Dishwashing Cubes Can be Fun!


penguin shaped dishwasher cubesDishwasher cubes in a silicon penguin mold


There are layers to this story. The first is a simple domestic dilemma. The second, a more complex social one related to Pinterest.

The first layer: Oh no! I’ve run out of dishwasher squares!

So you can a)run to the store or b)wash by hand when you run out of diswasher cubes. Unless you’re me.  I have a complicated relationship with dishwashers – after washing dishes for around 20 years, I decided that I refuse to live in a location that does not have one. This includes hotel suites. Not only is the dishwasher my primary marital aid – it soothes conflicts and allows time for other adventures – it is probably the single item that has improved my life the most since I became an adult.

Since we’re on budget recovery, we’re reducing our store-runs to once a week only. So when I hit the last cube from our last Sam’s Club run on Wednesday, I had to decide: a)live with the pile of dirty dishes until the next store run or b)do something about it.

I decided to do something about it.

Most people would see “do something” as justify a store run. Instead, I made stuff.

I still have a store of raw material from my perfumery business – some of which is useful for soap and lotion making.

The second layer: Pinterest Posing

I haven’t noticed this trend with my own Facebook friends – but another friend, with a different mix of friends, has: sees people post Pinterest recipes they never make to their Facebook walls, ostensibly to make themselves the sort of person who WOULD make this stuff. This tendency I think is why so many people would get snarky and snotty about what other people posted – they were there for the look of it, not because they had any intention of doing it. Of course the ones that don’t do snark. Once you’re in a position to not be perfect you tend to have some empathy – and you’re too busy making stuff or looking for new stuff to make to snark at the stuff you’re not interested in.

Me, I surf around Pinterest for stuff I might reasonably do. This usually happens in a burst of free time – one that usually fills on me anyway and then I forget any grand plans I had.

Also, with this conversation in mind, I started my own board, labeled “done it” for Pinterest-discovered recipes and projects that I have tried. I think it’s worth noting that the diswasher experiment is only two… over the course of roughly 3-6 months.

So I used this recipe:

But I modified it.
It called for:
1 Cup Borax
1 Cup Washing Soda
1/4 Cup Epsom Salt
1/3 cup Lemon Juice (estimated)
added by me: 1/2 cup baking soda

On reading the comments, I noticed some people were not happy with streaks left on the dishes. I decided to add 1/2 cup baking soda to offset that.

I have also heard different reports about the safety of borax. I did some research, left reassured that as long as I didn’t eat it I was fine, I carried on.

This caused me a moment’s pause. Washing soda?

I had only heard of this “washing soda” for the first time this year, when Mike bought some to clean the garage floor.

While common in grocery stores in some areas of the country, it’s not in others. But, since it didn’t have a brand name, I thought: “maybe I can DIY it.”

Turns out I can.

So washing soda is just baking soda that’s been heated. Not clear on what the difference does exactly, but apparently it makes a cleanser that is materially different. There were debates about the cost of going to the store and getting it vs. spending the time making it, but it wasn’t a concern as it’s not commonly carried in Minneapolis. (Also, since I have an electric car but a gas stove I figured “gas cost” was even for me.)

Basically you spread out a cup on a baking sheet and bake at around 400 degrees for an hour. I did a little more – around 90 minutes – as it looked too fluffy to me still. But it did eventually lose that fluffy – it’s subtle, you have to look close. I let it cool to room temperature before I started.

I then poured all the dry ingredients in a big bowl – I used a plastic one to no ill effect – and added the lemon juice. The lemon juice reacted with the dry ingredients oddly – they got very warm, but not too hot to touch. I did keep adding more juice, a tablespoon at a time until I got enough consistency for the ingredients to stick to each other.

Then – on into the penguin molds. Since it was a silicon mold they went in and out easily enough.

I had to let them dry for about four hours – and then came the big test – throwing one in the dishwasher.

Dishes came out VERY clean, with less residue than I might expect from the name brand cubes we bought. I have read about adding vinegar to the rinse cycle for super clean glasses but I haven’t done it. Mike hates the smell of vinegar so I try to use it sparingly – especially after the whole bees incident.

Because I’m me, my next speculations went to magical applications for diswasher cubes. That’s because I’m me and that’s how my brain works. You can reasonably add essential oils when you add the lemon juice – orchestrating them to cleanse spiritually, or adding tea tree oil to reduce infection, or adding a bit of frankincense or something else that can rise if you open the door during the steam cycle has some potential. I’ll have to think about this. Don’t add herbs, obviously, but if you work with essentials and infusions there are some serious possibilities to consider.

So yes, you can make your own dishwasher cubes – and it’s fun!


  1. MegAmy

    I’m tickled that you did these in penguin shapes! I’m not surprised that they cleaned better than the store-bought ones, since lots of mass-produced products have been made using chemical processes rather than human processes. As someone once said to me, “It makes the water molecules happy” when you do it yourself. :)

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