Friday, July 23, 2010

Homemade Dishwasher Soap

Whenever I wonder if it is worth it to make my own laundry soap, I just recalculate what it costs and I remind myself how much money I'm saving. It's nearly 50% less than what I was currently using. So when it came time to buy more dishwasher soap, I decided to try making my own as well.


I predict that some of you are already rushing to comment that this has not worked for you. In all my reading on the web, there are a lot of dissatisfied dishwasher owners. Even with the commercial soap. (You'll want to read my article on Keeping Your Dishwasher Clean to get my thoughts on scum that builds up inside these automated washers. A lot of people are making big mistakes, such as using a rinse aid when they may not really need one.) The issue isn't just the soap, but it's the water that goes through the appliance.

I'm going to give you the recipe I use, keeping in mind that I have a water softener. I'm finding that it works for me pretty well, but I had to try a couple of different recipes before I got one that worked just right. This isn't a "one-size-fits-all" kind of a thing. I suggest that you make a small batch of the recipe that follows, adjusting the ingredients as needed until you come up with the right formula for your water situation. 



The Ingredients 

Washing Soda:
Sodium carbonate can be used as a pH regulator to maintain stable alkaline conditions and to neutralize the acidic effects of chlorine and raise the pH level. Without using washing soda, additional detergent is needed to soak up the magnesium and calcium ions. It effectively cuts oil or grease on dishes and is used as a descaling agent in boilers such as found in coffee pots or espresso machines, which leads me to think it would do the same in a hot dishwasher.


Baking Soda:
Sodium bicarbonate can be added as a simple solution for raising the pH balance of water (increasing total alkalinity) where high levels of chlorine (2-5 ppm) are present. A paste from baking soda can be very effective when used in cleaning and scrubbing. For cleaning aluminium objects, the use of sodium bicarbonate is discouraged as it attacks the thin unreactive protective oxide layer of this otherwise very reactive metal.
*Note that this is very similar to washing soda and many recipes interchange this ingredient. If one doesn't work well for you, try the other. I found the washing soda worked best for me.

Borax:
Sodium borate is used to help cut grease, reduce spots and film by conditioning the water, and removing hard water minerals. It also works as a disinfectant. This is the one item that  I would caution you to keep out of reach of little ones. It is mined from the ground and is a natural mineral, but not safe for ingestion. I took a tour of the 20 Mule Team plant in Boron, California, and was amazed at all the uses this product has in our everyday lives (and we aren't even aware of it)!

Citric Acid:
Citric acid's ability to chelate metals makes it useful in soaps and detergents by allowing these cleaners to produce foam and work better without the need for water softening. It also will remove hard water stains from glass without scrubbing. In addition, it works as a natural antimicrobial agent. I recommend purchasing Frontier Naturals one pound bag of Citric Acid from either Amazon, Frontier Naturals, or a food co-op. It will run you about $7-9, but should last a while. I wanted to get started right away, so I purchased some Fruit Fresh, which has some citric acid in it (or you could buy cheap lemonade packets), but it cost me more and I don't recommend this unless you're in a bind. However, it seems to be working well. I'll be ordering bulk citric acid from the co-op in the future!

Salt:

A lot of recipes for homemade dishwasher soap include salt, but I'm not sure that it's really a necessary ingredient. While it is often thought to reduce the effects of hard water, I've read elsewhere that adding salt along with the detergent does not soften the water much, but the water will gain some additional ability to dissolve hard water ions. How much is the question. Keep in mind that as water drops remaining on the dishware evaporate, deposits of the salt will likely remain. To combat this, the use of a rinsing agent such as vinegar will help eliminate the spotting. *If you should choose to use salt, do not use regular table salt, but rather course Kosher salt. Read more here.
Homemade Dishwasher Soap 
{soft water recipe}   

1/2 cup borax ($.18)
1/2 cup washing soda ($.33)
1/4 cup food grade citric acid ($.66)
* for hard water, try increasing the amount of borax or add 1/4 cup course kosher salt, not regular salt! Read more here and scroll to middle of the page where it says "Dishwasher Salt".

Combine ingredients and use sparingly. I use only about 1 to 1 1/2 tsp. per load. (For hard water, you may need more.) Keep in a handy container near your appliance.

Total cost: $1.17 per batch (mine was actually closer to $2.01 because I used the expensive citric acid). 

Total # Loads: 81 per batch (@ 1 1/2 tsp. per load)

Total Cost Per Load: $ 0.014 - Nice!

Rinse Aid: Add white vinegar to the appropriate dispenser. Refill as needed. (I do this even for my soft water).

I'd like to hear your thoughts on this, so join the conversation and leave a comment!




71 comments:

  1. Interesting. Frugal. I like it... Ok, I'm going to give it a try... testing as we go. I have well water that's treated. So I'm sure I'll need to 'play' around with the recipe.
    Thanks!

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  2. WELL WELL WELL! I declare. It never ceases to amaze me that I can learn something new everyday....eyes wide open....there's no better way to live!

    I will be giving this a try. Thanks Amy!!!

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  3. We have extremely hard water and no softener, but I am going to try this. I am so tired of paying top dollar for detergents that really aren't good for us to be using and don't always work well. Thank you SO much for posting this. I'll let you know how it works for me. :-)

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  4. Well I'm one of the skeptics because of all the comments I've read online about homemade recipes not working in the dishwasher. Your post gives me hope and makes me want try it out. I've not read a recipe like yours yet.

    About the water softener, I wonder if adding a water softener agent (such as White King) would help those of us without a water softener in our house. Do you have any thoughts on that?

    Thanks for all the info.
    Jen
    www.realfoodhealthyliving.com

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  5. I've used this, even without the citric acid, with good success. The vinegar rinse makes a huge difference. I also try to run the machine once a month with only 1 c of vinegar to clean it out. I will read your article about how to keep the machine clean. I think I still may be missing something. (Or else my children are loading it full of crummy dishes...hmm.....)

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  6. Ma, I find it interesting that in our house, the child who complains the most about the spots and bits of food on the dishes, is the same child that doesn't rinse them well. I've repeatedly tried to explain this connection, but have had to resort to having her rewash the dishes by hand to make it more "real" for her. I'm happy to report that I've seen an improvement over all, but periodically we have to revisit this once again.

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  7. Thanks for this...I'll try that...I couldn't find citric acid where I live believe it or not...so now I"ll know where to look. I do have some Dr. Bronner's liquid castille soap and their website says you can use it in the dishwasher, but I haven't tried it yet. Any thoughts on that? Thanks for this recipe...!!!! I love making my own cleaning supplies!!!
    Love and hugs from Oregon, Heather :)

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  8. I have used this recipe in the past. (or one very similar) I found it to be effective, but personally became concerned about the addition of the borax. It feels too toxic for consumption. I stopped using the homemade, but haven't felt great about the return to traditional dishwasher detergent either.

    Without the Borax, in the homemade detergent, the dishes didn't come clean.

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  9. For those who can't find the citric acid...I have used a packet of Lemon flavored Kool-Aid (or generic) in it's place. It works just fine. :)

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  10. Amy, If you aren't comfortable with the borax, you could always just hand wash dishes and use only a mild soap. Sometimes I think it's almost easier to just do them by hand anyway. However, I'm pretty cautious and I think the borax is fine if you use a good rinse aid. Coming into contact with borax isn't an issue, but ingesting it would be (and it would have to be more than just a trace on the dishes). Vinegar should remove most of the residue. Keep in mind, the commercial stuff is most likely to have something much more toxic in it than borax!

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  11. this is great! I have been looking for something just like this..... and have not found any recipe that does not leave a film on the glasses.....

    I am off to the market to make this, and will let you know what I think.
    deep thanks to you!

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  12. I'm excited to try this. I don't like to use too many chemicals as we have a septic tank that I like to keep as healthy as possible. Thanks for the info.

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  13. I use a mixture of borax and baking soda for my laundry. Nothing else, as the guy who takes care of our septic recommends only those 2 ingredients. They work great on my husband's greasy work clothes and everything comes out smelling so clean!

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  14. What a great idea! ~ thank you.

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  15. Thanks for sharing - I haven't braved making dishwasher detergent yet,but it sure is expensive to buy so I should give it a go.
    Hope you are going well & enjoy your weekend
    Renata:)

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  16. Have you found any good recipes for those of us without soft water?

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  17. Marisa, actually the same recipe should work. You might adjust for more borax or try adding the salt. Let me know if you find a good balance and I'll pass it on.

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  18. I tried this several months ago and thought it was working fine, then noticed that a white residue was building up on my dishes. Our plates and bowls are glass, so the spots are even more noticable. I tried the citric acid-not much difference. I tried making sure nothing was left on the dishes before they went in. [I have so little counter space that it actually is easier to rinse them well and use the dishwasher.] Nothing was working and I ened up having to soak everything in lots of vinegar and baking soda, and then scrub them a lot. I wasn't going to do that every day! So I tried a $1 box of dishwasher powder and that seems to be working. However, I'm thinking of trying again because I think the culprit MIGHT have been milk residue left on dishes. Have you noticed that being a problem? We also have very hard water.

    To The Things We Do: I thought the very same thing and tried it (white king d), and that's also when the residue build up began, so maybe it's not helpful?

    Amy-I'm going to try your recipe and tips when this box runs out. Also-I get 10 gallons of homemade laundry soap for $1.21 when I make my own. 10 gallons will last us well over a year. Now that's savings!

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  19. Kelly, I'm amazed at the savings you've realized making your how laundry detergent! That REALLY makes it worth the effort!

    I'm glad you mentioned the white residue. I actually had this problem on a commercial detergent I was using. I don't think it's the milk, but rather soap that isn't rinsing off (although I'm not 100% sure on this). Have you added the vinegar to the rinse aid compartment? If not, give it a try, but it will work best as a preventative agent, not to remove it once it's on there and gone through the heat cycle a few times.

    Also, be SURE not to use more detergent than necessary. I only use 1 - 1/2 tsp. per load total for both the prewash and the wash cycle. If you have hard water, obviously you'll use more, but the only way to determine the amount is to keep backing off until you find how little you can use and still have dishes come out clean.

    It's important to note that glasses can become etched after a period of time due to minerals in the water. Read this link for a much better explanation than I can give - http://www.pwgazette.com/glasswarewearandtear.htm
    Hope you can get it to work for you!

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  20. @Amy....do you know anything about dishwasers that say you "have" to use a particular brand of rinse agent? or is it "drying" agent? I'm not sure which now...oops..I asked the maintenance guy at our apartment complex about that one time...because I wanted to use vinegar in that little well, you pour what I thought is supposed to be a rinse agent. He said it only take "Jet Dry"..That sounds like a total gimmick to me...just thought I'd ask since you know all the cool home recipes :) :) :)

    Also would it work if I put a shallow dish or cup with vinegar in the center of the dishwasher where it wont' tip over? will I still get the same affect?

    One last thing,I did read on the Dr. Bronner's castille soap website, that you can use liquid Dr. Bronner's in the dishwasher. I'm not sure how much though. Have you ever tried that? I think I might do that.

    Can't wait to amke more homemade powdered laundry soap. That's my handsdown favorite...it's good for your clothes, good for you (as long as you dont' eat it...hee hee he ) and you know exactly what goes into it :) :)

    I love these kinds of post...more of them, please :) :) :) Love and hugs from Oregon, Heather :)

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  21. Heather, if you live in a rental/apt. I would caution you against using it in the actual dispenser if he said not to. You don't want to be liable for the item and have to replace it. Your idea of using the cup in the top rack should work, but if it doesn't, try opening the washer right before the final rinse cycle and setting it in then. It would be a bit of a pain, requiring you to be right there, but if you're in the kitchen anyway, it might be a last resort.

    Personally, I think it is a gimmick. And if it is your own appliance, you can do with it as you wish. But in a rental, that's a different story. Perhaps if you could find documentation on the internet that it doesn't damage the unit, you could convince him.

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  22. Amy-the white residue isn't extra detergent. I should have been more clear on that. I get that sometimes too, but this was different and hard for me to explain. I have read that hot water can turn raw milk into something called milk stones. I stopeed using the heated dry cycle on someone else's recommendation-I had been using it to sterilize milk containers-and that helped some. I'm also more vigilant about rinsing anything that had milk in it.

    We have REALLY hard well water with a high level of arsenic in it. We have to buy drinking and cooking water because of it. I wonder if the residue could be from that? I use 2T of the homemade powder, which was originally equal parts washing soda and borax. The dishes were spotty so I tried the White King D water softener and the problem got worse. I do use vinegar in the rinse aid compartment. Thanks for the suggestions.

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  23. I used this recipe for awhile. After a time, my dishes started getting cloudy looking. So, I looked up the ingredients in 7th Generation DW powder and this is what I put together. It has been working here with our unsoftened hard well water.

    Dishwasher powder
    30 drops lemon essential oil
    1 cup citric acid
    1 cup washing soda
    1/2 cup oxygen wash
    1/2 cup salt

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  24. Hey there, just wanted to let you know that I just wrote a post on finding the least expensive source of baking soda. It also includes instructions on how to make your own washing soda from baking soda. http://www.mysuburbanhomestead.com/find-cheapest-source-baking-soda/

    I hope you find it useful. Enjoy!

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  25. Interesting... I was searching this info for my grandma. She will be happy for such a great info. Thanks for sharing...
    Ana

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  26. I looked at the title of this blog post and thought to myself, you can make dishwasher soap? I was so surprised! Love your blog!

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  27. I've been making my own for a while. I have hard water but my recipe uses the exact same ingredients as yours but in different proportions. I also add a few drops of essential oils to the mix; it makes my house smell like citrus during the wash cycle.

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    Replies
    1. What are the proportions for your recipe?

      Delete
  28. I found your blog by someone mentioning it on Facebook. I love it!! So much up my ally! I have tried the homemade dishwasher soap but I think I was using way too much because there was a film. I didn't have citric acid in it either. I am so eager to give your recipe a try! Love the tip of Lemon koolaid! LOL!

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  29. Love this!! I am definitely going to give this a go. I have already been making my own laundry liquid and with great success. I also made fabric softener and am now on to hair gel......love your blog!! Awesome!

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  30. I made this last weekend and it's wonderful! I will never use anything else. I also love the laundry soap...bought more ingredients tonight. The ladies at work shake their head when I talk about this ~ they have no idea, and I guess never will. Back to basics is wonderful, and I thank you very much for all this great information!

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  31. I rent and I have been using vinegar in my dishwasher rinse aid dispenser for the past 2 years with no adverse effects, as a matter of fact I would NEVER buy Jet Dry. Love the fact that Vinegar is simple and won't put chemical fumes into my air while washing dishes!!

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  32. Great Idea...I will be giving this a try. I always have Borax on hand, I use it in my laundry for my whites. I buy the regular Baking Soda but I have never seen the Washing Soda but I will be looking for it now.

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  33. I've been using this recipe for about 4 months. My hard water tends to leave a whitish film on the dishes that is quite unsightly on clear glass. yuck! So, the 1/4 citric acid is a must along with the white vinegar in the rinse agent dispenser.

    Love your site by the way! I've been following for about a year as well as on fb. <3

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  34. fishesandloaves ~ thanks for the info on the citric acid. Glad it's working for you!

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  35. I just had to comment on this post. I found you through Pinterest (who doesn't love pinterest?!?) and I don't know that I want to try making my own dishwashing detergent at this time, however that is due to me living in an apartment and the dishwasher not being my own. If I'm going to break something, I hope it is mine and not someone else's!

    But, moreso, I wanted to comment and say THANK YOU for not just giving us the ingredients, but also the reason for each. That helps me understand things a whole lot more!

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  36. I am looking for a recipe for home made dishwasher soap. Something realy simple. I know that this will be a money saver...any suggestions

    Thanks
    Carol

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    Replies
    1. Carol,
      Other than the one I gave on this post, I don't know of another. Do you mean for handwashing dishes?

      Delete
  37. I've tried it yesterday night and it works great!!! Thank you! I will buy the "already made" stuff anymore!!
    :-)))

    Francesca

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  38. I was enjoying your blog when I noticed your recipe for homemade dishwasher detergent. I found a recipe similar to yours but didn't have citric acid on hand. So I changed the ingredients slightly and I am amazed at how well this formula works! I had stopped using my dishwasher a year ago because the commercial stuff (phosphate free) was leaving a nasty film on my dishes.

    You can see how I adapted the recipe using Borax, Arm & Hammer Washing Soda and table salt here

    http://poppyjuice-poppy.blogspot.com/2012/02/truly-amazing-homemade-dishwasher.html

    I am also using vinegar as a rinse agent. We are stunned at how clean our dishes are now!

    Thanks for this helpful posting. Have a wonderful day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Poppy, thanks for sharing your experience with the homemade dishwasher soap and your adaptations. It's good to have alternatives that work well!

      Delete
    2. I saw your comment here, Poppy. I'm going to check out your recipe, too. We have hard water here where I live, so it's taken a bit of getting used to. Do you put the vinegar in the dispenser or just in a cup amongst the dishes? I'm going to visit your blog post :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

      Delete
    3. I've also switched to vinegar in the rinse dispenser. I had a bottle of cheap "jet dry" still in the house so I add a couple of drops in the dispenser as well -- not to use as "jet dry", but to color the vinegar so I can tell easily when to refill. (Am I lazy or what!)

      Delete
  39. I have been using your recipe for a month and I love it! Thank you! But I have been having problems with it clumping really badly. I can sometimes shake the clumps loose or take a knife to them. Am I doing something wrong? It's not a huge deal because I am not going back to store bought detergent but thought I'd ask;)

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    Replies
    1. I found that this recipe does absorb moisture in the air. Try an airtight container and see if that makes a difference. If anyone else has some tips for this, please comment! We'd love to hear.

      Delete
    2. Thanks! I tried a glass jar instead of a plastic jar and have had great success.

      Delete
    3. Here is a link ; using a old Parmesan cheese cover on a mason jar. It works perfectly for this soap.
      http://amy-newnostalgia.blogspot.com/2011/12/26-tips-and-tricks-to-simplify-life.html

      Thanks for a great recipe ~Karin

      Delete
  40. @Anonymous - Amy is right about an air-tight container. When I started making my homemade laundry powder, I lived in Oregon...and well, it's damp quite a bit. I just bought a HUGE rummbermaid container with an air-tight lid. It works great. I also put some in a smaller latch/hook glass jar, which I actually carry around to the washer/dryer...and that works fabulous, too!!!

    Amy - thanks for sharing your recipe. It's really nice :) :)

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  41. I get 10# citric acid WITH priority shipping from eBay http://myworld.ebay.com/dudadiesel/&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2754
    Best place I've found anywhere online!

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  42. Hi,
    I'm new here but I noticed that canning jars are used alot for storing our homemade soaps. I just thought I'd mention that I can cut out 15 lids from one gallon milk jug.
    thanks for the great ideas!

    ReplyDelete
  43. If you don't mind me asking, what kind of water softener do you have? We have been looking into getting one and the salesman told us that only the ones with salt work well. California is supposed to be banning these...I'm not sure if we could use the potasium chloride in place of the salt but anyhow, I am trying to figure it all out. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kathryn,
      We have a salt softener from Sears. I didn't k now CA was banning these soon. Hmmm.... I need to look into that. Thanks for the heads up.

      Delete
  44. I made up a batch of the dishwasher detergent -- adding a 1/4 cup of salt for well water-- and a vinegar rinse. Dishes came out perfect!

    ReplyDelete
  45. Well your blog really inspired me. Actually I generally use the same method to make my own home made dish wash detergent. You will need few ingredients 1 cup of baking soda in a bowl add 1 cups of borax, ¼ cup of kosher salt, ¼ cup of citric acid and add 3 drops of dawn dish washer liquid after that mix up in a plastic container now it is ready to use.thanks for sharing..

    emergency building dry outs chicago il

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  46. I tried to use the homemade dishwasher soap, but my glasses started to look foggy after a few weeks. I had given up and went back to the expensive store bought tablets. My recipe used borax, washing soda, kosher salt, and citric acid. I also did the vinegar rinse. Suggestions on what I might be doing wrong, or how to keep my glasses "clear"? They just don't look very good when they are cloudy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Carol, sounds like you will need to adjust the ratios of your recipe. You might try backing off the amount of washing soda and maybe slightly increase the salt? I'm not a chemist so I'm guessing here. Another option... if you're water is soft or you use a softener, I would back off on the amount you are putting in the soap dispenser. Hope this helps - I wouldn't want cloudy glasses either!
      (Note: We've started hand washing all our dishes for other reasons, so I haven't used this in a while)

      Delete
  47. Thanks! I will give it a try and let you know what happens!

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  48. Amy, any tips for keeping the recipe from hardening? I put mine in a plastic Hershey's cocoa container and it hardened. I have to scrape some off the top to use it. Thanks for any info you can give me :)
    Crystal

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    Replies
    1. Crystal, It started doing that to me, too, but we stopped using our dishwasher for other reasons and I never made an attempt to solve the hard soap problem. If you have any oxygen absorbers, you might try that, but it needs something to wick the moisture.

      Delete
    2. If you put a nylon with some rice in it in the mix, it will absorb extra moisture and keep it from hardening. At least that's what worked for me.

      Delete
    3. Very Smart Idea!!! I hadn't thought of using some nylon hose to keep it from getting mixed in.

      Delete
  49. What actually IS washing soda? Is it baking soda or arm & hammer laundry detergent??? I see alot of recipes that calls for this but I'm not sure what it actually is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I believe it is sodium carbonate: a sodium salt of carbonic acid (Na2CO3). Arm and Hammer considers it a laundry BOOSTER, but they also claim it is a household cleaner. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3). As you can see they are slightly different. I'm guessing the Arm & Hammer Laundry detergent has a combination of items. You would have to contact the company directly to find out.

      Delete
  50. This stuff worked great on the first try! I am passing it on to everyone I know that has a dishwasher!

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  51. Just moved into our new house and need to make more dishwasher soap. We have well water but it goes through a whole house filter, iron out system and a water softener. Any modifications to the recipe, or just use the minimal amount for each load?? Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Unfortunately, this is best determined by trial and error. I'd err on the side of less and increase it if you find it's not getting the job done. I'm always amazed at how little it really takes!

      Delete
  52. This is the only homemade recipe I've found that works for me, thank you!

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  53. I just started using this and have to say that I really like it so far. None of the nasty residue on the outside of my glasses. :)

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  54. I'm new here but I noticed that canning jars are used alot for storing our homemade soaps. I just thought I'd mention that I can cut out 15 lids from one gallon milk jug. thanks for the great ideas!
    water conditioner

    ReplyDelete
  55. I just pour 1/2 cup to a full cup of vinegar on the opened door before running the dishwasher. Wouldn't run a load without it, we have very hard water so I know it helps the appliance and pipes keep clean also!

    ReplyDelete

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