If you're looking for a greener way to wash your dishes, or want to find a detergent that is especially affordable, there are a few alternative ingredients from which to choose. You can mix these dishwasher detergent ingredients yourself at home, and the substances are strong enough to remove stubborn food stains and water spots.
Salt and Baking Soda
Baking soda, which is affordable, is beneficial for lifting stains on dishes but should only be used in the dishwasher since it can be harsh on the surface of dishes when hand-washing. You can place baking soda in the compartment of the dishwasher that usually holds conventional detergent, and add table salt or sea salt to the baking soda to help remove tough food stains. About 1 cup of baking soda mixed with 1/4 cup of salt should be sufficient for a load of dishes. These ingredients will thoroughly clean silverware as well, and give dishes a mild but clean scent.
Powdered soap is another affordable alternative to dishwasher detergent, and 1 cup of the soap can be placed in the dishwasher to effectively clean a full load. Powdered soap foams very quickly and creates lots of suds. If your dishes have food stains that may be difficult to remove, you can soak them in the sink with about 1/4 cup of citric acid and a pinch of salt to loosen the stains so that the powdered soap will be more effective. You also can add the 1/4 cup of citric acid to the powdered soap in the dishwasher, or use two packs of lemon-flavoured, unsweetened Kool-Aid in the dishwasher for its citric acid content. Your dishes will be left with a fresh citrus scent.
Borax, or sodium borate, often is used as a cleaning agent, and is safe for your dishes. Borax is a white powder that can easily be transferred into the compartment of your dishwasher that holds detergent. You can use the ingredient by itself, or combine 1 cup of it with about 1/4 cup of baking soda or washing soda for a homemade dishwasher detergent that is so concentrated you'll only need a little at a time. About 1 tbsp of borax or a borax mixture is enough to wash a full load of dishes. Borax also can be mixed with 1 to 4 drops of lavender oil or 1/4 cup of citric acid for extra cleaning power, and to give your dishes a pleasant scent.
Castile is a liquid soap made from vegetable oil that is an effective cleaner for dishes. To use Castile soap as dishwasher detergent, you can mix 1 cup of the soap with 3 tbsp of water and 1 tbsp of white vinegar to cut down on heavy suds and add extra cleaning power. A teaspoon or so of citric acid or a few teaspoonfuls of lemon or lime juice will add a pleasant fragrance and add to the detergent's ability to lift stains. Adding 2 to 3 drops of tea tree oil to the Castile soap mixture can disinfect your dishes while cleaning them, removing any harmful food bacteria that may be present.