dishwasher tabs

Typically I do not like using my dishwasher; some say it saves water compared to washing them by hand, others say the opposite.  Usually I found it more convenient to just wash them by hand, since it generally takes us a few days to make one dishwasher load worthwhile.  However, with this pregnancy, and I reckon once the baby arrives, we have and will use the dishwasher more.

If you are trying to achieve a low or zero waste lifestyle, you definitely cannot depend on store-bought brands to be package-free if you are in search of dishwasher tabs.  The box may be cardboard, but once you open it up you will find that each tab is individually wrapped (if you use tabs) in non-recyclable packaging.  Bah!  Not helpful!

But!  There are lots of recipes out there for you to try to make your own (or liquid version), and most of those recipes use ingredients you already have on hand; i.e. baking soda, vinegar, lemon, etc.  Not one recipe will work for every person, as our water hardness can affect the outcome, etc.

This is the first time I have tried making dishwasher tabs, and I will use them again because they did the job with minimal streaking or residue.  I started with a half recipe to have a tester batch:

1/2 cup of baking soda
1/2 cup of washing soda
1/2 cup of salt
2 tbsp. of citric acid
1/2 cup of water
vinegar for rinse

Mix all of the dry ingredients together.  Add the water and let the bubbles fizzle out a bit before mixing it together (about a minute or so).  Then mix together and scoop about one tablespoon into an ice cube tray; my ice cube tray is quite deep, so next time I will do smaller scoops to fit better into my dishwasher!  Press the stuff down with your finger to fill out the mold.  Leave the tray sitting out to dry overnight before twisting the tabs out.  These are not super solid, so the edges may brittle off, but mine stayed mostly in tact.  Find a container, plunk ’em in gently, and they are ready for use.

This is where I found the original recipe, and next time I will use a little more vinegar for the rinse, as I was unsure how much to use and really was sparing with it.


  • cheaper than the store-bought alternative
  • no mysterious ingredients
  • easy and quick to make
  • less packaging = less waste to landfill


  • tiny bit of effort required (oh, boohoo!)
  • not completely zero waste for me, as I have not been able to find vinegar or citric acid in bulk form; however, still less packaging than if I went store-bought

Do you have any go-to recipes for dishwasher tabs/liquids, or liquid dish detergent?




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