10 Things About Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

by Ivory Soap

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Homemade dishwasher detergent is the holy grail of DIY home products.  It’s the most persnickety and undependable. I was determined to solve the mystery! I spent HOURS on  this household products database researching all of the possible chemical formulations of commercial detergent to compare it with the usual homemade detergent recipes.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent vs Commercial

Many Home Recipes Have Less Cleaning Power

1. NO commercial dishwasher detergents contain BORAX.

Isn’t that nuts?  I was so surprised.  I studied the chemistry and  I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a PROBLEM in the dishwasher, but I’m pretty sure it’s just not effective enough to justify the cost of including it commercially.  It’s much less effective than washing soda at water softening and raising the cleaning pH. This means it’s great for washing or boosting the cleaning on your fine china and your delicate laundry, but poo-poos for blasting the crap out of your daily dish grime.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Verdict:  Borax is fine, but if you’re having trouble getting things CLEAN (which is not the same as deposits), replacing borax with washing soda will make it more powerful.

2.  NO commercial dishwasher detergents contain SALT.

It *is* a water softener, but it’s WAY weaker than washing soda.  And if you have lots of stainless steel, ingredients with chlorides (NaCL) are not recommended.

Conclusion:  If it works for you, great.  But if you’re having problems getting things CLEAN or getting spots on your stainless, ditch the salt and put in more washing soda.

3.  ONLY ONE contained any BAKING SODA

Baking soda is only half as strong as washing soda at softening water and doesn’t allow the cleaning pH to go nearly as high.   Like borax, it’s great for delicate stuff, poo-poos for daily dish grime.  And if you have a stronger product on hand, why dilute it with a weaker one?

Conclusion: Like salt, and borax, if you’re having trouble getting something clean, eliminate the baking soda and replace with washing soda.  Conversely, if you want to make your detergent milder, toss in one of those.


Most commercial detergents at least 50% washing soda.  It’s twice as strong as baking soda or borax or salt.  Unless you’re washing something delicate, none of those three products add anything exciting enough to the equation to merit inclusion.  Washing soda is a super water softener and shoots the cleaning pH through the roof.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Conclusion:  Definitely a must-use.

5. SOME powdered commercial detergents use an oxygen bleach. 

Oxygen bleaches loose their poop after they sit for a while in water, so they come in powders.  But there’s no need to mix your own since they just break down into washing soda and peroxide.  If you have stained plastics, a slosh of hydrogen peroxide or a spoonful of Dollar Store oxygen cleaner will work just as well.  Borax has been touted as an oxygen bleach but it’s very weak, which is likely why it’s never found in dish detergent.

I only have the odd plastic piece that gets stained.  It’s easier and more cost effective to just deal with them individually with a bottle of peroxide than to fool with whole detergent formulations.

Conclusion:  Unnecessary.  If you have lots of stained plastic and want it in your every day formula, the cheapest solution is to use the dollar store Oxiclean.

6. SOME commercial dishwasher detergents contain “SURFACTANTS”,

This could mean SOAP or synthetic NON-SOAP detergents.  Yes, both will foam in your dishwasher, but I think the key is type and amount.  I have done it with and without soap in the recipe.

Conclusion:  It’s unnecessary, but I like it.  Just use a TINY amount.

Now, Let’s Talk Sediment

7. Vinegar dissolves the salt deposits on your dishes. 

YAY!!!!  You can just put it in your rinse compartment, but I find that while it works fine on the glass, there’s still sediment on the outside of plastics.  The rinse compartment just doesn’t let enough out to get it off the plastic.  However, I have found that if you mist them with your spray bottle of vinegar, light sediment almost immediately disappears.

Conclusion:  Put it in the rinse compartment.  If there is light sediment when the washer is done, mist the dishes with a spray bottle of vinegar while they dry.  If there is heavy sediment, see the following options.

8.  FEW commercial detergents contain CITRIC ACID.

Citric acid helps take all those hardwater deposits and keeps them suspended in the wash water so they don’t settle on anything.  Citric acid is more often found in rinse aids and dishwasher cleaners, like Lemi Shine.  If you are getting sediment on your plastics, this is where you can turn first.   It will work better in the rinse compartment than vinegar, but I have no idea how strong to mix it.

Conclusion:  Hurray!


As you add more acid to the mix, and decrease the possibility of deposits, you are neutralizing the washing soda.  This is why it’s more often seen in rinse aids, dishwasher cleaners, and other situations where washing soda is used.  To use it with washing soda, you have to overwhelm the citric acid with washing soda to make sure there’s enough left to do it’s high pH cleaning thing.   In the detergents I’ve seen, it’s at least 4 parts washing soda to 1 part citric acid.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Conclusion:  Use 1 cup of washing soda for each 1/4 cup citric acid.  If I still get sediment, I use more detergent, not raise the citric acid concentration in the detergent.

10. Almost all dish detergents contain SODIUM SILICATE

It’s almost 50% in some cases.  Many detergents are just 50/50 washing soda and sodium silicate.  Why?

  • It’s fantastic for rinsing away deposits
  • It doesn’t fight your washing soda like acid
  • It protects the metal in your washer from corrosion
  • It’s fairly hard to come by these days outside of commercial dish detergent.

This is what I believe is the main difference between commercial and homemade dishwasher detergents.  Sodium silicate is the reason some get sediments, even with a citric acid rinse, but get none with commercial detergents.  I also believe that sodium silicate is the main reason manufacturers want us to use commercial detergent; it protects our machine parts.

You *can* make it from potash and sand or silicon packing beads and sodium hydroxide, but it’s akin to trying to make your own lye from ashes.

Conclusion:  BUMMER.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Battle Plan

  • I would say, first try a spoonful of plain old washing soda.  Maybe add a little soap, if you like.  This is 100% cleaning power, no sediment protection.
  • Use vinegar in the rinse compartment.
  • If you get sediment, see  if it’s a matter of a quick spritz with vinegar just after the dishes finish.
  • If not, start fooling around with citric acid in the detergent, maybe the rinse compartment too.

have to use citric acid in the detergent, vinegar in the rinse, AND spritz with vinegar at the end.  Here’s my recipe:

  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1/4 cup citric acid (Lemi-Shine original)
  • optional 1/2 cup grated soap

Good luck!

Disclaimer: This post may contain a link to an affiliate.

{ 116 comments… read them below or add one }

kellylynn May 24, 2012 at 5:47 am

I also love the vinegar. I found what works best for me and my machine is to just dump anywhere from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup right on the bottom of the machine just before I start it. This seems to be perfect for the dishes overall and it seems to help clean the machine some too.

Leigh May 24, 2012 at 6:26 am

What type of soap do you add?

Jessie : Improved May 24, 2012 at 8:32 am

Thanks so much for posting this. I’ve gone around and around on homemade dishwasher detergent and have had nothing but failures. This is the most detailed information I’ve seen on the subject.

KallyLyn May 24, 2012 at 11:14 am

When we had a dishwasher we just dumped the Lemi-Shine in the bottom of the washer. Actually, that’s what we did with everything, soap, etc. included. That’s the only way we could get the dishes clean if using the dishwasher, because our water was always so crappy to deal with.

I wonder if it would hurt anything to use this formula when washing by hand…?

Kendra|OurHomemadeHappiness May 25, 2012 at 10:30 am

Very interesting article! (especially since I’m working on my own homemade dishwasher detergent right now) Maybe I’ll have to add more washing soda and less Borax to my recipe. I like using Borax since it’s a disinfectant. I can’t use soap in my recipe because my water is way too hard. It just leaves too much of a film. Wish I could get my hands on some sodium silicate! 🙂

Michelle May 26, 2012 at 5:35 am

I’ve been wanting to try this again, but had such a problem with the citric acid clumping the whole concoction together. Do yo mix your ingredients together or keep them separate? And how much do you use in each load?

susan May 26, 2012 at 10:59 am

Where the heck do you get washing soda?

Daisy May 26, 2012 at 7:34 pm

susan–Arm&Hammer makes it. It’s in the supermarket laundry products aisle.

susan May 27, 2012 at 7:55 am

Wow. Really? Thanks, Daisy! I’m gonna give it a try!

Ivory Soap May 27, 2012 at 2:31 pm

You have two choices on including the citric acid. You can mix it up and press the concoction into ice cube trays and let them make tablets, or you can leave the top off for a day and go by and stir it periodically. I use 1-2 T depending on the dirt.

Jessie : Improved June 21, 2012 at 5:58 am

Just wanted to let you know I’ve been using your recipe for about a week and I finally have a working homemade dishwasher detergent! I blogged about it and gave you a shoutout here:


Tender June 26, 2012 at 11:06 am

Ok – I love your blog and especially these detailed explanations. Sorry, but is your recipe her washing load? It seems like a lot, but I wanted to check with you.

Ivory Soap June 28, 2012 at 7:47 am

You just use a TBSP or two per load, as you see fit. Sorry about that.

Nancy July 26, 2012 at 7:48 pm

Cleaning our the filters and bottom of the dishwasher also usually will help a lot I have found. On some machines you might have to unscrew some parts to get at the filters Refer to your owners manual before doing anything.

ceil July 29, 2012 at 10:35 am

What do you use if you’re incredibly allergic to washing soda?

Ivory Soap July 31, 2012 at 8:27 am

You have a histamine reaction to washing soda? Is this is contact allergy? Or maybe super sensitive skin? I would definitely “sour” the laundry after you use ANY detergent to get rid of all the residual soda and change the pH back to your skin’s preference. email me directly and we can talk it over.

Ceil July 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm

I get bad asthma.

Henschlen August 8, 2012 at 1:16 am

Cool, I have used salt and baking soda the first time I made dishwashing detergent, now I am trying it without. Can you say anything about the reaction of citric acid with washing soda? When I mix the two I get foam and it gets cold. Then I don’t really have powder in the end but a soft mass. I think the washing soda is hygroscopic, can I dry it somehow?

Ivory Soap August 11, 2012 at 10:42 am

It reacts and turns to salt water. That salt water is still effective at keeping sediment off your dishes, but is not effective for actual cleaning. You have to put in enough washing soda that after the reaction, there’s enough left to clean. It’s 4:1. And you need to use it dry. Even if you got it to mix and dry it, the reaction with the air would make it lose potency quickly.

Carol August 14, 2012 at 12:05 am

I got this recipe from another website and then I found yours.

My recipe is
1 c baking soda OR washing soda OR a combination of both
1 c borax
1/4 c Kosher Salt
1/4 c citric acid OR 2 pkgs unsweetened lemon Koolaide (that is citric acid, too)
Use 1 to 2 Tblsp with 3 drops (not more than 3 or dishwasher will foam) and 1/2 to 1 c of vinegar into the bottom of the dishwasher.

I was so excited and ran out and bought everything, brought it home and then hubby said that he was worried about using citric acid because he saw somewhere that it was hard on dishes or silverware (or something like that). Have any of you heard that?

I make my own laundry detergent and love it and wanted to make my own dishwasher soap, too.

My laundry detergent is
1 c borax
1 c washing powder
1 c OxyClean (you can do 1/4 to 1 c of OxyClean but I just went ahead and did 1 c)
1 bar of Fels Naptha grated really fine
Stir it together and leave it in a Ice Cream tub with the lid on. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons of the mix and fill the rinse compartment with white vinegar. I have been using it for a couple of weeks and love it. Clothes are white and clean and I don’t use fabric softener because I have a dryer full of my home made wool dryer balls so the clothes are soft and static free.

I sure could use some input on the citric acid, though.

Ivory Soap August 16, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Strong acids should not be used in isolation on things with the properties of grout or granite. That said, the mix for the dishwasher, if done correctly creates an overall BASE pH, which is safe. The recipe you have above will not hurt your dishes, but it may also not clean them. It only calls for enough washing soda and borax to neutralize the two acids (completely unnecessary to have both in there, BTW). You’d need double the baking soda to do it. There might be a little borax left to help clean, but this recipe has you basically using salty water to wash your dishes. It should make SOFT water, but after all the acids and bases have neutralized each other, the only CLEANER is the soap.

Carol August 16, 2012 at 4:18 pm

I tried the dishwashing soap recipe last night for the first time and I LOVE it. My dishes came out sparkling clear and clean. We have hard water and it leaves a white film and spots and not all the dishes came out clean with Cascade or Finish.

I was thrilled to see that all of my dishes were spotless and crystal clean in just one load. I can barely wait to use it again. I found out that lots of others used this recipe, too.

Now instead of using the Koolaid for the citric acid, I will go buy the Lemony Shine which is the same thing. I used the Koolaid because it was only 20 cents a package instead of springing for $4 a can. Now that I know it works, I am going to get the can 😉

I also didn’t have Dawn liquid dishwashing soap, just the Dawn foaming soap so I squirted three foam blobs and it worked and wasn’t too foamy.

Stephanie August 22, 2012 at 7:52 pm

I put one of those moisture absorbing packets that sometimes come in purses (mine came in my nutrition shake mix). My powder doesn’t clump anymore!

Ivory Soap August 23, 2012 at 7:06 am

Nice trick, Stephanie!

Carol August 23, 2012 at 11:45 am

Thanks for the tip with the moisture paks 😉 I have two huge bags of these from my food storage activities. What I do right now is put my DIY dishwasher detergent in a large cool whip container I washed out and before using I give it a really good shake side to side and top to bottom. This helps distribute the cleaners better and there is no clumping because of the sealed lid.

Ian September 17, 2012 at 7:38 am

If you’re going to use citric acid, skip the overpriced and diluted version in lemi-shine or in koolaid and go buy straight up citric acid crystals. It’s about 4 bucks a pound (you really don’t wanna know what the per-pound cost of the citric acid in koolaid packets works out to) and can be obtained at your local oriental food store (usually right next to the MSG) or on Amazon.

Carol September 17, 2012 at 11:54 pm

Update on my dishwashing – It worked great to begin with for the first couple of weeks but I found that after using half of the container that some of the larger crystals had been used more than the fine and what was left is leaving a white powdery substance on my dishes. I added more salt and that seemed to help for a load but not really so I added more Koolaide packages and more vinegar. Still powdery – so I made up a completely new batch and added it in to the left over from the old. Mistake. Powdery white crap left on the dishes 🙁 Now what do I do. Throw it all out and start over? Try a new combination? Frustrated….


Angela October 25, 2012 at 9:12 am

I have a quick question for you, and hope you can help. I see that you do not use Borax in your dishwasher detergent, which may be why my dishes were all filmy when I made this the first time. I can cut that from the “recipe”, no problems. However, I have some silverware that says that I am not supposed to wash them with “lemon”. I would think that citric acid is pretty much the same thing. Can I just use washing soda and vinegar? Do you think my dishes will get clean? Also, is it safe to put OxyClean in your dishwasher? Any and all help would greatly be appreciated! I want to be able to run my silverware in the dishwasher, but may have to hand-wash, if I can’t find a “recipe” to clean and disinfect my dishes without citric acid. Thanks in advance, for your help!

K October 30, 2012 at 6:20 am

Homemade dishwasher soap is still a work in progress. Thanks for all your hard work and info! What kind of soap do you use for this? Are you still using the same formula?

mary b November 2, 2012 at 8:22 am

call me lazy, but after messing around with a good number of homemade variations, I’ve decided to use the dollar store commercial powder. I decided upon this because I really felt like I needed the Sodium Silicate. After researching getting this for my homemade version decided using the dollar store commercial powder is a way better use of my time and it appears to be very low cost per load. I am tracking how long it will take us to use a box right now.

hlwpls2009 December 31, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Hi, First off, these are some great tips; however, I just have a quick question, not sure if you know how to answer or not… I have heard that vinegar will ruin the seals in your dishwasher’s rinse aid compartment, mostly on the newer models though. I have heard, also, of putting a very small bowl in the top rack filled with vinegar instead.. but I have not had the best luck with vinegar and have been searching relentlessly for an alternative to vinegar as a rinse aid, as well… Does anyone know of anything or any truth to what I’ve heard about the seals???

cmcnulty January 7, 2013 at 7:33 pm

I wonder if the sodium silicate that you can buy on Amazon would work? It’s used by potters and is very alkaline (11.3 pH). Any idea how much you would need to add to a load.

Ivory Soap January 9, 2013 at 10:41 am

Sure, I guess. Send me a link.

cmcnulty January 9, 2013 at 12:26 pm
John Turner January 24, 2013 at 1:30 pm

If yiou heat baking soda on a hot stove it will convert to sodium carbonate or washing soda. This is probably not an economic way to obtain it, but if you have been using baking soda, you should make some. You can readily see the difference.

Jane January 25, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Hi, I was very happy to read your article today on homemade dishwasher detergent. Thank you so much for all the research! I have been using the Tropical Traditions (TT) dishwasher detergent for over 6 months, and after trying many different “green” alternatives (none of which cleaned my dishes) I am definitely impressed by the Tropical Traditions (and so is my husband, and that doesn’t happen easily!). Having said that, it is very pricey, so I thought I would try to make my own, which is how I found your site. These are the ingredients in the TT: sodium citrate (sour salt) sodium carbonate (washing soda) sodium percarbonate (sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide), surfactants, rinse agents and silica. After reading your article, I’m thinking of giving up on this battle and sticking with the TT! Here is the link to this great stuff, if you sign up for their emails every few weeks they’ll have a free shipping day, and then you can stock up.


Geneva Ayte February 6, 2013 at 4:32 pm

I have done ceramics for years. And sodium silicate is readily available for hobby use. Could this be the same sodium silicate? It’s gotta’ be. It comes in both powder and liquid form as I recall. Anybody got any ideas as this seems to be the missing miracle ingredient.

Sonia February 25, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Thanks for this detailed article. There seems to be hundreds of articles using the same borax, washing soda, citric acid combo with little explanation of how it compares to commercial dishwashing soap. I am still experimenting with ratios. We have very hard water and either we end up with dishes with film or dishes with no film, but not clean. If I could only get my hands on some sodium silicate…

Robert March 19, 2013 at 9:27 am

I tried using homemade washing powder with borax, soap flakes and washing soda.

My poor son’s bottom after I’d washed his nappies in it…his skin was so bad, it was peeling.

Jessica March 22, 2013 at 2:32 pm

I wanted to thank you for your wonderful tips about the individual ingredients, I think it will really help a lot while I try and find a mix that works for us. I also wanted to add a couple of tips of my own.

1)Baking baking soda in the oven at 400 degrees for 1 hour will convert it to washing soda. Since I can buy HUGE amounts of baking soda at Costco for cheap this is a nice trick for me, I’m doing my first batch right now 🙂

2)Another blog (sorry can’t remember which one, I’ve read so many) recommended keeping the citric acid separate from the rest of the detergent mix. When you do a load of dishes it said to put 1tsp citric acid in the wash cup and then 1tbsp in the pre-wash cup of the dishwasher. The goal wash to let the citric acid work separately after the detergent did it’s trick to wash away any sediments and get the dishes sparkling clean. I haven’t tried this yet but I’m going to when I get my citric acid.

I have tricky well water so I don’t expect miracles but really hope to find something that works. Using your info to guide the way.

Thanks Again!!!

Jessica March 22, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Oh shoot… On tip number 2 I meant to say 1tsp citric acid in the wash cup and 1tbsp of detergent mix in the pre-wash cup.

Generva Ayte March 26, 2013 at 9:13 am

Sodium Silicate is readily available. It is used in the ceramics business, to name just one. You can order it on line. But it needs extremely careful handling.

Ivory Soap March 29, 2013 at 7:26 am

First of all, the borax is unnecessary, leaves residue, and is generally unhelpful. A half and half of soap and washing soda should do it. Also, skin is acidic, so a really high pH diaper is going to be irritating. be SURE to put vinegar in the rinse to remove any hard water deposits and to return the diapers to a non-irritating pH.

Greener Goods April 6, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Hi! I just wanted to add that I too make my own washing soda (baking soda in the oven for 1 hour at 400) and use homemade castille soap (grate/cut one bar of Kirk’s castille soap, which is coconut-oil soap, into a big pot filled with 2 gallons of hot water. Put on lid. Leave overnight. No mixing, stirring or waiting. Dilute 1:1 with water when bottling. Use for everything: shampoo, bodywash, handsoap, toothpaste, etc. Think Dr. Bronner’s , but better! I add peppermint oil).

For my dishwasher soap, I just cover the pre-wash and soap dispensers with my homemade castille liquid soap. Then I just barely cover the surface of that , in both cups, with washing soda (we keep our homemade washing soda on the countertop, in a covered jar, with a 1/8 cup plastic scoop in it). That’s it. Wash as usual. My dishes are spotless!

I used to use the homemade recipe of 1/3 cup salt, 1/3 cup washing soda, 1/3 cup borax and 4 packets of unsweet koolaid, but it was just “okay”. My dishes come out sparkling with the simple washing soda + castille soap formula and it’s so much more economical & easy that it’s crazy.

Hope this helps some of you. You can buy Kirk’s bar soap at WalMart in the H & B soap aisle or at your grocery store. Bars are sold singly or in a 3-pack, typically.

Love DIY stuff!


Greener Goods April 6, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Oh, when you add the castille soap to the dishwasher, just cover the BOTTOM of the dispensers with your soap. It doesn’t take much at all! Then, just cover the SURFACE of this soap with a sprinkling of washing soda. So, it uses very little. We also use white vinegar in our rinse dispenser.

The box of borax I bought today (I’m making another batch of laundry detergent today and use the Duggar family recipe) says you can also pour some in the bottom of your dishwasher to remove mineral deposits from dishwasher/dishes. However, washing soda also binds with minerals, and it’s probably cheaper since I make my own. I dont’ have any trouble with spots, but it might make a good “dump and run cycle” cleaner if you have a really heavy buildup of minerals in your dishwasher. Worth a try 🙂

Linda K April 12, 2013 at 1:38 am

I would definitely NOT be using salt in my dishwasher. If you have plastic coated racks and have a little cut in the plastic, it will rust something awful! Plus, any parts down below will be doing the same. My screws in the door hinges rusted too. And just for the record, borax is toxic, so I wouldn’t be using it on something you could be eating off of just in case it didn’t get rinsed good.

Doreen Aery August 6, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Can you use refrigerated lemon juice as your citric acid?

Ann Sanamo August 10, 2013 at 10:26 am

Just curious, I think citric acid can be found in the canning section of your local stores. HMMMM I will have to check the next time I am shopping

Karen August 15, 2013 at 6:38 am

I used the Duggar liquid laundry soap in my dishwasher and vinegar and it came out great.
I used about an ounce but I am still working on it.
Will try the washing soda and soap.

Christine Mayfield August 26, 2013 at 9:04 pm

My recipe

1 tsp Sun oxygen powder
1/2 tsp dawn dish soap
Put these two ingredients in the soap dispenser
1/2 cup white vinegar in bottom of dishwasher.

Super duper easy sparkling dishes.

Amber October 18, 2013 at 7:14 pm

I read once that you can make your own washing soda, by pouring baking soda onto a baking sheet and cooking it at about 200 degrees for 3 hours, or so. Do you have any idea as to the validity and effectiveness of this method? I have a ton of baking soda, but I am all out of washing soda. Curious to know if I can make do with what I have on hand.

brother's keeper October 28, 2013 at 11:43 am

confused about the spritz part. You mean, open the dishwasher and spritz all the dishes with vinegar?

Lisa Bertolini November 2, 2013 at 8:23 am

In my fast paced home, I’m not sure I would want to go through the troubleshooting and chances of cloudy dishes that comes with homemade dishwasher detergents. I appreciate the research you did here. If these popular blogger recipes for dishwasher soap really worked well then wouldn’t the companies would have produced it themselves? Of all the cleaning products on the market, dishwasher detergent isn’t that expensive and there are eco friendly products out there. One last thought…..the dishwasher manuals state specifically what to use for detergent and if we use anything other than their recommendations and something goes wrong…then aren’t the repairs are on us instead of covered by their warranties? I don’t know if I want to risk that kind of financial set back.

Ivory Soap November 13, 2013 at 8:15 am

yes, that is the theory. Spray them down.

momofivejs December 26, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate, where table salt is sodium chloride. While they are both salts, they do have different chemical properties.

Wanda January 5, 2014 at 12:11 pm

I’ve been looking for a source and found sodium silicate at Walmart. http://www.walmart.com/ip/Rutland-146-WATER-GLASS-adhesive-and-concrete-sealer-Gal/25480297

Karen January 6, 2014 at 5:15 pm

What is washing soda and where does one find it ?

Christopher McNulty January 11, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Wanda, did you buy and try the Walmart sodium silicate? How did it work?

Ashley April 1, 2014 at 5:30 am

I am just a little confused…why do you spray your dishes with vinegar after they are done from the dishwasher? That seems superfluous to me? Wouldn’t you want to spray them before starting the dishwasher? Won’t they have a vinegar residue on them and leave spots?….do you rinse them again and hand dry each piece from the dishwasher when the cycle is done after spraying everything down with vinegar?

Thanks just trying to wrap my head around the processes…step by step pictures are my best way to learn! 😉

ChetMC April 1, 2014 at 7:11 pm

I’ve read the vinegar will dry out the seals in your dishwasher and shouldn’t be used, is this true?

Glo May 19, 2014 at 6:09 pm

Wow! This is a great deal of compacted information. Thank you so much!

Glo May 19, 2014 at 6:10 pm

you just saved me a whole lot of time!

Brandon July 8, 2014 at 1:08 pm

You can get sodium silicate (or rather sodium metasilicate) at the hardware store. Look for Lundmark brand TSP or any other TSP (trisodium phosphate) alternative. But for even better results.get real TSP. It’s in the paint section and is used for cleaning surfaces prior to painting. The environmental dangers of TSP have been greatly exaggerated. But be careful, many of the products labeled as TSP are not actually TSP, but sodium metasilicate so ready the label. I would also recommend this for laundry. Your clothes will be much cleaner and since TSP helps remove all of the soap and detergent better the clothes actually stay cleaner for longer! Soap and detergent residue attack dirt and grime!

Ivory Soap July 8, 2014 at 4:28 pm

You can? That’s amazing. I need to go get some and test it out!

michael July 13, 2014 at 7:15 pm

washing soda works great. can be found here too

Archaa July 22, 2014 at 11:52 am

Was the recipe you listed at the end of your post (1 cup washing soda
1/4 cup citric acid (Lemi-Shine original) optional 1/2 cup grated soap) for 1 load of dishes? Also, which soap brand/kind of soap do you use?

Ashley August 1, 2014 at 8:51 pm

When you add water to the regular homemade dish detergent, it becomes an environment for a reaction to take place. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and washing soda (sodium carbonate) both react to citric acid, which is a weak acid just like vinegar. Does baking soda and vinegar ring a bell? General rule: carbonate + acid —> salt + water + carbon dioxide. This is what it looked like in our case: sodium carbonate (aq) + citric acid (aq) —-> sodium citrate (aq) + water (l) + carbon dioxide (g). (Aq) means aqueous, which means they are dissolved in water, (l) means liquid, and (g) means gas. Luckily enough, sodium citrate is completely harmless, but wait, it gets better! It’s actually a great cleaning agent! This is why this detergent works well. “Sodium citrate is used as a builder in phosphate-free, heavy duty laundry products, hard surface cleaners, hand dishwashing products and automatic dishwashing products.” Builders are cleaning agents that boost the effectiveness of detergents (surfactants), and in our case, this is done by sequestering hard-water ions. So honestly, I don’t understand how citric acid neutralizes the washing soda. I agree with the 1:4 ratio, but I disagree with how you say it neutralizes it.

Kathy September 19, 2014 at 9:42 am

I would also be interested in kmowing whether Ivory bar soap could be used in the recipe.

Jason Thurston December 9, 2014 at 12:07 am

Do you have a source for your second assertion that “[salt] *is* a water softener”? I’ve never heard this before and can’t understand how dissolving salt in water will remove calcium and magnesium to make it soft? Water softeners use salt to soften water but only to recharge the resin. A small amount of salt ends up in the water but that’s only because the recharging and flushing of the tank isn’t perfect so some salt remains in the tanks and thus a small amount ends up in your water.

Sandy December 14, 2014 at 7:12 pm

I’m going to climb on my poor, beat-up, and well-used soapbox, and casually mention that “PLASTICS ARE BAD!!! BAD, BAD, BAD! Bad chemicals!” I finally retired all my plastics from the kitchen, and only use glass, metal, and silicon. That eliminates the sediment problem on plastics. >^;^<

Otherwise, super washing soda and a drop of detergent in the soap dispenser, plus vinegar in the rinse aid dispenser, and I don't have any problems. And I have really hard well water.

Gina January 10, 2015 at 12:51 am

In response to Linda K’s comment back from April 2013: Borax is completely non-toxic and has an LD50 less than that of table salt (meaning it’s less toxic than food grade salt). Please educate yourself before making such outrageous uninformed statements. It really perturbs me of the ignorance with people when they say they believe Borax is toxic…perhaps Borax is mistaken for Boric Acid?
Borax was used in many countries medicinally for arthritis with amazing results before Big Pharma took over where it was completely taken off the market as having any kind of use for our health. Borax contains the much needed mineral called Boron and it’s one of the main reasons why so many people are ill today—because they are not getting enough of it from our food sources predominately the ones grown in soil that is not rich in Boron as that is where Boron comes from. Borax is used in a wide range of remedies and I urge everyone to do some research on this as it could help you or your loved ones greatly from crippling pain. I have seen it do wonders with my hair and skin as I use it as a shampoo and body wash. My father took it internally to balance out his PH and kill his overgrowth of yeast (candida) which has stopped his arthritis in his right arm and helped him lower his blood pressure and weight….overall raised his health 1000 x fold. I also have a girlfriend who has cured herself from years of suffering from toe nail fungus by doing foot soaks with a tablespoon of Borax in warm water for 10 minutes a day for a week. Before I told her about Borax, she was considering getting her embarrassing toe nail fungus removed with expensive surgery that would have exposed her to so many toxic chemicals all the while bearing no guarantee that it wouldn’t come back (obviously as fungus/yeast thrives in acidic bodies and surgery does not help improve that.)

Here are some great articles on the subject of Borax…enjoy!



Jane January 10, 2015 at 8:55 am

@Gina – I believe that the safety of borax is hotly debated on the internet, and I don’t think it’s fair of you to say that people who question the safety of borax are acting in ignorance. Environmental Working Group, who I believe really does their homework in researching environmental toxins, rates is an “F.” They are a well respected public advocacy group, warning us of the toxins we use in our cleaners and skin care products with zero regulation from our government, and could hardly be considered a supporter of “Big Pharma.” The average person can’t run their own studies and can only go by the research of others. Myself, I am still researching, and haven’t come to any conclusions, but I will say that the EWG’s F rating has made me suspend my usage for now.


When I was using it, I loved it for its whitening properties, there really is nothing else like it!

Bill January 13, 2015 at 12:14 pm

You need to ignore those fool environmental whackos and use the EPA’s website to get the skinny on the toxicity of everything used in goods sold to the general public. Everything including water is toxic in gross amounts.
As for dishwashing detergents, a buddy of mine buys Cascade or it’s equivalent in a 30 gallon cardboard drum and uses that first as sandblasting media in a cabinet for cleaning up old oxidized aluminum motorcycle parts. It’s harder than baking soda so works better for longer until turned to dust which does little.. He saves the pulverized powder for use in his DW and for washing clothes. It’s dirt cheap by the drum and already mixed.

Kristie February 11, 2015 at 12:06 am

“100 percent sodium silicate- a sealant/adhesive for sealing gaskets, cartons, or labels, and helps control dust and resists stains as a cement floor sealer”

Excuse me but what am I missing here? How is this safe to use on your dishes?

Daisy February 11, 2015 at 9:06 am

Kristie–If you are concerned about it, please continue to check into it. The Amish use the liquid version as “water glass” to dip their eggs so they stay good longer. May help, may not. Also, it’s in 7th generation products. Here’s the household database link where you can look at the toxicity tests: http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/household/brands?tbl=chem&id=34&query=sodium+silicate&searchas=TblChemicals

And now that I look over that link, it does appear to be in several laundry detergent formulas; it’s in some bars of soap too!

Kristie February 12, 2015 at 4:12 pm

Thanks Daisy for responding and the link. I will look into it and read the database information 🙂

Chantale February 25, 2015 at 4:18 pm

I get bad rashes from Borax. It may not be toxic, but it’s not fully hypo-allergenic.

sat March 11, 2015 at 4:07 pm

TSP- highly effective in cleaning, the use of phosphates has been dramatically scaled back in recent decades over concerns about their effects in environmental water. These inorganic chemicals do not break down easily and tend to build up in freshwater ponds and lakes, where they promote the growth of algae. Excessive algae blooms deplete the oxygen in water, harming plankton and the fish that feed on them.

Part of the reason for natural products is the safety point so I would be very leary about this product-inorganic-does not break down

caution is to wear face and skin protection during use-if you are making your own-exposure is even greater as you inhale these esp if not in a well-ventilated area

sometimes the reason for dishwasher sediment is a dirty dishwasher-like anything else it needs periodic cleaning from the bottom filter to the inside-look online as to how to clean your machine and keep it from throwing back dirty built up particles onto your dishes-worked wonders for me-ditto for washing machine which builds up billions of dead skin cells in drum part

Valerie April 8, 2015 at 8:12 am

What is a good ph for grimy dishwashing detergent? Thanks!

Holly June 3, 2015 at 6:04 am

Recently I had no dishwasher soap on-hand so I used baking soda and my dishes came out feeling all powdery. Lesson learned…don’t use just baking soda!

Jane Smith June 23, 2015 at 7:46 am

Phosphates were banned 40 years ago because they are bad for the environment. Several people here think getting their dishes clean is more important than killing off fish. Shame on you.

Donna July 10, 2015 at 8:29 pm

Use lemon juice in the rinse aid with the vinegar, works wonders!

Minnie Lynwood July 17, 2015 at 7:42 am

I love reading about new eco friendly cleaning recipes, so thanks a lot for the warnings! I don’t have a dishwasher but I plan to buy one so I definitely needed this article! Thanks!

Anne October 8, 2015 at 10:05 am

Thank you for this great post, and for sharing all the trial and error that went into it! I put vinegar in the rinse compartment and tried a bit (about a Tbsp. total) of washing soda with a drop of Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap in the other compartments, and found it works just as well as the powdered Cascade we’d been using.

My husband was hesitant to try it, but he’s sold now 🙂 I’m trying to gradually move away from chemical cleaners am am so happy to have a less harsh option for the dishwasher. Thanks again!

Jen October 29, 2015 at 3:07 pm

Thank you for all of this. I only have one question: does anybody know anything ABOUT Washing Soda? It’s possiblle, with all the research on the other products, I don’t recall reading anything on WS.
By the way, dishwasher manuals are stating do NOT add walt in the wash!

Shanda Thyme November 17, 2015 at 2:10 pm

I will try this recipe. Today I was at Meijer and bought some LemiShine tabs and I am quite pleased so far with the results so as soon as I am through with this I will use your recipe. I cleaned out my dishwasher with vinegar and baking soda on two short and hot cycles and then loaded my dirty and cloudy/white filmy dishes with a LemiShine tab and 1/2 t of TSP in the covered compartment and 1/4 t TSP in the open compartment and a 1 c of vinegar in a dishwasher safe Pyrex measuring cup. I have been sneaking looks the entire cycle and they seem to be much cleaner than anything or combination that I have used thus far. I live in the midwest so our water is quite hard. Oh….the cycle has just stopped….I must go look…..hang on…. When I opened my dishwasher the smell was very welcoming (and lemon-y). My black rubber handled bread knife no longer had white film on it. However, my red plastic spatula did. My clear glasses are looking better and I suppose that after years of them looking this way that one wash cycle would not restore them to their once-brilliance. I will patiently wait and use this formula until my LemiShine tabs are gone and assess any improvements. But, thanks again for a fabulous article. Enjoy the upcoming season!

Regina January 26, 2016 at 5:42 pm

Just thought I’d leave this quick tip: unsweetened lemon or lemon-lime Kool-aid is made up of: citric acid, calcium phosphate, salt, along with traces of ascorbic acid, artificial flavor, yellow 5, blue 1, and BHA (a preservative). I’ve seen other homemade dish detergent recipe use 6 packets of Unsweetened Lemon or Lemon-Lime Koolaid for the 1/4 cup of Lemi-Shine.

Nicole March 7, 2016 at 5:51 pm

Ok so I have made my own dishwasher detergent here is the recipe 2 cups washing soda. 2 cups oxi clean boost or all laundry booster aka sodium percarbonate. 1 bottle meat tenderizer for the enzymes in it to help clean the dishes. Mix well and use 1 tablespoon per load

Nicole March 7, 2016 at 5:54 pm

The ingredients are pretty much the same as finish tabs dishwasher detergent

Ivory Soap March 9, 2016 at 7:03 pm

Cool. I have tried everything and nothing in there. Only super-expensive works. Bummer. For us it’s like cheese and chocolate, the really cheap version is no comparison.

Nicole March 9, 2016 at 7:27 pm

What do u think of the dishwasher recipe I posted

Ivory Soap March 16, 2016 at 9:26 pm

It looks fine. I just haven’t gotten anything homemade to work in my area. Most commercial dishwasher detergents are just washing soda and sodium silicate. Maybe some enzymes. Meat tenderizer is usually a single enzyme, bromelain. It will denature protein, but it’s killed in heat. (Think about canned pineapple in your jello versus, fresh.) So, I’m not sure it’s doing you any favors in a dishwasher, but it’s certainly not going to hurt. How well does it work for you?

Cassandra Acland May 5, 2016 at 11:22 am

Hi there, I can’t wait to try your recipe. Couple of questions…what type of grated soap do you add and how much detergent per load?
Thanks 🙂

Beverly May 16, 2016 at 10:50 am

Can you use Epsom salt in place of regular salt for dishwasher detergent recipe?

Sherrie June 22, 2016 at 8:04 pm

FYI you can make your own sodium silicate: http://chemistry.about.com/od/makechemicalsyourself/a/make-sodium-silicate.htm

looks like a useful way to recycle those silica gel packets

sea June 26, 2016 at 1:07 pm

I also did a survey of dishwasher detergents. Seventh Generation and Planet both have large amounts of salt. This is mostly there as a filler, like sodium sulfate. So I’m not sure its necessary. But your assertion that no brands contain it is wrong.

ALL brands contained a surfactant, and all surfactants were detergents, NOT real soap. I use a few drops of dish soap in the washer. Not enough to cause foam. IME real soap just leaves behind soap scum, even with my soft water.

Most, but not all, of the brands I looked at contained washing soda. Most brands contained citric acid or sodium citrate. Half the brands contained both.

Foam July 8, 2016 at 12:58 am

ALL detergents I looked at had some kind of surfactant. Most of the time they are alcohol based, and so may not sound like a surfactant. Surfactants were low on the ingredient list, but they were there. Washing soda and citric acid do not entirely cancel each other out, which is why both are included in many brands. Together they form Sodium Citrate, which is itself a cleanser. Many brands that don’t contain citric acid contain sodium citrate.

Fortunately these days it’s pretty easy to find ingredient lists online. I’m attempting to make a homemade version of my favorite detergent, Finish Power & Free. The ingredients in it that are easy to obtain are baking soda, washing soda, polyethylene glycol (miralax!), oxygen bleach, surfactant, citric acid, glycerin, and enzymes. I’m going to start with one ingredient and add others as necessary. Washing soda and dish soap was underwhelming. But I did learn I could use 1/4 tsp dish soap in my machine without ill effect.

Anne Greene July 8, 2016 at 1:24 pm

After several months of using a bit of washing soda and a drop of Dr. Bronner’s soap in our dishwasher, I started noticing our glasses didn’t look as clear/clean as they used to, and with time even the dishes and utensils started looking a bit scuzzy. I sometimes have to handwash and rinse things after they come out of the dishwasher, which obviously defeats the purpose of having a dishwasher 🙁

I stopped putting vinegar in the rinse compartment after reading it can ruin the plastic components, so tried spraying the dishes down with vinegar during (and sometimes after) the rinse cycle, but this didn’t solve the problem. Maybe it helped, but still I was seeing residue and having to do some handwashing after every dishwasher cycle.

A few weeks ago I finally got a container of Lemi-Shine and started putting about a tablespoon or so of that in the little detergent compartment that shuts, and about a tablespoon of washing soda in the open compartment. I think adding the Lemi-Shine has helped quite a bit, but STILL I see residue on the glass especially. The Lemi-Shine did remove all the white residue from the dishwasher heating element, so it’s definitely helping with the rinsing. I stopped using the drop of Dr. Bronner’s soap a few weeks ago as well, thinking maybe it was partly soap scum causing the residue. It’s frustrating that I still can’t seem to find a combination that totally eliminates the cloudy residue like the commercial detergents did.

If anyone has any advice I’d love to know! I don’t want to go back to using harsh detergents for environmental reasons, but I’m not sure what else to try.

MrsP July 12, 2016 at 3:24 pm

To Anne,

How much washing soda do you use per dishwasher load?

I recently also found out about Lemi Shine for eliminating the film on my dishes. I’ve been experimenting with different amounts of Lemi Shine and found that 2 Tbsp seems to completely eliminate the film. The amount necessary would depend on the hardness of your water so I’d suggest increasing the amount that you use.

Lemi Shine contains citric acid, which I think is the active ingredient that eliminates the film. It seems that I’d go through the 12-oz container quickly so I looked into alternatives. I found out that food grade citric acid is available on Amazon for 17 to 20 cents per ounce for quantities of 5 to 10 pounds. Good luck!

Anne Greene August 2, 2016 at 5:54 pm

Thanks, Mrs. P.! We sprinkle about a tablespoon or 2 of the washing soda in the open compartment and were using about the same amount of the Lemi-Shine, but it seems like we need more of the citric acid to get all the residue off. It’s hard to be consistent because my husband often starts the dishwasher and I guess our estimates are a little different. When I filled up the detergent compartment that closes with Lemi-Shine (I think that’s about 1/4 cup which is 4 Tbsp.) I did notice the glass and dishes looked a LOT better. Sometimes even our plates have residue on them which isn’t necessarily white, but brownish, so maybe that means we need to add more of the washing soda too. I’m unloading the dishwasher now and seeing a lot of cloudiness still even though I asked my husband to fill the one compartment. It’s not as bad as it used to be before we started using (and increasing) the Lemi-Shine, but it’s still kind of disappointing.

When we used Cascade we only used about 1 Tbsp. in each compartment and that was plenty to get the dishes sparkling clean, so I didn’t think we’d need so much of the less harsh clean/rinse agents. Guess we’ll keep trying. And thanks for the tip about getting food grade citric acid! I’ll try that because it does seem pricey given I have to use so much Lemi-Shine.

Thanks again!


Jen August 11, 2016 at 12:03 am

Dumb question, but hoping SOMEONE will PLEASE answer my question. (Please?)
So, to turn baking soda into washing soda, you bake it to death to basically dry out all the moisture. But then you add it back to water! How does it not turn back into baking soda? I ask, because if you can add washing soda to the dishwasher, why is this different from adding baking soda to the dishwasher?

Brenda August 12, 2016 at 9:22 pm

Great article. I will be trying this. What type of grated soap do you refer to in your recipe?

Aaron Cash September 20, 2016 at 1:15 am

Not a dumb question at all. When heat is applied to baking Soda it breaks down the bonds that hold the molecules together and it breaks into individual elemental material ‘salt’, carbon and water, and some of those elements break free (water vapor,etc.) then as the soda cools the molecules slow down and new bonds are created. However now the number of elements has changed, and that means it can’t go back to what it was they rearrange themselves into washing soda. They rearrange because the elements and their charges must balance think of it like a resource redistribution. Then you add it to water and Hhddigen and oxygen are reintroduced but the carbon is long gone and the two chemicals react releasing oxygen particles j to the air, because each reaction is the act of the elements redistributing themselves and shedding the excess elements.

Sri October 12, 2016 at 4:07 am

To answer Jen, Aaron is correct. When you bake Sodium BiCarbonate, the chemical loses water (as vapor) and Carbon (as released Carbon Dioxide gas) leaving behind just Sodium Carbonate (Na2CO3).
(2 NaHCO3 -> Na2CO3 + CO2^ + H20)
So yes, even if you add water to the carbonate, you cannot get back the bicarb.

Sri Ram October 12, 2016 at 4:23 am

I used to be in the US, but am now in India for some time. I made a good cleaning dishwashing detergent with a DIY method: 1 part Citric, 2 parts raw salt, 2 parts Soda ash, 2 parts Borax. We use a lot of silverware here than in the USA (called stainless steel).
The DIY detergent does work well, but after a month I am noticing that most of my shiny silverware are turning darker. Do I assume that the Salt content is the culprit or is it the soda? I think it is the salt, but need corroboration.

Jenny October 25, 2016 at 9:51 am

THANK YOU for doing all of that reading and posting your conclusions about it.


THANK YOU to the commenters who have shared their experiences, one and all, I appreciate the different opinions and feedback.

I have the hardest well water I’ve ever seen (and I’ve been around a bit). There’s never NOT an orange splotch in the bathtub, for example.

I just ran a load with roughly 4tsp washing soda in the open compartment and 1 tsp Lemonade flavored Kool-Aid (unsweetened packet) in the closable compartment. I must say, I am impressed. There is room for improvement: peanut butter, bacon grease, small fleck of mashed potato on potato masher, coffee mugs, dried egg on spatula, mystery substance on plates, plastic cutting board. All in all, maybe 8 items out of the whole load just need a wipe. It’s definitely a good start.

I haven’t shopped around, so I haven’t done the math, but it seems that the larger quantities of citric acid are cheaper per ounce than the KoolAid. (KA was $0.24 for .23 oz, so we’ll just say $1 per oz) (but usually store brand KA is about half that price). I figured this, but I wanted to experiment with my fiddy cents before sinking 20 bucks into it.

Michelle Light November 2, 2016 at 8:54 am

Thanks for the article. We have a water softener that uses salt, so after reading the article I am wondering how much of the softening ingredients should I cut out? Also I don’t use any rinse aid, and dishes and glasses come out clear.

I do spend a lot of money each month on Cascade complete, so I would like a cheaper diy version.

So in the formula you use, what would you recommend I try? Would I even need the citric acid. I am just wondering if the washing soda and a bit of dawn wouldn’t be sufficient.

Appreciate any advice you would have.

Pmjen December 14, 2016 at 7:12 pm

I’ve been making my own with washing soda, borax, citric acid and salt but it’s either leaving a film or etch my clear glasses. I recently added coconut oil soap to see if that would help with anything – it hasn’t. I do have vinegar in the rinse holder – any suggestions to stop the etching? I don’t want to walk away from homemade but …..

KeithS January 10, 2017 at 7:37 am

Like Michelle we also have a water softner so would appreciate some recommendation on what formula might be best to try?

Also should we stop putting the additional salt in the dishwasher which is supposedly to soften the water or just leave it on the lowest setting?

Many thanks

Ivory Soap January 12, 2017 at 11:52 am

The first question is: Does it currently work?
If it works, leave it alone. Dishwashers are the WORST for being tempermental.

Rob March 4, 2017 at 5:16 pm

I can purchase Sodium silicate off Ebay (I live in the UK) and it is available in liquid. What would I do with it?

I’ve already put Dishwasher Salt in my dishwasher so do I use less washing soda? (known as soda crystals in the UK)


Jessica O March 13, 2017 at 12:19 pm

I followed your recipe at the end with the washing soda, citric acid, and shaved bar soap. Works extremely well. I’ve tried so many other combinations that don’t work. I use vinegar in the rinse aid compartment. The only thing I’m going to try differently this time is to pour it into ice cube trays to harden. Mine hardened in the jar and was hard to get out each time. Thanks!!!

Ivory Soap May 10, 2017 at 7:23 pm

Jessica, that sounds fantastic! I never thought of ice cube trays.

Ivory Soap May 10, 2017 at 7:51 pm

I don’t know! I haven’t tried the whole DIY sodium silicate.

Rita Storms May 20, 2017 at 8:22 pm

Just got a Bosch 800 series dishwasher installed yesterday. It only has one detergent dispenser. Recommends Finish (top of the line) tabs. Miss my 25 year old Kitchen Aid already! Will have to some testing.

I was using detergent of washing soda, citric acid, & salt in the main compartment. Then a little of that + DIY lemi shine( citric acid & lemon EO – Pintrest) in the short wash compartment . Even my plastics were clear!.

Maybe someone will find that combination helpful.

Crystal Rose August 7, 2017 at 11:46 am

I tried this today with washing soda, a bit of my grated homemade soap, and citric acid- in the amounts listed. The dishes were not clean and ended up cloudy. I used .7 oz which was around 2 T. with the dry measuring spoons. This might account for some cloudiness but sadly the washing soda just didn’t wash much for me.

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