Friday, February 5, 2010

I have a Love/Hate Relationship with my Dishwasher

A dishwasher is supposed to be a time saver, right? Mine seems to be a time waster. I used to love it. Back when we were using our water softener, the dishwasher was awesome. We could put any type of dish in there, run it with the cheapest detergent and everything would come out sparkling clean.

But, after the basement flood of 2009, we decided to stop using the water softener. The only benefits it gave us were sparkling clean dishes and an equally clean shower. I was always slightly nervous about the possible long-term risks to our health from the higher salt content in the water. Dr. Weil, the famous medical doctor and healthy eating guru, recommends that people not drink or cook with softened water. While we couldn't pinpoint our mystery basement flood to the water softener, it was the extra push that we needed to shut it down. Our basement has been perfectly dry every since.

The dry basement came at the price of dirty dishes. I've always rinsed my dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, so they basically looked clean when they went in. I figured the dishwasher was killing germs and getting things even cleaner. With the water softener, the glasses sparkled. Without it, the dishes were coming out dirty. It wasn't a dishwasher, it was a dish dirtier!

I did some research with Google University and found some helpful information. First, those with hard water should not use liquid dishwasher detergent. I thought the liquid would create less residue, but everything I read said it's the worst offender. Second, dishwasher troubleshooting message boards consistently recommended Lemi Shine, a lemon-based powdered dishwasher additive. You can put it in with your regular, powdered detergent for each cycle to get sparkling dishes. The only place I can find Lemi Shine around here is Wal-mart. It's kind of on the pricey side, but it does work. My dishes are not as sparkling clean as they were with the water softener, but they aren't disgusting, either. For the record, this is not an ad in disguise. I've got no affiliation with the company that makes Lemi Shine.

I'm wondering if the lemon in the Lemi Shine is the key ingredient. In an effort to simplify dishwashing, save money and not have to go to Wal-mart all that often, I am trying my grocery store's brand of lemon-scented powdered dishwashing cleanser. So far so good. With the exception of anything plastic, yesterday's load of dishes looked good.

Which leads me to my final new tactic for clean dishes. I'm going to stop putting plastic in the dishwasher. It, by far, looks the worst after a run through the dishwasher. A quick search around the web gives me lots of blogs and Wiki answers that say washing plastic in the dishwasher isn't a good idea anyway. It seems that plastic leeches chemicals when it's washed in a dishwasher. Huh. Who knew? Probably everyone but me!

I'm trying to learn to love my dishwasher again. With any luck, the dishes won't look dirty, my family won't be drinking nasty chemicals and I'll still be able to get my dishes done efficiently. Maybe they won't sparkle anymore, but at least they'll be clean.


  1. You can use vinegar in the rinse agent cup, if you don't already use a rinse agent. That will help a lot. Even if you already use one, vinegar is super cheap, and works as well as Jet Dry.

  2. Try Finish Quantum. I swear by it and I don't rinse before I load.

  3. I was also going to suggest vinegar in the rinse cup. If you have to clean your dishes before you put them in, you might consider hand washing. :)