I went hunting for a good dishwasher detergent recipe tonight-- I'm finally out of my Cascade tabs and have been experimenting, trying to find a recipe that works for my dishwasher and hard water. (Read here for a quick summation of why it's a good idea to avoid standard dishwashing detergent. Also, it doesn't smell nice.)
The standard 1 part Borax to 1 part Baking soda doesn't work for me-- it clouds up the dishes terribly and doesn't clean the silverware well.
The recipe below came from a woman named Lynn at The New Homemaker. And guess what? ESSENTIAL OILS are involved. (I laughed when I found the recipe... EOs are stalking me, even on unrelated Internet searches!)
My modifications are below.
In a plastic container with a firmly fitting lid, mix:
1 cup borax (20-Mule-Team Borax, available in any supermarket)
1 cup baking soda (I'M NOW USING WASHING SODA INSTEAD)
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup citric acid (available in brewing stores among other places--if you haven't tracked it down yet but must try this formula, use two packets of Lemonade-Flavored Kool-Aid, ONLY lemon, or you'll dye your dishwasher! and ONLY unsweetened Kool-Aid!)
30 drops citrus essential oil--lemon, grapefruit, orange, tangerine, or a mixture
Put all of it in the container, shake it up.
To use, put a tablespoon or so into each cup of your dishwasher. I've found I no longer have to use the scrubbing cycle but can get by fine with the short cycle, thus saving even more money. On average, it looks like this is about 8 cents a load compared with Cascade at 22 cents a load. Compare it with EcoVer or Seventh Generation and it's a steal. I have also started putting some of this in a shaker canister--the one I have we got at a restaurant supply, it's aluminum and was made for popcorn salt. I use it to clean my sink and anything else that I'd normally use Bon Ami on. Works great, and the essential oil makes it smell fantastic.
The original batch I had did not clean well- at 1.5 tablespoons per load it didn't leave gunky stuff on everything like 2T did, but it did leave a haze all over everything.
Enter citric acid, purchased at the health food store, 1 lb for $5.99 (about 1.5 cups- 6 batches' worth). Also enter Washing Soda, found at a local grocery store for under $3 a 55oz box, to replace the baking soda and hopefully up the cleaning power. I'm mixing this up right now and will report back on efficacy.
I also put in five drops of lavender oil and ten drops of lemon (mine is wildly strong) rather than the 30 drops of citric recommended.)
Boy, does my kitchen smell nice.