Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Conquering (Sometimes) The Dishwasher Blues

I thought I had the worst dishwasher in the world.  It was a GE Model-something that came with the house; it belched like a chili-filled trucker and left the dishes looking like a Georges Seurat painting (you know, the artist responsible for "A Sunday On La Grande Jatte").  We had different repair companies come out to the house 15, yes 15,  times.  They looked it over, declared it fit, and gave me tons of advice on how to "optimize the cleaning", pack it properly, and make it do what, apparently, it was incapable of doing:  giving me clean dishes.

Part of the problem is that my town has water so hard it's a wonder it flows out of the pipes.  The high mineral content in our H20 contributes to scaling in any appliances that use it; those devices are our hot water heater, dehumidifier, washing machine, and, of course, the dishwasher.  Hard water also leaves spots and a film on dishes.  The overall solution is to install a water softening system, but that has its own drawbacks including an increase in sodium in foods cooked with water-softened water, the high cost of the system, and that yucky, slippery feel when showing.  Please - it's hard enough to get my kids to shower without them feeling slimy.

Anyway my husband,  Captain Research , ALWAYS researches things thoroughly (that's one of the qualities I love about him).  He spent a copious amount of time online gathering opinions and knowledge before he chose a new machine.    Announcing (trumpets please):  the Bosch EcoSense.

"This thing is amazing!" he said.  "It cleans, sanitizes, has a child lock, and offers a Delay feature where you can set it to wash in 3, 6, or 9 hours!  It can wash a half load of dishes or you can choose from a delicious menu of full load options including Quick Wash, Delicate Wash, Regular Wash, or Power Scrub!  You don't even have to pre-rinse the dishes.  It's THE BEST DISHWASHER ON THE PLANET!"  I hadn't seen him this excited since our last child arrived.

At first, the pricey appliance was the miracle device he promised.  It was so quiet that I had to put my hand on it to feel if it was working.  And each time I used it, my dishes were spotless.  But ... over the course of a few months, I noticed something:  the dishes were coming out dirtier than when I put them in, even after I cleaned the dishwasher and emptied out the filter. 

After calling Bosch repeatedly and nixing the cost of having repair people come to the house, we're stuck until we can justify getting a new one or I win the lottery - whichever comes first.  Until then, I'm coping and sometimes conquering the Battle Of The Dirty Dishes.   Although I'm no expert (thanks Martha Stewart), I've been at war with dishwashers long enough to know a little something about them.  For that reason, I present  my own personal assessments of some dishwasher products, various methods I've culled from around our beloved Web to make my machine perform better, and how I conquer the dishwasher blues:

Some of the products I find useful.

Products To Wash The Dishes

The Finish Line includes dishwasher tabs, gelpacs, powerballs, powders, etc.  I started with Finish because Bosch recommends them.  I've tried the full line and they're probably better than anything on the market, but the dishes don't always get fully clean.   I buy Finish at Costco because they're cheaper there than at my local supermarket.

The Cascade line.  Cascade has some pretty packaging and I found their products to be better than generic brands, but not as good as Finish.  Unless they're on sale dirt-cheap, I stick with Finish.

Seventh Generation & Ajax brands.  Not as good as Finish or Cascade, but better than generic. As much as I would like to be "eco-friendly" with Seventh Generation, I also want to save energy and water by not having to run a wash cycle again to get my dishes clean. 

Kirkland and other generic brands.  In an example of "you get what you pay for," these money-saving brands definitely did not work as well for me as the name-brand products. 

Various homemade potions I found on Pinterest and around the Web.  These usually involve baking soda and/or super washing soda.  I used one mixture which not only did not clean the dishes, but it left a residue in the dishwasher which wound up on the glasses for WEEKS.  I actually had to throw out some glassware because the Drying cycle of the dishwasher baked the residue in. 

Rinsing Agents

I found all of the name brand and generic products to be the same.  Bosch recommends Finish's Jet Dry rinsing agent, but I honestly didn't think it was worth the extra money.  Friends raved about Lemi Shine (see above) and I bought it, although I won't go out of my way to buy it again.  Here's where the generic item performed just as well as the more expensive stuff.

White vinegar, lemon juice, frozen orange juice.  While I love the idea of non-chemical alternatives, my experience is that they don't perform as well as the commercial stuff.  These substances do have their uses in the dishwasher, but I found them useless as rinsing agents.

Here's my current ritual for doing dishes using the dishwasher:

1.  I pre-rinse anything I'm going to put in there, no matter what the manufacturer says.  I've hand-washed enough supposedly clean dishes to know that food particles fly around in there like paper on a windy day and then they stick to the dishes and get baked in during the drying cycle.  Pre-rinsing beats re-washing any day. 
2.  I make sure I don't overload the dishwasher.  The water has to be able to reach all surfaces if they're going to get clean.  If you overload it, know that you will probably be doing the whole thing all over again while wasting electricity and water. 
3.  I inspect the filter AND around the door to the dishwasher before you run it.  As I said, particles get stuck everywhere, including at the hinge where the door closes.  Wipe the hinge down with a paper towel.
4.  Running the hot water before running the dishwasher is also important.  Hot water is our friend and if the temperature is already high, that's one less thing for the appliance to do.
5.  Every 3 cycles, I use a commercial dishwasher cleaner.  I buy whichever one is on sale (see photo).  Follow the directions and use it in an empty appliance.  Some people recommend running the empty dishwasher with a cup of white vinegar or lemon juice; others swear by frozen orange juice.  Supposedly, the citric acid in the juice cleans the machine.  Honestly, I haven't had much success with the home-made concoctions, but will use vinegar every once in a while when I run out of the commercial stuff since I always have vinegar in the house for general cleaning.  Usually, however,  I find that the commercial stuff is worth the money.
6.  I always have a spray bottle of diluted white vinegar, a dish drying rack, and other hand-dishwashing equipment ready.  Some loads are better than others. 
7.  I load up on paper plates.  I know they're not environmentally-friendly, but neither is having to re-wash dishes over and over.  If the kids are just going to put a sandwich down, either a paper plate or even a paper towel does the job. 

If you're in the same boat with an under-performing dishwasher, here are some helpful websites you might want to visit:  - Their page called Choose A Type Of Dishwasher Detergent gives the Pros and Cons of the different types of products available. - Definitely worth a look to see what they think of the various detergents.  I disagreed with their findings, but maybe you won't.  - Their page entitled How To Load And Run A Dishwasher For Efficiency And Ultimate Cleanliness had some nice tips. 

I'm happy that the Bosch doesn't belch like the GE I used to have.  The fact that it's quiet is rather nice.  The reality that I still have to do the equivalent of a tribal dance to get my dishes clean is not.  Each load seems to be like rolling the dice; as I said, sometimes I have to rewash, other times I do not.  Do you have any suggestions or comments that might help?  Please share!

And thank you for reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for commenting! Feel free to email me at