The Following is a reprint courtesy of my good friend Scott, the Appliance Guru (http://appliantology.org/) in New Hampshire
(ED.)I get so many calls about dishwashers that aren’t cleaning well that I decided to pass along his wisdom…(ED.)
“The glory days of dishwashers:
The dishwashers being made today ain’t like yo mamma’s dishwasher. Dishwashers made as recently as 1997 used big honkin’ motors that practically sandblasted your dishes clean and then reversed direction to pump the water out. They used more energy and water than the delicate little dainties being made today. THEY ALSO LASTED MUCH LONGER and weren’t as prone to having PROBLEMS WITH MINERAL BUILDUP of ‘em… but don’t get me started on that rant. Prodded along by the “Beltway Bandits” wielding the Energy Star stick, all the manufacturers NOW FORCED into making their dishwashers with dainty little wash motors that drizzle the water on the dishes and a separate drain pump motor. So, for better or for worse, we’re all stuck with these limp-wristed dishwashers.
1. Energy Star Madness and Today’s Dishwashers
One of the consequences of using these low-wattage pumps and motors is that they have to RUN LONGER to get your dishes as clean as the old war horses did. Whereas yo mamma’s dishwasher would run for less than an hour, it’s not unusual for a new dishwasher to run for two or three hours. Although it seems counter-intuitive, the newer dishwashers are still using less energy than the older ones even when they run two or three times longer. (ED: The energy savings that you, the customer realize- amounts to about 20-40- bucks a year. ED.)
But, like with everything, there’s a downside to all this feel-good, Energy Star madness. If you have hard water, the reduced water use and longer run times mean you’re gonna get more mineral deposits on your dishes and in the guts of your new fancy-pants, Energy Star dishwasher. This can cause all kinda wash-ability and cleaning problems for your dishes, damage to the dishwasher’s dainty little innards, and increased energy consumption.
2. Basic Dishwasherology
I get several calls a week for poor washing complaints in newer dishwashers. When I go out on these service calls, I often find that there’s nothing wrong with the dishwasher from a repair standpoint.
Most people don’t have a clue about how dishwashers work. Invariably, when I’m on a dishwasher service call, I find people making one or more of three common mistakes that almost all dishwasher owners make. As a result, they have wash-ability problems: dishes don’t get clean, film left on glassware and dishes, or glassware gets etched and cloudy.
So before we get into the Big Three Deadly Dishwasher Mistakes, let’s do a quick overview of how dishwashers are *designed* to work.
Dishwashers need three things to do their job:
- Mechanical action: water sprayed from the spray arms,
- Thermal action: water heated to 120-125 deg. F to activate detergent,
- Chemical action: good quality, fresh, dry POWDERED detergent matched to the amount of water hardness, and the use of rinse-aid.
If the dishwasher itself is operating within specs (conditions 1 and 2 above are satisfied) then almost all dishwasher wash-ability complaints come down to the third condition: bad chemistry.
(REPRINT FROM http://appliantology.org/)
Chemistry problems will involve one or more of these factors:
- Rinse Aid
- Water Hardness
3. The Big Three Deadly Dishwasher Mistakes
Now that we have a basic understanding of what dishwashers need to do an effective job of washing the dishes, I’m going to reveal three common and deadly mistakes that most people make when using their dishwasher.
DEADLY MISTAKE NUMERO UNO:
Using a gel detergent or powered detergent that is old or has already gotten wet.
The main tasks of a detergent are to remove soil from surfaces and prevent the re-deposits of soils on the surfaces. The best detergent formulations will be powdered. Do not use gels or liquid detergents.
Why powdered detergent? Because in today’s phosphate-free world, you need two types of cleaners in a detergent formulation to get dishes clean:
1. Enzymes to remove protein-based stains
2. Bleach to remove other stains
These two cleaners are incompatible with each other– if they’re released at the same time, the bleach will destroy the enzyme and, after this epic battle, there will be little or nothing left of the bleach to do even its little bit of cleaning. The result: dirty dishes. They can coexist in a powdered form because they are not activated until 1) they get wet and 2) the water temperature reaches 125 deg. F. In a liquid or gel form, everything is already wet so you’re only getting one kind of cleaning action.
Detergent has a shelf life. Old detergent will not work well because the enzymes denature over time. Also, the detergent must stay dry until it’s time to use it. Once it gets wet or even damp, it activates and will no longer be active when put to work inside the dishwasher.
In my experience as a professional Appliantologist, my customers have enjoyed better dish-washing results after I switched them over to Finish Power-ball Tablets. I leave two free samples behind and invariably, they report vastly improved washing results. BTW, I do not make a kickback for giving out the Finish Power-ball samples– I do it because the manufacturer, Reckitt Benckiser, puts on an excellent training seminar at the appliance training sessions I attend and it really does work well.
DEADLY MISTAKE NUMERO DUO:
It is not only okay to put dirty dishes into a dishwasher, it is mandatory to properly activate the detergent! Detergents are designed to work with food soils, not clean water. Without the food soils, the detergent will create a caustic slurry inside the dishwasher which will etch the glassware by removing the silica from the glass.
Not only that, but pre-rinsing the dishes wastes water. DOE estimates that pre-rinsing dishes uses 20 gallons of water per load. Scrape the chunks off with a fork and leave the rest on the dishes. It’s a dishwasher, for crying out loud! Let it do what it was designed to do!
DEADLY MISTAKE NUMERO TRIO:
Not scraping the chunks of food or solid debris off the plates before loading them into the dishwasher.
Taken together, these last two Deadly Mistakes are a great illustration of the saying, “The opposite of dysfunction is dysfunction.” People tend to fall into one camp or the other: they’re either pre-rinsers or they use the dishwasher as a garbage disposal.
You wouldn’t believe some of the junk I’ve pulled out of dishwashers! Here’s a short list of some of the things I’ve dredged up from deep within the bowels of broken dishwashers:
- plastic wrappers
- tooth picks
- bits of bone
- broken glass
- mayonnaise jar label
- crab leg shells
- candle wick holders
- ear rings
Today’s dainty little dishwashers can’t handle hard solids and these things end up damaging the innards of the dishwasher such as breaking the macerator or binding the wash motor impeller.
So there you have it, the Big Three. Almost every dishwasher service call I go out on, the customer is doing at least one of the Three Deadlies. But not you! Nawsir, not no more ‘cuz the Samurai hath done enlightened yo ace.
(REPRINT FROM http://appliantology.org/)
Since you slogged (or scrolled) through to the end of this post, here are a couple of bonus tips for getting the best performance from your dishwasher:
Tip #1: Use Rinse Aid!
It’s not an option with today’s dinky dishwashers. Rinse aid allows the dishwasher to use less water with the same amount of cleaning and drying effectiveness. It does this by creating what we professional appliantologists call “sheeting action” of the water. By making the water sheet along dishes, rather than cluster into beads, it evaporates faster and with less energy.
Tip #2: Do Routine Dishwasher Tune-Ups
No tools needed! Regularly using a dishwasher cleaner (Affresh, Dishwasher Magic, etc.) and performance booster (Glass Magic) to clear out the gookus and reduce the build-up will keep your dishwasher clean and fresh smelling and operating at peak performance.”