Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

The next step in my journey to self sufficiency is making my own dishwasher detergent. I have researched it for awhile now and finally came up with a recipe that suits me. There are a lot of different ones out there.

Automatic Dishwasher Detergent
1 cup borax
1 cup wasing soda or 1/5 cup pool ph adjuster soda
1/2 to 1 cup citric acid depending on the hardness of the water. (I used 3/4 cup.)
1/2 cup kosher salt (or sea salt)
Vinegar in the rinse cycle
Use 1.5 tablespoons per load (if using washing soda)
Use 1 small tablespoon per load (if using ph pool adjuster soda)

The citric acid keeps the residue from building up on the dishes and makes them shiny and clear, as does the vinegar as a rinse agent.
The salt disinfects, cuts grease and scrubs off the hard grime.

I have not used it yet. I just made it this morning and will wait until after 7 pm to run the dishwasher. (We have a "smart" hydro meter. EVERYTHING waits for after 7 pm unless I get up early enough to finish it before 7 am, which is often the case.)August 11, 2011 update: This recipe will clump. It will even form a solid clump in a couple of days. That's the citric acid. I broke it all up and worked it with my fingers and spoon until it was a usable finer granuar form again and it's been fine since. You could even let it clump for a few days then run it through the grinder to make it very fine. I didn't bother. If I were going to sell it, I would do that.

Used it this morning. Works great!!! Sparkling clean glasses like I haven't seen in a long time using commercial dishwasher detergent. I used a rinse agent from the store, only because I had it. When it is gone I will switch to vinegar. A rinse agent is important to keep the dishes sparkling too.

Update: Sept 02, 2011: This recipe clumps badly. At this time it is one solid, hard piece. I have to chop it into little pieces to use it. I have read that the addition of 1/4 cup of dry rice will help fix this problem without affecting how well it works. I am making more very soon and will add the rice to it. We will see how it goes...

It does still work well! The dishes are always sparkling clean!

Read a current update on this post.

Winter Sewing

Well, winter is here, sadly. It's been winter here for about a month now. We probably won't see the ground again until spring. The only way a hardcore gardener like myself can survive this, is to plant in the winter too. I know it's not the same, but at least I am playing in the dirt and sorting through my seeds, dreaming of spring.

"Wintersowing" is a relatively new thing, as far as gardening goes. I first heard the term about 15 years ago, and that is new for gardening terms. It refers to someone planting seeds in containers and putting them outside so they get the freezing winter temps they need to germinate, but are up off the ground and enclosed. These wintersowed containers will warm up and thaw faster in the spring than the ground and the seeds will germinate much sooner.

You could plant these same seeds in the ground in the fall and get the same, eventual result, but wintersowing is faster. It also gives gardeners a chance to plant and garden in the middle of the winter.

Wintersowing is better done in deeper containers. The more shallow ones, as in the top picture from a few years ago, dry out too fast in the spring. Plastic pop and clear plastic juice bottles work well.

Here is one I did today. This is echinacea 'Double Decker'.

I drilled a few holes in the bottom center and cut more around the outer edge with a knife. Then I cut it almost in half, just enough that I could lift the lid to fill and plant but not enough to take the lid off completely. I want it as securely attached as possible outside.

I filled it with storebought potting soil, since our ground is frozen solid, and planted the seeds. Echinacea seeds need a winter to germinate and they also need a little sunlight, so they get covered very little, if at all.

I stuck in a label and put it on my south facing deck with a block of ice behind it to hold it in place during winter storms. I don't have many of these seeds and would be quite frustrated should it blow over and be destroyed. I planted about half of the echinacea 'Double Decker' seeds that I have, saving a few in case these don't germinate. (It's a foolish gardener who plants all of his seed!)

I have a few more seeds to wintersow this year. This is just the first one. I'm looking forward to these special echinacea seeds for the flowerbed. As far as the herb uses go, it doesn't matter which one I have since they all have the same properties. I have single purple ones and the 'White Swan'. These flowers look like this:
Almost anything that needs a winter to germinate can be wintersowed. I plan to do a lot more this month, if I have the time.