This is a true story.
Or, rather, it’s true insomuch as I wasn’t there, and I heard it third hand, so I’m going to embellish a little on the unimportant parts. Why? Because it makes me feel important. I am the creator of this story.
Although, technically I’m not. The creator of this story, the instigator of this inspiring tale of relief, the mastermind behind all the knowing is none other than my 1-year-old niece, Holly Ann.
Last week, my sister, Lindsay, called me to tell me the story about Holly Ann and the Not-So-Terrible Dishwasher Detergent.
It goes a little something like this:
Last Wednesday night, as I was watering my two prize-winning, Volkswagon-sized basil plants (I told you I would embellish … my basil, while still alive, is more the size of a shoe), the phone rang and I didn’t answer.
This part is true. I did not answer the first time. Don’t judge me.
Anyway, the second time she called, I did answer. Yay me.
“Betty,” my sister said, “My daughter, your niece, Holly Ann, ate dishwasher detergent tonight.”
She stopped then, and didn’t say anything for a second. Braced for the absolute worst, I said, “Okay. What kind of dishwasher detergent do you use?”
“Homemade.” Well. Good.
GOOD. RIGHT? I mean, after all this time, that is good? That she ate homemade dishwasher detergent instead of regular? Or is she at a hospital? OH DEAR GOD WHAT HAS HAPPENED?
You probably want to know this too, right? What happened to this dear, beautiful, precious little girl when she ate a chubby, grubby handful of dishwasher detergent out of the dishwasher door, before her dad even knew what happened?
Maybe you’d like to know my sister’s homemade dishwasher detergent recipe first.
Here it is:
- 2 c. borax
- 2 c. washing soda
- 2 c. Lemi-Shine
- 1 c. kosher salt
Mix it all up in a small container and fill your dishwasher soap well with it each time you do a load of dishes. Easy.
Let me tell you something about Lemi-Shine, before you ask. I – personally – know very little about it except that it’s purported to be all-natural and plant based. Their formulation is “proprietary” and “secret,” which always makes me raise my eyebrow about the transparency of a company.
It’s pretty inexpensive, and you can buy it at places like Target and Wal-Mart (for somewhere around $3.50 for just over 2 cups). My guess, and I don’t know this for sure, but my guess would be that it’s some formulation of citric acid and essential oils with a few other things thrown in.
If it were me (and it is, actually, because I make my own dishwasher detergent this other way), I would use 2 c. borax, 2 c. washing soda, 1 c. kosher or sea salt, 3 Tbsp citric acid, and 30-50 drops of lemon or grapefruit essential oil.
This works VERY well for me, with the only problems being a little bit of residue left on my food processor mixing container (plastic).
Also: Don’t forget to use straight vinegar in your rinse well for extra shine and WAY less residue.
Also #2: If you still have problems with residue, try running your kitchen sink water to very, very hot before you start the dishwasher. I don’t know why this works, but it does.
Anyway, I just got off track, and I apologize. My point was: Even though I have no earthly idea what’s actually IN Lemi-Shine (nor do I think you have to use it in your homemade dishwasher detergent to get the same results Holly Ann did), I just thought you might like to be aware of what this precious angel ATE before I finish the story.
Whatever Happened to Holly Ann?
After that child grabbed a tiny mitt full of homemade dishwasher detergent and shoved it in her mouth faster than a fly-snatching horny toad, her dad looked up and saw hand print evidence in the dishwasher soap well …
… and guilt in the form of a wretched smile and white granules around her mouth …
… and a hand covered in what was clearly not pixie dust …
he called my sister and said, “Lindsay. Our daughter ate dishwasher detergent. What should we do?”
And Lindsay, ever-so-calmly (at least, that’s her side of the story) said, “Please, my dear husband. Call Poison Control at your earliest convenience.”
So, with the guilty little cherub on his hip, he called Poison Control. And here is how the conversation was relayed to me:
Brett (brother-in-law): Hi! My 1-year-old daughter just ate a little bit of dishwasher detergent. Not really sure what to do here.
Poison Control Lady: Oh! Oh no! Dishwasher detergent? What kind?
Poison Control Lady: Did you say … homemade? She ate homemade dishwasher detergent?
Brett: YES. WHAT SHOULD I DO? Hospital? Do we need to go to a hospital?
PCL: Oh, heavens. Probably not. Can you tell me what it’s made of?
Brett: Borax, washing soda, Lemi-Shine, and salt. My wife … she makes it. IT’S ALL HER FAULT OH MY GOSH.
PCL: Settle down, son. Your daughter is just fine. This isn’t a big deal. If she’d eaten commercial dishwasher detergent, I’d be really concerned and have you take her in to get checked, but she’s just fine. No worries. You can observe her for a couple of hours, just in case, but, really, there’s little to worry about. Just don’t let her go drinking entire cups of that stuff, okay?
Brett: You mean … she’s … really? No worries? Because it’s homemade?
PCL: Yep. Now go hug your wife. She deserves it.
I Tell This Story NOT So You’ll Eat Your Homemade Dishwasher Detergent…
… but so that you’ll have extra special confidence in the non-toxicity, the actual benign nature, of your homemade dishwasher detergent as compared to the commercial kind.
I just thought you might like to know – ESPECIALLY if you have small children – that by making your own dishwasher detergent, you’re possibly saving your dearest, most precious angels a trip to the scary hospital, just in case an accident does occur.
NOT that you shouldn’t keep these things out of their reach. NOT that you should let them run around willy-nilly with your homemade concoctions. NOT that you shouldn’t do things like call Poison Control when you’re worried about your child.
But just that, when instantaneous moments of unforeseen circumstances occur, you’ve already made your home just a little more safe for them to live in.
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give a round of applause to Miss Holly Ann!
She’s fine and dandy, and we’re all a little more at ease because of her.
Doesn’t the washing soda in the homemade recipe turn your aluminium pans black?
Oh, God, this kept me on my toes! I’m so glad she is fine. Bravo to the mother for using homemade detergents! I use plant-based detergents for everything and I’m really proud that my mother started using such products too. We make the world a little more better. 🙂
Hopped over to your site from God knows where else I was foraging in insomniac stupor. And am HOOKED. Love love love the humor more than anything else. There goes the rest of my night….hope you are happy.
Love the way this is written fantastic outcome for the adventurous wee one 🙂
For the hardening of the powder I’ve been placing my mix in ice cube trays overnight then popping them out in the morning …. Just like the shops in a little tablet 🙂
mommy of 2
Borox is toxic
I use this and thank you for it. 🙂
Wondering if anyone has computed the cost per load, though? The cost of LemiShine or Lemon EO seems expensive, and I am not sure I’m saving any money making my own.
Maria- washing soda is a close cousin to baking soda. I’m going off the top of my head here, and someone correct me if I’m off, but put baking soda on a baking sheet in a 400F oven for an hour will change the baking soda to washing soda.
I think the lemi-shine is just something to make it lemony fresh. A few drops of lemon extract/essential oil should do the trick.
I know this is an older article, but I did happen to find out today what is in Lemi-Shine. Here is a link: http://www.chemistry-blog.com/2012/05/18/whats-in-lemi-shine/
Hope that answers it for a few people.
I came upon this article unexpectedly and I’m really very impressed! It sounds so simple and…. inspiring! I’d like to try this homemade dishwashing thing, but the problem is, I live in Bulgaria – a small country on the South-Eastern part of Europe that is probably known as the country where the original yoghurt is born.
Well we do not have “Lemi-shine” here. Could you please explain what it is? Also, what exactly is “washing soda”, is it Na2CO3?
Thank you! Keep writing!
So I made some of the detergent with the Lemi-shine and it worked really well. Only now 2 days later it had stuck together in a solid mass. I was able to break it up but it was still clumpy. I’m guessing it must be the humidity (I live in Georgia)? Should I leave out the Lemi-shine next time?
Hey Crunchy Betty!
I have a quick question… what about soap nuts? Are those dangerous to ingest?
I ask because I’m pregnant and the hubby and I recently switched to soap nuts for laundry and dish detergent… I plan on (of course) trying to keep these soaps away from my kids digestive systems, but as this story proves, kids can get into things!
Would this story be as happy if the detergent she ate was largely ground soap nut powder?
Hi, I made this the night before last, using Lemi-shine and fine sea salt. I haven’t tried it yet because I made it in anticipation of moving next week to a place with a dishwasher, but I did discover a problem. While I was mixing it, it poofed up in my face – I’m pretty sure it was only the Borax that poofed, but I was surrounded by a cloud of this stuff and inhaled some. I am now coughing up weird things and can’t breathe well. Any remedies for Borax inhalation?
What a great story. Surprising to know that washing soda and borax weren’t actually a big deal to ingest some of (and yes, I will still keep them out of reach!) but v. reassuring 🙂 Glad she’s okay!
What a great story. Surprising to know that washing soda and borax weren’t actually a big deal to ingest some of (and yes, I will still keep them out of reach!) but v. reassuring 🙂 Glad she’s okay!
Add a cup of vinegar to your dishwasher if you have hard water like me. It’s so cheep and you won’t have to use the citric acid or lemi-Shine either.
I stopped using “regular” dishwashing detergent years ago, for just the reason shared above! Thank you for sharing this great post!
Thanks for sharing this! I can’t find citric acid anywhere and I didn’t want to pay for shipping to order it online, but I also didn’t want to use Lemi Shine if I didn’t know what was in it. This link you provided is awesome and totally put my mind at ease with using Lemi Shine instead of citric acid.
Any online soap maker will sell it. Amazon does too.
Hey, I thought you might be interested in this post regarding the contents of Lemi-Shine (which I had actually never heard of before, as I live in the UK). The author of this post reckons one of the main constituents is citric acid. http://www.chemistry-blog.com/2012/05/18/whats-in-lemi-shine/
There are two emulsifiers used in popular products, which can be
harmful. The first is Borax (INCI name Sodium Borate). Research
in Denmark and Sweden has shown this substance to be
carcinogenic. It is forbidden to use these ingredients on
children in Denmark, as it is known to cause anaemia. Borax is
easy to use and helps to bond fats with water – but extended use
of products containing borax will dry out the skin, making it
brittle. According to Danish medical reports, borax can penetrate
the skin, cause powerful irritation and can even cause cancer!
Studies of Swedish steelworkers who handle large quantities of
borax would seem to corroborate this fact. It should not be used
in skin care products. Therefore I think, although your homemade dishsoap contains just a little bit of Borax – still it can be dangerous for kids especially.
Here is what is in Lemi Shine
wow thank you so much for posting this. I’m on the fence about whether or not to continue making homemade detergent but this is pretty compelling evidence to do so. For me, where I live, buying detergent is a bit cheaper than making it, but if I can know my kids are safe (even though of course I’ll still lock up my cleaning products)…it’s pretty good reason to spend a bit more money.
I once called an ambulance when my kid got his finger stuck in one of those plastic ketchup bottles with the x-shaped cap on the inside (where you can push in easily, but can’t pull out so easily). In my defense, it DID take them awhile to figure out how to get it off and his finger WAS losing color. They still laughed at me though and when my husband was walking the dog the next night a neighbor we never met before asked him if our son was okay, so the story obviously made the rounds (rolling eyes). Still, better safe then sorry. My son has a craze for cleaning hard surfaces lately, so I’m borrowing this recipe so he doesn’t have all those chemicals going in his face. Hope this phase lasts til he’s out of the house!
My oldest (5) has a horrible habit of spraying chemicals on his brother (3) if left unchecked. I am glad I started changing all my cleaners into homemade organic cleaners. Now I’ll just have to do the same at their grandma’s house (she doesn’t keep her stuff hidden well or even locked up).
When I read the title, I was reluctant to read, and here I am laughing throughout the whole story. Lmao. Smh. I’m glad your niece is ok. This is def a plus to homemade materials ^___^ I’ll have to keep this in mind when I have some rug rats running around being mischievous
I have a question about storing the homemade dishwasher deterent. I found all of the ingredients, following directions. I put it in a 1/2 gallon ball jar with a plastic lid. When I went to use the deterent I found it almost rock hard. I have to chisel it in order to use it. Any recommendations? For the most part my dishes are clean. We do have very hard water and I will try the vinegar next wash.
Do you use citric acid in your mix? After some experimentation, I have found that it is the citric acid (sugar free lemon drink mix, fruit fresh, or whatever else you use for the acid) that is making it rock hard. You have a couple of alternatives. If you are one of the blessed that does not have a hard water problem, then you can simply use a tad more salt. If you have a hard water problem, then try adding a bit of citric acid per load instead of mixing it in with the rest of the ingredients. Regardless of how you solve the citric acid problem, I would still put a small pouch with some rice in the container since moisture is the primary evil in a dry ingredient detergent.
A high school friend of mine has a daughter who drank some liquid plant nutrients last week and nearly died! She’s been in the PICU for over a week, and was on a ventilator and more. I whole-heartedly believe in non-toxicity after watching that horrible thing happen! Little kids will eat anything! (Except peas, maybe.)
If you grow them and stand in the yard eating them straight from the vine, peas get nod only the nod, but also the chew.
Holly - greenpennypincher.com
The first time my son stuck the diluted Dr Bronner’s spray (one of the most “toxic” cleaners I use) I felt validated in my decision to go “green”
I can’t wait til my homemade laundry detergent runs out so I can have a reason buy more borax and washing soda! I have been wanting to try homemade dishwasher detergent for a while now but this story has convinced me, especially with a 2yr old running around that loves to try to figure out how to unlatch the child locks on the cabinets….
You are awesome – I was glued to my iPad and scrolling furiously while reading very fast! Though I use a made with thought bought at whole foods brand – hope to try my own soon!
I didn’t know that Poison Control was a real thing :S
1-800-222-1222. Very real. Have the number on your fridge! Kids get INTO stuff, and not stuff that you’d guess either! My oldest (when she was 3, more than 4 years ago) climbed over a baby gate, pushed a chair to the counter, opened a box that we kept our medicine in (it was supposed to be ON TOP of the fridge – totally my fault), and opened a child-safe cap on a bottle of medicine and shared it with her sister… 8 hours in the ER/Peds unit later, they were fine, but it was scary.
I’ve been wanting to try homemade dishwasher det. for some time, but I’ve read horror stories about how you can ruin your machine. Anyone have a comment about that? Also, for your recipe, could you crush up vitamin C tablets for the citric acid?? What do ya think???
Vitamin C is ascorbic acid, not citric acid
I adore everything about your blog- and I have the yellow pillowcases to prove it (tumeric mask). Thank you for sharing your thoughts with the rest of the world
Yet another reason to patronize eco friendly home products.
Laura Black Caprioni
Great story!! Kids, you gotta love them, never a dull moment around them!
My daughter ate most of a bottle of Hyland’s teething tablets when she was that age. After calling poison control just to make sure, I took a moment to thank myself for only using natural or homemade products. Gotta keep those kids and pets safe!
She’s so so so so beautiful!
I happen to be one of those crazy people who are without a dishwasher – probably something to do with my living in a tent hmm.. While I’m sure this recipe does a great job, is anyone aware of a recipe more tailored to hand washing in a sink?
Salt works great for cast iron, I’m sure that you can use it as well to clean just about anything, and rinse with a vinegar solution? I would think that as long as long as you’re using hot water, you’re rinsing all the cooties off. You can also make a homemade soap using 1 part castile, 3 parts water, some washing soda to thicken and a few drops of essential oil. (I like tea tree and peppermint, smells so fresh, I use it for all my cleaning!) Then again, add some vinegar to the rinse water!
Those pictures are so dang cute. LOL
Mine sprays my kitchen sanitizer in her mouth on a regular basis. Or worse licks it off the table. I just roll my eyes and keep on cookin. Its homemade and mostly vinigar and watter. 🙂 Love Holly Ann’s story, thanks for sharing.
My son does the same! I tell him that he is defeating the purpose of cleaning the table, when he just licks the table after cleaning it…. I too, use a vinegar and water cleaner.
wonderful story! i’m trying to make a lot of my own homemade recipes and i have two kiddos, so this makes me feel all the better about my decision! 🙂 lisa
Brown Thumb Mama
Oh. My. Goodness. She is adorable! And just another reason to be thankful that I make my own dish detergent too. I wouldn’t want to face this crisis with my Little Peanut!
Holly Ann is gorgeous!!! I use the same recipe as your sis, it works great!
Isn’t borax poisonous?
In a nutshell, not particularly. It’s poisonous like too much salt would be poisonous, basically. Here’s all the research I did on it, and then you can decide:
I can tell you what the poison control lady said about Borax when we called. She said the only ingredient she was even mildly concerned about was the borax and even then there was only a very small chance of a chemical burn if she had ingested a lot. She was MUCH more concerned about the chance that it had been commercial dishwasher detergent and was very relieved when my husband said it was homemade.
Jamie Hartmann Patrick
That is kinda scary when your kids do something unexpected like that even with it being homemade…my hubby would have called too.
I have used your recipe for months and I always had the residue problem as well then I found this recipe:
Homemade Liquid Dishwasher Soap/Detergent
8 cups water
3/4 cup washing soda
1/2 cup Borax
1/4 cup liquid castile soap (I used peppermint cuz that’s all I had. Smells great!)
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, remove from heat, add washing soda,
Borax and castile soap and stir til dissolved. Add remaining 4 cups of
water. Let cool. Shake well before each use. Use 1 Tbl. in closed section of dishwasher. You
can also add some essential oils if you prefer it to have a smell and
some added cleaning benefits, tea tree and lemon are great.
You can make more or less depending on what container you plan to
use. I used an old detergent bottle and it fit perfectly. It does kind
of gel up a bit (I think it’s supposed to but since I can’t find the
site, I can’t be sure). If it’s still a tad liquidy, it’s still fine to
use and will still work. You can also use white vinegar as the rinse
agent. I prefer to use the Lemishine Rinse Agent. Works amazingly well!
And also make sure you only use 1 Tbl. cuz if you use too much, you
will still end up with streaks. If you do have streaks or a film, I
suggest you play around with the amount used til you get it right. I
know not every dishwasher is the same.
I’ve been using it for about 2 weeks and I LOVE IT!
And since I use the Lemi Shine Rinse Agent, I had to go grab the bottle and read the ingredients (I read it when I bought the bottle but I am getting older and can’t remember squat) and it says: PURIFIED WATER, REAL FRUIT EXTRACT & BIODEGRADABLE SURFACTANT. Not sure about that last one but I gotta say my dishes look great! And it works in hard or soft water and is safe for septic tanks. The vinegar never worked well for me but I have not tried it with the new liquid version that I posted above.
Hope that helps anyone that has had issues with the dry formula.
The Crunchy Mama
Thanks for sharing your recipe.
Thank you for posting your recipe! I’m doing to make this. I’m considering storing it in an empty vinegar bottle
My almost 4yo son ate a packet of cascade dishwasher detergent when he was about 15 months old. I was so completely freaking out! He managed to get his hand through the cupboard under the sink with the child lock still engaged, open the snap lid plastic container, grab a packet and take it out and eat, again with the child lock engaged the whole time. All in about a 30 second window when I was helping my other son with his finger painting. I walk into the kitchen to find him with detergent all over his face just in time to see him start throwing up. Called Poison Control, raced to the ER and was greeted by nurse who said, “Oh my son has done that like three times, he’ll be fine.” Really, lady?! This is NEVER happening again! He was fine, no chemical burns or anything like that. The doctor gave him a juicebox after checking him out completely and said to hang out for 45 min to make sure he kept the juice down. So thankfully he was okay, but this was super scary! Had I even thought that making my own dishwasher detergent was something I could do, I would have switched to that immediately. Now that I have discovered your wonderful website and am making all sorts of things at home, I will add dishwasher detergent to the list of what I’ll be making at home.
Lynda at bloombakecreate.com
Gosh, when I was a kid I was the dishwasher! Anyway, good post. I make your version and have been using in for quite a while. I’m planning on posting my (or yours or whereever I found it!) tomorrow.
This is very encouraging to read, as my first little one is just threatening to walk. Like you said, not that I won’t take every precaution possible, but that if something like this happens it won’t be quite as bad as something commercial. (I would still be freaking out anyway though, haha!)
Although it should be noted that borax is in fact, toxic. We use it to kill mice in our barn- they eat borax laced peanut butter.
Mice have different systems than we do, they’re smaller, and probably can’t vomit peanut butter very well. Humans, however, would likely vomit if it were a true toxic overdose.
Cats are also an excellent means by which to keep mice out of the feed/hay/barn.
I couldn’t agree with you more sarah, cats and snakes around a farm are much better mice killers! 🙂
My mom and I have been looking for a homemade dishwasher detergent that actually works. Since every other recipe I’ve tried on this website works, I think I’ll talk her into giving this one a try too.
My brother ate dishwasher detergent when he was three. The box said to drink 8 ounces milk then 8 ounces water within ten minutes, then call poison control.
A note: my mother continued to give her children water in a baby bottle as a comfort thing before bedtime long after our pediatricians told her it would mess up our teeth (it didn’t, we think because it was water and not milk).
She gave my brother the liquids in a bottle, and he drank all of it because it was a treat. The poison control people said ER, STAT! and the nurses and doctors at the ER stuck a camera down his throat, telling my mother that they he might be able to eat on his own one day since she brought him in so soon, because apparently when you eat dishwater detergent it burns holes in your throat. Anyway, the scope revealed nothing and the doctor scolded my mother for being hysterical and paranoid about her son’s health, because there was no way he’d eaten it without damage and also no way a three-year-old would drink 16 ounces of liquid all at once. So, commercial detergent 0, Mother’s intuition 1, and I wasn’t allowed in the kitchen when she was loading the dishwasher until I was about 15.
In the past- I’ve tried the recipe that uses borax, washing soda, and lemon or grapefruit essential oil only but it didn’t do very well cutting through oily residues on my dishes. Would the citric acid or Lemi-shine do that? Also, where do you get citric acid and what section of the store is it usually located?
Jamie Hartmann Patrick
Some groceries carry it I think in the canning isle but I know our local beer & wine supply has it as well along with several other goodies. 😉
Herbalcom.com is where I get mine. I get a lot of herbs there and their base unit of measure got a lot of things is a pound.
What a great story! Not that she ate dishwasher detergent, but that it shows yet another reason for people to make the switch to homemade things. I remember when my brother and I were small kidlets, my mom went to do laundry and all the laundry detergent was gone (there wasn’t a whole lot left in the bottle anyway) and she came running out of the laundry room, screaming for my dad and grabbing up my brother and smelling his mouth…she KNEW he had to have consumed it (some kind of mother’s intuition). My dad’s response was “Well is he turning colors or puking? No? He’s fine” And Bro didn’t have guilty face, or got sick from anything, so we were never 100% sure. He is kind of weird now though…maybe residual effects? Lol.
This is fantastic! I love it!