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Dishwasher Soap


fyfas
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Have read several articles describing how the removal of phosphates from dishwasher soaps has resulted in dishes not being as clean as before.

I had not noticed a problem until now. So I'm asking if anyone has successfully done something (or changed soap brands).

For years I've used Cascade brand. Now there is a haze and spotting on everything. I always pre-washed by hand though the machine manufacturers said, don't bother. Now pre-washing is essential just to get things clean whether hazy or not. I'm not ready to junk the dishwasher though I could make good use of the extra storage space that would yield.

Over the weekend I heard/read of a woman somewhere who went out and bought some form of phosphate and has "doctored" her dish soap successfully.

Anybody wish to share ideas ? Thanks in advance.

Edited by fyfas (log)

Bob Sherwood

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“When the wolf is at the door, one should invite him in and have him for dinner.”

- M.F.K. Fisher

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Actually, the advice recently is that most people who get poor results from their dishwasher use too much dishwashing detergent and unnecessarily pre-rinse dishes. Check out this New York Times article on the subject here.

Since reading this, I've cut back significantly on the amount of detergent I use with my dishwasher and can say that the results are at least as good, usually better, than before. No more cloudy glassware.


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I think that many who have "problems" with their dishes getting clean aren't following the directions well.

Pre-rinsing (pre-washing?!) is a total waste, as is too much detergent. I too use significantly less soap than recommended with excellent results.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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Directions depend, though. When we moved recently, we left behind a brand new Kenmore dishwasher that didn't need prewashing or a ton of detergent. Our new house has a circa 1978 warhorse that requires prewashing, extra detergent, and it still doesn't get stuff clean enough -- though we don't have the cloudy problem people describe.

Oh, and the Xmas present I'm getting from my wife? It's the same as the gift I'm giving her: half a new Kenmore dishwasher.

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Actually, the advice recently is that most people who get poor results from their dishwasher use too much dishwashing detergent and unnecessarily pre-rinse dishes. Check out this New York Times article on the subject here.

While the general thesis of that article is probably correct, this has to be the most bogus statement I've ever seen written:

Also, remove baked on food and large chunks, but for the most part, everyone I spoke to said prerinsing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher was not only unnecessary, it wasted thousands of gallons of water and could actually result in dirtier dishes.

“The soap needs something to work against to get the dishes clean,” said Lou Manganiello.

Sorry. Cleaning dishes twice does not make them dirtier than cleaning them once.

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Actually, it can. The machine and detergent designs assume that you're putting food into the box: the detergents are designed to eat up some of it, and the machine chews up that broken down mess. If you have no food, then it throws that engineering out of whack and you're left with excess detergent on your dishes.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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NPR ran a segmet last week about this. They stated that the phosphates had been removed from Cascade and other detergents due to some states passing laws prohibiting their use. The reason was that phosphates promote algae growth in ponds and lakes. Rather than manufacure two different types, the phosphates were removed form all. This has resulted in cloudy, spotty dishes.

They also referenced, but did not provide, a formula for adding TSP to your detergent.

That's the thing about opposum inerds, they's just as tasty the next day.

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Somewhere, some time ago, I think I may have read about the simple addition of a tablespoon or two or plain white vinegar to a load of dishes as having a positive effect. Is this possible? Or was it in a dream?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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Phosphates were removed a long time ago.

Check if the dishwasher has a filter that needs cleaning.

See if the thermostat is working right - hotter water rinses better.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Actually, it can. The machine and detergent designs assume that you're putting food into the box: the detergents are designed to eat up some of it, and the machine chews up that broken down mess. If you have no food, then it throws that engineering out of whack and you're left with excess detergent on your dishes.

What does this "excess detergent" consist of? I was under the impression that dishwasher detergent consisted of a minerals to adjust the pH and ionic strength, surfactants (soap), and then a little bit of some fancy things like enzymes and corrosion inhibitors. Both the pH adjusters and the surfactants could potentially be "used up" by food, but any excess should be easily water soluble and therefore rinsed away. So what's being left on the dishes?

I don't mean to be pedantic or obstinate. It just doesn't make sense that cleaner dishes will wind up dirtier. The only way I can think of is if dirty dishes soften hard water enough to eliminate hard water problems. But this would require the perfect combination of amount and type of food, amount and hardness of water, and phosphate-free dish detergent.

EDIT: Did some poking around. The only rationale given is that if the contents is too clean the detergent foams excessively. I guess it's time to run a couple test loads...

Edited by emannths (log)
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Now there is a haze and spotting on everything.

Do you use a Rinse Agent? I think you can get filming and etching if you don't use a rinse agent.

Somewhere, some time ago, I think I may have read about the simple addition of a tablespoon or two or plain white vinegar to a load of dishes as having a positive effect. Is this possible? Or was it in a dream?

I read that some people use vinegar in place of a rinse agent. See here, for some discussion and examples:

http://www.thriftyfun.com/tf124892.tip.html

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Answers to everyone with questions and a few further points as clarification...

- Yes, a rinse agent is used.

- Quite a while ago, I had already cut back on the amount of soap used having read that most people, generally, just fill the container thereby using too much soap.

- I DO pre wash but mostly because I'm located outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico and sewerage is a septic system. That and plumbing that is somewhat "fragile"; slope to the septic could be better etc... I'm wary of too much in the way of solids (something I never considered when living in big cities).

Dishwasher is only a few years old and supposedly "chews up" washed off solids before advancing the solids into the waste stream. Color me a sceptic.

- FWIW the water while not a perfect pH is neither very hard nor very soft. When we worry about our water here it is because of excessive radium and uranium.

- Filter might need cleaning. Thanks for that. And, thermostat point too. I cannot vouch for water temperature beyond saying that if I interrupt the cycle to add a utensil or two it is hot enough to fog my glasses.

-chilehead mike... it WAS the NPR item I heard last week where someone doctored her soap.

Finally... machine is running as I type, with even less soap. Thanks again to all. I'll report back before I burn the house down in frustration.

Bob Sherwood

____________

“When the wolf is at the door, one should invite him in and have him for dinner.”

- M.F.K. Fisher

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Somewhere, some time ago, I think I may have read about the simple addition of a tablespoon or two or plain white vinegar to a load of dishes as having a positive effect. Is this possible? Or was it in a dream?

I would be surprised if this helps. Dishwashing powders are (usually) mostly caustic soda; dishwashers are fairly simple devices that clean by spraying their contents with hot caustic soda until the food corrodes off the plates etc etc. Anything acidic, like vinegar, will neutralise the alkaline caustic soda and reduce its corrosiveness.

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Sorry to report that most recent load was dirtier than ever. Spotting on glass coffee pot worst ever.

To reiterate, this is a new problem for me (30 days at the most). I add that because I was surprised that phosphate-less dishwasher soap is not a new thing. I thought otherwise.

Bob Sherwood

____________

“When the wolf is at the door, one should invite him in and have him for dinner.”

- M.F.K. Fisher

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Sorry to report that most recent load was dirtier than ever. Spotting on glass coffee pot worst ever.

To reiterate, this is a new problem for me (30 days at the most). I add that because I was surprised that phosphate-less dishwasher soap is not a new thing. I thought otherwise.

Have you checked that the revolving "arms" are free of debris? When I end up with dirty dishes I usually find that the holes in the arms where the water spray emerges are plugged with bits of food or other debris.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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Sorry to report that most recent load was dirtier than ever. Spotting on glass coffee pot worst ever.

To reiterate, this is a new problem for me (30 days at the most). I add that because I was surprised that phosphate-less dishwasher soap is not a new thing. I thought otherwise.

Have you checked that the revolving "arms" are free of debris? When I end up with dirty dishes I usually find that the holes in the arms where the water spray emerges are plugged with bits of food or other debris.

Or the arms (or arm) aren't rotating at all. The jets underneath are what propel the arm, make sure they are not plugged or the arms aren't hitting something that's keeping them from turning. (Did you wash jars with labels lately? The paper from the labels is notorious for plugging the jets.) Sometimes, if the machine is getting on in years, extra holes can form in the bottom of the arm causing them to stop rotating and in the case of the bottom arm, splash the tub water back up onto the dishes.

Mark

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Sorry to report that most recent load was dirtier than ever. Spotting on glass coffee pot worst ever.

To reiterate, this is a new problem for me (30 days at the most). I add that because I was surprised that phosphate-less dishwasher soap is not a new thing. I thought otherwise.

Have you checked that the revolving "arms" are free of debris? When I end up with dirty dishes I usually find that the holes in the arms where the water spray emerges are plugged with bits of food or other debris.

Bingo! We had stopped using our dishwasher about a month ago as it was no longer getting the dishes clean. We had talked about replacing it but I wasn't ready to spend the dollars yet and now I am so glad I had waited. I just checked the arm and all of the holes were clogged with build up from our very hard water. I took a small screwdriver and have cleaned them all out and am now running the washer through a normal cycle.

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Bingo! We had stopped using our dishwasher about a month ago as it was no longer getting the dishes clean. We had talked about replacing it but I wasn't ready to spend the dollars yet and now I am so glad I had waited. I just checked the arm and all of the holes were clogged with build up from our very hard water. I took a small screwdriver and have cleaned them all out and am now running the washer through a normal cycle.

I had something similar to this happen to me last year. The repairman ran a special cleaner through it that cleared it out. No idea if this can be bought retail or not.

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Actually, it can. The machine and detergent designs assume that you're putting food into the box: the detergents are designed to eat up some of it, and the machine chews up that broken down mess. If you have no food, then it throws that engineering out of whack and you're left with excess detergent on your dishes.

I don't mean to be pedantic or obstinate.

I certainly have a reply for that, but I am deferring as it would be deleted for sure. I'll only say EG posters lead the league in pedantry.

Here is what i have to add to the discussion. I am damn happy to have a dishwasher as I spent many years doing all the dishes by hand. I use those cascade action packs and they seem to work fine, no worry about measuring the correct amount. I have hard water as well and do run through a cycle of vinegar now and again to help clear out the spray arms. Someplace I read that a packet of unsweetened lemonade flavor Kool-aid has just the right amount of acid in it to help clear out the crud from hard water. I have never tried it though

Edited by lancastermike (log)
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Bingo! We had stopped using our dishwasher about a month ago as it was no longer getting the dishes clean. We had talked about replacing it but I wasn't ready to spend the dollars yet and now I am so glad I had waited. I just checked the arm and all of the holes were clogged with build up from our very hard water. I took a small screwdriver and have cleaned them all out and am now running the washer through a normal cycle.

I had something similar to this happen to me last year. The repairman ran a special cleaner through it that cleared it out. No idea if this can be bought retail or not.

I found that my grocery store carries three different products that are for this purpose. Two were liquid once time use items but the third was a granular product called Lemi Shine that has enough for up to 18 applications. This is the one I bought and with some elbow grease and half a dozen runs of the washer, my dishwasher now looks and runs like new. The build up was not only clogging the arm holes but had coated the sides and undersides of every interior part of the machine. I guess its not really surprizing as we have been using this machine for almost nine years and it may have been as much as five years old when we bought the house. Anyway, I am so glad to have found the solution, with many thanks to this forum.

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It just seems like after reading this thread and others about dishwashers, and dishwashers not working properly, etc. etc. that most of the problems, other than when the appliance is in need of repair, are due to operator error. Or, put it another way, how many people read the instructions and actually follow them re:

Amount and recommended brands of detergent?

Hard water? How to decalcify? Use of salt?

How to load? Pre-wash or not?

Cleaning filters and spray arms?

Etc.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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It just seems like after reading this thread and others about dishwashers, and dishwashers not working properly, etc. etc. that most of the problems, other than when the appliance is in need of repair, are due to operator error. Or, put it another way, how many people read the instructions and actually follow them re:

Amount and recommended brands of detergent?

Hard water? How to decalcify? Use of salt?

How to load? Pre-wash or not?

Cleaning filters and spray arms?

Etc.

And sometimes, even though you have and have read the User's Guide that comes with the machine, the information to solve your problem is not there. My User's Guide (Maytag) does not recommend any specific brand of detergent, says to use more detergent for harder water, does not address how to decalcify, does not mention salt, and does not say anything about cleaning filters or spray arms.

Edited by robirdstx (log)
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And sometimes, even though you have and have read the User's Guide that comes with the machine, the information to solve your problem is not there. My User's Guide (Maytag) does not recommend any specific brand of detergent, says to use more detergent for harder water, does not address how to decalcify, does not mention salt, and does not say anything about cleaning filters or spray arms.

Yeah, I guess that's why we have eGullet :smile: .

I just looked at Maytag user manual on-line. Pretty crappy, but it does address hard water and states to use a "high-quality" dishwashing detergent and rinse-aid. But nothing about cleaning the spray arms and filters - I guess they want you to call the Maytag Man.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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