Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dishwasher 101: Dishes Go In Clean, Come Out Dirty

You open the clean dishwasher and start unloading dishes. Half of them end up back in the sink because they look dirty. Food is stuck on some dishes that didn't have leftover food to begin with! Soap residue clings to others. Yuck!

Why even bother with the dishwasher if it doesn't get the dishes clean?

I've struggled with just that question for years. We've lived in apartments and rental houses where I didn't use the dishwasher for anything other than storage because it simply didn't get the dishes clean. As far as I was concerned, it was wasted space. I'd rather have another cupboard.

But then, we moved into our house ten years ago. The dishwasher was new. There was a water softening system. The dishes actually came out clean! Yay!

However, a few years later, after having to replace a 7-year-old water heater and a few other odds and ends, we decided to get rid of the water softener. Not only was maintaining it an extra expense, my husband and I became convinced it was responsible for rusting out the bottom of our water heater, our sink drains and even the dishwasher itself. Though, the dishwasher issue didn't become apparent until we had our water softener off-line for at least a year. Whether or not this is true, I don't know. But, our water was softened with salt. Salt water does tend to promote rusting.

Unfortunately, we were back to having residue and build-up on our clean dishes. Nothing looked clean and I started hand washing everything again.  With a much bigger family than I had the last time, I was pretty annoyed.

I turned to Google to try to figure out how to solve the dirty dish problem. What I learned was that gel or gel cap dishwashing detergents actually promote residue on dishes if you tend towards hard water. Our water is hard, but it's not the worst I've ever seen.  Still, I used gel dishwashing liquid almost exclusively.

My neighbor and friend, Tracy, told me that Consumer Reports named the Great Value powdered dishwashing detergent as a top performer. Great Value is Walmart's brand. I also found several on-line recommendations for Lemi Shine, a hard water remover for use in the dishwasher. Oddly enough, the only place I can find it locally to purchase is Walmart.

It took a while to get the method correct, but now my dishes are sparkling clean every time. Here's my dish washer recipe for clean dishes:

1. Rinse all food off dishes. 
2. Add the recommended amount of Great Value powdered dishwashing detergent.
3. Add a small amount of Lemi Shine with the detergent. I only use about a teaspoon, but you may have to experiment to get it right for your water conditions. 
4. Use white vinegar in the rinse aide compartment. This is a cheaper alternative to commercial rinse aides.

I wish I could say this is a sponsored post because it's quite brand specific, but it's not. (Though if Walmart or Lemi Shine wants to contact me, I'm willing to talk - lol.) This is really what I use to get my dishes clean.

Since it took some experimenting and far too many hours of re-washing dishes, I thought I'd help you out and save you time. Don't use your dishwasher as a storage unit, run to Walmart, get their Great Value powdered detergent and some Lemi Shine and let the dishwasher be the time saver it was intended to be!


  1. Well of course the gel washing stuff promotes film, how else are they going to sell that expensive rinse aid :) I am guessing from the bottle Lemi shine has lemon in it which is acidic to cut the film on your dishes. Glad you found a solution.

  2. Oh my gosh- I can't believe I've stumbled on this blog- today I was thinking about my glasses- not looking SO clean after they were dishwasher "washed". You offered some great tips and insight.

    I'll check out the Wal Mart brand... I've never heard of Lemi Shine before though.

  3. Thanks, Tree!

    Willow - Let me know if it works for you!

  4. I use LemiShine every time I use the dishwasher. I buy mine at Target and Hannaford has it as well. My glassware comes out sparkling clean every time. I just tried Methods dish washing tabs and they are ok. I love Mrs. Meyers but I have to order them.