Toxic Free Dishwasher Powder & Rinse-aid

When we decided to ditch all the toxins in our home dishwasher tablets and rinse aid were one of the first items that I switched. It’s also the one I get the most questions about so I thought I would write about what we have discovered!

Why should I care about what I use in my dishwasher?

There are so many items in our homes that we buy and use without thinking about because ‘it’s just the way everybody does it’, but if you stop and think about what we are exposing our bodies and our environment to it’s quite scary. A lot of toxic chemicals are used to make conventional dishwasher tablets and rinse aid including bleach, acids and synthetic fragrances. These chemicals are known to cause cancer, have adverse effects on body systems, mess with our hormones and reproductive systems, as well as causing skin irritation and allergic reactions. That’s without considering the harm caused by releasing these chemicals into our waterways.

Let’s stop and think a minute; we’ve all seen the dire warnings about letting our children get hold of dishwasher tablets, and we wouldn’t want to expose ourselves to them either and yet we are washing our dishes in those very chemicals. Those food dishes which we then EAT from. What if the dishwasher doesn’t rinse properly? What if we are ingesting these invisible toxins daily?

I once had a horrifying experience of walking into my kitchen to find my toddler clutching one of those dishwasher liquitabs which she had swiped from the cupboard. I had only left the room for a moment and yet she could have been seriously injured if she’d tried to eat it. I used to live in fear that the children would get into my chemical cleaning cupboards and it’s one of the main reasons we decided to make the switch to chemical free products.

What toxin free alternative are we using?

I am now making my own dishwasher powder and rinse aid from scratch.

For one tub of dishwasher powder which lasts about 30 washes I mix

  • 1 cup (200g) of bicarbonate of Soda
  • 1/2 cup (100g) of Citric Acid
  • 1/4 cup (50g) of coarse Sea Salt
  • 10 drops of lemon essential oil
  • 10 drops of orange essential oil
  • 5 drops thieves essential oil

I simply tip it all into a glass container and stir it well to combine. You can push the powder into ice cube trays to make tablets but I don’t bother with that as I use the same powder to clean by toilets and plugs too!
I use about a small dessert spoon of powder in the dishwasher powder dispenser, but it will be trial and error for the first few goes in your machine to find what works the best for you.

For our rinse aid I simply top up the machine with white vinegar or with Theives Household Cleaner. The household cleaner tends works much better at getting the plates and glasses sparkling, but it’s also much more expensive so I alternate their use.

Every time the rinse aid runs out I clean our dishwasher by running a hot wash on an empty machine. Once the machine has filled with water I open the door and throw in a cup of white vinegar with a cap full of Thieves Household Cleaner. You could also add a small dish of bicarbonate of soda in the top tray. Also, don’t forget to clean out the filters and propellers as they can easily get clogged up with old food.

How well does it work?

Having washed our dishes with this for the last nine months I would say that although it doesn’t work as well as conventional products it works well enough.

It is not going to remove every single burnt or tough dried-on piece of food, or make your glasses super sparkly because it doesn’t have all the chemicals in it that make it possible for the conventional products to do so. It also doesn’t dry your plates as well because that is one of the purposes of rinse aid.
HOWEVER, if you pack your dishwasher well and look after your machine by giving it regular cleans I think it does the job perfectly adequately.

What does it cost?

A quick look at a super market website puts an approximate price break down per use/tablet at:

  • own DIY dishwasher powder: 8p
  • supermarket own brand: 10p
  • ‘eco’ brand: 20p
  • top brand: 30p

One of the main reasons I started making my own powder, rather than buying an ‘eco’ alternative was the price. It also meant I knew for sure what was going into it and saved on lots of plastic packaging. And, actually since I had already stocked up my toxic free store-cupboard it has been really easy to put together some more powder whenever we have needed it.

Final thoughts

I am happy with my dishwashing switch and I would recommend it to others. Yes, the quality of washing is slightly reduced but you soon get used to it and plan ahead. Washing up is one of my most hated chores so nearly everything we use goes through the dishwasher but I haven’t used a ‘conventional’ dishwashing tablet since last year and haven’t been tempted to either. I’d rather have to re-wash the odd rejected plate here and there and have peace of mind about the chemicals that I am using around our home…especially around the food we’re eating!

If you are interested in the oils/products that I have mentioned in this post you might like to read ‘Getting Started with Essential Oils‘ which explains which brand of essential oils I trust to use around my family and ‘Creating a Store Cupboard for a toxic free home‘ which lists which products I regularly use, including the Thieves Household Cleaner. If you have any questions just get in touch!

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