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Liquid Vs. Powder Dishwasher Detergent: Which is Better?

There are so many different choices to choose from when walking down the cleaning isle at your local store. Choosing the right dishwasher detergent has always been tricky & has become a little trickier than ever before. Since the summer of 2010 Phosphates have been banned from dishwasher detergents in California & many other states. Consequently the quality of dish washing results has deteriorated & the frustration of all users has skyrocketed. While the absence of phosphates may be good for the environment it creates a real problem for dishwashers, resulting in a cloudy or white film on your dishes.

The most common types of detergent for dishwashers are powder, gel and tablets. Each has their pros and cons. Without the additional help of phosphates your dishwasher will have a difficult time performing the job it is capable of. Some experimentation on the users part to find the best formula for success is now a given. Our experience has been that Gel detergents DO NOT work very well and should be avoided. Powders & Tablets seem to consistently provide superior results to gels. Powder detergents have worked well in the past but without phosphates, powders effectiveness has significantly decreased. Not all brands are the same & some provide better results than others.

In our current environment detergents in Tablet form seem to have the upper hand. Two that have worked reasonably well in our testing are “Finish Powerball tabs” or “Finish Quantum tabs”. You will need to do your own testing to see what works best in your area. Tablets are generally the most expensive form of detergent to use. Tablets most commonly have additives such as rinse agent attached to the tablet. Our experience is that rinse additives in liquid form are less effective when attached to the tablet. It is more affective to add rinse agent to the built in rinse dispenser found in most dishwashers.

There are some additives that help a lot. “Finish Glass Magic” provides excellent results (it really is magic) when added to your dishwasher with you regular detergent. Several tablespoons of Glass Magic added to the bottom of your dishwasher after you fill the detergent cup will provide sparkling clean dishes. Glass Magic is unavailable in most areas probably due to it’s phosphate content. So this is not a good alternative for the environmentally conscious.

We have been testing “Calgon® Water Softener – Powder”. Calgon is phosphate free & has worked very well in our preliminary testing. After you fill your detergent dispenser with detergent, add a couple tablespoons of Calgon to the bottom of your dishwasher & close the door & start it up & see if your wash results improve. Results have improved in all the testing we have seen so far. You will have to experiment with the proper amount.

Keep in mind that detergents or additives cannot compensate for a broken dishwasher. If your dishwasher is not filling properly, not draining completely or not recirculating the water normally your dish washing results will be poor no matter what you use. Before you try an assortment of different detergents be sure your dishwasher is operating at peak performance. Periodic cleaning of the filters, Pumps & other components is recommended.

If you live in an area that has hard water, the general rule of thumb is to use more detergent. Fill both detergent cups all the way full. (If you are using tablets, only one tablet per load in the main cup.) In soft water areas the reverse is true, use less detergent.

It is very important to keep your rinse dispenser filled with Jet Dry. Under normal usage you may only need to fill once or twice a month. This will improve the wash quality (fewer spots & streaks) and your dishes will dry better. The newer dishwashers will not dry properly and dishes will be very wet without rinse agent in the dispenser. The reasons for this will be explained in another blog.

Keep in mind that all dishwashers are not created equal and each brand is engineered a little different. Also the water supply & water quality can vary from city to city. So what works in one city or neighborhood may not work in different area. As you can see you may have to experiment some between the different brands & become a little of both Detective & Chemist to find the optimum solution.

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