Dishwasher detergent, part 3

If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that I made my own dishwasher tabs 4 months ago and have been using them ever since. Initially, I was very happy with them. They got everything reasonably clean (I’m not good about rinsing my dishes before they go in, so they missed the occasional bit of dried on gunk), they smelled nice, and they were dirt cheap. Forward to about a month ago, and I realized I needed to change something. Let me preface this by saying that we have hard water. Like, really hard water. Everything was still getting “clean,” in that the food was coming off them, but the hard water was starting to leave a film on my dishes that became more noticeable with every wash. That made me so, so sad. Sure, I could have gone back to the store bought stuff, but I don’t really do that.

So I decided to go back to the drawing board. I googled, I researched, and I experimented. I finally ended up with a recipe for dishwasher tabs that I’m really, really happy with. I think you’ll like it too! The downside? It’s no longer ok to let your kids lick them. So unfortunate, I know.

And so, without further ado, my new recipe:

New and Improved Dishwasher Tabs

Makes approx 5 dozen tabs (sure, you could scale this back, but I find it easier to make big batches of things less often)

  • 2 c. washing soda
  • 1 c. oxyboost oxygen bleach (no it’s not actually bleach, but it does pack some serious cleaning power)
  • 1 c. baking soda
  • 1 c. citric acid
  • 1 c. salt
  • 30 drops lavender essential oil
  • 30 drops tea tree oil
  • 2-4 tbsp water

The essential oils are optional, but they do appear to have some disinfectant properties (and they smell nice, too). It appears that you can add or replace one of the oils I’ve used with lemon essential oil and have good results as well, but I haven’t tried it myself.

Mix everything except the water in a large bowl, and slowly dribble in the water while stirring. Only put in 1 tbsp at a time (or use a spray bottle), and mix well to combine. You’re going for a wet sand consistency. You want it to JUST hold its shape when you squeeze it with your hands. When you have the right moisture level, fill your molds (egg cartons are perfect here), pack them tight, and let them harden for a day or two. Voila! Clean dishes.

Want to try it for yourself? It’s easy, and you totally should. Washing soda, baking soda and salt are all going to be cheaper at Walmart than you’ll ever find online, but these are the Amazon links for the oxyboost and citric acid I use (making a purchase using these links will earn me a small commission at no extra charge to you).

If you’re not into making stuff (what’s wrong with you?), head on over to my store and buy the finished product instead! You can even tell people you made it yourself – I won’t tell anybody.

Wooden cooking utensils: good, or great?

Trick question. They’re the greatest. They won’t melt if you leave them resting on a hot pan, they won’t scratch your nonstick cookware, wood makes an excellent cutting board, and, to top it all off, it looks real classy. None of that plastic garbage for me. (Only kind of kidding. I do own a plastic cutting board for dealing with raw chicken, and I have plastic cooking utensils, but they’re in my “I don’t use this but I’m not throwing it away yet” drawer.)

You know what’s not the greatest? Wooden spoons, handles, cutting boards, and whatever else you use that’s made out of wood gets gross when it gets wet. You can’t put it in the dishwasher, and you can’t let it soak too long in the sink (well, obviously you CAN, but don’t). If it’s something you use often enough, the wood can even crack or warp.

Know what you can do about that? Just don’t use wood, you say? NO. THATS NOT WHAT I WAS GOING TO SAY. Seriously. You can make an amazing wood conditioning oil in only 3 minutes!

Wood Conditioner

1/2 oz (15g) beeswax

2 oz (60g) coconut oil

Put them in a small microwaveable bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir, repeat until everything has melted together and is clear. Mine took 2 minutes total. Pour into a small jar and let it cool before putting on the lid. Done! How easy peasy is that?!

To use, grab a clean rag (or use your hands if you’d rather…this stuff makes your skin feel lovely), and rub the wood conditioner all over everything. Let it sit out overnight, and buff off any excess in the morning. So, so easy. Repeat whenever you want. If your spoons and cutting boards are in good condition already, they might just need to be oiled a couple times per year. If they’re already super dry, you might need to apply a couple of times per month to bring them back from the brink.

Anyway, you should try it. For real. Or, if you don’t feel like buying beeswax in bulk (can’t blame you), you can buy a pre-made jar of this lovely stuff in my store!!! Click the “shop” link above to check it out!

If you want to attempt this buttery miracle yourself, follow the links below (I may earn a commission on any items purchased by clicking on links in this post).

Laundry soap? Yes, please!

I’ve been using laundry pods, but they’re more expensive than I’d like to admit. I used to use liquid, and was going to go back to that, but….I figured I could probably just make some, right? How hard can it be? (Cue my husband saying “you know you can buy that, right?)

I tested my new detergent on a load of laundry that included a kitchen towel that was used during a bread….incident. It was completely covered in flour, soaked in honey, and had some dried dough chunks stuck to it. The result? Clean towels. Color me impressed.

Laundry Detergent

  • 1 gallon of water
  • approx. 4 ounces of bar soap
  • 2/3 cup washing soda
  • 2/3 cup borax
  • Essential oil of your choice (optional)

Grate the soap (either by hand or using the grating attachment on your food processor), and add it to half of the water in a big pot on the stove. Heat (no need to boil) until the soap has all melted/dissolved. Turn off the heat and add the rest of the water (hot/warm water is best), and add the washing soda and borax. Stir until everything is completely dissolved. If you want to add a light scent, add some essential oils “until you feel good.” I used around 50 drops of lavender just to take away the “soap” smell. Pour into your storage vessel of choice, and voila! You’ll want to shake and/or stir the mixture several times over the first 24 hours, as the soap may try to settle out as the mixture cools and starts to gel. That’s it! 48 – 64 loads of laundry detergent in 15 minutes.

EDITED 4/22/18: I found that the mixture does tend to separate a bit when it sits for a few days, so I have since transferred my detergent into an old plastic milk jug. It’s not as pretty as the glass jar with the spigot, but it’s easier to shake up before I use it (and the spigot kept getting clogged, because it’s not really meant for viscous liquids).

Q: How do I use this liquid magic?

A: Simply add 1/4 – 1/3 cup of your soap to your washer the same way you would with store-bought laundry detergent.

Q: What kind of bar soap should I use?

A: Technically, you can use any kind you like, but I’d stay away from anything other than plain soap. No extra moisturizers, no weird colors or smells. They actually make a laundry bar soap that’s kept in the aisle with the laundry detergent at most stores. It’s usually right next to the borax and washing soda. (I used homemade soap, because of course I did)

Q: Is it non-toxic like those beautiful dishwasher tabs you made the other day?

A: ABSOLUTELY NOT. Borax is tremendously toxic if ingested, especially to children. So, just like store-bought detergent, keep it out of reach of children and pets. Seriously.

Q: Can I make this without borax?

A: Maybe. I’ve seen recipes out there that don’t use it, but I haven’t heard great things about their effectiveness. I’ve got disgusting children who spit jello into the hamper without telling anyone, so I’m using borax.

Q: Do I need to use special utensils to make this if it’s toxic?

A: Nope! You can use regular kitchen equipment (pots, spoons, etc), but don’t use anything porous that might soak up the borax (no wood, people), and wash everything really well afterward (obviously).

So get out there and give it a try!

And again, if you don’t want to leave your house, here are some links to buy the ingredients to make it yourself.

(Disclaimer: I earn a commission on any products purchased by clicking these links, at no charge to you)

Dishwasher detergent, part 2

Brilliant. As in sparkling. As in “this glassware is so G.D. clean I can’t believe my eyes.”

Plus, when I opened the dishwasher my aura was cleansed by the refreshing scent of citrus (just kidding, but it did smell good). And it even got dried-on oatmeal off the kids’ bowls!

Madeline keeps asking to taste them, because she thinks they look like candy (and they really do smell lovely). Fortunately, though they will be locked under the sink, if she did happen to eat one it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Non-toxic dishwasher tabs for the win!

So if you want to be a crazy person like me, you should give it a try!

My recipe (makes approx. 24 tabs):

1 cup of washing soda

1/2 cup of citric acid powder

1/4 cup of salt

30-40 drops citrus essential oil

1 tsp dried orange zest (optional)

Water (in a spray bottle!)

Mix all the powders (and orange zest if you want) together, and add the citrus oil while stirring. Very, very slowly add the water ONE SPRAY AT A TIME. Make sure to stir well after each spray. There will be a little fizzing, but nothing too crazy. Keep going until it’s a “slightly wet sand” consistency. You want it to be able to hold its shape when you pack it in your mold. Put a rounded tablespoon of the mixture into each section of your mold (I used empty egg cartons, and it worked beautifully…popped out of both the cardboard and styrofoam cartons with no issues). Pack it in as evenly as you can. Really go to town on squishing them in there. Let them dry overnight and voila! For added sparkle, use white vinegar in your dishwasher’s rinse-aid compartment. All together, it’s 10-15 minutes of activity to make a month’s worth of detergent. How cool is that?

If you don’t want to leave your house, here are the Amazon links for the products I used.

(If you purchase any of these products after clicking on the following links I’ll earn a percentage of that sale at no additional charge to you.)

Or, if you don’t want to leave your couch, let me know and I’ll see what I can do about adding it to my store (coming soon)!

And now, I’m off to work on dinner. Chicken parmesan with homemade mozzarella, roasted brussels sprouts, and homemade deliciously crusty sourdough bread. It’s ok to be jealous.

[Edited 4/27/18]: For those of you keeping track at home, I’ve found that the overall cost amounts to around $0.10 per dishwasher tab. After using the homemade version for about a month now, I’m still pretty happy with the results. I’ve found that there are certain parts of my dishwasher that clean better than others (the corners are useless for anything that’s actually dirty), and when I have super dirty dishes or something really oily, I’ll add a small squirt of dish soap to up the de-greasing action. Results may vary depending on the hardness of your water. Now get out there and give it a try!

[Edited 7/26/18]: I’ve updated my recipe! Hard water was starting to leave a film on my dishes, but everything’s hunky dory again now! The price per dishwasher tab is a little higher, but not by much. Still cheaper than the store-bought stuff! Check out Part 3 to see the new recipe.