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Out of Dishwasher Detergent? Use This Clever Alternative Instead

This two-ingredient dish detergent replacement works just as well as dishwasher pods if you're in a real pinch.

Macy Meyer Editor I
Macy Meyer is a N.C. native who graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2021 with a B.A. in English and Journalism. She currently resides in Charlotte, N.C., where she has been working as an Editor I, covering a variety of topics across CNET's Home and Wellness teams, including home security, fitness and nutrition, smart home tech and more. Prior to her time at CNET, Macy was featured in The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer, INDY Week, and other state and national publications. In each article, Macy helps readers get the most out of their home and wellness. When Macy isn't writing, she's volunteering, exploring the town or watching sports.
Expertise Macy covers a variety of topics across CNET's Home and Wellness teams, including home security, smart home tech, fitness, nutrition, travel, lifestyle and more. Credentials
  • Macy has been working for CNET for coming on 2 years. Prior to CNET, Macy received a North Carolina College Media Association award in sports writing.
Macy Meyer
2 min read
Close-up hand filling dishwasher with gloss liquid into the dishwasher box.

It's easy to make an alternative to dish detergent.

Miguel Tamayo Diaz/Getty Images

Dishwashers make cleaning grimy, food-covered dishes easier, but what if you're out of detergent? Instead of opting to hand wash your dirty dishes or rushing to the closest store to buy more dishwasher pods, you can make a simple, two-ingredient detergent alternative.

Chances are you already have all the items needed to make the replacement. All it takes is liquid dish soap and baking soda. Below, we'll explain the two-step process for making your own detergent. For more dishwasher tips, learn how to install a dishwasher and how to clean your dishwasher

Start by putting a few drops of liquid dishwashing soap into the detergent slot. Then, fill the slot the rest of the way with scoops of baking soda. Shut the slot and run your dishwasher like normal. And that's really it. It's that simple. 

It may sound too good to be true, but the baking soda/liquid dish soap combo will really work. A dishwasher cycle is already simple on its own: it cleans via hot water, spray and a cleaning agent, so even a substitute detergent will work fine, since the the rest of the cycle is operating as per usual. Baking soda especially does an effective job removing food residue and sanitizing, since it's a natural, gentle cleaning agent, yet abrasive enough to remove stuck-on food. 

homemade dishwasher detergent

This quick and easy detergent alternative will have your dishes sparkling. 

Alina Bradford/CNET

While this method is pretty tried and true, there are a few caveats to remember. 

  • It's really important to stick to the few -- like three or four -- small drops of dish soap to baking soda ratio. Too much dish soap can produce an overwhelming amount of suds that could flood out of the dishwasher onto your kitchen floor. Prevent the mess by going light-handed on the soap.
  • To get the best clean with the alternative dish detergent, try not to overfill the dishwasher. If you have a full load, look to see if there are a few things you could hand wash instead just to make sure the other items are getting the best clean possible. 
  • Also, you won't want to use baking soda for every cycle. Even though baking soda is mildly abrasive, after several washes you may start to notice scratches on your dishware and glasses. 

While this can't be your permanent replacement to regular dishwasher detergent pods, it's a handy trick to pull out when you're in a bind and just simply can't run to the store. 

For more cleaning tips, check out why you shouldn't use vinegar in your dishwasher, and how to get mold out of your washing machine.