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#1
Old 03-06-2013, 08:20 PM
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Dishwashing Detergent - Liquid vs Powdered

We were having our dishwasher services today. We're in So Cal and our water is hard. If I forget to regularly check the filter, all kinds of mean and nasty stuff can accumulate.

So anyway, the brave, young highly-trained technician suggests some stuff for us to keep the machine running smoothly and says we should be using ONLY LIQUID detergent. It's the only thing he uses and doesn't recommend anything else.

Got it. Except that the last time we had a service (last year - hard water really fucks these things up) the brave, young, high-trained technician told us that we should never use LIQUID detergent, and should ONLY use POWDERED detergent. It's the only thing he uses and doesn't recommend anything else.

These guys are from different service companies contracted by the Sears (used to be Maytag) service center. Highly-trained, but they sure don't talk to each other much. So which is it? What is the difference, really. Is one or the other better for hard water? I started to put this in GQ, but as it came out, it sounded like it belonged here. I told the missus that you guys were the only way out of this dilemma. What say?
#2
Old 03-06-2013, 09:45 PM
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Location: Bigfork, Montana
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We started with powder in ours because, well, that's what we've always used. Even when we lived in California.

For our 3 years new high end dishwasher we found that liquid worked better. No residual soap left in the soap container.

I don't see a downside to using liquid, so why not stick with it if it appears to be working...
#3
Old 03-06-2013, 09:49 PM
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Location: San Diego, CA
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I have a dishwasher, but have never used it in the ten years I've lived in this apartment. I wash up manually, in the sink. (Lord have mercy, I don't use soap at all, just water and a brush.)

But... What would happen if you pre-dissolved powdered dishwasher detergent? Put the usual amount in a little cup, then add water, stir a bit, and then pour that syrup into the washer as if it were a liquid? Would that be "the best of both worlds" or just a stupid waste of time?
#4
Old 03-07-2013, 02:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trinopus View Post
I wash up manually, in the sink. (Lord have mercy, I don't use soap at all, just water and a brush.)
Goodness, that might be worse than the we-don't-rinse-because-we-like-soapy-dishes brits!
#5
Old 03-07-2013, 02:54 PM
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Tabs. I guess the ones we have right now are probably closer to powder but we've also used the liquid tabs. Both seem to work just fine.
#6
Old 03-07-2013, 04:16 PM
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I started adding a product called Lemishine along with regular powdered soap. The stuff smells disconcertingly like lemonade powder, but it does help keep the hard water gunk from building up on the dishes and the dishwasher.
#7
Old 03-07-2013, 05:53 PM
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I have asthma, and we used the cheap-shit bulk DW powder for years. I finally decided I couldn't handle the dust from the powder and so we switched to liquid.

*I* feel better, anyway.


~VOW
#8
Old 03-07-2013, 06:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cher3 View Post
I started adding a product called Lemishine along with regular powdered soap. The stuff smells disconcertingly like lemonade powder, but it does help keep the hard water gunk from building up on the dishes and the dishwasher.
Thanks for the recommendation - I'll keep an eye out for this. Can you find it at the grocery store? I'm sick of having to re-wash things after they've been "cleaned" by the dishwasher. It's weird how two identical side-by-side dishes will come out where one is gunky with white residue and one is just fine.
#9
Old 03-07-2013, 06:19 PM
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I get the Lemishine at Target. It's shelved right next to the dishwasher soaps. It's a powdered thing and goes right in the same space where you put the regular dishwasher soap, not in the rinsing agent dispenser.
#10
Old 03-07-2013, 10:09 PM
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try this: get a bottle of CLR at CVS, Walmart, Walgreen.

Run it in the DW without any dishes in it.

Dishwasher spray arms are not geared or motorized; they rely solely on water flow/ pressure (which are 2 very different animals)

What happens, is after time, you get calcium or soap or food junk build-up in the tiny jets (small holes where the water sprays out and causes the spray arms to rotate, as well as clean the dishes). I looked once, when I noticed the DW was running a lot quieter, and dishes were not as clean. Many of those tiny holes had tiny clumps of calcium and other junk blocking them. Impossible to remove with tweezers or a pick, as they will just slide back into the arm, and the next cycle will push them back into the holes.

Running CLR will dissolve them after one cycle. Do not mix with dishes, as CLR has strong chemicals. I would even say to run another empty cycle with DW cleaner, to clear out the CLR.

Amazing results.

Last edited by cougar58; 03-07-2013 at 10:11 PM.
#11
Old 03-08-2013, 07:11 AM
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According to a professional acquaintance who worked on the development of liquid dishwasher detergent years ago, the original intent was to sell it to "gullible housewives" in spite of the fact that it had to substitute less effective ingredients to let it work in liquid form. The problem with the more effective ingredients was that dry form kept them from being active, but in wet form they would attack and neutralize each other during the time spent in the bottle. The more effective ingredients only have to survive each other for a few minutes, if the product is a dry powder.

If dry powder remains in the dispenser, that sounds like a badly designed dispenser. Perhaps manufacturers figured out they could make the dispenser cheesier if it was dispensing liquids?

Last edited by Napier; 03-08-2013 at 07:12 AM.
#12
Old 03-08-2013, 07:39 AM
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If there is soap left in the soap container, make sure you aren't putting in too much. What happens when there is too much soap is that when you close the lid it compacts down the soap into a hardened mass that's harder to flush out and dissolve. Use a little less soap and you will save money and your dishes will get cleaned properly.
#13
Old 03-08-2013, 07:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cougar58 View Post
Running CLR will dissolve them after one cycle. Do not mix with dishes, as CLR has strong chemicals. I would even say to run another empty cycle with DW cleaner, to clear out the CLR.

Amazing results.
I absolutely agree with using CLR. Run a quarter to half a cup once a month.

But after a few years, your sprayer arm might still get plugged up. If you call the repair person, they first thing they will do is to detach the sprayer arm, take the end of a straightened paper clip, and poke it into all the little holes in the sprayer arm. This will push the dirt inside the arm. Then they will shake it out the big hole in the middle where the sprayer arm attaches. This solves a majority of problems. Do it before you call the repair shop and you could save yourself $100. Regular use of CLR will prevent problems, but if your sprayer arm is already hopelessly plugged, CLR won't fix it.

I don't think I would run another empty cycle. A typical dishwasher goes through at least two cycle (and maybe) more cycles. If you add the CLR for the first cycle, it should be gone by the end of the rinses.

Oh, and, no soap with the CLR.

Last edited by Alley Dweller; 03-08-2013 at 07:56 AM.
#14
Old 03-08-2013, 08:12 AM
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Which ends up cheaper on a per load basis (assuming both work well enough)? My sense (albeit never bothered to calculate) was that the liquid cost more per use. A big box of powder seems to last forever.
#15
Old 03-08-2013, 08:18 AM
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I use the individual powder packs that melt in the hot water. They excel at not cleaning my dishes as well as liquid or powder detergents.
#16
Old 03-08-2013, 09:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alley Dweller View Post
If there is soap left in the soap container, make sure you aren't putting in too much. What happens when there is too much soap is that when you close the lid it compacts down the soap into a hardened mass that's harder to flush out and dissolve. Use a little less soap and you will save money and your dishes will get cleaned properly.
I've learned to not put large dishes or things like plastic cutting boards near the soap dispenser. They often block the door partially closed which leaves soap in the container.
#17
Old 03-08-2013, 09:16 AM
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Originally Posted by cougar58 View Post
Dishwasher spray arms are not geared or motorized; they rely solely on water flow/ pressure (which are 2 very different animals)
Just last week I noticed the the dishes and cups in the upper rack weren't getting completely clean at times. The middle spray arm is mounted to the upper rack and is pushed against a hole in the back of the dishwasher for water. There is a gasket and it was all but gone. Even though the gasket looks replaceable, there's no way to order that part. Instead you need to order the entire spray arm assembly for about $40. At least it was easy to replace.

On a slightly different subject, if you ever notice standing water after a complete cycle of the dishwasher, there's a little valve in some dishwashers, like GE, towards the back usually under the screen. The valve wears out and prevents proper drainage. Pretty easy to fix once you know it's there.

Of course many dishwashers have screens and traps that should be cleaned out often, like at least once every couple weeks.
#18
Old 03-08-2013, 09:18 AM
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Originally Posted by JerrySTL View Post
Of course many dishwashers have screens and traps that should be cleaned out often, like at least once every couple weeks.
I sometimes find furballs of dog hair in the strainer.
#19
Old 03-08-2013, 11:30 AM
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Cascade Complete is the best powder out there, but in a recent consumer report review, the generic Walmart version (box looks almost the same) is as good if not better and about half the price.

However, the biggest "trick" for your dishwasher:

Buy a huge bottle of vinegar - pour in about half cup before every wash. Then add the powder to the little trap door.

OK, I know this sounds unbelievable but I guarantee this will get rid of all the the calcium build up - not only in the dishwasher (and all that loose powder gunk), but also the connecting hoses and drain!

"But DMark, this makes no sense as the vinegar will be removed in the first rinse cycle!"
- I said, trust me - it makes ALL the difference, especially if you have hard water.

"But now my dishes and glasses will come out smelling like vinegar!"
- No they won't. The dishwasher powder will get rid of that odor completely.

"I just find this hard to believe."
- So did we. We have owned several dishwashers and our current dishwasher is a relatively high-end, very quiet machine - but within a few weeks, it was already getting gunked up. We put in the half cup of vinegar every single wash. Now our glasses and glass bowls come out sparkling clean, the calcium build up is completely gone, and the vinegar cost pennies compared to the (useless) crap that costs far more and is far less successful. No more need for the "jet dry" liquid either!

I will GUARANTEE you that after about 2 weeks of this (depending upon how gunked up your dishwasher is) it will run like new and you will see a 100% difference! And if I am wrong (and I am not), the worst you have done is spend about $3 on vinegar.

Last edited by DMark; 03-08-2013 at 11:34 AM.
#20
Old 03-08-2013, 11:50 AM
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BTW, I forgot to mention that the dishwasher is one appliance that can be damaged if you DON'T use it for a long period of time.

The reason is that there is a small amount of water that remains in the bottom of the dishwasher hose to the drain after every wash. If you don't use the dishwasher much, this water will dry up and the hose might crack and cause a leak.

Now maybe the newer models use PVC or something that won't crack, but I do know that this was a problem in older models when people would only use their dishwasher every 6 months or something, and the hose would dry out and crack, and this would cause a leak or worse. Again - maybe this is not a problem with newer models, but it used to be one of the main causes of damage.
#21
Old 03-08-2013, 11:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DMark View Post
[...]
Buy a huge bottle of vinegar - pour in about half cup before every wash. Then add the powder to the little trap door.

OK, I know this sounds unbelievable [...]
I think this makes all kinds of sense. Acids like vinegar dissolve calcium carbonate quite rapidly, and this will be doing it with every wash. The first rinse will heat this up and sling it everywhere vigorously for more than enough time. The subsequent steps will get rid of it.

The only problem I see is if the dishwasher carries over too much liquid from step to step. Dishwashing detergents generally make the wash water alkaline. If there is much acetic acid left from the previous step, this cleaning attribute would get neutralized.
#22
Old 03-08-2013, 11:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Napier View Post
The only problem I see is if the dishwasher carries over too much liquid from step to step. Dishwashing detergents generally make the wash water alkaline. If there is much acetic acid left from the previous step, this cleaning attribute would get neutralized.
You would think so, but all I can tell you is we have never had a problem. We have used this method for years and our dishwasher works perfectly - even with really full loads. (We take turns blaming each other for being the cause of a full dishwasher too often...)
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