Condo Blues: Why Won't My Dishwasher Wash Dishes?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Why Won't My Dishwasher Wash Dishes?

Who knew a high efficiency dishwasher is also high maintenance? Since high efficiency (HE) dishwashers use less water, the water heat up cycle is shorter than a standard dishwasher. That means an HE dishwasher needs hotter water going into the dishwasher than a standard dishwasher, which heats a boatload of water first. A plumber told me if I turned up the heat on my hot water heater, I would get rid of the grit on my clean dishes problem.

Husband wryly observed we could save either water or natural gas but not both.

Yeah, yeah. All is not lost. I can hand wash dishes. Having a house with
 a dishwasher made me realize how much I hate hand washing dishes.

Then there is the dishwashing detergent. My dishwasher likes either the very expensive (Seventh Generation) or the very cheap (Aldi) detergent. I switched between powder and liquid for no reason other than availability or price. The dishwasher was happy. I had clean dishes. That makes me happy because I hate hand washing dishes.

All of a sudden, my dishwasher decides it doesn’t like the liquid detergent. It left food stuck randomly to “washed” dishes and silverware. Gross.

I finally got the liquid detergent to clean the dishes when I added lemon powdered drink mix to the second mega dirty dish dispenser.  It isn’t my first choice or economical but at least it allowed me to use the rest of the bottle of liquid dishwashing detergent it liked last month instead of throwing it away.

OK fine dishwasher. You win. I will buy you powdered dishwashing detergent. Happy?


Since I had to doctor the liquid detergent and I make my own HE laundry detergent (you can get the recipe here), I figure I might as well try making homemade dishwasher detergent. Not to mention, I have all the stuff so it is a low cost experiment.

The first batch cleaned my dishes. No stuck on food, no haze, not even a water spot. Yay! Happy dishwasher. Happy Lisa.

Halfway into the second batch of detergent I made identical to the first my dishwasher hated homemade dishwashing detergent. A film developed on my glasses and dishes. I tried  just about every homemade dishwashing detergent recipe I can find because it worked the first time. I got same gross results.

Oh you fickle little minx. You win. I will buy you powdered dishwashing detergent from the store.

Fortunately, my dishwasher decided Aldi powdered detergent will be the current favorite. It isn’t petrochemical free but at least it doesn’t have phosphates in it that cause the toxic algae blooms to grow in our lakes every summer. Moreover, I don’t have to make a special trip to another store to buy it after my regular 2 store grocery shop as I do Seventh Generation or Method.

Two packages later the dishwasher is rejecting the Aldi dishwashing detergent pods. I didn’t really want to buy the plastic encased pods to begin with because the plastic casing degrades but never really goes away. I bought them because I was tired of drying out a cardboard box of detergent after a chain of under sink garbage disposal explosions. Also Aldi stopped carrying powdered dishwashing detergent in a box. There’s that.

The first package worked. I’m half way through the second package. Now the pods aren’t dissolving and even if they do, it leaves food stuck to my silverware and dishes. It doesn’t matter if I rinse the items before loading the dishwasher or not. Sound familiar?

I cleaned the dishwasher by running it with small bowls full of vinegar in the dishwasher racks hoping that would do the trick.

The dishwasher gave me a big ol’ raspberry on the following load of dishes.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! I’m at the end of my rope.

My dishwasher is 8 years old. Does this mean it is on its way out? Can I fix it or have it repaired? How? Has this happened to you? What did you do?

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