The journey to becoming a more eco-conscious consumer can be daunting or simple and I vote for simple. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to tried and true methods of housecleaning. I remember the day my mother got her very first automatic dishwasher and
this human dishwasher I was thrilled. Back then there was only powdered dishwasher detergent, which often caked up in the machine and I still had to rewash several items by hand. I wasn’t sure if having this machine was such a good idea after all. It’s been 30+ years and dishwasher detergents have come a long way. Gel dishwasher detergents were the king of the dishwasher products until dishwasher detergent pods were invented. After all these years of companies crafting ‘new and improved’ products for us to use in our machines, many women are opting to try homemade versions made from a few basic ingredients. I wanted to know the truth about homemade dishwasher detergents.
I admit that I’m often a bit skeptical about these ‘new’ inventions for being eco-friendly consumers and frugal stay at home moms. I’ve tried popular homemade product recipes before and found myself spending more money than what it would have been had I bought a product that was already created by a larger company. I wish more bloggers would add this easy little disclaimer to their frugal claims, “prices may vary”. Pure Castile soap may only cost some folks 50 cents, but in my town it’s over $5. Some beauty products may be affordable to make in some corners of the world and not so affordable in other neighborhoods. Homemade products are not always more affordable and neither are they always the best for the machines we use them in.
Something I’ve learned about household appliances is the exact details on their warranties. If you don’t use your appliances according to manufacturer’s instructions, you could be violating your warranty. Most dishwasher’s clearly state what they recommend you use in their machines in order for them to work best. Be sure you check your warranty and the details before using homemade dishwasher detergent recipes.
I’m all for finding the most economical way to keep the house clean. With a family of 6, and pets, we have a lot to keep clean. The two biggest chores we have are dishes and laundry. Since we homeschool, we’re home for most of our meals and that’s a lot of dishes to go through each day. I am definitely interested in finding a way to conserve water and money spent on dishwasher soap. The cost comparison between stores can run me between 8 cents and 10 cents per load. At 10 cents a load, if I ran the dishwasher once a day for a month, that would only cost me $3.00 a month. If you own a dishwasher, I’m betting you can afford $3.00 a month for dishwasher detergent.
I honestly don’t see much sense in spending a bulk amount of money to buy ingredients for homemade dishwasher detergent that have been known to cause a cloudy film on glassware, scratch fine China, and clog up the dishwasher. I’d much rather use a detergent that doesn’t violate my warranty or put our budget at risk of needing to hire a repair man to come fix the machine.
I understand the cost of dishwasher detergent isn’t the only issue in this conversation. The other concern is our environment. When the government made a decision to halt the use of phosphates in dishwasher detergents, the end results of the load weren’t as stellar as they had been before. No matter which dishwasher detergent I use, there’s always at least one item that has some kind of grit left on one of our dishes or cups. We keep our eye out when we empty it and if something isn’t clean, we wash it by hand. There are several companies that offer products that are safe for the earth and when I was out shopping the other day I found something rather interesting. Many products don’t have the detailed list of ingredients on their packaging. How am I supposed to know if I can use these products or not? What if there was something in them that could cause a bad reaction if it got on my skin? What if a small child or pet swallowed it? That bothers me.
I want to be sure I’m using products that are not only safe for the environment, but safe for my family also. At the same time, I want to respect our budget. Sometimes it costs more money to have a safe product and so we’re faced with deciding what our priorities are. Some months you might feel the cost is most important and other months are easier to choose the item that eases your earth-friendly conscious. Whatever decision you make, cut yourself some slack. Go easy on yourself if you just can’t afford the high cost of the eco-friendly products.
With all that said, there are a few noteworthy articles I found in my quest to finding the most cost effective dishwasher detergent.
Katie at Kitchen Stewardship wrote her thoughts on several of the most popular homemade dishwasher detergents in the blogosphere.
“I had many, many failures using natural DIY dishwasher soap a few years ago, and I’m afraid my husband will never set foot in the kitchen again if I even breathe a word of more homemade dishwasher detergent experimenting, and that would leave me with a LOT of dishes.”
TIP: When you read the various blog posts about homemade dishwasher detergent, make sure you read the comments. Many consumers have testified about the negative results they’ve gotten from those recipes.
Deanna from Little House in the Suburbs gives her recommendation on the ten things you should know before using homemade dishwasher detergent.
After tons of research into why commercial brands use the same main ingredients and why some of those basic recipes created and passed off by many bloggers don’t really work, Deanna says,
“This is what I believe is the main difference between commercial and homemade dishwasher detergents. This is why some of us get sediments on the plastics, even if we use citric acid but get none with commercial detergents. This is why manufacturers want us to use commercial detergent to protect our machine parts.”
Go read exactly what the main difference is.
“No other type of cleaning product such as baking soda, borax, vinegar or hand dishwashing liquid can be substituted for an automatic dishwasher detergent. These other materials will not perform well and may be damaging to the items being washed or to the dishwasher itself.”
Now if you’re like me and have read a gazillion blog posts by various bloggers telling you to use those exact ingredients for homemade dishwasher detergents you might find yourself giving thanks for not wasting your time, money, or stressing out your dishwasher by trying to use them. The Cleaning Institute goes on to explain exactly how dishwashers work and what ingredients are absolutely necessary for the machines to work best.
That article alone explains why dishes aren’t getting as clean as you might have hoped they would while using homemade dishwasher detergents. Some product lines have come out with their version of eco-friendly gels you can use and most of them don’t list the same ingredients The Cleaning Institute listed. The main reason dishes aren’t getting as clean is because phosphorus was banned from dishwasher detergents. The science behind dishwashers is more complex than we thought. Consumer Reports gives their detailed review on which dishwasher products worked best and what those costs are.
“The tests were tough: We loaded dishwashers with dishware and pots smeared with a baked-on blend of 17 foods, including rice, macaroni and cheese, chocolate pudding, and peanut butter.” Read the detailed results here.
If you still plan to make your own homemade dishwasher detergents you might want to consider the facts about the ingredients you’re using.
Before you use Borax, you may want to consider the following articles:
Boric Acid is poisonous, these are the details given by the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
- Lack of desire to do anything
- Low blood pressure
- Significantly decreased urine output (or none)
- Sloughing of skin
- Twitching of facial muscles, arms, hands, legs, and feet
Borax contains boric acid. (source):
“Borax, also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate, is an important boron compound, a mineral, and a salt of boric acid.”
“Sufficient exposure to borax dust can cause respiratory and skin irritation. Ingestion may cause gastrointestinal distress including nausea, persistent vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Effects on the vascular system and brain include headaches and lethargy, but are less frequent. “In severe poisonings, a beefy red skin rash affecting palms, soles, buttocks and scrotum has been described. With severe poisoning,erythematous and exfoliative rash, unconsciousness, respiratory depression, and renal failure.”
While 20 Mule Team Borax claims it’s safe for household use, they do give the warning to keep out of the reach of children and …
“It’s an important ingredient in agricultural chemicals and fire retardants.”
I think many of us have learned the hard way that just because the FDA, any other government agency, or even the companies themselves claim something is safe doesn’t mean it is or that it’s the safest choice.
There are a few eco-friendly choices that I’m exploring, but if all else fails I can always use the most highly recommended dish washing product you can get and it’s absolutely free. My mother told me all about it when I was just a teen.
As a young teenager learning to use my mother’s dishwasher, I recall some items just couldn’t be put in the machine, at least not until I had gotten the most of the food off first. I had tried Comet, S.O.S. pads, and Dawn dish washing liquid to no avail. As I stood there frustrated at how hard it was to get some burned food off I hollered to my mother, “I can’t get it off!” She hollered back, “Use some elbow grease!” I kid you not, I opened the cabinet doors under the sink and looked through every cleaner she had before I exasperatedly grumbled, “We …don’t… have… any!!!!”
She laughed and explained exactly what elbow grease was and I blushed. Here we are several years later grumbling about the cost of dishwasher detergent and spending 10 cents a load. Perhaps we can just be thankful we have dishwashers to begin with or apply our own elbow grease and use the dishwasher for a drying rack instead.
If you’re already pre-washing your items before putting them in the dishwasher, just run it without soap and let the hot water and drying time sanitize the dishes for you.
Your alternative is to fork out the $3 a month for dishwasher detergent.
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