Recipe for Automatic Dishwasher Detergent?

Automatic Dishwasher Detergent Recipe

By Lisa Chambers

Automatic dishwasher detergents are among one of the products that contain higher amounts of phosphates which can wreck havoc on the environment. The bad news is, from all my experimenting so far I have yet to find a recipe that actually works in a dishwasher but without leaving spots or residue behind on the the dishes.

I am extremely hesitant to recommend one of the “green” phosphate free brands though because many contain an ingredient called “zeolite”, which I have read may not necessarily be the lesser of the two evils. There is concern over the fact that because zeolite is undoubtedly not as effective as phosphates, more detergent or cleanser is needed- even more getting dumped into the environment. It is actually also cheaper and easier to remove phosphates from contaminated waters that it is for zeolite. As always, if something sound too good to be true there’s probably another side to the story…

Phosphate Dishwasher Detergent

There is also a popular recipe on the net that uses two tablespoons of half borax and half baking soda in the dishwasher. Once again, I have a hard time recommending this. Only in this case I’m not claiming it doesn’t work or isn’t more environmentally friendly , but borax has been linked in research studies to create fertility issues and just because it may natural doesn’t mean it’s innocent- remember borax is also used as a form of pesticide! Even though many swear by the use of borax in many types of homemade cleaners, I won’t use it in my home in areas that come in contact with my family at any time so I simply cannot recommend you use it to clean the same plates you’ll eat off of.

So what do we do? Well there is one tactic for the dishwasher I found to be at least helpful until better solutions are known of. First off I’ve found that you really don’t need as much dishwashing detergent as most brands recommend- using half of that amount does an excellent job in itself. Another thing that can be done mixing your powdered dishwashing detergent with as much as half baking soda, which acts as a water softener to make that lesser amount of detergent you use even more effective. Or even better yet, just do your dishes by hand!

Visit Lisa Chambers’ website for more free information, tips, and recipes based on a healthful and balanced take on beauty, home, and well being.

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  1. but heres the deal with out phosophates, my dishes are streaked, spotted and I have to rewash at least 3x to get that streaky feelingoff the glassware….No thanks I WANT THE OLD CASCADE BACK

  2. I agree with pattiannya. Totally, 100%.

  3. I have found that adding 1 cup of vinegar to the water after your dishwasher fills for the initial wash will help Cascade Complete clean your dishes as well as it had before the phosphate was removed. Someone needs to invent Cascade with vinegar added. I’ll buy it!

  4. @pattiannya

    I’m having the same problem you are. Cascade used to work really well, but not anymore. I hope Proctor and Gamble is working on a solution. Seems to me it’s in their best interests to do so. But, until then, it’s simply Grin and Bear it. I’ve started (just today) using additives: baking soda today (half and half with Cascade). Will see how it works (in another hour or so?).
    And, while we’re all at it, it is important to remember it’s the Earth that supports us–and maybe we ought to start returning the favor.

  5. Do you even know what you’re talking about? Where are the diligent and exact studies that support the claim that using dishwasher detergent is ANY worse than driving your car back and forth from work or smoking cigarettes and polluting the air by using a plethora of other products. If you can show me some CONCRETE scientific study that suddenly makes phosphates the absolute evil in a world of uber pollution (let’s talk about coal mines!) I’ll give you that we need to get rid of the phosphate detergents. Until then, give me a break! 1. It takes MORE water to clean dishes by hand which is more wasteful of water. 2. Have you looked at what’s in REGULAR dishwasher detergent lately? Even regular dish soap? “No ***unnecessary** chemicals” (emphasis mine). 3. Do you have any idea how terrible your hairspray is for the environment and what’s in your bath soap? While you’re at it, stop using those too. 4. OMG let’s talk about pesticides on FOOD.. no, let’s not because it would take way too long.

    Get a wake up call and stop this idiocy. Tackle the big issues and look at everything else first before being a complete hypocrite in writing things like, “remember it’s the Earth that supports us–and maybe we ought to start returning the favor.” Give me your home address — I’ll come over and show you all the products you’re using that will make you EAT that comment.

  6. Rhonda Kodger says:

    I’ve also been having problems with phosphate free Cascade causing etching and leaving haze on my dishes-especially plastic ones. Last night, I filled the main detergent cup half way with Cascade and halfway with vinegar. I filled the pre-rinse cup with the same mixture. The two ingredients fizz a little when you mix them but they don’t foam up or explode or anything dangerous like that. Then I just ran the cycle as normal. The dishes seemed perfect this morning. : )

  7. Like everyone else I have been having trouble with a haze on my dishes.
    I have always used Cascade and after having Sear’s here to see if they could fix it,at lease six times, I gave up and bought a new dishwasher. I used all kinds of cleaners and rinses etc.. It seemed the new dishwasher was going to solve the problem, but that only lasted for a week or so and then the haze returned. I’m told there is different kinds of phosphates. Anyone know what kind Cascade had in it

  8. I too have (had the same issue.. Spots, dishes not cleaned, streaks. I bought a new Kitchen Aide.. Same thing. I noticed the only change was the new Cascade. I found a store that still had the Cascade with Phosphates. I bought one box, issue solved and went back and bout 12 boxes. Dishes are clean.. Lisa Chanmber do your dishes by hand!! Get a life!

  9. Apologies for the typos and fat fingers.

  10. @Phil
    where do you live and where can I find some of that good stuff too!? seriously.

  11. I’m with Elsa. Where’s the research that backs up the legislative need to remove phosphates from the entire U.S. market? This is completely ridiculous and entirely political. The whole thing needs to be thrown out as the junk science it is!

  12. Doug Huffman says:

    Zeolite is an inert mineral aluminosilicate now synthesized. Mention of zeolite as harmful impeaches fools.

    Normal and effective Cascade is available as a commercial product. The ban is only on private subjects.

  13. I put about 1tsp. in with the “dishwasher detergent”. No more haze. Dingy “white” towels, add enough for the water to feel slippery. (Didn’t cause a problem added to my darks, but, I mixed it with water before adding.) For me, about 1/4 cup works. Use your own judgment. Legal disclaimer. Not an expert. Yada yada. Blessings.

  14. You notice how many “boosters” we now have for our clothes washers? All these stain removal products didn’t exist before the phosphorus left our detergents….Now we have boosters for the dishwasher too, because the crap we are left with DOESN’T WORK WORTH A TINKER’S DAMN! I think the phosphorus free detergent tears up clothing – costing me a fortune – and the dishwashing soap doesn’t work either! If I have to pre-wash all my dishes, why bother with the machine at all? Which is exactly what the greenies want – that we have no technology (except possibly Apple products) and we use no energy, sit around a camp fire eating tree bark and wearing leaves. It’s STUPID not to have decent detergent in 2011!!!!

  15. I agree with Michelle and Rhonda. Just pour some plain vinegar in the open detergent cup (at least half full) and put your regular detergent in the closed cup ( I like Finish Powerball brand). I find that I can get away with doing this once every other wash. Not only will your dishes, glassware and flatware sparkle but the dishwasher stays nice and clean too! Maybe some smart detergent company will come out with a gel pack that already has vinegar in it.

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