DIY Dishwasher Tablets

Providing financially for a family of 8 is always a balancing act.  When my older kids were babies, I couldn’t believe how much money it cost to provide for their basic needs.  If only I could go back to those cheap days!  Babies don’t even compare in cost to teenagers and college students.  
That is what happened to my budget once my kids hit high school.  College made a sound that is only audible to creatures in another realm.
As a result, I am always on the search for simple ways to cut my expenses.  You already know how much I love obsess over my DIY cleaning and laundry products.  Yes, they are extremely cheap compared to the store bought stuff, but the fact that they work great has me permanently converted.
I am proud to introduce you to my newest DIY product that I have added to my repertoire.  Dishwasher tablets!  I decided to give them a try because I already had the products on hand from my other recipes. What could it hurt, right?  I am now converted and have I mentioned they only cost 3 cents each!  I think that beats the enormous price I was paying for my tablets before :)

These mix together really quick and I learned through experience that you need to be sure they are wet enough to form or they fall apart.  Also, to keep them from sticking to your hands, I have found wet hands makes it so much easier.  If you have sensitive skin, you might want to wear disposable gloves when forming the tablets.  When forming your first tablet, be sure it fits into the dispenser of your dishwasher.  Flat rectangles work for mine, but every machine is different!

DIY Dishwasher Tablets
recipe from Cuckoo for Coupon Deals
(makes 22 tablets)
1 C Borax
1 C Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
1/2 C Epsom salt
3/4 C lemon juice

1.  Mix dry ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.  Add the lemon juice and mix completely.  You want the mixture to be wet enough to mold without falling apart.  Add additional lemon juice if needed.
2.  These dry very quickly so working quickly and one at a time, portion out a tablet around 2 tablespoons.  I used a small cookie scoop.  With wet hands, form the tablet into whatever shape needed to fit the soap dispenser in your dishwasher.  Place on a sheet of wax paper and let dry for a few hours before putting in a storage container.  If a tablet happens not to fit into the dispenser, just toss it in the bottom of your dishwasher.

Want more great DIY cleaning products?  Here are our favorites!


  1. Anonymous says

    Just ran out of epsom salt :( I think I will just pat them into a pan and then cut them into small rectangles.

  2. Anonymous says

    I have a similar recipe ….it says to form them in ice cube trays and let it sit overnight to harden. Then use in washer with two or tree drips of liquid dish soap.

  3. says

    I am so excited to try this. I have seen recipes for liquid soap or dry powders but not tabs. I seriously need to get on the ball and start making my own cleaning products. We are doing fine financially now, but we have twins coming! I’m sure we are going to need every extra dollar we can find!

  4. says

    cc- it is different. My local walmart sells it in the laundry section. My other grocers also keep it in stock in the laundry area. Good luck!

  5. says

    Hi Carol.
    I made this today, but yet to try it. How much did your products cost you, because my costing per tablet worked out to 18 cents per tablet. I live in Australia though, so assuming your ingredients cost a fraction compared to me.

    Thanks Natalie

  6. says

    I googled it and found out if you put your baking soda in the oven @ 400 for 30 mins to an hour it turns it into washing soda! Which is awesome because the baking soda is a lot cheaper and easier to find!

  7. says

    for those who are skeptical – according to the borax website – it can be used safely to clean dishes and improve the performance of the dishwasher so I look forward to giving this recipe a try.

  8. Debi says

    I recommend making a small batch first…just to make sure you like it. I made these (with the ice cube trays) and they left a horrible white powder on everything. I did try and run it through another wash without detergent and it wouldn’t come off. I had to rewash everything by hand. Someone else commented that they thought it was because of hard water.

  9. Sandy says

    How did you get the cost per tablet so low? Do you buy the components in bulk? I just priced this out buying from my local grocery store and it’s almost $0.20/tablet.

  10. says

    Sandy – I bought my ingredients from my local Wal-Mart. I calculated the cost of each measure of the ingredients, added them together then divided it into 22 for each tablet.

  11. Davi P. says

    I use these, LOVE them. I did get the white dust and film the first few tries. Your tabs are too big for them to dissolve all the way before the rinse cycle. Try breaking them in half and putting them in the bottom of the dishwasher, not in the little dispenser cup. This solved the problem for me.

  12. Britney says

    How did I mess up? I only put 1/4 C lemon juice and it was so wet, the tablets wouldn’t stay formed. I added more borax and within two minutes it was back to being too soft.

  13. Morgan says

    I just made these today, so easy and so great to know I’m not using toxic chemicals! The vinegar in place of the Jet Dry worked amazing as well! Thanks for the great recipes!

  14. says

    I really really wanted to like these. But I have tried them several times and there are a few things that just do not get clean. It doesn’t remove the tea stains from cups. And we microwave scrambled eggs in ramekins for the kids. And no matter if it is top or bottom rack neither of these come clean with these tabs. They work great other than that so far, and I will probably keep some for when we don’t have tea or egg residue on the dishes.

  15. says

    Mine worked great! I had them in an airtight container – but they ended up a gritty liquid after a few weeks (disintegrated out of tablet form). Then I tried re-forming to re-air dry but seemed to actually dissolve grit into pure liquid, so I put into molds on low-heat in oven, and they totally melted into liquid with crusted-over top. At that point I was afraid of the chemical compounds I might have made, so I tossed and am about to re-create. Any thoughts? I’m thinking “half” the recipe so I use up before they disintegrate, perhaps put them in dehydrator when I form them to pull out as much moisture as possible, and store in something I can easily pour out of if it happens again (and not try to “fix” it). But do you have other suggestions or pointers?

  16. Ebony Clewis says

    Carole! I used this mixture as was recommended by my friend Tiffany Holland from Indiana! I decided to place the mixture in an ice tray where the molds were made like stars!! The ice trays were from Walmart and were an unbelievable price of $0.50 for two. Then I went to the dollar store (Dollar Tree), and purchased a heavy weight star shaped clear glass bowl to put them in just yesterday. I made the mixture yesterday also. I am still waiting for it to completely. I was so anxious that I tried to see if the tablet would come out easily and they slid out like ice cubes would! I put them back in because again, they are not completely dry! I can’t wait to try them but I am going to get more bowls and make more to give away as Christmas presents! What a cool idea! Thanks a millions!

  17. says

    Oton – Since I have never tried it with citric acid, I really have no idea. The epsom salt is there to help soften. If you try it, let me know how it goes!

  18. says

    My friend and I followed this recipe and it was really watery. We had to add more of all the ingredients except the lemon before we could form them???????

  19. says

    Made a small batch as an experiment, it worked SOOO much better than the Finish tablets I’d been using. I have an apartment sized (18″) dishwasher so I toss the tablets into the bottom, no residues, no more stuck on foods, it’s great! I do not have hard water so I didn’t really need to make any alterations. I am molding them in an ice cube tray which measures out perfect for my dishwasher, larger ones might need to use more.

    Just a tip as I’m seeing that larger batches seem to ‘separate’ over time, I am pre-mixing all the dry ingredients into baggies to add the lemon juice to later, from there, just pour it into the trays to mold, no touching required!

  20. Lisa says

    Tried this recipe and I loved it! Do you mind if I link your page to my blog? I have a DIY section and I’d love to include this (crediting you, of course!) Thanks!

  21. Anonymous says

    For those that asked…ACV cannot be substituted for the lemon juice. You can use vinegar (any kind) to help with the spots, but you MUST have some form of citric acid (aka the lemon). I’ve made a dry mix with lemon kool-aid before, and it worked fine. Anything with citric acid will work.

  22. Anonymous says

    In Germany you cannot buy borax for personal use anymore because it might be harmful for the unborn. Maybe one should consider this, at least if someone’s pregnant?!

  23. says

    I like this idea im gonna try it, but why couldn’t you just use like a small-ish ice tray or something similar and mash the mix into the cube slots… does this make sense to anyone else?

  24. Anonymous says

    I tried this yesterday and it was way too wet to form. Woke up this morning to dried tops, but the bottoms were super mushy. I took the link back to the original recipe and it calls for 8-10 tbsp. of lemon juice instead of 3/4 of a cup, so I will try that next.

  25. Alicia F says

    I just tried this last night and this morning I went to put them in a container and they crumbled… what did I do. I did use parchment paper not wax could that have done it?

  26. says

    I just made these & mine too were really wet. I just kept adding
    equal-ish amounts of the borax and washing soda & 1/2 amount(s) of epsom salts. (Per the recipe). It finally got to the point where I could form them. Assuming I make these again, I will use 1/2 the amount of lemon juice & just add more little by little if necessary. Hope they work!

  27. Anonymous says

    Made these they looked great. But left a white film on dishes. I also used white vinegar in the rinse dispenser. Except for the film no problem.

  28. says

    I assume that these take the place of dishwasher detergent?
    How do they compare with liquid dishwashing soap? (we get the costco kind)

    If you put them in the closing dispenser of the dishwasher, do you put something in the open section?

  29. Anonymous says

    I made these wonderful tablets and they turned out great. I also use white distilled vinegar as a rinse and my dishes were to filmy and dirty to use. I also tried the citric acid in place of lemon juice for a powdered form and same results. I had to wash again with 1/3 jug of vinegar and no soap to get them looking half way decent. We do have hard water, but the ready made tabs worked just fine. I did want to save money……

  30. Anonymous says

    I made these wonderful tablets and they turned out great. I also use white distilled vinegar as a rinse and my dishes were to filmy and dirty to use. I also tried the citric acid in place of lemon juice for a powdered form and same results. I had to wash again with 1/3 jug of vinegar and no soap to get them looking half way decent. We do have hard water, but the ready made tabs worked just fine. I did want to save money……

  31. Anonymous says

    I too made my own using this recipe but I have to say as much as I wanted this to work, over time my dishes looked horrible. I couldn’t get the white film off of plastics and other things unless I hand washed it afterwards. My dishes didn’t look clean and the glassware started to get a cloudy, filmy look over time. Yes, I used vinegar in the rinse compartment. I also tweaked the recipe by trying TSP, additional water softener and also citric acid powder but to no avail. I have now went back to using store bought detergent and my dishes are once again clean looking. I really wanted this to work as I’m big into homemade EVERYTHING! But some things just are not worth the buck or two that you save…this is one of them.

  32. Anonymous says

    This recipe is absolutely fabulous. I subbed kosher salt for the Epsom and it worked great! I used a 1T cookie scoop and plopped them into ice trays, shook to flatten. This was in the morning. By that night, they were ready. I used one tonight and the dishes came out sparkly clean with no residue. Love this recipe!, thank you!

  33. Callie says

    I made these last night and used one today. I packed the mixture down into ice cube trays. They set really well over night and got hard. Then I just popped them out. Easy Peasy. I made them a little smaller than the Finish tabs bc I was afraid of the residue others talked about. It worked GREAT!! No residue and much cleaner than with the Finish tabs. Thank you so much for this idea.

  34. Anonymous says

    you need to add vinegar when it in the ice cube try, this will stop the residue on your dishes. also add Lemi Shine to your recipe, this wills top the spotting. Mavis of One Hundred Dollars a Month has a really good recipe for these.

  35. says

    Your articles don’t beat about the bushes these are actually exact t to the purpose.

    Your writers are extremely fantastic that have made easy to understand everything for us.

  36. melissa says

    Carole, you are a GENIUS!!!! I made my first tablets today….I used my little cookie scoop and ended up with the exact number you said. But more important than that, THESE REALLY WORK!!!! They are SUPER easy and quick to make and work REALLY well!! You are nothing short of a blessing to all of us Moms out here that are desperate to save money for our large families. Keep up the good work and THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Missy:)

  37. Danielle Haehn says

    I love how cheap it is to make these. Unfortunately there’s a white powder/film on everything. I even used white vinegar in the rinse cycle on the first run. I done an extra rinse cycle and there is still a white residue on everything :-( I really want to use these. Any suggestions of what else to do?

    • says

      Danielle- I think those who have hard water struggle with the white residue. I’m not sure how to deal with that because I’ve never had experience with hard water. So sorry!!

  38. Amy says

    I have had great success with these so far. I’ve made them twice. The first time I made them the 3/4 cup of lemon juice concentrate made them super watery, but the 2nd time, it was the perfect amount. It may be a matter of adding it in a little at a time.
    In my case, after so long sitting in a airtight container under my sink, my “tablets” basically crumble, and stay in crumbles for the remainder of the time I use them. This has happened both times I’ve made them. Luckily, I am able to just use a tablespoon and scoop it into my dishwasher dispenser and it works just as well. But I have yet to figure out why they are crumbling. :)

    • says

      Thanks for your comment Amy! My only suggestion would be to press your tablets together a bit more firmly. I have some that fall apart as well, but most stay together for me. -Carole

  39. says

    I made these and it left a horrible white residue on my plastic and glass. It also left a white film on the inside of my HE dishwasher. We do not have hard water. I was very disappointed. I had to run a cup of white vinegar through 2 quick cycles to get rid of the film inside the washer.

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