome Janice! I hope it works as well for you as it had for us!

  32. Chiaracosta
    March 24, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    Hi, thank you so much for sharing this. Great tip! I tried it and it really works. My husband was very impressed. Our hardwater sucks and is always stainning everything, including my white china 🙁 My dishwasher is white again, so thank you so much! Chiara

    • March 24, 2017 at 6:44 pm

      Chiara I’m so happy to hear that!

  33. Fay Tucker
    April 17, 2017 at 6:51 pm

    Do you put the full recipe in each load?

    • April 18, 2017 at 1:31 pm

      Hi Fay, I use about 1/4 of a cup, just fill up the area in the dishwasher that calls for detergent! Thanks!

  34. June 20, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    We have terrible hard water. I use vinegar on a regular basis in our house just to clean the stains from everything.

    • June 20, 2017 at 2:13 pm

      Hey Lindsay, truly with hard water vinegar is an absolute god send!

  35. June 30, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    Good idea… and thank you for the heads up on the vinegar in the rinse dispenser. Actually, w/ our big family, we rarely (maybe once or twice a year!) use the dishwasher… we just wash and dry by hand to get everything back in the cupboard (not in the dishwasher!) 🙂 Thank you for the recipe….

    • June 30, 2017 at 2:33 pm

      That’s great! Thanks for coming by and have a great weekend!

  36. July 9, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    Great idea and thx for the research on the vinegar in the rinse agent area. I have been loading it with white vinegar. The results have been wonderful but I’m sure it will rot something out that I won’t be happy about. New like from Coastal Bohemian . Found you at Homemade is Happiness.

    • July 10, 2017 at 3:24 pm

      Thanks for coming by Michele, have a great week!

  37. July 12, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    Thanks! yes, i’m disappointed with Lemishine too – will try the vinegar trick today!

    • July 12, 2017 at 3:03 pm

      Have a great week Sue! Thanks for coming by!

  38. July 18, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    I wish I had seen this at our last house. The water there was so hard. Thank you for sharing at Ravenwould.

  39. November 18, 2017 at 9:42 pm

    Glad that you’ve found something that works for you 🙂 Thanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

  40. J
    December 25, 2018 at 2:42 pm

    Thank you SO much for this post, it happened to show up in my NewsFeed on Facebook through a HomeTalk link. My husband and I have an older home we just feel in love with that was built in 1940. We have lived here for 7 years and always done dishes by hand. We treated ourselves to a new dishwasher this year. I had a mix for laundry soap for the new Washer we bought when we moved in to deal with hard water, but was worried for our new Dishwasher. YOU saved the day!! I have wandered through lot’s of your household tips and we are excited to try this new dishwasher recipe. Keep up the great tips and thank you for all you share with everyone. Kind regards, J. Krmenec
    P.S. This works really well on our old cast iron tub for hard water build up too!

    • December 26, 2018 at 9:58 am

      Hi there! I’m so glad to hear the recipe is working for you. Another thing to keep in mind is that not all dishwashers are created equal either. I have a brand new LG that I guess is just notorious for having problems draining and ended up with mold build up on the inside of it. I took it a part at one point and was just horrified. I had blamed myself because I thought it was hard water or my dishwasher soap recipe etc. It was neither of those things and just a common problem with my type of dishwasher. Now, about once a month, I run an empty load with a cup of bleach in a bowl in the bottom. Takes care of all of the problems!

  41. Gayle Malone
    October 7, 2020 at 1:50 pm


    I would like to try this recipe for dishwasher soap, but you did not say where to put the mixture?
    Also, where do I put the laundry soap? Directly in the machine before clothes or after I add the clothes?

    • October 8, 2020 at 10:04 am

      Hi Gayle, put the dishwasher soap right where you would put any dishwasher soap in the dishwasher compartment. The laundry soap I would dump in before the clothes and after you turn the washer on and its filling with water. I put it directly on our clothes when I wash them because we have a front load.

  42. Michelle
    January 27, 2021 at 1:02 am

    Just found your recipe and look forward to trying it! I didn’t know you shouldn’t put vinegar in the rinse reservoir but, like you, had an idea it wouldn’t dispense enough to combat the scale so I use the jar on the top rack method too. As for soaking those dishes with cheese and pasta, have you tried vinegar on them yet? Amazing how it “deactivates” the starch making it almost rinse right off!!

    • January 27, 2021 at 10:22 am

      Michelle, vinegar is truly a miracle worker! Lodi moved in a year ago and it took him awhile to get on the vinegar band wagon (I use it to clean basically everything instead of buying commercial products) but now he’s a believer!

  43. L
    January 16, 2022 at 3:01 pm

    I was wondering if you’ve ever tried powdered vinegar? I just looked it up wondering if some could be added to this mixture to avoid adding the small cup of liquid vinegar to the load. (super forgetful so it would be nice to have it all in one place)

    • January 18, 2022 at 10:34 am

      Hi L, I’m sorry I hadn’t even heard of powdered vinegar before this! That’s very interesting! Looking into it I don’t see why it wouldn’t work just as well.

  44. Julie Clark
    July 12, 2023 at 8:06 pm

    I am still getting the hazy look. Rarely do they come clean.

    • July 17, 2023 at 9:12 am

      Hi Julie, I ended up giving up on making our own honestly lol this recipe is really inexpensive and gets them clean but with REALLY hard water it seems almost impossible. Green Generation makes dishwasher pods that are affordable and do the job better than I’ve been able to make dishwasher detergent from scratch.

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