What Can You Use Instead of Dishwasher Detergent? 7 Alternatives

These natural dishwashing detergent alternatives will save you money while saving the environment.

Published March 13, 2023
father and son doing dishes

Dishwasher detergent is a convenient way to clean your dishes, but it can be expensive and damaging to the environment. Whether you have run out of dish soap or you're trying to be more environmentally conscious, there are alternatives to dishwasher detergent that work just as well. You may get hooked on DIY dishwasher detergent saving your family money and reducing your eco footprint.

Simple DIY Dishwasher Detergents

If you don't want to go all out and just want something quick until you run to the store for more detergent, these DIY recipes can work temporarily.

Vinegar and Baking Soda

Mix ¼ cup baking soda with ¼ cup vinegar and scrub your dirty dishes with the mixture. Rinse them off in the dishwasher and dry them with a clean towel. This is an all-natural way to clean your dishes without using any chemicals. It also works well on pots and pans as long as you don't mind vinegar smelling up your kitchen for a while.

Tea Tree Oil and Lemon Juice

lemon and tea tree oil

A mixture of tea tree oil and lemon juice can be used in place of dishwasher detergent in a pinch, though it may not leave your dishes as shiny as they would be if you used commercial cleaner. To make your own cleaner, mix 20 drops of tea tree oil with 2 tablespoons lemon juice in an 8-ounce spray bottle filled with water. Then, shake before each use. Spray on any food residue on your dishes before placing them in the rinse cycle of your dishwasher.

Lemon Juice and Salt

If you're in a big hurry and don't have time to grab ingredients, you can use lemon juice and salt to clean your dishes. Lemon juice can help eliminate stains from dishes without any harsh chemicals or additives. Mix one cup of lemon juice with one tablespoon salt for a natural cleaner that is safer for you, your family, and the environment. Add the mixture to the dishwasher and allow it to run its cycle. This mixture may not work as well as the others, but it will help get the job done until you can buy or make a better detergent.

DIY Detergents for the Long Haul

If you're an eco-friendly family, you may be searching for a more appealing dishwasher detergent. Check out these DIY detergent recipes.

Scented Detergent



  • Gloves - Even natural ingredients can irritate your skin, so it's best to grab a pair of gloves before making your DIY detergent.
  • 2 cups of washing soda - Helps remove stuck-on food particles, grease, and stains
  • ½ cup of table salt - Kills bacteria and neutralizes odors
  • 2 cups of powdered oxygen bleach - Works as a bleach alternative to cut through tough stains and disinfect dishes
  • 15 drops of citrus essential oil - Choose any essential oil you want.
  • Mason jar


  1. Mix all the dry ingredients together.
  2. Add your chosen essential oil and remix.
  3. Continue stirring until your mixture is no longer full of clumps.
  4. Transfer to an airtight jar for storage.
  5. Use 2 tablespoons per load.
Need to Know

Powdered oxygen bleach also acts as a water softener to help break through stubborn stuck-on food.

Simple Borax Detergent

Not everyone has borax in their pantry, although some eco-conscious families may have it for use in other detergents, like their laundry detergent.


  • 1 cup of borax
  • 1 cup of washing soda
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • 5 packets of unsweetened lemonade kool-aid mix


  1. Since these are dry ingredients, you can add them all together in the same bowl.
  2. Mix the ingredients thoroughly.
  3. Transfer to an airtight container.
  4. Use one tablespoon per load in the dishwasher.

Citric Acid Mix

Citric acid has many uses, from flavoring to cleaning. Citric acid is a mild acid that is used in many cleaning products because it breaks down grease and dissolves soap scum.


  • 1½ cups of food-grade citric acid
  • 1½ cups of washing soda
  • ½ cup of baking soda
  • ½ cup of kosher salt


  1. Add all ingredients to a container and stir.
  2. Store in an airtight container.
  3. Use two tablespoons per load.
Quick Tip

You can use vinegar if your dishes appear cloudy after using this DIY recipe.

Make Your Own Dishwasher Tablets

If you would rather make a dishwasher tablet than use a dry recipe, then this is for you. These can replace the pods you generally purchase at the grocery store. First, you need to grab a silicone mold tray. Then, obtain the following ingredients.


  • 1 cup of kosher salt
  • 1 cup of washing soda
  • 1 cup of baking soda
  • ¾ cup of lemon juice


  1. Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Stir.
  2. Once thoroughly mixed, add the lemon juice and stir the mixture again.
  3. Grab the silicone mold tray and add one tablespoon of the mixture to each individual mold.
  4. Allow the mixture to sit until it hardens, about 24 hours.
  5. Remove the tablets from the mold and store in an airtight container. Use one tablet per dishwasher load.
Helpful Hack

If you don't have a silicone mold tray, an ice cube tray is a suitable replacement.

Get Started With DIY Dishwasher Detergent

Although these recipes require more work than just placing a commercial tablet in the dishwasher: they can save you money, reduce your environmental footprint, and work in case of an emergency. By emergency, we mean running out of dishwasher detergent in a household with children. Yes, that does count as an emergency. Choose one of the recipes above, or try them all out and see what you prefer the most. Who knows, you may just continue making the DIY dishwasher detergent once you get started.

What Can You Use Instead of Dishwasher Detergent? 7 Alternatives