Dishwasher film: Is the culprit environmentally friendly cleaning products?

I blogged about white film on dishes from dishwashers about a month ago, and the post has gotten an unusual amount of hits.

And then I read in the New York Times that dishwasher users complain new no-phosphate dishwashing detergents are causing dishwasher film.

Which is funny, because we’ve often suggested environmentally friendly cleaning products, such as Seventh Generation dishwashing detergent, to customers because we’ve foundits lack of phosphates actually prevents cloudiness and etching.

(For what it’s worth — maybe not much — Consumer Reports found that seven phosphate-free detergents worked pretty well.)

My suggestions?

1. Stop pre-rinsing your dishes

Residual proteins from leftover foods activate the detergent’s cleaning enzymes. So if you’ve cleaned all or most of the food off your dishes, the detergent can’t activate and stays in its crystal format, scratching your dishes on a microscopic level.

2. Use rinse aid

3. Stop using so much detergent and run a vinegar cycle

4. Before starting your dishwasher, run the tap water until it’s hot

Not only does this save energy, but older dishwashers don’t run as long as new dishwashers — better designed for less-harsh detergents – – and so every minute counts. Don’t waste it with lukewarm water that’s being heated up.

2 thoughts on “Dishwasher film: Is the culprit environmentally friendly cleaning products?

  1. I have a problem w/ # 4. You’re running gallons of water down the drain, all of which are replaced by cold water in your water heater. These gallons of cold water will be heated by the water heater.

    Instead, you can just let a few gallons be heated in the dishwasher. I think you’re promoting energy waste, not conservation.

    And the washer cycle doesn’t start until the water is hot.

    1. Good catch, J T. I should’ve addressed that, because it certainly is an issue. And if you could see how I wince when I see wasted water go down the drain…

      When I’ve suggested this tip before, I’ve included the trick many smart homeowners use at all times. When waiting for the tap water to reach a certain temperature, use a pitcher to catch all the unused water. Use this water for other tasks such as watering plants or cleaning.

      The wash cycle mostly does start before the water is hot. Most dishwashers are on a timer so after a certain amount of time, the dishwasher stops heating the water — regardless of whether that water is still lukewarm — and begins washing. Only in the last couple years have higher-end brands such as Bosch and Miele begun incorporating water heaters into the units themselves.

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