What's up with the dishwasher detergent?

For the last couple months my glasses haven’t been getting clean in the dishwasher. I took the damned thing apart to see if there were any blockages or anything, and I did find a little bit of plastic and took it out. Better for a bit, but then back to business as usual. Recently I tried a vinegar load, and same thing - I thought maybe it was a bit better, but it ain’t.

I noticed a cover of the Weekly Standard claiming that everybody’s glasses are kind of nasty because the US took out the phosphorous or something. Is that it? Is everybody having problems? Is there anything I can do about it, 'cause these glasses are gross?

There was a similar article in yesterday’s Star Tribune. Minnesota is one of the states that severely limits phosphates. They said that some non-phosphate detergents are still better than others. I had already changed to Cascade Complete All in 1 gelpacs (which happens to be one they recommended) and have noticed much better results.


You can try different detergents and add a rinse aid.

I wash by hand and haven’t noticed. I even changed to a “bio hippy green” solution. I did notice that it breaks down over time to something akin to snot. I left some dishes soaking for a couple of days while out of town. Shudder…

Which leads to dish soap smuggling. No, I’m not making this up.

I know this lady who can fix you up with the ‘good stuff’, but we can’t go to her house because the neighbors might call the cops about the traffic. We can work something out.

You need to come alone, and bring cash, the full amount no bullshit!

And make sure you are not followed.


That is an old article and most manufacturers do not make different products for those states which haven’t gotten on the low phosphates bandwagon so the old products aren’t for sale anywhere these days.

I have heard of people buying TSP and adding it themselves to their detergent.

Have you tried Jet-Dry in the dishwasher? I use it religiously here with our very hard water.

Are you sure about all the blockages being gone? Double-check the rinse arms.

I use Jet Dry, yes. And the rinse arms were pristine.

ETA - my usual detergent is Cascade powder, because a repairman once told me to use nothing else. He particularly hated Electrasol.

The powders have been having trouble since the switch from phosphates. There was an article in Chemical and Engineering News a couple weeks ago (I’d link, but it’s paywall, so unless you know someone who’s an ACS member you’re out of luck.) The gels tend to have the same problems. I will post a couple quotes from the article.

“For an idea of what people are thinking, take a look at the website for Procter & Gamble’s Cascade, by far the leading brand name in U.S. ADW detergents. P&G’s high-end single-dose tablets continue to garner good reviews. But the firm’s workhorse ADW powders and gels are getting slammed. Comment pages that a year ago were filled with praise for Cascade’s effectiveness now brim with invective from unsatisfied users.”

“P&G consumer care representatives bravely respond to many of the angry posts. Often they note that, because Cascade products are now phosphate-free, consumers who live in areas with hard water might experience filming or spotting on their dishes. They suggest that dissatisfied customers try one of the single-dose products.”

“Product form is also important. Quantum tablets contain three chambers separated with dissolvable polyvinyl alcohol film. According to Magg, the chambers isolate incompatible ingredients and then control their release in the dishwasher. For example, Quantum’s center chamber opens later than the others to release ingredients that help prevent calcium deposition, he adds.”

There’s also a lot of technical talk and I’m afraid that quoting too much more will run afoul of the board’s IP policies. Basically, the loss of phosphates has caused many problems with formulation, as the phosphates made it a lot easier. The various manufacturers are currently looking at a variety of different solutions, including enzymes, biopolymers, chelators, surfactants, new stuff being released by BASF and AzkoNobel, and so on.

Personally, I suggest buying a box of tablets. I prefer Finish Quantum, made by Reckitt Benckiser (a European company), which cleans quite well and is fairly cheap, especially as they often have pretty good coupons in the paper. If you prefer Cascade, try a box of Cascade Complete tablets. I see that the gelpacs have also been recommended.

Another thing to check might be the water temperature. I found that I was actually running the water too hot at first, and when I took it off the pots and pans cycle and put it back on normal the detergent actually worked better.

My wife confirms that “Finish Quantum” works very well, but is more expensive, so she only uses it when she thinks she needs it. She also says the gelpacks work well, but she doesn’t like the smell of the ones she just bought (orange, by accident). ETA: she says they leave a bit of a slippery feel, probably due to an added rinse agent. She doesn’t like rinse agents, and says we don’t need them. YMMV, depending on your water.

She switched from Cascade to Finish (used to be Electrosol) because Cascade was turning her silverware purple. We have alkaline water, and she thinks that the Cascade added too much alkalinity. Again, YMMV, depending on your water.

The state of Washington went phosphate free a while ago. I had (coincidentally) stocked up with the old formulation of Cascade tablets at the Costco in Idaho just before they rolled out the new formulations nationwide.
So, I have a stockpile of the old stuff that I “smuggled” across state lines. :eek: I use it every third or fourth wash. Or for special stuff that I consider phosphate (read: ‘sponge’) -worthy.

I’ve been reading about the problems with dishwasher detergent, so when my glasses started looking bad, I assumed that the problem was the detergent. I didn’t have the same problem when I handwashed them, so didn’t blame the hard water.

One night, while I was slightly chemically enhanced and grumbling to myself about handwashing dishes, I dumped about a pint of white vinigar into the dishwasher and ran it through a load. (I can get really creative when I’m avoiding work. Sometimes its more work than the work I should be doing, but…you know…) Then I filled the dishwasher, dumped more white vinigar in along with detergent and everything came out shining and sparkly :slight_smile:

Now that I’ve figured out that its the hard water clogging up the jets :smack: I run vinigar through it once a month.

Before Wisconsins ban went into effect my wife and I bought several cases of the real stuff and stored it up in the attic. It’s just the 2 of us now so we only run the dishwasher about once a week. We’ll be dead and gone before this supply runs out.

We are on well water and ran into the same problem. I started using Lemi Shine (which I strongly suspect is citric acid). Problem solved.

I don’t have particularly hard or soft water - just, you know, water.

Um, if the hard water is the problem, why don’t you simply buy a seperate de-calcifyer and add that? Like the salt you add every 20th or so cycle?

Yeah, go for the Cascade gel-paks and see if it makes a difference. I’ve had problems (in the past sob I don’t have a dishwasher now) with the powder, as others have mentioned.

I have well water, too, which I don’t drink. This stuff is citric acid and it’s great.

I read something about this just the other day. Apparently it’s not banned for industrial use, and so you could go to Sam’s/Costco and get the commercial stuff. My Cascade is about four years old, because I rarely use the dishwasher. Next time I use it, I’ll try to remember to return to this thread.