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I feel like I’ve finally hit that sweet spot of zero waste living. More bulk offerings are cropping up around London (I even found organic dried pasta sold loose this week!) meaning it’s easier to find things without packaging, I’ve reduced our waste down to a few food scraps and I have FINALLY MANAGED TO MAKE A DIY DISHWASHER POWDER THAT ACTUALLY WORKS FOR ONCE! (insert godly music).
You know the struggle has been real if you’ve followed this blog or my YouTube channel for any length of time. I couldn’t find any dishwasher tablets, especially eco friendlier ones that didn’t come wrapped in plastic. Homemade dishwasher tablets were a massive fail as finding washing soda/soda crystals anywhere without plastic is pretty tricky here in the UK. No Arm & Hammer Washing Soda in a box for us! And I think the guy at Drik Pak who sell them in large plastic bags was getting tired of my constant email requests for a change of packaging.
I had attempted to make my own washing soda by heating bicarbonate of soda in the oven on a low temp for several hours which that trusty ol’ source, the internet says can be done… I’m not entirely sure what I had at the end of it. Was it actually washing soda? (see below for UPDATE). The results were crumbly home made tablets that left everything coated in a white film and not very clean. More recently I had settled on using a large bulk bottle of Faith In Nature Dishwasher Gel… which works but still comes in plastic. Have I bored you enough yet?
Then, I found a soda crystals aka washing soda option that comes packaged in a cardboard box* instead of a plastic bag, with a small metal spout that can be easily removed. Both parts can be recycled. I decided to give some DIY recipes another go, starting with DIY dishwasher detergent. And with it being Plastic Free July, what better time to start. Could this be third PFJ time lucky?
I ordered a couple of boxes of Soda Crystals by Ecodoo from BigGreenSmile.com* and followed up with an email requesting no plastic packaging to which they replied confirming there would be none.
The soda crystals arrived in a repurposed brown cardboard box with brown paper tape and inside they were wrapped with a compostable food waste bag made from potato starch. My mother-in-law uses these for her food waste collection so I set it to one side to take to her. Better than plastic, but would have preferred a brown paper bag. I’m not a fan of compostable starch bags. I’ll make sure I request that next time instead.
I have since found that I CAN make washing soda from bicarbonate of soda! I simply changed the temperature setting to 200 C (not F – as the instructions online I had followed suggested). Simply sprinkle bicarb/baking soda on to a tray and heat in the over on 200 C for about 30 mins to 1 hour until the colour turns duller/grey-ish and the texture is more grainy than powdery. It works!
I even bought some pH testing strips to compare this homemade powder to the box of Ecodoo Soda Crystal…. and they were exactly the same level! I’m pleased to say I have since used DIY washing soda in place of the Ecodoo ones in a box and it still cleans everything in the dishwasher really well.
DISHWASHER POWDER RECIPE
To make the dishwasher powder I mixed:
4 cups of soda crystals/washing soda *
(some people use 2 cups of borax and 2 cups of washing soda instead)
1 cup of citric acid *
1 cup of salt
(I used sea salt that I bought from bulk)
Store in an air tight container such as a glass jar and sprinkle into the tablet chamber in the dishwasher when needed.
I also added vinegar to the rinse aid. Et voilà!
The results were surprisingly good. I’ve used this about 7-8 times already and each time the plates, glasses, cutlery etc have come out looking squeaky clean. Only once did they have a slight white film, which I simply polished off with a dry tea towel to reveal very shiny surfaces underneath. Perhaps I forgot to add vinegar to the rinse aid that time. Who knows?
**UPDATE** – SEPTEMBER 2017
Recently, we had a dishwasher service guy take a look at our machine as it had been playing up for several months (long before we started using my DIY dishwasher powder, might I add!). He cleaned out a pipe and also said we should run the dishwasher empty, then after half an hour, open it and pour in a cup of vinegar, and close the door and let it finish the cycle. The inside of our dishwasher after doing this, looked incredible! So shiny!
He recommended doing this once a month. How awesome that he was pro-vinegar and not insisting we buy some chemical laden product? Times, they are a-changing!
We also took a look at the manual – if you think getting married brings you closer as a couple, try setting your dishwasher via the manual instructions together….
It turns out our dishwasher can be set to suit the hardness of the local water. Who even knew that? We clearly didn’t, and because we live in a rented flat I had kinda assumed everyone before us may have set it up correctly. So we played with the settings to suit a harder water level. London innit…
The machine is now working beautifully and I am so impressed with the DIY dishwasher powder! Two months on and it’s still cleaning like a charm.
I have also started making an effective DIY laundry powder. I’ll share that real soon! Domestic Goddess Awards… here I come! 😉
NOTE: Please remember that everyone’s dishwasher and local water softness/hardness will be different so what has worked for me, may not work the same for you. Give it a go if you fancy and if it isn’t up to scratch, don’t give up! If there’s one thing I’ve learned with zero waste, it’s to keep exploring, keep experimenting and keep trying…. it’s worth it in the end.