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dishwasher detergent

Have never been a "brand name" buyer and have been satisfied with store brands untiil recently?? Clear, glass & plastic stuff is just NOT coming out CLEAN? It's kinda "clean" but seems to have a coating on it. Dishwasher or detergent problem??

What brand do you use and SWEAR by for great results?

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  1. Most likely it is the lack of phosphates in the detergent. Use a rinse aid and a spoonful of trisodium phosphate, available at a good hardware store. If your state does not allow TSP to be sold, get it from Ebay or Amazon.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Enigma3

      The laws about not using it in dishwasher detergent are there for a reason. I don't think any states completely prohibit phosphates because they are very useful for lead paint remediation. Now thanks to your advice millions of housewifes will circumvent environmental regulations, forcing state legislatures to outright ban TSP to save our waterways, thus reducing the incentive to fix lead paint problems, leading to more children becoming lead poisoned. See what you've done!?

      Just kidding!

      1. re: Fin De Fichier

        Detergents containing phosphates have only been banned for consumer products. To my knowledge, none of the 16 states banned it for commercial dish and laundry products.

        Clearly, we (home cooks) need better lobbyists.

        1. re: DuffyH

          I used to be still able to get it at Home Depot, but now they only have an artificial version.

            1. re: coll

              I did but all I found was Lemi shine. Since we have soft water, that didn't help at all. But as I said below, the Finish Quantums seem to be working nicely. Fingers crossed.

              1. re: coll

                I did some experimenting last year, hoping to reduce aluminum loss in my clad stainless pans. I tried Bubble Bandit, but my dishes were just meh. Not as shiny as I was used to with the Quantum, and that goes for pans, too.

                A blogger (http://jillcataldo.com/phosphatedeter...) likes the old Cascade a lot. I didn't try it.


                As for me, I had to replace my pans when I installed my induction range, and chose to go with disk bottom pans with a nice thick disk for my saucepans. I can toss them in the Bosch when I want to, there's no exposed aluminum for the Quantum to eat, all of my stuff sparkles again. I'm a happy camper.

                1. re: DuffyH

                  I always used Cascade, since the 1970s, but it's just not the same anymore.

                  1. re: coll

                    The one I linked to above is supposed to be essentially the same as the old consumer formula. It's got the phosphates we all loved. That's what makes it different from the stuff available today in supermarkets.

                    1. re: DuffyH

                      I only use the dishwasher when I have company mostly, so it would take a LONG time to go through it. I just threw out a BJs size bottle because it was getting old and starting to crust up, so that's something I have to consider too.

                      I used to sell restaurant soap but 5 gallon tubs were the norm. I wonder who's buying such little bottles, besides homeowners? And I wonder why Finish comes out so sparkly clean, what is their secret?

      2. I use the Finish tabs with rinse aid included; it's the brand recommended by my dishwasher's manufacturer. They're not inexpensive compared to bargain or store brands, but easy as can be to use and get the dishes and glassware clean every time.

        6 Replies
          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

            I stock up on the Finish tabs when they go on sale and there are frequently coupons for them in the Sunday paper too.

            They wee recommended, and a sample was provided, when I got my new DW a couple of years ago. I've been very happy with the results.

            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

              I use the Finish tabs too. They sell them at Costco and the price is pretty good.

              1. re: valerie

                I stock up on them when CostCo has them on sale. Weirdly, I had a tiny leak from the DW when I used Cascade tablets--called the repair service guy, and he said ONLY Finish--never any leakage with them. Doesn't make sense, but I'll stick to Finish. Altho' I still use the liquid Jet Dry, even tho' the Finish supposedly has a drying aid.

              2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                I also find the inside of my dishwasher seems cleaner with the Finish.

                1. re: CanadaGirl

                  I was using my dishwasher as storage space because it wasn't able to get the dishes clean, then I read about Finish here. I got the Quantum tablets. Whoa boy, not only clean but unbelievably shiny. The shine even lasts after a few handwashings....I don't know what it is and I don't want to find out. I am so happy I can use my relatively new Kitchenaid dishwasher as intended finally.

              3. Could be both. . .

                I use the Kirkland gel kind, the Costco brand. It works well most of the time with my almost 2 year old Bosch dishwasher, the only time I'm not thrilled is if the rinse aide is empty, or I try to stuff too much in it. My biggest problem is when I stuff the top rack full of plastic containers. They just need some space I've found.

                We used to have a Kenmore in this house, and we just had issues with it cleaning well at all. I wasn't too upset when the motor died. Mr Autumn (after grumbling about buying yet ANOTHER dishwasher) was impressed with how clean stuff was suddenly.

                1. Is this a new development? Is your water hard, and did you get a new dishwasher?

                  Yes, try a rinse-aid, which seems to be mandatory with dishwashers now. I use one and half a Method tab and it works fine.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: PegS

                    Not a new washer and gradual development of problem. Not something I'm losiing sleep over but would like "clear" stuff to be more CLEAR??

                    1. re: kseiverd

                      Is it possible that your glassware etc. has been gradually becoming less clear over time and it has only recently become noticible? Would a brand new glass come out clouded after just one wash?

                      1. re: kseiverd

                        Same issue we had before switching detergents. My Dad also ahd this issue with his Bosch. Switched from powder and the issue cleared up.

                        1. re: kseiverd

                          You might also try my monthly "trick"--pour about 2 cups of white vinegar in the floor of the DW. Let it sit 'bout 1/2 hour, then run at least the rinse cycle. It'll smell yucky for a day or so, but helps to clear out any grunge that might have collected. A repair guy said doing this should extend the life of the DW.

                          1. re: pine time

                            I just had my repair guy (he works for the local electric company, so he has no reason to mislead me) and he said the exact same thing. The vinegar, he said, works better than any of the dishwasher cleaners.

                            1. re: helou

                              Yeah, this DW (Kitchen Aid) doesn't have one of those removable gunk traps that you can clean out, so the vinegar trick really seems to work well. DW is now 6 years old, runs as well as day 1.

                              1. re: pine time

                                I have started pouring a big glug of vinegar into the bottom of the machine before running it, and also using it in the rinse dispenser. It's a great sanitizer.

                        2. re: PegS

                          they are "mandatory" because newer machines use less and less water for rinse cycles, so the so-called "rinse aids" have to be there to disguise the fact that the machine really isn't rinsing
                          kinda hilarious, isn't it
                          capitalism and environmental regulation: working together...as they said in twin peaks: "health and industry go hand in hand!"

                        3. I use Cascade Complete and have no problems. For what ever reason, I've had no luck with powder and the newer dishwashers. Even using a rinse agent.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: mike0989

                            We use the Cascade Complete (tabs in our case) and have been doing so for I think about 4 years now. We have them on subscribe and save from Amazon and basically haven't given a thought to dishwasher stuff for about 4 years until I read this thread. It's got a rinse aid built in.

                          2. I use one dollar store powder tab AND one discount store gel tab per load.
                            Works excellently.

                            However, if I have a coupon and find a sale, I prefer to use Finish gel tabs.

                            1. Finish powerball all in one + Jet Dry rinse aid. Very, very clean dishes, glasses and plastics.

                              1. Could be a dishwasher problem.
                                1-Pull out the bottom rack and look all around the bottom of the dishwasher - I've found nasty chunks of food inside mine and you may too.
                                2-Clean both sides where the door meets the body of the washer. Mine gets gross after a month or so, but wipes clean easily.
                                3-I use a commercial dishwasher cleaner about twice a year - I've got the 2nd of a Cascade twin pack in my cabinet - and will use it when I next notice a film on my dishes or the walls of the dishwasher.

                                Could be a detergent problem.
                                I don't *swear* by Cascade Complete powder in the big box at Wal-Mart, but that's what I use. I fill the main compartment, the pre-wash compartment, and use the high temp option on my dishwasher.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: AreBe

                                  Inside shows nothing serious or gross. That place where door hinges at bottom does get gorss on a fairly regular basis... and thing that has fallen off dishes or outta of glasses gets deposited right there as you shut the door... gets cleaned on a regular basis.

                                  Gonna try Finish and/or Cascade... which ever has best price... and see if that makes a difference.

                                  1. re: AreBe

                                    good advice
                                    but I actually completely disassembled my dishwasher. Found a lot of goopy stuff in nooks and crannies.

                                  2. when this happened to me, i found out that the problem was that the motor of my dishwasher was conking (sp?) out.
                                    when it finally, completely bit the dust and i had the motor replaced, all the glassware came out perfectly again with no change in detergent.

                                    thankfully i had a home warranty that covered appliances. . . .

                                    1. My preference is for NatureClean or other ecologic brand. Powder or gel, bulk. The bulk aspect allows me to moderate the amount of detergent I use, to suit the conditions of our water (i.e., it's pretty soft), and the degree of loading in the DW.
                                      As for the OP situation, what is the "coating"... is it greasy, gritty... or moreso, opaque? If the former, then there could be an issue with water temp. Perhaps time to drain/flush the hot water heater, or check the thermostat. Another cause of DW angst for me was when the pump was malfuctioning.

                                      1. I'm having the problem with stuff sticking to the silverware especially. It's this bizarre bumpy hard coating that I have to scrub off with a scrubber. For awhile I was washing all silverware by hand because if it.

                                        We've been using Kirkland brand ( Costco) DW detergent for years, never had a problem until we moved into this house with a new dishwasher. My husband thinks it's the heated wash cycle. I don't know, he is the ones that starts it 90% of the time. Our dishes are not generally very dirty anyway as I rinse before loading.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: rasputina

                                          We use a lot of Kirkland products, but the Kirkland DW liquid does not work well in our dishwasher. We normally buy the Cascade Complete from Costco, but last week, they had the Finish Powerball tablets on sale, so I bought a box of those to try as I've heard good things about them.

                                          1. re: boogiebaby

                                            I tried the cascade complete before, but we were in our old house. I bought the Finish powerball tablets today at Costco since they seem to be popular on this thread. Hopefully that helps our issues with the silverware.

                                            Let me know how you l like them once you try them out. I probably won't run a load until tomorrow at the earliest.

                                            1. re: rasputina

                                              Finish is working well for us so far. Although there have been issues with empty papers without cleaner tab in the box I got from Costco.

                                        2. Currently using the Finish brand with the red "powerball" thingy.

                                          I add a plonk of vinegar to every wash.

                                          Pre-2012 Bosch DW.

                                          I do handwash wine glasses and Rubbermaid. Ivory liquid. Another plonk of white vinegar in the rinse water as needed.

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: pedalfaster

                                            Interesting about your plonk of vinegar (I am so stealing "plonk")--I wrote, above, about a pour of vinegar maybe 1x/mo. Does your regular use boost the dish cleaning, or help keep the DW itself clean/de-gunked?

                                            1. re: pine time

                                              We have to be careful using the word "plonk"; in Brit-speak I think it refers to cheap wine (thank-you internet!). Perhaps "splosh"?

                                              I have found that white vinegar keeps the white "haze" off of my glassware. I found this out by "accident" when I ran out of Jet Dri one day. Never went back to the commercial product.

                                              1. re: pedalfaster

                                                The wine reference is exactly why I want to use plonk (i.e., wine akin to vinegar) in other ways! :)

                                              2. re: pine time

                                                A dishwasher repair guy told me to use vinegar in every load, because I have hard water. He said to use a custard cup (or similar container) on the top rack, and fill it with vinegar. No white spots whatsoever!

                                                Don't just pour the vinegar in the machine before starting--the cup method allows the vinegar to gradually disperse throughout the whole wash/rinse process.

                                                1. re: sparrowgrass

                                                  Love this tip sparrowgrass!
                                                  Will try adding the vinegar in a ramekin (hey, it needs to be washed anyway!) when I do my next load.

                                                  1. re: sparrowgrass

                                                    That's a great tip. If I start having issues with my glassware I'll try that.

                                              3. Bought Finish but have a "dumb" question, Dishwasher has TWI pots for cleaners. Do I put one in each??

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: kseiverd

                                                  Just put one in the main/first wash compartment, and see how it does. We have only ever used one, with excellent results. Especially with more water-efficient dishwashers, sometimes it's more effective to use less detergent.

                                                2. Etching on glassware is caused by using too much detergent. It won't rub off or get better with time. Newer, more efficient dishwashers need less soap than the old ones. I was filling the little cup n the door, but after the glassware all got etched I, um, read the manual and discovered that the manufacturer recommended 2 teaspoons. (In my defense, the problem may actually have started after we put in a water softener.) Now I use those little packet thingies. The Finish is good, but I also like Seventh Generation.

                                                  Also, if you have a water softener, you might want to check that it has salt and is working correctly. We had a minor water softener issue at our new house that gummed up the dishwasher for a while.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: AbijahL

                                                    <Etching on glassware is caused by using too much detergent.>

                                                    Hard water is also nasty for glasses. Using less detergent won't help that.

                                                    1. re: AbijahL

                                                      Good call on the water softener. My parents dishwasher was leaving a very hard to remove glaze on the silverware and glasses. Turned out the water softener was jammed - some black rubber crud from the water line to the house had stopped the machine from cycling properly. This happened twice in a few months. Once fixed the dishes have been coming out fine.

                                                    2. Is your water hot enough to dissolve everything?

                                                      1. I find that I get the dreaded film when there is too much soap used and / or not enough food left on the dishes. According too the dishwasher installation guy, the enzymes in the detergent need something to dissolve. And make sure the rinse aid is not low.

                                                        The best thing to remove the film is lemon juice... I save the lemon rinds and run them around glasses that are starting to get filmy and the come out great, seems to work better than vinegar.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: firecooked

                                                          That's clever lie, but I can't blame them for telling it.
                                                          The truth is a little food serves as a pH buffer...and therefore, in fact what it is actually doing is helping to form an impromptu soap. If the glasses were completely clean when you put them in the DW, this alkali would just attack the glass and cause the so-called etching.

                                                          1. re: Fin De Fichier

                                                            We have a good a-b test. When I am home alone and doing dishes with minimal pre-rinse and not much detergent, the dishes get cleaner are much less likely to have a film form than when DH is home and pre-washes everything and uses a medium level of soap.

                                                            1. re: firecooked

                                                              I recently read an article that was exactly about this: something about DW detergents "need" to have bits of food on the dishes and won't do as good a job on overly pre-rinsed dishes. Maybe somebody else recalls the article or the science behind that?

                                                        2. So many internet discussion forums, so many people expressing woes with dishwashers and dishwasher detergents. I've been wondering where I should post my big essay on the topic. Might as well be here.
                                                          Bona fides: BS degree, major in bio, minor in chem.
                                                          worked for a wet research lab for about a year after graduation, doing, among other things, lab glass cleaning.

                                                          Washing your dishes is kind of like what goes on in the kitchen of restaurants...the powers that be don't really want you to know too much about what's happening, lest you worry your pretty little head. Increasingly, dishwasher and d.w. detergent manufacturers are trying to accomplish the impossible: get your dishes sparkling clean using only a few gallons of water.

                                                          Here's a big shocker. Please...those of you who are faint of heart or prone to palpitations, please seat yourself if using a mobile device, or take your heart medication now. You may never have seen truly clean glass in your life. Laboratory glass has to be truly clean. This means all that is there is the glass, and the air in the room. Not even any ions stuck to the glass are permitted. There are dedicated lab washers these days; back in the late 90s we used a top of the line domestic/light commercial model (KitchenAid IIRC) that went through 3 cycles. Yes, 3 whole cycles. With a small amount of acid added to the end of the 2nd cycle, and a valve switched for the 3rd cycle which started running the machine on totally deionized water. (it still ran on softened water for the first 2) I suppose having to do this left me a bit OC when it comes to dish cleaning. In my kitchen, I somewhat replicate this process. Water is extremely cheap and plentiful where i live. Most of the time there's too much of it around, in fact. I reuse dishes if they only had dry food on them. I mainly drink water so I don't go through many glasses. So I don't feel bad about what I do at all, in fact, my town's water administrator once questioned me about why I use so little water! He had to explain why he updated my meter to a brand new digital one! I run my machine twice a week at most. But for many of your, truly clean glass will not be a realistic objective. So, now that we've gotten that out of the way...

                                                          Basically, I see more and more of this kind of thread on the internet. I suspect manufacturers are just slowly cheapening their formulas, to do the old upsell maneuver, to try to force you into a more expensive product. Even with phosphates being banned, it really shouldn't be too hard to get dishes cleaned.
                                                          Here are some key things to understand:
                                                          1) your incoming water chemistry makes a huge difference. If you have hard, non-municipal water, you will have to use more detergent. If you have municipal water, that right there means the pH is adjusted to well above 7 (prevents pipe corrision) so you need less detergent because the primary thing is does is mild saponification by alkalinity. But, if you have too much alkalinity, you can get the dreaded etching.

                                                          2) that being said, the etching problem is actually more complicated than that...involving other aspects of the water chemistry such as the total ionic concentration, nature of ions present, etc., so complicated in fact I can't even go into it. If you have the problem, first try using less, then try switching to a more expensive brand.

                                                          3) you can't really formulate your own that's going to magically work as well. They have difficult to obtain non-ionic surfactants and things like sodium metasilicate in them, that generally do a good job at what they are supposed to do. You can boost a formula, though. In my process, I use Walmart's gel, but in the last few minutes of the wash cycle I add a gram or so of KOH. I've done this for years and my older machine tolerates it just fine, but I cannot under any circumstances recommend this. I'm merely pointing out that it can be done, which is different. With my water chemistry, this prevents spotting and so-called etching, however with some incoming water it could cause those problems. Like I said, this is all rather more complex than it seems at first.

                                                          4) rinse aids are funny. Yes, they make the glass look "spotless", to the unaided eye. But the reason we ran the lab machine through so many cycles is dishwashers always have a little water left in the pump well, and a tiny amount of food particles remain the final rinse water, or stuck to the glass every time a machine drains. My brother has a top of the line Bosch that gets fed softened water. He insists it is the best dishwasher in the world. However, compared to my glasses, when I look at his I discern a slightly cloudiness. For mine, I do not, even though I do not have a water softener. Of course he uses a rinse aid, I do not. They just disperse whatever is left in the water, especially ions, so well that they become hard to notice. But they are still there.

                                                          5) obviously, you can't get something for nothing. The very cheapest brands are not going to perform well. Even though if you compare the chems. in the bottom brands with those in the top brands...at the scale they purchase them you are still talking about 50 cents of raw ingredients versus 90 cents. You still have to pay the piper of capitalism and pay $3 more for the better brand instead of 40 cents more.

                                                          6) please don't add phosphates. I experimented with doing that actually, briefly, but in my water chemistry KOH does just as well as a booster. I've actually inspected the inside of the machine, and there's no sign of damage at all. However, as I said, I cannot recommend this in any sense and I'm sure for those of you with new machines, it would be considered warranty voiding. I don't fill my cup with gel, so I am probably just doing it to economize on the gel. By the time I switched from the more expensive cascade gel, I hadn't been using a full cup for ages.

                                                          7) your machine has to be clean, to clean. There's a product that costs something like 10 dollars for 2 cleanings of your dishwasher. That's hilarious because all it is is an organic acid and a bit of surfactant. You can buy a pound of citric acid on ebay that will give you 40 cleanings of a DW. My current protocol uses about a teaspoon of citric acid during the secondary cycle. (but if you have a rust coated machine, 1/3 cup will completely clean that out.) This acid rinse delivers really really clean glass. Close to lab glass clean. Every single defect in the glass becomes sparklingly evident. In fact they can look like they have a rash, or odd spotting, but that was there when they were made. You see all the surface defects that are hidden by rinse aids for most people. (and btw I've washed these glasses for years, so, no, the KOH is not dissolving them! That would require a much higher pH. But I do I use KOH instead of NaOH because it causes less glass etching than NaOH)

                                                          1. Finish Quantum Tabs, sometimes Finish Power Up along with the tab, Jet Dry.

                                                            I also clean the dishwasher once a month with the Finish dishwasher cleaner, and run a cycle every sixth months with CLR.

                                                            This is what my local repair guy told me to do and it works!

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: jbsiegel

                                                              +1 for Finish Quantum. Works exceptionally well.

                                                            2. In an effort to save money, we recently picked up a box of Cascade Extra Action at Sam's. It's got Dawn and a rinse aid, so I had high hopes it might replace the spendy Finish Quantum we've been using (and that Bosch recommends) since it first came out.

                                                              I'm sad to say it's giving us no joy. Dishes are coming out, not cloudy or hazy or dull, as I'd worried about, but they're simply not clean. Bits and smears of food are being left on them. And I'm one who rinses dishes first. Not completely clean, but enough to make sure there's nothing stuck on.

                                                              So it's back to the Quantum for me.

                                                              7 Replies
                                                              1. re: DuffyH

                                                                I will never go back the Cascade. They used to be top of the line but now they're bottom of the heap.

                                                                1. re: coll

                                                                  IME, yes, but to be fair, I haven't tried Cascade Complete ActionPacs, which CR rated tops. Still, the next 3 were Finish products, including Quantum, and they all cost less than the Cascade. But...I'm not giving a lot credence to CR's rankings for dishwasher detergent.

                                                                  The Cascade I bought at Sam's appears to be identical to Cascade With Dawn ActionPacs. CR ranked that product just 1 point below Quantum, which is utter hogwash. It is nowhere near as good. As I noted above, it didn't clean the dishes, leaving smears of food on them.

                                                                  1. re: DuffyH

                                                                    Speaking of Dawn dishwashing liquid, has anyone noticed how poorly it cleans now? I see they replaced the TSP with alcohol, but I scrub and scrub and cannot get the smears off the glasses unless I hand dry afterwards. Maybe I'll go back to Ajax and see how they're doing in that department.

                                                                    1. re: coll

                                                                      I only use Dawn as a laundry spot treatment. I switched to Ajax after I got tired of Dawn stinking up my sponges. Since the switch? Smell's gone.

                                                                      Still, Dawn is an excellent spot treatment, and costs a fraction of what I was paying for Shout and the like.

                                                                      1. re: DuffyH

                                                                        I've heard great things about Dawn brand as a cleaning agent...for things other than dishes! (Cyclists use it to degrease chains for instance).

                                                                        Perhaps they need to change up their marketing strategy?

                                                                        1. re: pedalfaster

                                                                          Yeah, thinned out a bit with water and hydrogenperoxide, it's great for wine stains

                                                                          1. re: pedalfaster

                                                                            <Perhaps they need to change up their marketing strategy?>

                                                                            You bet. Remember when Avon finally began marketing Skin-So-Soft as an insect repellant? We'd all been using it that way for years.