Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Keep It Clean: How Well Does Your Dishwasher Clean Your Dishes?

Have any of you noticed that your dishwasher doesn't seem to clean your dishes as well as it used to? There's a good reason for this. My dad, who fixes major appliances for a living, wrote the following post to help people learn how to use their dishwasher better and to help it last longer as well. There are some great tips! Thanks for sharing your wisdom Dad!


Dear Customer,
The summer of 2010 marked a Sea Change in dishwasher detergents. The Federal Government banned the use of all Phosphates in dishwasher detergents in July or August of this year.
What does that mean for you? It means that when you run out of your current box of D/W soap (which may have Phosphates in it), you will not be able to buy another box with Phosphates--ever!
Those of you who are wondering why your dishwasher is doing such a lousy job lately need to check the box or bottle of dishwasher detergent and see if it is Phosphate Free--or
ECO-Friendly, as some manufacturers like to boast. Phosphate Free D/W detergent is worse than useless. By itself, it will leave your dishes increasingly dirty, spotted, and covered with a white, ugly film. Your dishwasher interior will also suffer the same fate as time goes by.
I had a customer recently who bought a house. The previous owner prided herself in using nothing but
ECO-Friendly detergents in her home. She had used this soap in her dishwasher for the last 4 years. The outside of the dishwasher looked beautiful. It was spotlessly clean and shiny--like it had just been installed new last week. However, the interior looked like it was sprayed with concrete. I could not even chip it with my putty knife. This lady had to throw the dishwasher away and buy a new one.
There is a product I recently heard about from a fellow appliance repairman. It is called LEMI SHINE. It is sold in Target and Wal-Mart stores. It is a powder that is used in conjunction with your powdered, Phosphate Free detergent. It will restore your dishwasher back to what it was designed for---Washing dishes---and doing a good job at it, too.
I have listed some pointers below that will help you get the most out of your dishwasher--regardless of brand or age.

1.  Do not use Liquid Dishwasher Detergents. Most Hi-End dishwashers have sensors in them that determine how dirty the water is at the beginning of the wash cycle. If it determines that the water has a lot of food particles in it, it will, in many cases, run the dishwasher through the longest wash cycles with the most fill cycles. This adds time to your wash cycle and uses a lot more water (which costs energy to heat). The liquid detergents tend to coat the sensors so that they can not function. It is like smearing Vaseline on your glasses and then checking outside to see if it is foggy or not. With dirty glasses, you won't be able to tell. That is what happens to the sensors when they are covered with residue from the liquid soap.

2. Use Lemi Shine, along with a good quality powdered dishwasher detergent (like Cascade).
The first time you use Lemi Shine, it is recommended that you use it in an EMPTY dishwasher. Fill the main detergent cup
FULL of Lemi Shine, run it on the Hottest, Longest wash cycle you have. This will help clean out the dishwasher and pump assembly.
After you have run the dishwasher with just Lemi Shine, use a 50/50 mixture of your dishwasher soap and Lemi Shine in every wash load.
I would recommend that you only add this mixture to the main wash soap cup, and fill that cup only about 1/3 the way full. Leave the other soap cup EMPTY. You will be using about 1/4th to 1/6th the soap you normally would if you were to fill both soap cups full.
The manufacturers always tell you to fill every soap cup
FULL, for best results. They tell you that because they are SELLING SOAP!
Using too much soap etches your glass ware that much faster, often leaves spots and soap particles on the dishes and tastes like soap when you drink from the glasses.
When you back off on the amount of detergent you use, you can often stop using Jet Dry for spotting problems. I often tell my customers, if you cut back on your use of detergent and stop using Jet Dry, you can go to Hawaii once a year on what you save.
An easy way to use this Lemi Shine with your dishwasher soap is to fill a sugar dispenser half and half with the two products. Then just fill the one soap cup 1/3rd full and you are good to go.

3. When starting your dishwasher, run the water in the kitchen faucet until it is HOT. Then, shut off the faucet and turn on the dishwasher. That way your dishwasher gets hot water immediately and you won't be filling your dishwasher with COLD water at the start.

4. While waiting for the water to get hot at the faucet, run your disposal for a few seconds to make sure it is empty. Most dishwashers drain through the disposal and this ensures that you won't overflow the sink and flood the floor while the dishwasher is running.

5. If your dishwasher has a "Water Heat" option for the
Wash cycle--use it. This ensures that the water will be hot enough for the dishwasher to do an excellent job of cleaning the dishes. If you have young children at home, your home water heater should be set no higher than 120 degrees. This will minimize the chance of scalding accidents in kids or grand-kids.
The Maximum temperature for young children is 120 degrees.
The Minimum temperature for dishwashers is 120 degrees.
There is no overlap. Use the "Water Heat" option on your dishwasher--it is the most important button on your dishwasher.

6. If you want to save energy on your dishwasher use, select "Air Dry" for the dry cycle. Leave the door closed on your dishwasher once the cycle is complete in order to keep the heat in the dishwasher. This helps the dishes to dry without using the HEAT Dry Option.

7. If your dishwasher has only one spray arm (located below the bottom rack), it is important to load the bottom rack in such a way as to allow the water from the spray arm to go through the lower rack to the upper rack so those dishes can get clean. Big pots or bowls or cookie sheets in the bottom rack will block the water and not allow water to the upper rack.

If you follow these steps, you will ensure that your dishwasher has the best chance possible of doing an excellent job in cleaning your dishes. Without the use of Lemi Shine, many people will end up replacing their dishwashers, thinking that the dirty dishes are a result of a worn out machine. They will find out too late that there cleaning problems did not leave with the old dishwasher.

Please feel free to pass this information on to your friends and co-workers. They too, will be looking for an answer for their dishwasher problems.

Sincerely Yours,

Karl Reynolds
Appliance Pro

Wow! What great advice. Thanks for sharing Dad! I personally started using Lemi Shine in October 2010 and it has made such a huge difference in how clean my dishes are when I remove them from the dishwasher. My cups actually are clear and sparkly again! Have you had trouble getting your dishes clean? Are you willing to give Lemi Shine a try? Please feel free to pass this information on to your friends and co-workers. They too, will be looking for an answer for their dishwasher problems.

*Please note that neither I, nor my dad, were sponsored by the producers of Lemi Shine. It is just a product that works and we wanted to share it with others.


  1. What great tips Megan! Thanks! I can't wait to try some of them!

  2. Your dad is so sweet to do this! I send my thanks. My dishes and dishwasher send theirs,too! Jess

  3. I just started reading your blog... great work!!! This post is really helpful because that lady who had a dishwasher that looked like concrete had been sprayed in it... is so me! I had no idea what was causing it, and I use eco-friendly detergent. I already am having my husband pick up regular powdered detergent and Lemi-Shine. Thanks!

  4. Adria and Jess, welcome to the blog and I'm so glad you found this post. Share it with your friends. So many people are struggling to get their dishwashers clean these days due to soaps not having phosphates in them.

  5. Nice article, lots of information that I can use. I will see if our Walmart sells Lemi-Shine and try it. Thank you so much. Tracy