All the fumes from commercial dishwasher detergents can be very toxic as they escape the vents of your dishwasher and fill the air, while your children eat and play. There are a number of homemade dishwasher detergents on the web, however, as I clicked on webpage after webpage...it seemed they were all the same recipe. Although, folks reported great success, the ingredients included borax and washing soda or sodium carbonate (not to be confused with baking soda, which is sodium bicarbonate).
Although, borax and washing soda are certainly less harmful than most of the toxins already in most homes, I was hoping to avoid them if possible. Washing soda can be a eye, skin, and respiratory irritant and certainly doesn't do pleasant things for your digestive tract if swallowed. Similarly, borax, can irritate your nose, eyes, and throat, and is reported to cause reproductive issues, as well.
So, I started using my own recipe in hopes that I could still achieve cleanliness in my dishwasher with a few less ingredients. Guess what..it's been working great for us! MY dishes come out sparkly and clean. I've also very accurately estimated that we are saving 65% over commercial brands.
This batch will create approximately 30 dishwasher loads:
1 cup citric acid
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup salt
Rinse: Distilled white vinegar
Mix the first three ingredients and place in a container underneath your sink. This amount will last for about 32 loads. Larger batches can be made by doubling or tripling the recipe, however you may want to experiment with a small batch first. Depending on the softness of your water, etc, you may need more or less of the amounts I've recommended. When ready to run your dishwasher, scoop out 1 Tablespoon and use in place of detergent. Don't forget to fill your rinse compartment with vinegar.
ADDITIONAL OPTION: This mix can get hard and clumpy to scoop out of a jar in humid conditions, so I've found this option to work well in the summer. in the winter when the air is dry, scooping this mixture out of a jar, bucket, or bags works fine. Pour 1 Tablespoon inside each ice cube tray and allow to get hard over night. Pop out of ice cube trays and continue to allow to sit on a tray on top of your counter for a few more hours. Then simply place a cube into your dishwasher when it's time to run a load.
I purchase my citric acid and baking soda in bulk, here.