Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Best Dishwasher Detergent, UPDATED

(Originally published August 1, 2007)

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.]

UPDATE, 1/6/09
I wrote about my trials and tribulations with my new dishwasher quite a while ago, and it appears that lots and lots of people have the same difficulties. You would be surprised how many searches I get for "dishwasher detergent," "white streaks on dishes," "best dishwasher detergent," "best dishwasher detergent for hard water," on and on in myriad variations.

I hope that post has helped somebody, but I need to amend it. In that little piece of writing I told how I had discovered how to make my own detergent, and to use a product called LemiShine. That all worked for a while, but then the rot began to set in.

You see, I found that the homemade detergent was not stable. It had salt in it, which absorbed moisture from the air, and quickly made it unusable. I could not make a large batch of it to use out of, and it was a real hassle to mix it up fresh every day or so.

And then something happened to the LemiShine. I used it faithfully for many months, all the while watching my dishes get more and more coated with a white layer of something that could only be gotten off by hand with much elbow grease.

I tried using more LemiShine, vinegar and baking soda-- even washing the dishes by hand now and again to start fresh. But it was no use. My dishwasher was all gunked up, the shiny stainless steel interior was white with deposits, whether of hard water or detergent, I couldn't tell, and my glasses were gross.

And then.

A friend introduced me to Glass Magic. I had seen it on the shelves, but never bought it, because the box looks like the Cascade box, and Cascade did a number on my dishwasher. But I was desperate.

My friend said it took a few washings with it, but eventually all her glassware came out clear and shiny again, and her dishwasher was clean.

So I bought some, and you know what? By the time I had used up the box (which at my house was a week at most) all my glassware looked NEW. I'm not kidding. And the stainless steel interior of my dishwasher? SHINY SHINY.

So I have a new hero.

Glass Magic® Performance Booster (2744338210) - 8 Pack
I'm not getting paid to say this (though it would be nice), but if you have problems with hard water or detergent scum, get Glass Magic. It will make you, and your dishes, and your dishwasher, very happy.

UPDATE 7/10/09:
Glass Magic is now called "Finish Glass Magic Performance Booster" and the box looks like this:

Finish Glass Magic Dishwasher Performance Booster: 16 OZ

It's still the same stuff, and it still works great.


Ornery's Wife said...

You know, I have looked and looked for this stuff, and can't find it anywhere. I remember you writing about it before, and I found one box of those little pillow things that said it had something in it like that, but yeah, no. Not so much on the clean dishes front. Bummer. I'll keep looking, and if nothing else, I'll just buy a bunch when I am up your way next time. :) Hugs.

Swistle said...

I was absolutely riveted by this whole post. Now that we will soon have a dishwasher, Dishwasher Issues are FASCINATING to me.

madebycesalie said...

Hi, I shed a few tears while reading this post. I have the exact same situation going on as you. Brandnew Bosch dishwasher, gunk on inside of glasses, lemi-shine works, lemi-shine stops working. I am so frustrated and tearful about this. I will try the booster right away. Can you tell me how your machine is working currently & what you are using today (per load). Thanks

Doug said...

I wonder if Lemishine stopped working because they changed the formula or something? I've noticed that many of the dishwasher products have been reducing or eliminating phosphates or making other formula changes to be more "green". The problem with that is they just don't clean as well. Could be a factor.

I also have found that Glass Magic does wonders, but it's getting really hard to find around here.

Anonymous said...

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HeidiMT said...

I was thrilled to find your solution to your dishwasher woes. I, too, have the same problem with white bits that need to be removed from the glasses after the dishwasher has completed its cycle. Then someone asked a question on 10/31/09 and then stuff that is not related to this topic appeared. What is up with that?? I would like to know if the Finish Glass Magic is still working for you? Also, the website for Finish states this is to be used in addition to regular detergent and rinse agent. Do you do this or do you use the Finish all by itself? Thank you!

cindy kay said...

HeidiMT-- I don't know what happened, but Finish stopped being effective for me. However, I was using it in place of rinse agent, because I thought it was a rinse agent. I moved on to using a vinegar rinse, which helped, but just recently I switched to a product from Cascade that I think is called "action pacs." They work wonderful, and are even ridding my glassware of previous scum.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff! Our stainless washer, pots and glasses where getting scruffier by the wash, but not any longer. Three days and everything is getting to be bright and shinny. Thanks so much.

kimbrells said...

I heard somewhere that "Finish" is the same company as "Cascade." I am having scum issues which started suddenly (2 year-old Bosch machine)and the white residue is deposited on plastic-ware only: on colored melamine snack plates, gladware, silicone spatulas, handles of steak knives. At first I thought the rinse agent had changed formulation. I called the hotline and was told "that's not supposed to happen!" No kidding! I was using Cascade Complete but had always used that product, had experienced no problems before, and was in the middle of a box. The white scum is NOT on the glassware (we have a water softener) and can be wiped off (but I end up washing affected items over, by hand.) Something HAS changed.. for me, I think it is the formulation of rinse agent (which is also called Finish.) the rest of my dishes are sparkly and clean.

Anonymous said...

I've been scouring the net for "THE ULTIMATE" natural dishwasher detergent mix.. and have tried them all! So here's my verdict:

1 cup baking soda
1 cup borax
2 tbsp. salt
20 drops grapefruit seed extract (a natural citricidal)

Mix well, put 1 tablespoon into each of the cups. Fill the rinse agent reservoir with vinegar. Pour a handful of baking soda over the bottom row of dishes. Always use the hottest water available.. Voila! Super clean, shiny dishes every time!

Anonymous said...

doesn't seem to be available in Canada. Figures.

Sandy said...

I've been having DW issues since moving to a new area. Mine are caused by bicarbonates in the city water. The closest I've gotten to acceptable has been 2 part borax, 1 part soda ash or washing soda and 1 part non-iodized salt and some unsweetened lemon Kool-aid. The Kool-aid is just a sub for citric acid or the lemi shine. I'm throwing this out because adding baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) would make matters worse. Best of luck to us all. Lol!

Mommyof4Blueeyeds said...

I have been using this formula to rid my dishes of the chalky desposits from well water.
When using any powdered detergent it is important to use less as the hard water PH level requires less suds to make it work. I then use a cup of White vinegar after the dishwasher has run its entire cycle. I run the water very hot in my sink to bring up the temperature, run the rinse cycle, (make sure wait until after the dishwasher redrains when you start the rinse with vinegar) I then rinse 2 more times without the vinegar to clear the smell of the vinegar. It has worked like a charm for me. I use the Walmart brand( cheaper) powder. Remember to only fill the soap dispenser halfway or less. Trust me this has worked for me for 14 years.
Carol Middleton MA

Mommyof4Blueeyeds said...

Forgot to add type of dishwasher I have. I currently own a Thermodor. Previoiusly I had a Bosch that lasted about 10 years. I changed it only because we were switching to all stainless appliances. Well water shortens the life of my appliances as well due to corrosion from minerals in the water.

Torrie said...

Thank you so much for your post & update info. I never had a hard water issue until we moved to the desert of NV! Like you, I've tried everything (even have the bottle of LemiShine under the sink right now. But I had the same issue with is, no results! Looking forward to trying Finish, Glass Plus. Do you use it in a tab, power or gel form? Thanks again for your helpful info :)

Anonymous said...

I soaked my scummed up glasses in denture tablets for 5 hrs. , and they came sparkling clean. My sister soaked her glasses in vinegar overnite and it didn't work. I have been using Casacade so now I will try Finish. I don't want a repeat of scum on my crystal glassware. But if i do, I know how to get rid of it. Hopefuly the Finish will clean the inside of my dishwasher too.

Kayle said...

I have been having the same issues with my dishwasher lately as well, and I have yet to try any of these suggestions. But, recently a large crock pot type lid broke during the cycle and I didnt know it until I opened up the dishwasher the next morning. What a disaster. So, I scoured the internet and figured out how to remove the grated cover on the bottom of the dishwasher... (was actually EXTREMELY EASY, although I did take many pictures along the way so I made sure to put it back together correctly since I am really paranoid.) Anyways, long story short, the amount of hard water build up was UNBELIEVABLE! I used a regular flat screw driver and scraped all the crud off, and it just came off in chunks. I never knew a dishwasher could get soooo dirty and gross! But it now works like new! (especially after I figured out all the little rinse holes on the spinner arms were plugged, and glass and other gunk had accumulated in the drain area) So I am back to any old detergent and all my dishes are sparkling again! Just thought I would let you guys know how I got mine back to working great!

Anonymous said...

I have been using Finish Glass Magic and absolutely love it. But, now my store manager tells me it is no longer available and is being "reformulated" because it has phosphates which have been removed from all washing products. I certainly hope they come up with something as good as the original.

gramma dana said...

HI! Love your blog, I have been using Glass Finish as well, and now discontinued. I, as well, need a new detergent for the soap scum and white marks. Please Help!

cindy kay said...

gramma dana, lately I switched to Seventh Generation unscented "concentrated pacs." They work great, and they don't leave my dishes smelling like perfume (which is why I turned away from Cascade--they stopped selling unscented detergent.)