Homemade Dishwasher pellets

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Recently I started noticing how much money I was spending on dishwasher detergent, especially the pods or pellets. Brand-name pellets ranged from a low of 2.98 to 6.29 for 20 pellets on a recent visit to the grocery store. That’s when I decided to make my own.
homemade-dishwasher-pellets
Materials and supplies:
2-gallon bucket
measuring cup
spoon
large glass mixing bowl
tablespoon
3 – 16 cube plastic ice cube trays

1 – 54-55 oz box of washing soda / detergent booster (3.89)
1 – 76 oz box of borax (4.49)
1 – 2 lb carton of epsom salts (.99)
1- bottle reconstituted lemon juice (32 oz for .99)
$10.36 for over 300 pellets

Small Batch Test Version Recipe:
1 Cup Borax
1 Cup Washing Soda
1/4 Cup Epsom Salt
Lemon Juice (just enough to wet the ingredients to get them to stick) follow the same instructions!

homemade-dishwasher-pellets

I used a 2 gallon bucket to mix the following dry ingredients;
1-54 oz box of washing soda (you can substitute a box of White King Detergent booster (no chlorine or phosphates) for the washing soda)
1-76 oz box of Borax
1- 2 lb carton of epsom salts

I measure out 2 to 2 1/2 cups of the mixture into a large glass mixing bowl and add lemon juice a a tablespoon at a time and stir until it begins to clump. It will fizz a little bit but not very much. If you squeeze the clumps between your fingers it will feel slightly sticky.

homemade-dishwasher-pellets

Place enough to loosely fill each of the ice-cube molds in a plastic ice cube tray (you will need 3 trays with sixteen molds per tray)
homemade-dishwasher-pellets

Put on disposable glove or cover your thumb with a thin plastic shopping bag (this is very drying to your skin) and press the damp mixture into the mold until it is level in each mold. The tops of the molded pellets should be moist and slightly sticky.

Put them in the back seat of your car in direct sun – it will take several days to dry out depending on the temperature and humidity. (Do not microwave – it will prolong the drying time and the cubes will stick, do not put them in your oven – the trays might melt) You could also use a food dryer, or if it is summer set them on a table in the sun. We have very low humidity in the Central Valley, so I often set the trays on the trampoline when it is not in use. I bring them in at night as the dew re-wets the cubes.

They are ready to tap out of the trays when they pull away from the sides of the mold.

If you haven’t tamped your cubes down firmly, some will crumble. Don’t worry about it. Crumble up the cube and let it dry until it is like a clod. They grind it in a mortar, put into a shaker bottle. This is the best abrasive cleaner that I’ve found. A little sprinkle (takes very little), hot water, wait a few minutes until the
detergent starts to dissolve, then use a rag to scrub. My broiler pan came clean so easily.

homemade-dishwasher-pellets

Also, if you are making just 48 pellets at a time, what do you do with the powder that’s left? I asked for a large empty whey powder container and stored the extra powder there.

From what I can figure, it costs me about three to four cents per dishwasher pellet.

You should use some lemon juice as a rinse aid in your dishwasher to avoid spots.

homemade-dishwasher-pellets

74 Comments

  1. that is a terrific money saving idea. i hope this isn’t a stupid question, but my dogs frequently ride in my car. you can see where drying the pellets might prove disastrous.

    do you think mixing the dry ingredients together and throwing a measuring scoop in an airtight container would work? i’m thinking a silica gel packet that comes with new shoes would draw any moisture that would cause the stuff to harden inside the container. it is easy enough to add a couple drops of lemon juice once the powder is in the dishwasher’s soap dispenser.

    thoughts?

    • That is a terrific money saving idea. I hope this isn’t a stupid question, but my dogs frequently ride in my car. You can see where drying the pellets might prove disastrous.

      Do you think mixing the dry ingredients together and throwing a measuring scoop in an airtight container would work? I’m thinking a silica gel packet that comes with new shoes would draw any moisture that would cause the stuff to harden inside the container. It is easy enough to add a couple drops of lemon juice once the powder is in the dishwasher’s soap dispenser.

      Thoughts?

      I have used just the powder, and it works, but I have to use more vinegar or lemon juice in the dishwasher, by adding it to the powder in the Dishwasher and putting some in the rinse solution container.

  2. i have the powder stored in a large whey protein jar and i make the pellets about 50 at a time. Another place to dry the pellets is on top of your refrigerator or if the cabinets above your range hood are deep enough, in there. Its amazing how much heat seeps into those cabinets.

    You might want to try taking a tablespoon of powder and mixing a few drops of lemon juice into it until it begins to clump and then putting this in your dishwasher’s detergent compartment.

    Even though you just added lemon juice, it still takes a bit more to get rid of the drops on glassware so add lemon juice or white vinegar to the rinse solution compartment with each load. If you try using the detergent when it is moist, will you do me a favor and let me know how it turns out?

  3. will do.

    i normally throw some white vinegar in the dishwasher anyway. we have hard water.

    shopping happens on thursday. i should be able to get word back to you next monday.

  4. sorry it took so long. seems to work ok but unless you have quite a few of those silicone packs, you are chiseling the stuff free. on top of the fridge.

    that is a good idea.

  5. wow, i just saw this recipe this morning, and went and made the dry mix right away (as i had a load of dirty dishes already in the dishwasher, how convenient for me). i used about 1/3 cup of the mix along with about 2 TBS of vinegar (as I have hard water) and did the dishes and wow, even cleaner than when I use my regular dishwasher powder.

  6. wow i just saw this recipe this morning and immediately made the dry mixture (i just happened to have dishes in the dishwasher waiting). i used about 1/3 cup of dry mixture along with about 3 tbl of vinegar and super wow, my dishes were cleaner than with my regular dishwasher soap. this is definitely a keeper recipe.

    i dont think i have patience to do the pellets so therefore i am going to keep a large jar of this dry mixture under my counter along with the vinegar and use when needed. thanks for a wonderful recipe. keep them coming!!!!!:jar:

    • Wow I just saw this recipe this morning and immediately made the dry mixture (I just happened to have dishes in the dishwasher waiting). I used about 1/3 cup of dry mixture along with about 3 tbl of vinegar and super wow, my dishes were cleaner than with my regular dishwasher soap. this is definitely a keeper recipe.

      i dont think i have patience to do the pellets so therefore i am going to keep a large jar of this dry mixture under my counter along with the vinegar and use when needed. thanks for a wonderful recipe. keep them coming!!!!!:jar:

      arizona,
      where did you put the vinegar? with the detergent or in the rinse aid dispenser or both?

      thanks!

    • Thank for letting people know that they can use just the powder form. since there is very little sun this time of year

      Wow I just saw this recipe this morning and immediately made the dry mixture (I just happened to have dishes in the dishwasher waiting). I used about 1/3 cup of dry mixture along with about 3 tbl of vinegar and super wow, my dishes were cleaner than with my regular dishwasher soap. this is definitely a keeper recipe.

      i dont think i have patience to do the pellets so therefore i am going to keep a large jar of this dry mixture under my counter along with the vinegar and use when needed. thanks for a wonderful recipe. keep them coming!!!!!:jar:

  7. is there any problem with septic systems? i have been told not to use powdered detergent in my washer or dish washer.

    • Does anyone know if this scratches crystal?

      Hi Craftymee:

      I don’t have crystal, so I really don’t know if it scratches it. I suspect that if you used more vinegar or lemon juice scratching would be less likely. Nothing of mine has ever scratched from these pellets.

      I will tell you that when I have a batch of pellets that have gotten wet and then dried (my husband forgot to bring them in out of the rain while I was out of town), they are extremely hard. I grind these up using a mortar and use them to scour the ring off of the toilet. These pellets have been chemically changed by the rain and subsequent drying, so they are not the same as the regular pellets, but they are excellent for jobs that require scrubbing through water scale, or scrubbing boiler pans

  8. An answer to some of the questions:

    re: septic tanks – the mixture contains salts which could decrease the bacteria in your septic tank, i don’t really know if this might cause a problem, but there is a possibility that it could. most liquid detergents also contain salts, but have buffers added to keep the ph closer to neutral when added to water.

    re: scratching crystal: i have not had a problem with this scratching crystal, but my dad uses the store bought pellets from cascade and they do scratch crystal. i would probably put extra lemon or vinegar in the dishwasher itself to make sure that the detergent dissolves completely to avoid this problem. if you have very basic ph water there may be some salts that don’t dissolve and as they are zooming around your washer, they might scratch – that’s why i suggested adding extra acid (lemon juice or vinegar) to the dishwasher itsef.

    re: where to put the lemon or vinegar – i put it in the rinse dispenser, but you might want to put some in the dishwasher too, especially if you are washing a lot of glassware or squeezing a fresh lemon. i did that today, and the aroma was amazing, my dishes smelled so good!

    i hope this helps! jrodgers

  9. well, i liked it. it did great on washing my dishes. i will probably try making the pods over the summer when we have sunlight 23 hrs a day.

    until then I will go ahead and keep using just the powder form with vinegar as the rinsing agent.:cloud9:

  10. just made some up & have a load going now. i’m a little (a lot) too lazy to do the pellets for myself so just using the powder w/vineger like some others i saw. very excited!!

    thanks!

    • I just tried this today, and it left a hard film all over all my dishes!! :drama:https://www.budget101.com/images/smilies/ohthedrama.gif

      Has anyone else had this problem? What can I do about it? I made a whole batch of the powder, and I hate to waste it all.

      i agree both times i have used this now i have had the hard film all over.

      and then i really have to scrub it to get it off. any times?

      • I agree both times i have used this now i have had the hard film all over. and then i really have to scrub it to get it off. any times?

        ok i am new here and have not tried this yet but plan to very soon. i do however live in southeastern arizona now and have been through more than you would ever want to hear about trying to get clean dishes from my dishwasher. being from southern kentucky originally and always having what is apparently perfect well water all my life i had no idea water could be as bad as it is here.

        the water here has everything you can imagine in it and is very alkaline. when i bought this house 8 years ago I immediately replaced the diswasher with the best model I could find thinking that ust be the problem with the dishes looking like they had been dusted with chalk. Well, the dishwasher wasn’t the problem!

        It is the water. The house even had a water softner system which you would think didn’t work at all. I gave up and hand washed the dishes for 8 years until recently installing one of the Nuvo H20 systems. It helped the water overall, but did not help my diswasher problems. I tried all of the settings…no heat…etc.

        The dishes still looked horrible. The glasses were literally completely frosted. You could not even begin to scrub this stuff off.

        Being stubborn I kept trying to scrub this stuff off and sticking them back into the diswaher and the majority of them kept improving, but one glass kept getting worse. Finally I discovered that this one glass is apparently some sort of mineral magnet due to the buildup already on it. I leave this sacrificial glass in the dishwasher with every load now and all of my dishes come out great!!

        Maybe worth a try if you have this problem. I have tried everything else. Every detergent and rinse aid on the market and every combination of the two products.

        I have also cleaned the dishwasher with everything available and all of the money saving techniques such as vinegar.

        Nothing worked until I happened upon the discovery of the sacrificial glass. Just an old mason jar mug with a hadle which was repurposed as it originally contained jelly I had purchased from the grocery.

  11. :clock:
    no sun? its cold outside? no problem!!

    a tip if you make the pellets i got crafty due to the lack of sun and blistery cold weather. its not a disadvantage at all. you follow all the instructions but instead of putting them in the sun you bring the trays out into the freezing cold weather 5-10 mins come retrieve the trays.

    Flip over and tap out your pellets hand place them in a big bucket or jar then allow to dry a few days. It frees up your trays and u don’t have to buy more then the 1 set of 3. 🙂

    • :clock:
      No sun? Its cold outside? no problem!!

      a tip if you make the pellets i got crafty due to the lack of sun and blistery cold weather. its not a disadvantage at all. you follow all the instructions but instead of putting them in the sun you bring the trays out into the freezing cold weather 5-10 mins come retrieve the trays.

      Flip over and tap out your pellets hand place them in a big bucket or jar then allow to dry a few days. It frees up your trays and u don’t have to buy more then the 1 set of 3. 🙂

      I am definitely trying this method…..thanks so much!

  12. hi, this is a great idea, but i have a question. i had made some powder that was epsom salts, washing soda, borax and lemonade koolaid packets. it leaves a terrible white film on my dishes so it has sat in a container for a couple of months because i don’t want to throw it away.

    do you think adding lemon juice or vinegar and making the pellets would work?

  13. what if i use my metal mini muffin pan, could i bake in oven then? how long would i bake? has anyone ever tried this?

    i want to try making these, but i want a faster method than drying for several days.

  14. just tried this last night annd it worked great. i put a little vinegar in the bottom of the dishwasher, just in case. i didn’t have ice cube trays, cuz i have a ice maker, so i used a mini muffin tin that holds 24.

    I didn’t fill them quite full. Since I live in Mn. I put them out on the porch overnight and they were ready.

  15. i make a lot of homemade cleaners but not for my dishwasher. it would be very easy to cause a lot of problems this way and i highly suggest that you stick with the commercial dishwasher detergents. if you want to save some money then wash your dishes by hand like i do.

    i only use mine when i feel under the weather or have a lot of company and it shows on my electric/water bills. don’t wreck your dishwasher!!!!

    • I make a lot of homemade cleaners but not for my dishwasher. It would be very easy to cause a lot of problems this way and I highly suggest that you stick with the commercial dishwasher detergents. If you want to save some money then wash your dishes by hand like I do.

      I only use mine when I feel under the weather or have a lot of company and it shows on my electric/water bills. Don’t wreck your dishwasher!!!!

      It’s actually cheaper over all to use your dishwasher when you have a large family.
      dishwasher vs. hand washing – Environmental Media Association
      For just you & your spouse, your hand-washing makes sense, but for my family of 5, it’s a full load nightly, at a minimum, so cheaper detergent that WORKS is always better for me!

      • It’s actually cheaper over all to use your dishwasher when you have a large family.

        For just you & your spouse, your hand-washing makes sense, but for my family of 5, it’s a full load nightly, at a minimum, so cheaper detergent that works is always better for me!

        yeah…my family of 7…washing by hand wouldn’t be economical. I’ve used other homemade tablet recipes, and I haven’t had bad experiences ..this recipe has a lot going on, so I’m not sure the issue, just keep tweaking until you find your happy place

  16. when i use the dishwasher it leaves a hard film like gritty feel all over and we have to scrub the dishes to get them clean any suggestions? thank you!

    • When i use the dishwasher it leaves a hard film like gritty feel all over and we have to scrub the dishes to get them clean any suggestions? thank You!

      It would appear that this does not work well for people that:

      A. Use Water Softener Systems due to Hard Water/High Mineral Content
      B. Have Soft Water
      C. Have Heating Issues with their Dishwashers- aka if your dishwasher temperature does not get high enough, the borax does not melt.

      If you have natural spring water or city water it appears to work fine.

      If you’re getting a hard white film, cut your tablet in HALF and see if that fixes it.

      • It would appear that this does not work well for people that:

        A. Use Water Softener Systems due to Hard Water/High Mineral Content
        B. Have Soft Water
        C.

        Have Heating Issues with their Dishwashers- aka if your dishwasher temperature does not get high enough, the borax does not melt.

        If you have natural spring water or city water it appears to work fine.

        If you’re getting a hard white film, cut your tablet in half and see if that fixes it. .

        soooo… everyone who makes this stuff?

  17. though i just discovered this recipe, these ideas come to mind. the first one because we used borax in our carpet back east to get rid of fleas. it had to be made into finer particles though.

    we used a flour sifter, but maybe whiring the powder around in your blender to make the mix into really fine particles would help. then try adding more vinegar or lemon juice. your dishwasher might need a cycle with just vinegar and no dishes in it.

    it could have some build-up in it that you can’t see that’s keeping it from getting enough water circulated around to get a good rinse. another thought that just came to mind, is the heater in your dishwasher working properly? borax does not dissolve well in cold water.

    if you have really hard or soft water, it just might not work. my daughter lives in salt lake city and even though i suggested she add vinegar to the dishwasher when she lived in farmington & now in the avenues, she has residue on her dishes. there’s something funky in the water over there.

    we washed clothes while we were there, and some of my whites are still dingy, 4 months later.

  18. i tried these and not only did they leave my dishes covered in a horrible film i had to hand wash off, it clogged my dishwasher and we had to take it apart to clean it thoroughly. i don’t recommend these at all.

  19. i tried this and my pellets did not dry. i had them in the sun for days and brought them in at night. i put them in the cupboard above my refrigerator for several more days and still didn’t dry.

    i know i can still use them. i’m just wondering what i did wrong. i would like to try and make again.

    could i have used too much lemon juice. i think i used like 10 tsp.

  20. i think i will try this but instead of using and ice cube tray i will use those little formed plastic trays you get some items in, the ones that individually hold say some kind of cookie or other small item like that, it drives me crazy that they just go in the garbage and some are small enough for this use, i also use them to for jello , a good way to at least delay their eventual entry into the garbage system.

  21. i’ve made this before, but i made my dishes really cloudy and left a film on them. this doesn’t happen with store bought. any ideas as to what i did wrong?

  22. i just made this and the lemon juice turned it yellow. did this happen to anyone else? i’m about to put it in the back of my car now for it to dry out.

  23. i cut a piece of lemon and throw it in the bottom of my dishwasher. the lemon lasts for after a couple of weeks, and i just pull out the old lemon piece and add a new one. we have the hardest water here.

    it works great. so i am going to try the dry recipe with the piece of lemon. thanks for the great tips!!

  24. i knew i found a recipe with epsom salt! think i could find it when i was making the detergent? ((nope!!)) so what i made was 1C Washing Soda, 1C Borax and about 1/2 C lemishine.

    Do you think I could add some Epsom Salt to this mixture?

    :smile1:

  25. can you do partial batches? i have everything. except the borax and washing soda are partially used.

    how much of each would i use?

  26. i finally used one of these tablets last night and the results were as good as the finish tablets i’ve used for years. here in mesa, az we have hard water. we do have a water softener.

    we have a bosch dishwasher with stainless steel interior and it sparkles! i do have white vinegar in the rinse agent reservoir. couldn’t be happier with the results!!

    thank you budget101 !

    Terry

  27. instead of lemon juice, can we substitute vinegar? i have some flatware (and knives) that have dire warnings against using lemon juice when washing.

    thanks,

  28. this looks awesome! we are always using tons of tabs, so my next walmart trip will have these ingredients on the list! thanks for sharing!

    i’m also wanting to check back and see if amandabuczko has been answered in case that happens to me. :yoga:

  29. made this the other day and finally got to try out my first pellet today with a full load of dirty dishes in the dishwasher and it works just as good as the expensive store bought stuff… so happy i found this recipe because now i have over 200 pellets and spent less than 5 dollars for the entire batch which normally 5 bucks at the store would get me maybe 30 pellets if I got them on sale!!!

  30. i’ve found using styrofoam egg cartons, then putting them in the freezer works very well. just turn the carton upside and push the bottom of each pod to pop it out.

  31. i absolutley love these pellets! they aer so simple to make and use. they get my dishes so clean.

    i have noticed a little bit of streakin, but to solve that problem i just put vinegar in the machine where “jet dry” is supposed to go. this is a definate money saver, and i love alway having these nifty pellets at hand. and if i run out, it only takes a moment to whip a new batch…….

    thanx a million,
    lovin life in missouri,
    josh hawkins

  32. i would like to know if there’s a way to make a dry mix of the stuff the laundry sauce & dishwasher pellets have in common i.e. borax and washing soda, and then add whatever liquid and/or recipe specific ingredients such as fels naptha, epsom salts, lemon juice etc. in essence i guess i want to know what would be the proper proportions of each separate ingredient to make 48 pellets at once.

    From there I can figure out what I want. thanks

  33. i have some granulated lemon juice powder called true lemon. made by reallemon company. wonder if that would work too and then nothing will need to be added when loading the dishwasher.

    they also sell fruit fresh too. which is basically asorbic acid and dextrose with a non-clumping agent. its fairly cheap too.
    1

  34. i was so excited to use this detergent after i had such great success with the Super Laundry Sauce. Well, long story short, it left a gross cloudy film all over all of my dishes, scratched my glasses, plates, and even my plastic tupperware, and couldn’t even cut through bacon grease. I was using lemon juice in the rinse aid dispenser (which was pointless, because it didn’t dispense enough at one time to be of any use).

    The only time I used it and could honestly be like “wow this works!” was when I added a cup of vinegar directly in the bottom of my machine in the wash cyle, and then stopped the washer and added another full cup in the rinse cycle. Since I usually run my dishwasher at night when we go to bed, obviously, that would be impractical for me.

    Fortunately I found a great deal on Finish powerball tabs on Amazon…. (it should be noted that i have VERY hard water)

  35. I can’t wait to make these! I’m tired of paying around $2.98 – $3 something for only 20 tablets. Thanks so much for the recipe mix!

  36. I made a powder form but used lemon sugar free cool aid instead of lemon juice, that way the powder stays unclumped if you just want the powder form.

  37. I can’t wait to make this. I normally use Vinegar in the rinse aid. This sounds so much cheaper then buying some.

    I already have the ingredients. Thank you!

  38. I made these on monday and it took a full day for them to dry & harden, but I really like how they work. I havent had to add anything else so far.

  39. The recipe that I’ve been using is:

    1 Cup Washing Soda (cleaner)
    1 Cup Baking Soda (cuts out grease)
    3 packages unsweetened lemonade drink mix
    1 Cup of Fine Kosher Salt (reduces hard water build up – you might be able to reduce this amount if you have soft water)
    1 Cup Water

    Mix all the dry ingredients together, slowly add the water, just enough to hold it all together, pack into ice cube tray molds.

    Washing Soda $3.24 (55 oz.) = $0.47 for 1 cup
    Baking Soda $0.68 (1 lb. box) = $0.18 for 1 cup
    3 packages Generic unsweetened lemonade drink mix $0.17/pkg = $0.51
    Kosher Salt $1.68 = $0.28 for 1 cup
    Budget-Friendly Final price for 38 tabs or 38 loads = $1.44

  40. As far as drying, my husband put a door on our water heater compartment, that’s where I raise my bread dough, works great, bet these would dry there too, good luck. Carol

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