2 Ingredient Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

This post contains Amazon affiliate links to the products mentioned for your convenience. 

A simple trick to using Dawn in the dishwasher

“Stephanie, I ran out of dish detergent and tried this about a week ago and I cannot believe how clean my dishes got!!! Thank you!” -My friend Nicole via Facebook.

“So, I did this last night and it is AWESOME! No spots on any of the dishes that usually have TONS of spots on them! Thank you so much for sharing….we are never buying the pods again!” –Stephanie, a Binkies and Briefcases reader via Facebook

There’s is a “recipe” floating around blogland for homemade dishwasher detergent.

I think it started with Shaye from The Elliott Homestead.

I’ve heard Rebecca share the same thing.

But I haven’t seen anyone share and before and after pictures, so I’m here today to air our dirty laundry dishes.

I’ve been using this recipe for over a month now and it hasn’t failed me yet.

Did you know that you don’t need to buy a special detergent for your dishwasher?

Just 2 drops of regular dish soap (I use Dawn) in the dispenser combined with some baking soda totally works!

Note: DO NOT use more soap than this!!! Unless you want soap bubbles all over your kitchen floor, then be my guest.

Some people fill the soap dispenser with the baking soda. Some people just sprinkle it everywhere. Some sprinkle it on the inside of the door. I put it in the bottom of my dishwasher. It doesn’t seem to matter where the baking soda goes, but the drops of soap should go in the soap dispenser.

I am in love with this trick because before I learned this, we were paying up to $15 a case for those little dishwasher pods!

This is about a millionth of the price. (Slight exaggeration, but only slight, since I always have baking soda and dish soap on hand anyway and dish soap is way less expensive than dishwasher detergent.)

Use Dawn in the dishwasher

How to use baking soda in the dishwasher

I shared this on Facebook a while ago, and my friends Bethany and Linda said they have tried it since and it worked for them too. The caveat is that they both also live in Pennsylvania, like me.

My friend Alicia tried it too and said that it did not work for her as well. She lives in a different state, which makes me wonder if how well this trick works has something to do with your water source. For example, when we lived in Florida we had ridiculously hard water and no dishwasher detergent worked very well at all, no matter what you did.

But it is so easy and affordable that it is certainly worth a try.

2 drops (no more!) of a regular dish soap like Dawn

about 2 tablespoons (I’ve never measured, but I probably use less) of baking soda.

I didn’t rinse any of the dishes in this load, so I could show you how well it works for me.

This bowl contained a cream cheese mixure that I used to make the kids stuffed French toast. 

before homemade detergent

after homemade detergent

And this bowl that had been full of honey mustard sat in the sink overnight before I loaded these dishes in the morning.



You can also see that it doesn’t leave spots on glass.

Or the flatware.

silverware before

silverware after homemade detergent

The inside of our dishwasher is stainless steel and this method also seems to work well to clean the inside of the dishwasher itself.

Let me know if you try it! 

In the meantime, I’d love to connect with you over on my Facebook page!

And if you liked this tip, don’t forget to pin this post and share it with your friends. :)  

This is not a sponsored post, but I have provided Amazon affiliate links to the products mentioned for your convenience. 

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  1. I’m intrigued. You sure those photos are unretouched? 😉 I’m trying this. Today.

    • I did adjust the brightness of the lighting, but other than that, I swear they are untouched. :) Let me know how it works all the way out there on he west coast.

  2. Stephanie says:

    What?! I am totally trying this on our next load of dishes.

  3. You are so smart and savvy! And also becoming rather crunchy, my dear!

  4. Holy game changer!! I can’t wait to try this!! Awesome post!

  5. I’m going to try it today :). Thanks

  6. Just curious but is anyone still using this idea for dw detergent? If so how’s it working out? If not, why not? Thanks!

  7. Completely didn’t work for me! Everything came out with a layer of powder on it, all my glassware was white… Maybe I used too much baking soda? Or too less detergent? I did the detergent and baking soda in the little container meant for the pods, closed it and turned the machine on. Very dissapointed, but I’ll try again though

  8. Totally worked for me!

  9. We live in Florida but have a whole house filter. I will try this and let you know how it goes. Thanks! :)

  10. I’ve been using regular dish soap in the dish washer for years. I love it! My dishes are just as clean, or maybe even cleaner, than with the fancy name-brand soap pods. I’ve found that I don’t need the baking soda, but I can see how the soda would help in areas with extremely hard water.

  11. I live in Texas, and I’m headed to the kitchen to try this. We’ll see how it goes.

  12. The places with hard water should use vinegar instead of baking soda. I’m afraid to try this (but probably will anyway) because I have a half size dishwasher (counter top) and so I should probably use less….

  13. I haven’t tried this yet, because I tried to use dish soap before with disastrous results. Huge amounts of soap bubbles on the floor. It was a mess! I do not remember how much dish soap I used, but I’m sure it was more than 2 drops. If I get really brave, I might try this.

  14. I’ve been doing this all week and it works great, but I won’t let the kids do it when they do dishes for fear they will use too much soap. Have been using Palmolive.

  15. Your blog popped up on fb today…tried this after dinner. Totally worked! Easy money saver!

  16. That worries me..did that happen to you? I’ve been using vinegar as my rinse aid for a while now in my new dw since it blinks if I don’t put any in.

  17. I am so trying this!!!!

  18. Susan Chester says:

    I have tried this with a drop or two of dish soap and throw in a some salt. Works great!

  19. Melissa Gentry says:

    Maybe a stupid question but Did u close the lid to the soap dispenser for it to open when it normally does or leave it open?

  20. What about the rinse agent does one continue to use it.

  21. Do you know if this invalidates your warranty?

  22. Melissa Gentry I had the same question so it’s not dumb! I’m going to try this. Lord knows I spend enough on dishwasher soap and it doesn’t always leave my dished clean.

    I will share thought that a LONG time ago when I was ooooohhh say 20 ish I ran out of dishwasher soap and filled it with liquid dish soap and bubbles in the whole kitchen aren’t even the right words. My husband and I looked like Laurel and Hardy trying to clean up the mess, and it’s not an easy mess to clean up.

  23. I’m trying it tonight on a full load – I added the white vinegar to the rinse compartment as well. Never thought about that-use it for cleaning all the time ^_< thanks for the clue card(s) on the dishwasher detergent supplement – I'm so glad your post came up first when I Googled "can you use Dawn in the dishwasher" ! Ha – Congrats on that & thanks again for the info! Best wishes in 2k15 – and may all of our dishes be sparkly!

  24. It worked!! Thank you for posting!

  25. Few points here… If the dishes are rinsed prior to putting into the dishwasher then even no soap powder at all works ok. When dishes are placed in the dishwasher unrinsed all day (and washed once a day, say at night after dinner) the food dries and goes hard on the plates etc, which makes the caustic dishwasher powder, whatever, essential.. Trouble also with not rinsing the dishes prior to placing in the dishwasher is that the dishwashers filter collects all the food scraps… Unless the dishwasher filter is cleaned often it smells… goes putrid… whereas if the dishes are rinsed 1st, the filter rarely has to be cleaned out.. Another thing.. i note in the pics that the spoons, etc are NOT placed in the basket with the spoon head etc sticking up… It is much better to place them handles down into the basket… That way any food scraps are washed free and not collected at the business end of the utensil, in the basket.. I use the very cheap dishwashing, no name brand, detergent… works fine… 1/10 the cost of a name brand powder, tablet.. I do use a commercial rinse aid tho.. with perfect results, every time..

  26. The last time I used dish soap in my dishwasher…my whole kitchen has bubbles everywhere..lol. I’ll try this trick. Thanks for sharing!

  27. We have VERY hard water. I’m trying this as I type.. I didnt have any baking soda so we will c how this goes! Im excited to see.

  28. FYI – I just had my dishwasher repaired this week. He said never, ever put regular dish soap in the dishwasher because it will ruin it and cause it to have problems. Just thought I would share what a professional told me.

  29. Had to try it. Worked like a charm!

  30. Wow- I just tried this because I was out of detergent. I think my dishes are cleaner this way than with the detergent! Thank you!

  31. I just tried this yesterday and it worked marvelously!! Thank you!

  32. Jacqueline in Atlanta says:

    I have used white vinegar in my rinse aid for years. No seal issues and my d/w is 20+ years old. We do not have hard water.

  33. Just a small FYI for you. You should never put your wooden spoons or other wooden utensils in the dishwasher as this will ruin them. We were told this by an Amish woman in a near by community. Just thought that I would pass it along.

    • Yes, normally that is true. Those are the bamboo spoons, though, so they are nonporous and don’t absorb moisture and they are dishwasher safe. No worries.

  34. I haven’t tried this yet. I did notice the confetti Temptations.

  35. Will this be okay if you don’t have city sewer? We have a septic tank and need to be careful of what we put down the sinks, etc.

    • If you can use it in your sink, then I’d think you should be able to use it in your dishwasher and not have it affect the septic system, because they go to the same drain. But you might want to ask a plumber.

  36. @ Erika: I believe some of those pods have dish soap in them. So they can’t be to bad for the machines. But I can see why they have to warn you against it, because people could use too much and cause a problem.

  37. Rosa Espinal says:

    I live in Florida and when I ran out of those pods,I tried this method,not because I read it anywhere,it was because I figured,baking soda and dawn would work well together and I can tell you all, that it does work. I don’t buy those pods anymore.

  38. I have also done this but because I have hard water I added 2 Tbsp. of salt to the soap dispenser and then the 2 drops of Dawn! Works like a charm if you have hard water. I also add about a 1/4 Cup of salt to the washer when washing rugs as it helps pull out the ground in dirt!!

  39. punkabear says:

    I wonder if it will damage the dishwasher at all? Thoughts?

  40. I tried this last night.
    No bubbling mess.
    There was however a powder film on everything.
    Maybe too much baking soda?
    I will try again though.
    I love not having to spend an arm and a leg on pods!

    • The powdery film comes from not having any oil or grease for the soap to break down, which breaks downs the soap also, so the soap stays and dries as a powder. I always throw veg oil or a pat of butter into the dishwasher if I have rinsed the dishes so clean that there is no grease.

  41. love this, thanks!

  42. very helpful!

  43. Ok, I just tried this because I ran out of pods and was blown away by how clean everything was. I put a couple drops of dawn in the dispenser, filled the rinse aid with vinegar, and sprinkled baking soda on the bottom. Everything was just as clean or cleaner than with the pods.

  44. I’m trying this now :) I’ll let you know!

  45. How well this works does have something to do with your water. I tried making dishwasher tabs (what a flop). They didn’t come out of the trays, and the dishes ended up with an icky film. This method is a hundred times easier and works a bit better than the homemade tabs I made. Unfortunately for me, since I have hard well water, neither one works as well as the store bought pods. But, I can alternate, sometimes I use the store bought pods; and sometimes the soda and dishsoap.

    Thanks for the tip, Sharon

  46. Didn’t have any of this so I just tried to use whatever I had that contained any of these or could act as a similar component and dumped them into my dishwasher. So here you go..

    A few small to slightly moderate size drops of Clorox ultimate care bleach detergent, a chicken bullion cube, about 1/4 cup of lemon juice, and a few healthy squirts of mustard. And some pickle juice as my rinsing agent. I can’t thank you enough as my dishes came out immaculate and didn’t overflow my kitchen with bubbles.
    That last part sounds like sarcasm but seriously this actually worked.

  47. Jo Marie says:

    I searched the internet trying to find an easy homemade dishwasher detergent and came across this one. First, I loved it because it’s so simple. Second, it calls for things that I have on hand. I read the reviews and became a little concerned, but decided to give it a whirl. Wow! It worked beautifully! Thank you for sharing :)

    P.S. I am in Ohio since there was some talk on people’s locations.

  48. Sally Wilsey says:

    I just want to thank you so much for this. I have hard water you would not believe and I tried this (used Ajax as I had a coupon) and my dishes came out sparkling and so did my dishwasher. No more LemonShine for me. I did not even have to use it with this. Thank you so much for making my life easier.

  49. I tried it and it really worked. Amazing! I changed so many different brands offering dish-washing tablets and never knew that it is so simple. Thanks a lot for the precious tip. It is easy and less-expensive your way. If some of you still have any doubts, give it a try and you will never ever again use something different than this method.

  50. I am in Montana and I am totally trying this!

  51. Ok so I live in arizona, tried this and got the white chalky crap all over my dishes. Anyone from Az try this and it worked? I feel 2 tablespoons is way to much, I feel stupid trying this because I “destroyed” some of my dishes with that chalky residue. Any advice on how to clean that off? I won’t be trying this again.

  52. It works for me in MA. I have been using it for 2 weeks now and my dishes have never been cleaner and my dishwasher no longer has a smell. I’ve clean the dishwasher and even cleaned the filter but nothing took the smell away like this method thanks for the info!

  53. Checking in from Florida! I tried this last night, and it worked the same as buying all the chemical filled pods. I used 2 drops of Dawn, sprinkled about 2 Tablespoons Baking Soda in the bottom, and also filled the rinse aid cup with white vinegar. I’m not buying the pods anymore!

  54. I so can’t wait to try this tonight I had just made a mental note to pick up some dw pods and came across this accidentally. I’m so excited to see if it works. NC here.

  55. Tried this today. I agree that this method left my dishes brighter and they did look cleaner. One huge problem, it also left tiny scratches on everything. The baking soda is pretty harsh. I’m bummed. I’ll use this method when cleaning toys or camp gear but never again for my kitchen dishes.

  56. Works like a charm! So glad I found this. I won’t be buying anymore expensive pods! Thanks for sharing!

  57. I ran out of dishwasher pods the other day and put them on my “shopping list” – Thanks to this posting I won’t need to buy them now. I didn’t have a full load like I usually do, but decided to try out your suggestions here. Put the 2 drops of Palmolive dish soap in the little tray and closed it. Sprinkled 2 teaspoons of baking soda in the bottom of the d/w and turned it on. Everything came out great. I had made a casserole in a glass dish yesterday and had not yet washed it. It had been sitting in the sink with water in it to loosen the baked on bits. I only dumped the water out and put the dish in the d/w. It came out sparkling clean along with everything else. I’m loving this! Thank you. This will save me a lot of money. Plus my d/w smells great. And I too use vinegar in my d/w every now and again to keep it clean and running smoothly. Oh, and BTW I bought my d/w brand new in 1991.

  58. I live in North Alabama where we have relatively soft water. I tried this yesterday, and it worked great! Thank you!!

  59. Did anyone ever hav trouble with this method scratching glass?

  60. Mine was all caked up with baking soda. Don’t know why

    • I made sure my d/w was good and clean before I tried this. I ran it through a regular cycle with just water and let it cool down. Then poured a couple cups of white vinegar in the bottom and let it soak down in there for about an hour. Then ran it again. Empty. I’ve been using this method for about a month now and it’s working perfectly for me. And my d/w was purchased brand new in 1991. Is the temperature of your water high enough? Maybe you added a bit too much baking soda? Good luck.

  61. I have been doing this for a while. It works great! I sometimes put a measuring cup (1/3 or 1/2 cup) of vinegar on the top shelf. Leaves the glasses sparkley. I went away for a few days and my husband bought a giant box of cascade. He is soooooo resistant to my homemade laundry soap, lotion bars and body washes! His loss!

  62. Oh! I forgot to say that I put the baking soda and dish soap into the dispenser the same way that I do with purchased dishwasher detergent.

  63. Texas Donna says:

    I tried it. we have hard water and it did not clean all of the dishes.

  64. I tried it tonight, dishes were not clean & were covered in baking soda. Did I just use too much baking soda? Any thoughts

  65. Jill Johnson says:

    I ran out of dishwasher soap and looked up what would work and THIS IS FANTASTIC! I’ve used it at least a dozen times now and won’t buy more dishwasher soap! I’ve shared with all my friends! All two! Hahahha
    Thanks for sharing!
    No spots in Kansas City mo area.

  66. Jill Johnson says:

    Leslie I use way too much of everything and I didn’t have an issue at all!

  67. Pam Fuller says:

    It’s really hard to see how baking soda would scratch dishes any more than cutlery, perhaps the scratches were already there and they showed them up more after using baking soda. I have used white vinegar in my dishwasher for about two years it is great have had no problems. The people who have had their dishes coming out all white maybe the water wasn’t hot enough to dissolve the baking powder just a thought ?

  68. Mrs. Taylor From philly says:

    My husband just brought me this dish washer for valentines day. I’m so hype to use this . can’t wait to do my first load.

  69. I found your post through a Google search for Homemade Dishwasher Detergent as I ran out of dishwasher tabs this evening. LOL! I ran a regular load of dishes through the washer using your 2 ingredient detergent. I am extremely happy with the results from just using a couple of drops of Dawn and a sprinkle of baking soda. All of my dishes were sparkling clean! Just as sparkly clean as they would have been using dishwasher tabs. Whoo hoo! While I can’t say how well this will work on heavily soiled dishes or caked on pots and pans. I was extremely impressed with how well it worked on un-rinsed, slightly soiled dishes that were left in the sink all day! Considering the expensive price for a package of decent dishwasher tabs, compared to the cost of a box of baking soda and a bottle of Dawn dish soap. This two ingredient detergent is a heck of a lot more economical. I will be using this method for washing dishes in the dishwasher from now on. Looking forward to trying it out on heavily soiled pots and pans. :)

    Thank you!!

  70. I can’t believe anyone would use dish washing pods ever. I can’t believe people allow them to exist. Companies sure are successful at selling their hyped up over priced crap. To help combat the hard water, add citric acid. Since there are pod users here, I’ll point out the obvious; Do not buy the grocery store citric acid that is super expensive, in the canning isle. Find an online source, for bulk, where you already shop for other things online. Although I hate to promote Amazon, that would be one example.

  71. Ok, so I tried this method by following the aforementioned steps (2 drops of [Dawn] dish soap + 2 Tbsp baking soda). It didn’t work; my coffee cups still had the stain rings and a few of my plates still had sauce stains.

    Can someone please advise and/or offer additional tips?

    Thank you!

  72. One thing people need to realize is that most dishwashers will fill with a little water, rinse the dishes, and then drain that water. AFTER that is when the soap dispenser door opens to let in the soap. So, anything you toss in the bottom at the beginning is just going to get washed out after about a minute. Some folks may want to experiment with putting the baking soda in the soap dispenser so it has more time during the wash cycle. I’m guessing the only thing the baking soda does is provide a very mild abrasive to help “scrub” gunk off the dishes. The dish soap is what gets off the grease. Run some hot water at your kitchen sink before starting the dishwasher so that you’ll have the hottest possible water going into the dishwasher when it starts up.
    Great post! I’ll have to try this some time!

  73. I don’t want to run to the store (yet again as I forgot the pods – sigh) so I searched and found this.

    My dishwasher already does a crappy job cleaning my dishes so if this works BETTER than usual, I’m sticking to this method. It’s running right now and I’m hopeful for a better turn out than my usual loads .. which includes me rinsing the left-over tiny crumbs in the glassware and on the tops of bowls.

    Obviously, the machine needs a tune-up but I don’t have $150 hanging around. THIS will be my Opus in the kitchen!!! YEAH!!! :-)

  74. Denise Giovando says:

    Is there a way to still use this if my door for the detergent is broken off?

  75. Do you have to use dawn or can it be any dish soap like gain?

  76. Well, here goes! I was totally out of dishwashing soap and didn’t actually notice because I’ve been washing by hand for nearly a year now. But I meant to get some yesterday for a load I got “lazy” and filled the dishwasher with, but I forgot.

    So here’s hoping for good results! I use the ultimate Dawn, so I hope I don’t get an abnormal suds overflow! >_< lol Wish me luck!

    By the way, I would think that the acid in lemons or lemon juice would do damage too if vinegar does, and they always tell you to clean your dishwasher with lemon juice. However, I DO have a Hoover Floormate hard floor cleaner and they tell us not to use vinegar in that. Maybe there is some truth to the seal damage?
    Next, I'm going for the no poo shampoo! 😀

  77. Update: Ok, I washed the dishes. They look clean, however, there is a slimy residue which makes me believe the soap didn’t wash off? i already have a problem with my plastic dishes holding the soap “taste” I use to wash them, so when I make food in them, the food tastes like the soap. Is this what I’m experiencing with the homemade dishwasher soap, or is that from the baking soda softening the water?


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