(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:
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: crazy-mumma.blogspot.com and search under Labels for "homemade" to find interesting homemade stuff, like liquid detergent and toothpaste and shaving gel and cat food.]
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.
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.
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.
Glass Magic is now called "Finish Glass Magic Performance Booster" and the box looks like this:
It's still the same stuff, and it still works great.