2011-12-13

Making dishwasher detergent

This evening I had to make some more dishwasher detergent. Last time I made some I had to make what I've come to consider a half-batch because I was running low on citric acid.

This time I decided to weigh my ingredients as I went. I'm thinking it'll be easier in the future to make it by weight so I'm not standing there trying to pour occasionally-clumpy powders into measuring cups. By the way, I did my measurements in grams. I feel like my scale is giving me a more accurate idea of what I'm putting in the bowl when I do it in grams. Might have something to do with the fact that the scale is accurate to the tenth of an ounce on imperial, but to the gram on metric. One gram is a third of a tenth of an ounce. I'm not crazy!

Here's how the measurements came out:
  • 300g washing sodaThat's sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), not sodium bicarbonate. Not edible, not a natural leavening agent, though it is apparently sometimes used instead of lye for making pretzels for the same basic reason it might be used to counter the pH effects of pool chlorine.
  • 150 g borax
    Sodium tetraborate (Na2B4O7·10H2O) has a bunch of uses for cleaning and it kind of seems like most of them are about the same purposes as the washing soda. I'm sure there's some explanation why using both seems to be better than just one. I use both in the laundry detergent too.
  • 150 g kosher salt
    Plain old sodium chloride (NaCl). My challenge may actually be to find a bulk source of kosher salt. The sea salt in the bulk bins at Whole Foods isn't quite as coarse as I'd like it to be. Maybe it doesn't matter ultimately since the dishwasher just dumps a bunch of water on it anyway. When I found the recipe, it argued that the coarseness of the kosher salt (over table salt, I guess) was beneficial for scrubbing the dishes. Maybe I'll have to give it a shot next time with the sea salt I can easily get.
  • 115 g citric acid
    Citric acid (C6H8O7) seems to be used a lot as a preservative in bottled drinks and I recently learned it prevents browning in applesauce in pretty much the same way lemon juice does with apple slices, presumably this has something to do with the large amount of citric acid in citrus fruits, hence citric. It gives a sort of tangy flavor to whatever you put it in (again with the citrus thing). This is why I do not care for bottled iced teas. It's also a natural antacid and is half of what's in Alka-Seltzer. Citric acid's role here is to help prevent the film you might otherwise get on your glassware. I must admit I was a little sad the weight on this one was so inconvenient. It ruins the possibility of a nice ratio of ingredients by weight like there is when you do it by volume.
Just mix all that together thoroughly. The citric acid may make the rest of it want to clump together. I like to break up the clumps and stir it up with a serving spoon, but if you've got clumps, it's not a big deal; it's all going in the same place anyway.

I use one tablespoon of the detergent loose in the machine for the pre-wash and one more tablespoon in the close-able container thing for the main wash. I found that if I just did one or the other, it didn't do quite as good a job.

Now if I could, I would also put some white vinegar in the rinse aid thing in the dishwasher. But alas, our rinse aid thing doesn't work. There's probably still some vinegar in there from the first couple months we lived here. The vinegar ostensibly serves the same sort of purpose as the citric acid, to sort of wash away any filmy stuff left after the rinsing, and any hard water deposits. I have this strong feeling it'd totally work. Vinegar does wonders on the heating element of our humidifier.

We'll get to laundry soap pretty soon. There's only a couple loads left, I think.