Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Best Dishwasher Detergent

An update to this post is here. Scroll to the bottom of that post to read about my new dishwasher miracle.

Two years ago, my life in the kitchen took a dramatic turn: we bought a dishwasher. Except for a brief respite of a year or so (when I was sick and we had been given a used dishwasher which we used till it died) I have done dishes the old-fashioned way: make the kids do'em.

Of course, many times it ended up to be my turn as well, and with four growing children, and homeschooling, and cooking from scratch, our whole kitchen seemed to be dishes. Dirty dishes on the counter waiting to be washed. More dirty dishes in the sink being washed. Clean dishes in the drainer waiting to be dried. More clean dishes on a towel waiting to be put away.

With the advent of the dishwasher that all changed. It became a fun game for me to load up the dishwasher and then clean up the rest of the kitchen while my happy Bosch maid washed the dishes for me. As time went on, it degenerated to dirty dishes on the counter waiting to be loaded, and clean dishes in the dishwasher waiting to be put away, but it was still much better than B.D. (before dishwasher)

And then I tried a new detergent. I had been using a gel, even though the people at the appliance store- and even the sticker on the dishwasher- recommended powder, because it made more sense to me. It was already wet, so it didn't need to dissolve; it should work great-- and it did. But then my conscience began squirming and said maybe I needed to use what the experts said to use. I bought a big box of powdered detergent and it was a disaster! The powder got into every cranny of my dishwasher and hardened there into a cross between cement and putty.

My dishwasher was no longer a happy little maid, but a surly slave. "You want clean dishes, I'll give you clean dishes....NOT!" It seemed to delight in spraying most of the soil from the dishes up inside the glasses and drying it there. Oh joy. There's nothing more frustrating than putting a relatively clean glass into the dishwasher (it just had iced tea in it) and taking it out completely coated with unidentifiable gook that must be scrubbed off.

I also was having trouble with a white coating on all the glassware, and the troubleshooting guide that came with my dishwasher was not exactly helpful. If my glassware has white streaks, it means I used too much rinse-aid. If my glassware has white deposits, it means I used too little rinse-aid. The problem was, I couldn't tell the difference between a deposit and a streak. In fact, it looked like I had both. So that meant I was using too much and too little rinse-aid?

We spent nearly a year fighting with this mess, but I won't bore you with the myriad of possible causes and solutions, or recount to you how many times I ran the dishwasher empty of dishes with some new something that might-- this time-- clear everything up. I'll jump straight to the happy ending.

We decided the problem was twofold: hard water, and soap scum. And the solution entails two parts as well. The first is a product called LemiShine, which I found at our local grocery store. I followed the instructions on their website and then ran the dishwasher empty one more time, and Wa-La! that took took care of all the residual soap scum and hard water deposits.

Next, we needed something to keep it that way while getting the dishes clean. And that something is a recipe I found for homemade powdered dishwasher detergent that works wonderfully. No scum, no hard water deposits, and no concrete buildup-- in short, clean dishwasher and clean dishes.

So here's the recipe, as I made it:

Dishwasher Powder

1 cup Borax
1 cup baking soda
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup LemiShine

Use a tablespoon per load, a little more, a little less, depending on how dirty the dishes are and how hard your water is.

I am just thrilled. I have my dishwasher back. And my dishwasher is a happy little maid again.

Check out this blog: and search under Labels for "homemade" to find interesting homemade stuff, like liquid detergent and toothpaste and shaving gel and cat food.]


Mary said...

My dishwasher has been kaput for a year now, but I was always on the lookout for a great homemade detergent! Hopefully soon, we'll replace the thing, and I'll have this jotted down! Great info! And great blog, I'm excited to have found you, through MInTheGap's modesty post...

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