What to Use If You Run Out of Dishwasher Detergent

Running out of dishwasher detergent always seems to happen when you have a load of dishes to wash and no time to go to the store. Instead of letting the dirty dishes sit in your sink, reach for a safe and effective substitutes that you most likely have in your pantry or kitchen cupboard.

  • Baking soda is a tried-and-true natural cleaning agent. Fill your dishwasher's detergent cup with baking soda and run it as usual. Some people add two drops of liquid dishwashing soap along with the baking soda -- but be extremely careful if you do that. Liquid soap in a dishwasher can result in massive amounts of suds all over your kitchen floor.
  • White vinegar is another natural cleaning agent. Place a non-breakable cup or small cereal bowl upright in the dishwasher's top rack and pour 1/2 cup of vinegar in the container. Run the dishwasher as usual. You can use the vinegar on its own or along with the baking soda.
  • Lemon juice or citrus drink powder contains citric acid, which is the key ingredient that cleans your dishes and gets the inside of your dishwasher shiny, too. Use it in the same manner as white vinegar. If you use lemon juice, make sure to strain it so your dishes won't come out with dried bits of lemon pulp all over them.

These quick cleaners are OK for occasional use; however, baking soda is naturally gritty, so if it's used regularly, it may wear away decorations that are printed on plates and dishes, especially on older china. Keep the vinegar or lemon juice at hand, though, and once a month run the dishwasher with a half-cup of vinegar or lemon juice to keep your dishwasher and dishes clean and free of soap scum.

Jan Burch

Jan Burch

Jan Burch has written about home, garden, wellness and other topics since 1992. Her articles have appeared in ByLine, Living Natural and New Mexico Woman. Based in Albuquerque, Burch is a Feng Shui consultant and Jin Shin Jyutsu practitioner. A life-long crafting enthusiast, she holds a master's degree from the University of California.