Why your dishwasher isn't working as well as it used to

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by Jenny, Sep 24, 2010.

  1. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

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    For several months now I've been thinking our dishwasher needs replacing - it started with tarnished flatware, then gritty dishes and cloudy glasses. Then I read this:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/19/science/earth/19clean.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=phosphates&st=cse

    I'm interested to know if anyone else has experienced this, and thoughts on environmentally green choices vs cost vs results.

    I also thought the discussion in the article and reader comments about the potential need to change our ideas about what defines "clean." After all, wasn't in the makers of dishwasher soaps who first brought us the phrase "squeaky clean"?
    LynnW and (deleted member) like this.
  2. Veronika

    Veronika gold dust woman

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    I just thought I had a crappy dishwasher--good to know, yet frustrating.
  3. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

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    My FiL, an appliance repair technician, says this isn't particularly good for dishwashers either. Not sure why because I wasn't really listening to the conversation other than catching that part.
  4. danceronice

    danceronice Corgi Wrangler

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    That would explain a bit, though my dishwasher was installed not long after the house was built and so is almost 20 years old, which I'm sure doesn't help.

    Still I'll take the Cascade packs over powder detergent. Makes much less mess putting it in the machine and it's easier to control the amount.
  5. another sk8rmom

    another sk8rmom Active Member

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    Oh wow, you just solved the mystery for us!!!

    Over the last few weeks we've experienced exactly what you described and fits exactly with when we purchased a new box of dishwasher detergent.
  6. Satellitegirl

    Satellitegirl New Member

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    I'm not sure why dishwashers don't just focus on making it scalding hot when washing, and then we wouldn't have to worry about the soap anyhow. You only need something to cut grease. As far as things being foggy or not squeaky...I don't really care. If it's been sterilized, there's nothing to worry about.
  7. soxxy

    soxxy Guest

    I assumed the water *was* that hot. At any rate, I wash my dishes by hand with hot water and detergent, place them in my dishwasher to dry, and once it's full, run the diswasher on the last cycle (without detergent), let them air dry, then store them. So I guess none of this applies to me. :confused:
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 24, 2010
  8. zhenya271

    zhenya271 Active Member

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    I have always been one of those people that rinse my dishes in straight hot water before putting them in the dishwasher, but then lately I've read that in the latest generation of dishwashers that this habit is actually detrimental to your drinking glasses. I sure hope my dishwasher powerball tablets are getting the job done!
  9. Satellitegirl

    Satellitegirl New Member

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    detrimental to your drinking glasses how?
  10. Schmeck

    Schmeck New Member

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    The reduction of phosphates has made me use twice as much detergent in the dishwasher to do half as good a job, plus I have to run the washer on the longest cycle instead of the shortest one. I'm using more of everything, so how does that help?
  11. FunnyBut

    FunnyBut Well-Known Member

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    I'm actually quite surprised to read this. I use the 'Cascade Complete' all-in-one little packages, and my dishes are the cleanest and clearest they've ever been. EVER. In my life, way before green was fashoinable. I have hard water too, and I've never seen such spotless dishes.
  12. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

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    That's where we're in a bit of a pickle - less phosphates is good, but if it means more water used, or more energy (hotter water) or more soap, is it worth it?

    Or, as the article and some here suggest, do we have rethink what "clean" is? Sure, our cutlery and dishes might not look as pretty, but if they are free of bacteria etc, then perhaps that should be enough.

    I'm sure the detergent companies are trying to find alternatives - and one NY Times reader noted that plain old vinegar and water gives the best final rinse anyway - and many dish and flatware manufacturers are doing the same.

    Some NY Times readers have said that Seventh Generation (an eco-friendly brand) is great - anyone use it? I think I will try it next.
  13. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

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    Maybe you live in a region where the old phosphate-heavy product is still available?
  14. Satellitegirl

    Satellitegirl New Member

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    I've used it and it seemed to do fine. I haven't bought it lately due to it being a bit more in price, but it isn't bad.
  15. milanessa

    milanessa engaged to dupa

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    No wonder Cascade has been on sale at my grocery store (buy one, get one free) at least 3 times in the past few months. Getting rid of the old product I guess. :lol:
  16. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    Why do you wash your dishes twice? It seems like a waste of water and energy (yours and the dishwasher's) to me.

    My roommate and I don't have a full set of anything between us, so we wash everything by hand. Hot water and Dawn does the trick for almost everything, while scraping off burnt milk off a metal pan is good exercise. (Although yeah, there could be a better use of my time...) We use the dishwasher to store large bowls and blender items. :lol: It must be a frugal Asian thing. The only Asians I know who use dishwashers are those with big new expensive houses and thus have the means to buy full sets of silverware, glasses, and plates.

    I don't even think it's necessary to sterilize things when you wash them, aside from the obvious things like cutting boards and knives used for raw meat. I work in a lab and the only things we sterilize are the things that CAN'T have bacteria in them. (Namely, when we're trying to grow our cells and bacteria, which don't have skin and/or immune systems. :lol: ) Otherwise I'd think our digestive system handles most little nasties fine.
  17. zhenya271

    zhenya271 Active Member

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    Supposedly if your dishes aren't dirty enough your detergent could attack your glasses and leave permanent etching. I've seen the article pop up a couple of times on yahoo, I think it also includes information about how most people tend to use way more laundry detergent than we really need to, that even the predetermined measured line on the cup is even too much.
  18. milanessa

    milanessa engaged to dupa

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    I shall protect my glasses from attack. :confused:
  19. zhenya271

    zhenya271 Active Member

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    LOL! I'm not a complete convert,yet. It's still hard for anyone else in the house to open up the dishwasher and tell if it's been run through or not because I still do a quick rinse under the faucet. I definitely have to rinse if I'm not running it that night.
  20. jlai

    jlai Title-less

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    Yeah, I never figured out the washing twice thing.
    I have a set of silverware, glasses and plates because I got them as gifts (though I didn't even want them).
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2010
  21. zhenya271

    zhenya271 Active Member

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  22. mkats

    mkats New Member

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    I've never used a dishwasher :shuffle: My family always does them by hand.
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  23. Prancer

    Prancer Ray Chill Staff Member

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    I think this is definitely true. My mom always told me to use as little detergent and fabric softener as I could because otherwise they build up on clothes and make them dingy and coat the inside of the washer. I looked at her laundry and other people's laundry and figured she was right, so I always used far less than the recommended amount.

    And it seems Mom was, once again, right: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703808904575025021214910714.html

    I had noticed that my dishes weren't getting clean and I blamed our dishwasher, but then I picked up a Consumer Reports that rated dishwasher detergents and they put the Cascade Complete I had been using a good ways down the list. I went "Huh," and switched to their top recommendation--Finish All-in-One Powerball tabs. And by gosh, I do think the dishes really are cleaner.
  24. Schmeck

    Schmeck New Member

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    I'll try the Finish Powerballs (although the name makes me giggle!) after I use up this crappy bottle of Cascade. I have to shake the bottle before I use it now, as the contents keep separating (sp?) and I get a watery mix with clumps of goo if I don't.
  25. vesperholly

    vesperholly Well-Known Member

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    I use a generic gel from my local supermarket chain, and it seems to work OK, though I do get the occasional not-clean dish. I have one glass in particular that always gets a chalky film on its bottom (and didn't used to). Mostly I think I load the dishwasher poorly ... :shuffle:
  26. orbitz

    orbitz Well-Known Member

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    It seems like for the average family size of 5 or less, hand-washing is the better way to go. My family rarely used the dishwasher when I was living at home, and I've never used one once I moved out on my own.
  27. Prancer

    Prancer Ray Chill Staff Member

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  28. jlai

    jlai Title-less

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    That's what I heard but you have to use electricity as well.

    In fact, that type of questions is always my dilemma. e.g.
    If I use paper towel in the public restrooms after I wash my hands I consume paper. If I use a handdryer I consume electricity. Which is worse?

    I opt for paper towels and handdrying where possible.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2010
  29. NancyNC

    NancyNC Well-Known Member

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    Unless you use cold water and hand pump your water from a well, hand washing also uses electricity. And according to most reports I have seen, it uses more since dishwashers can more efficiently use smaller amounts of water.
  30. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    I use VERY little laundry detergent (I use the Tide 2x concentrated stuff anyway) and my clothes still come out clean, so it's win/win as far as I'm concerned. My clothes smell less strongly of detergent, and I can buy less of it!

    My bf used my detergent once and he tossed in a whole capful and I was like, "Dear God why does it smell so strongly of Tide?" :rofl: I didn't criticize him tooo much, since the load he did included my comforter. :lol:

    It completely depends on the situation. As I've mentioned before, my roommate and I don't have a full set of anything so you bet it's more efficient to wash one bowl, one fork, and one cup by hand than to use the dishwasher. :lol: When we're cooking, we still only fill up our very small sink (and maybe the counter), which is about half the size of our dishwasher. To run a full dishwasher, we'd have to buy a lot more stuff, and we just don't find it necessary.
  31. jlai

    jlai Title-less

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    Yeah. Just look at the way people cook and you see the difference. For example, in a BBQ for a US household, there's usually a decent-looking container to carry the cooked food with, but many households will transfer that food to a China dish or something. And then there's always the extra salad forks and dessert plates and what not.

    So there's twice as much dishes to wash when you cook and dine that way.
  32. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

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    I might put food in a nice serving dish for company. But when it's just my husband and I, the pots go on the table. How do you know the people you have seen doing that are not the same as me? :rolleyes:
  33. jlai

    jlai Title-less

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    I know that's how it's done, PDilemma. Some of my family do it that way. Since this is a global forum, I had no choice but add the "US" back in the post.

    But let's set aside how you generate dishes as an issue. So let's say I'm slowly gathering dishes in the dishwasher over the week and then I run the dishwasher. Then there's the choice of washing the several bowls and and forks by hand every day. Who saves more water or energy?

    ETA: Seriously, I don't know, hence my question.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2010
  34. pat c

    pat c Well-Known Member

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    It all depends on how much water you use. :) I hand wash our dishes, as most of the time it's just 2 of us. And I use very little water, and if it's just 2 glasses and a plate, I leave them.

    If you use a dishwasher and accumulate them over a few days, it probably is similar. But it's got to be a water efficient dishwasher or water saver setting.
    Same with washing by hand, you don't fill the sink up for 3 glasses and 2 plates and cutlery. It's not which is better, it is which is the most efficient use of the water.

    And how we wash dishes isn't probably the biggest water waster. It's do you let the tap run when you brush your teeth, do you always need hot water to wash your hands or will lukewarm and soap do the job? Same with getting a glass of cold water........put a water in the fridge don't let the tap run. yada yada.......

    Anyway, I digress.
  35. jlai

    jlai Title-less

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    Thanks.

    another question: What does the normal cycle do that the "water miser" cycle doesn't?

    Sorry, but I've lost the manual long time ago.
  36. Schmeck

    Schmeck New Member

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    Our dishwasher has 4 settings - hubby likes to use the regular wash (which takes an hour and 43 minutes to cycle???) and I use the 30 minute quick wash. When he leaves the room, I switch the cycle over to quick wash when he isn't looking...

    We have a Bosch, which is super efficient, and we only run it when the washer is full, about every other day. I bring my lunch to work in reusable containers, and I made sure to get dishwasher-safe ones as I hate to wash salad oil off of plastic by hand. We buy our detergent in bulk, at our local warehouse store, and until Cascade changed the formula, could have it last a few months before we needed to buy more.

    Now I'm halfway through the bottle, can't wait to use it up so I can get something that actually works. I'm too stubborn to throw it out!
  37. Prancer

    Prancer Ray Chill Staff Member

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    My husband is of the "more cleaner makes it cleaner" school of thought, which is why I don't let him touch the detergent if I can help it. I think if you can smell the detergent, you've used too much. If you can smell it, it's still in there.

    Well, sure, but for a family of five? I have a family of four and it's a very rare day that the dishwasher isn't completely full after dinner. When it isn't, I wait until the breakfast stuff goes in there (and it usually won't all fit) and run it in the morning instead. And I don't use special serving dishes, special forks or anything like that, either.

    The article I linked goes into quite a bit of detail about why it is almost (but not entirely) impossible to use less water washing by hand.
  38. loopey

    loopey Well-Known Member

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    This is just one of the reasons I love this board! Great information. I too have noticed my dishes are not as clean as they used to be. I have used Cascade for as long as I can remember. Now I understand!

    I can't wait until my bottle of Cascade is gone. I will try the Finish. Have never heard of it.

    And whoever above mentioned that Cascade also separates now when it didn't used to: Too True!

    I am done with Cascade!
  39. zhenya271

    zhenya271 Active Member

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    Finish used to be called Electrosol.
  40. mmscfdcsu

    mmscfdcsu Skating Pairs with Drew

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    Those Powerballs are terrible. I still have some left, but use them only if I run out of the good Cascade things with the liquid and powder in them. The Powerballs leave everything looking icky, with lots of streaks. The Cascade things are the best thing ever. :)