DIY: How to make homemade dishwasher tablets and laundry soap

A few simple ingredients, some ice cube trays, and you’re saving money every time you turn on the dishwasher or washing machine.

Words: Jean Mansfield

My farmhouse kitchen has resembled a laboratory over the last few months while I have been experimenting and creating soap, skincare products, and kitchen cleaning recipes.

I have found feedback is essential for fine-tuning them, and now soap making is a family hobby. My sister has settled into her soap style but I am still not entirely sure and continue to make a range of quite different soaps in shape and colour.

Denise likes a hard, lard-based rectangular soap with just a few natural additions for variation. They are restrained, uniform and charming. Mine are random and uncoordinated in size, shape and colour. I do wonder if they are reflections of personality and what that says about me. But I’ve found I really can’t stop making soap. There are now large cardboard boxes of cured soap in my spare room, waiting to be given as gifts.

I started the skincare products because many of the ingredients are also in soap. The body butter was my first trial and I was so excited with the gorgeous results I quickly moved on to lip balm, deodorant, an insect repellent and then solid perfume.

Now I am making items for my kitchen and cleaning cupboard. Running three households means a lot of cleaning stuff. Dishwasher tablets are a constant irritation. I think I have plenty on hand and then when I go to start the fully-loaded machine there are none left.

I watched a few YouTube clips on making cleaning tabs for a dishwasher and thought it was doable. It’s never exactly as you think but after some trials I came up with a compressed tablet that actually works. The basic ingredients are inexpensive, the process is simple, and I also know what is going into the environment.

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Many of my skincare recipes have beeswax or sometimes honey in them. The bee man (who drops off and picks up the hives from the farm) gave me a 10 litre bucket of beeswax, gold to my alchemist heart. Even just smelling the wax was a heady experience. I took to the huge lump of wax with a hatchet to break off usable small quantities at first. Now I melt it down and mould it into smaller pieces.


The three cleaning items I use most are kitchen spray, dishwashing liquid, dishwasher tablets, and laundry liquid. Is it cost-effective to make my own? The most basic homemade dishwasher tablet costs 20 cents per load and takes five minutes to make.

The cost of my DIY washing powder works out at 20 cents a load. I purchase borax and washing soda online as it’s the cheapest place to source it, but these are also readily available from hardware and food stores.

Laundry soap or liquid is made from all the bits of soap I trim off the bars I make. These are saved, then melted together with washing soda and borax to create laundry soap. I have three top loaders of various ages, including a very old commercial-size machine that gets used for two months of the year at the beachhouse, a small 10-year-old machine that I inherited from a friend that is used on the farm, and a beautiful new machine that plays tunes when a wash cycle has ended (at our home in Auckland). This laundry soap works well in all of them.

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Jean’s tip: Check your washing machine’s instructions. Some warranties are void if you use the wrong soap powder.

Homemade dishwasher tablets

My dishwashing tablets make the crockery, glassware and cutlery sparkle and smell lovely. Dave’s precious motorbike ice cube trays were repurposed for the first batch, but I’ve since replaced those with delightful bug and butterfly shapes that cheer me up.


1 cup (300g) borax
½ cup (150g) epsom salts
1 cup (300g) washing soda
⅓-½ cup lemon juice
8 drops lavender essential oil


Mix the borax, epsom salts, lavender, essential oil and washing soda in a bowl until well combined. Strain the lemon juice, then add a bit at a time until the mixture is damp but not completely wet – you want it to hold together and not be crumbly.

Press firmly into small, tablet-size containers (I use ice cube trays). Allow to dry for 3-4 hours before removing. Store in an airtight container, use one tablet per load.

Homemade laundry soap

Many of my guests who stay at the beach house have used this washing powder and taken the recipe to make more.


1 cup (300g) borax
1 cup (300g) washing soda
1 grated bar (100g) homemade soap or ivory soap
Optional: essential oil for fragrance


Grate the soap – use the smallest Parmesan grating size on your grater – mix with the borax and washing soda, then place it all in a large jar with a tight-fitting lid. You can add a few drops of fragrance essential oil if you wish.

Put a label on the jar with ingredients and the amount to use (as you may not always be doing the washing).

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Use 1 tbsp per load – I mix my 1 tbsp of powder with a little hot water to dissolve it first.

NZ Lifestyle Block This article first appeared in NZ Lifestyle Block Magazine.
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