Natural Homemade Dishwasher Tablets (frugal, no-plastic solution)

These homemade dishwasher tablets can be made for as little as $0.03 per load!

Making my own dishwasher detergent is something I have meant to try for a long time now.

The fact of the matter is that store bought dishwasher tabs have more issues than TIME magazine. But for whatever reason, I kept going back for more.

I finally decided that now is the time to break up with plastic dishwasher pods. And you can, too!

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Why Dishwasher Tablets Simply Stink

Those little packs were convenient, but in my experience:

  • They never worked as well as they should
  • They contain plastics (hello, microplastics in food)
  • They’re EXPENSIVE (and keep rising in price)

It always felt like I was trapped into buying them in the first place. When you buy a new dishwasher, nearly all of them are MADE for dishwasher tablets with that exact shape of dispenser.

I realized I had (incorrectly) assumed I had to fit something into that little dispenser, and the good ol’ marketing efforts of Cascade had me convinced nothing else worked.

Except, to be honest, it only worked better compared to cheaper versions. Even the pricey name brand dishwasher pods never quite got my dishes sparking clean.

A Natural, Cheaper Solution

Here’s a few things I learned. One, you don’t need to use that little dispenser cup.

Try it and see how it works in your dishwasher. But in mine, putting the detergent in the bottom of the dishwasher works just as well.

I found this out by accident when my daughter accidentally broke the sliding lid on our dispenser. Oops!

It turned out to be a happy accident, as our dishes came out cleaner just throwing the detergent in the bottom.

Why you’ll want to make these DIY dishwasher pods

I think I was intimidated by the thought of making a DIY dish detergent, because of my not-so-great experience with homemade laundry soap.

I know that soap and detergent are two different things, and I hated the thought of wasting more time and money on another DIY fail. (You can read my thoughts about Homemade Laundry soap here.)

However, I still make dozens of household things from scratch around here, so I wanted to persist and find a recipe that worked well, and was cheap to make.

I think this formula fits these criteria. At about $3 per batch, you really can’t go wrong in trying it out and seeing how it works for you.

If you like natural solutions to synthetic chemicals, this would be a great swap to make in your home.

Price breakdown of DIY natural laundry tablets

I did some calculations based on current prices of each ingredient, and I’m also giving you a few options for this recipe based on your needs/preferences.

Please note: Prices are in constant flux, as we all know…so no hate mail about how it cost XX more for you to make it and how I just made all this up, K?

(Trust me, I get those comments on my Thrifty Homemade Bread recipe all the time. Sigh.)

My Cost Estimates:

  1. Recipe as written, with citric acid and dishwasher salt: approximately $3.14 per batch, or $0.09 per load (approximately 34 loads)
  2. Recipe as written, minus the citric acid: $1.42 per batch, or $0.05 per load (approximately 30 loads)
  3. Recipe as written, substituting dishwasher salt for kosher salt, with no citric acid: $0.85 per batch, or $0.03 per load (approximately 30 loads)

These costs were calculated using mostly bulk quantities of each ingredient. I’ll link those products in the recipe card at the end of this post.

For comparison, the name brand dishwasher pods I was using previously were around $0.29 per load!

Even when they were on sale, they were nearly triple the cost of this homemade formula.

Do you need to use citric acid and dishwasher salt?

If you have hard water like I do, you might need the citric acid, but it’s totally optional.

Dishwasher salt is also specifically formulated for hard water, and its large grains will dissolve slowly and are supposed to be better for dishwashers than other types of salt.

Some manufacturers, such as Bosch, do NOT recommend using Kosher salt or other kitchen salts in your dishwasher, because they can damage it and create additional hard water issues.

So use Kosher salt at your own risk! Although, I know lots of people who do use it in their DIY recipes.

Do your own research, experiment, and decide what works best for you.

Feel free to print the recipe below. And let us know your experience with DIY dish detergent in the comments!

Yield: 30 tablets

Natural Homemade Dishwasher Tablets

Glass jar of dishwasher tablets with tablets piled on towel nearby and faux plant in background.

An incredibly easy dishwasher detergent recipe that can be made for as little as $0.03 per load!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Additional Time 2 days
Total Time 2 days 5 minutes


  • Silicone chocolate mold or ice cube tray
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup dishwasher salt* or Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon liquid castile soap (Dr. Bronner's)
  • 1/2 cup citric acid*
  • 2 Tablespoons white distilled vinegar


  1. Mix all dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
  2. Add castile soap and stir.
  3. Add just enough vinegar to dampen the mixture where it can be pressed into the molds and stick together; approximately 2 tablespoons.
  4. Spread mixture into the silicone mold, pressing it into each shape.
  5. Let dry for approxmately 48 hours. You can place it outside in the sun to speed the process.
  6. Use 1-2 tablets per load (2 for very heavy loads).


*Number of tablets will depend on type of mold used and combination of ingredients used.

*Dishwasher salt is safest for most dishwashers, but kosher salt can be substituted (use at your own risk).

*Citric acid is optional, but helpful for hard water. USE CAUTION and don't put your face directly over the bowl while mixing citric acid. It is natural, but you want to avoid inhaling it.

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