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Dishwasher Detergents - Some safer than others?

Pretty much everything ends up in my dishwasher - even sometimes things that are not *supposed* to, by accident sometimes on purpose. Much of the stuff I use in my kitchen is vintage too and while not precious I do not want to unduly shorten its life.

The cheap-o dollar store stuff does not work and I generally find the powered kind to not dissolve fully - is the liquid get really damaging? are some brands less harsh but still effective? Or is it the heat that I really have to worry about?

How do I best protect my cookware without hand washing everything?

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  1. We use food grade citric acid as the final wash/rinse because we have very hard well water. It works well.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Raffles

      Raffles, my mom had terrible results with her dishwasher and very hard well water. I bought her some Lemi-shine and all is well. Lemi-shine is way overpriced, though, if it is, as I suspect, only citric acid and fragrance. So I bought some food grade citric acid to try.

      How much citric acid do you add to each cycle? Her dishwasher has only one soap dispenser, so we add the Lemi-shine right in -- less than a teaspoon. About the same, you think?

      1. re: DebinIndiana

        We fill the rinse compartment, the one with the little door. We found bulk citric acid at a very good price...We now have citric acid forever...25 kilos.....The lemi-shine was very expensive.Makes a great toilet bowl cleaner also...Also soak the shower head ,etc..dissolves calcium buildup.

          1. re: Raffles

            If you can't find citric acid, Tang will work.

          2. re: DebinIndiana

            You can find citric acid at the supermarket where the canning supplies are shelved. I've also purchased it at Middle Eastern grocers.

            I use it too for my dishwasher. Hard well water.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Citric acid is on eBay and from BulkApothecary.com. FYI, their 50 pound size is actually 25 kilos so you get a bit more,at least when I ordered. It came out to less than $2.00 a pound with shipping.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Stores here got rid of their canning supplies years ago. :( I have to order them online.

                1. re: weezieduzzit

                  Sorry to hear that. Also surprised to hear that they've not made a comeback. They have in my area's grocery stores. Mason jars had a 30% uptick in national sales the first year of the recession and has had steady growth since, so many supermarkets carry them and other supplies again.

                  That's a great tip to use Tang.

                  1. re: weezieduzzit

                    Do you have an Ace Hardware or other well stocked hardware store? Might be seasonal.

                  2. re: Melanie Wong

                    I bought a big bag from Amazon more cheaply than the grocery store -- will be trying it next time I go visit my mom.

              2. Not your real question, but if you are using the powder-paks that contain both detergent and rinse aid, make sure you put them into the dispenser with the rinse aid side down. We got a new DW a few months ago and were all set to return it because the paks didn't dissolve... fortunately a quick call to the manufacturer cleared that up. Hope that helps.
                (we don't put cookware in the DW, though, so I can't really answer your question - sorry.)

                1 Reply
                1. re: truman

                  Thanks! That may explain why I gave up on those Paks LOL I think I always put them in backwards!

                2. If you have tri-ply or other clad cookware with aluminum in it, beware of Finish Quantum, Cascade Complete and other detergents that have 3 little separate compartments with pre-rinse, detergent and rinse aid. They will corrode the aluminum layer.

                  This is only a problem with exposed aluminum, as in the rim of a clad pan, and some rivets that are aluminum. For everything else, they're (IMO) simply the best you can buy and will make your dishes gleam.

                  FWIW, it's also recommended that you avoid citric acid dish soap for clad cookware. Check labels, as it used to be just the citrus-scented ones that had it, now some others do, too.

                  EDIT - Oops, I just realized I didn't answer your question. I've not heard of anyone who has trouble getting these high end detergents to dissolve. Give them a try, perhaps see if you can get a sample from the manufacturer.

                  I've got no experience with gels, sorry.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: DuffyH

                    I noticed that Target had, I think that they were 2 tab packs of some of the newer premium DW detergents. An easy way to try something without waiting for a free sample or investing in a larger than desired quantity.

                    1. re: sel

                      Thanks - I just looked at the label on my Target brand DW liquid and its sodium silicate and chlorine bleach - its the bleach I assume that is the killer? I know its not a good idea to bleach my ironstone and doubt its good for my enameled CI either - maybe I need to look at the more natural stuff or just hand wash more.

                      1. re: JTPhilly

                        Bleach, in the concentration present in the DW detergent, shouldn't pose a problem to your ECI. Ironstone perhaps, but I wouldn't think so.

                        Is this the stuff that's not working for you?

                    2. re: DuffyH

                      duffy - could you please explain WHY the tri-packs will corrode the aluminum layer (if it is exposed)? what is actually in there that is doing the corroding? i would like to know, so that i might look for the ingredient, rather than a brand name.

                      1. re: rmarisco

                        marisco,

                        Oops, I thought I mentioned it upthread. The stuff to watch for is citric acid. It doesn't play well with aluminum at all.

                        In addition to DW detergents, be sure to watch your liquid dish soap. I'm now using Ajax, as it contains no citric acid, doesn't make my sponges reek like Dawn can, CR rated it highly for effectiveness. Bonus points for not costing a fortune.

                        FWIW, nothing else available seems to get dishes as sparkly as citric acid detergents, so I still use it. It's one of the reasons I went with disk-bottom stainless pans, so they could safely go into the DW.

                    3. You ought to handwash some things, not everything — things with wooden handles or nonstick surfaces. Also aluminum, unless you are using a detergent marked safe for aluminum.

                      Turn off the extra hot cycles when washing plastics.

                      1. Im afraid to think if they can clean caked on dishes that well what are flushing out into our oceans.

                        I think its the final heat drying cycle that kills old china and such. Just turn off after final rinse.

                        1. Switching detergents can cause you problems. Specifically, if you go from an enzyme-containing detergent like Cascade Complete to a bleach-containing detergent, it can gunk up the dishwasher.