I messed up. You're using too much detergent.
Howdy folks, hope you’re all doing OK out there. We gotta talk about dishwashers again. I started writing a really long-winded script which got to a half-our long [crickets] yet barely covered half of what I wanted to so here’s draft two and we’re just gonna launch straightaway with; I’ve led you astray, and I’m very sorry about that.
If you haven’t seen the original video, links are in all the places and I think you might want to check it out. But here’s a quick overview: Over the winter I made a video about how dishwashers worked and explained how they just fill up with a bit of water, pump that for a while, drain it, and repeat that few times. The detergent dispenser is there so that the dishwasher can hold the detergent back until its wash program calls for it. It deliberately prevents the detergent from being introduced into the wash water until it has already filled with water once, pumped that around to get the real big nasty chunks off your plates and whatever, and drained. It then re-fills itself with clean water.
If it didn’t have some way to hold that detergent back until that second fill it would all be gone after 10 or 15 minutes, but you see detergent is helpful for cleaning dishes, particularly because it’s an emulsifier and can get rid of grease and oils, so most dishwashers are designed to also have a nominal amount of pre-wash detergent available in that first rinse to help get those oils et cetera out quickly, and this is why many dishwashers have not one but two places you are supposed to put detergent. Because of that these pre-dosed detergent packs which bypass the pre-wash step annoy me and it’s my pet theory that they’ve led to dishwasher dissatisfaction which seems to have been backed up by various comments and feedback I received after publishing that video but we’ll get to that in a bit. Hoo! Alright, with that out of the way, let’s continue. This video is kinda all-over-the-place so there are chapter markers if you want to just skip around. And also I’m not gonna lie, this is essentially one giant response to comments. Although there are a lot of genuinely great things we’ve collectively discovered that I think you all should know about, there are also a lot of… things that I need to address.
Now, I’m gonna to try my best to not get too snarky because I recognize that this is annoying to many of you and frankly I’m starting to see the light, there. Another thing I want to apologize for. However on a more positive note, I want to express how lovely it has been to receive all of the comments, tweets, and messages from folks who experimented with more basic detergent products and found their dishwashers were actually performing better than before now that they could be used as designed. And in fact a lot of people left comments saying that they never bothered using their dishwasher at all because they were convinced it couldn’t wash dishes well, but dosing detergent as their machine expected proved that it absolutely could. That really has been delightful and I’m glad to know that my video has helped some of you out there. Also before we move on, several of you shared examples of dishwashers - including some Bosch and Samsung machines - that actually said in their instruction manuals that when using normal cycles, you should add some extra detergent along the bottom of the door for the first rinse like so for best performance.
Just because your dishwasher doesn’t have a marked space for pre-wash detergent in the dispenser doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not designed with that in mind. I mean, that’s terrible user interface design but hey, I didn’t do it. [voiceover] Oh, hey, remember how I said this video is all over the place? Well before we get any further I need to more strongly clarify that little qualifier that might have just slipped right past you in the last paragraph. If you aren't using the “normal” cycle of your dishwasher, a pre-wash fill might not be a thing that even happens. Express or Eco wash options often skip it, rendering the detergent dispenser fairly useless as a concept. Now I’m all for conservation, but these cycles will negatively impact cleaning performance.
I’d argue an extra water fill is better than dishes that aren’t washed to your satisfaction and need washing again, but the point is - if you’ve tried to add some pre-wash detergent but got worse results, and you were using one of those cycles, you may have severely overdosed the detergent. Detergent dosing is the main point of this video, spoiler alert, but bottom line - if you’re satisfied with your dishwasher just ignore me! Keep on living your life how you want to. But if you want more out of it, try that normal cycle - or even the heavy-duty or pots and pans one - and see how it goes. You should feel free to experiment here. Worst thing that could happen is a need to re-start the machine, and there’s no rule against simply running it twice. So, how did I lead you astray? Well, like a fool, I read this box’s instructions to you.
[thud] I know! How careless of me! Here, watch shorter-haired me do it: “For best results, fill both the pre-wash and the main wash cups completely" [thud] HOW'M I SUPPOSED TO DO THAT WITH ONE OF THESE, CASCADE? See, I was making fun of the fact that the instructions for this Cascade product are not possible with another, supposedly much-improved product of theirs. But in making that joke I forgot to tell you that these instructions themselves are… incomplete, and one might even say misleading. I neglected to give you the context these boxes are missing, which has led to problems for some of you. So here’s that context. You don’t actually need to fill the cups completely. The end.
♫ unexpectedly smooth jazz ♫ "No no no no, it’s too early for that part!" he says to a camera hopelessly trying to suspend your disbelief that this isn’t a bit. Here’s the thing. Unless your water is very hard, filling the main detergent cup completely is unnecessary and may in fact cause rinsing issues. There is such a thing as too much detergent, and unfortunately following these instructions as written will often get you there.
Now, we can choose to be cynical and say that "of course Procter & Gamble wants you to use as much dishwasher detergent as will fit in your dishwasher’s dishwasher detergent dispenser because they want you to keep buying their dishwasher detergent, and more faster please!" And yeah, it's kinda hard to escape that conclusion. But if your water is up high enough on the hardness scale that it leaves you with scale that’s hard to deal with, you'll need more detergent than you might otherwise. Europeans, I’m gonna need you to hold your commenting finger-horses.
Virtually none of us have dishwasher salt over here. Yes, dishwasher salt. It’s a thing! We’ll get to that.
Detergents find hard water to be… difficult. The higher the mineral content, the more detergent you need for the same cleaning action. The specific reasons why aren’t important right now but, spoiler, some of the ingredients in detergent products are compounds which help to soften water and make the cleaning action more effective. How much you actually need depends on your water hardness, and wouldn’t ya know it dishwashers are designed with little fill lines in the dispenser to help you figure out how much detergent you should use.
[voiceover] Haaaaa, not always! But don’t worry, I thought of that in the next sentence: With water of soft-to-medium hardness, that first line is all you probably need, which is generally about halfway. [Voiceover: See?] If you do fill it up all the way when your water is softer than some sort of really soft thing, you can end up with a powdery residue or film on your dishes simply because there was too much detergent in the wash water to be effectively rinsed away at the end of the cycle. So, If you fill the cups completely as I said you should, and you have soft-to-normal water, residue is likely to happen.
And I know this happened to a fair number of you because several people, now, have asked me why they were getting a residue after trying powder detergents. In every case I explained the water hardness complication and suggested simply using less detergent, and in every case that I received a reply that fixed the problem. Again. Really sorry I read these instructions without contextualizing them.
That was, frankly, careless. You’d be surprised how little detergent you actually need with typically-soiled dishes. Even with my very hard water I’m finding that only filling to the first line is sufficient (though of course, I also sprinkle some on the lid like it asks me to).
So I very much regret passing on this box’s instructions as gospel and I have to wonder if they might be responsible for some of the negative perceptions towards powders and gels. Without telling you you don't need to fill it up if you don't have hard water they're kind of asking for problems to occur. I mean, they also put this on the back of the box. Upgrade! Do it. More colors.
Prettyyyy. Hmm. OK, that’s the big boo-boo I wanted to fix. Seriously, even basic detergent products have improved over the years and you don’t actually need a whole lot.
In fact, the inability to vary how much detergent goes into your wash water is one of the main reasons I don’t like these infernal things. A pre-packaged, fixed dose has to lean quite far to the side of too much detergent, yet not so far that people with soft water will have rinsing issues. They’re designed to work for the majority of people and in the majority of dishwashers, but that’s more detergent than necessary in many cases, and yet not enough in others. But wait! There’s more! Because of the simple fact that foods and oils effectively use up the dispersant and surfactant capabilities of a given quantity of detergent, you can - and one might argue should! - vary the amount of detergent you use based on how soiled your dishes actually are - and indeed how many you’re actually cleaning. These are, again, dosed right up to the line of too much detergent.
In many (most?) cases that’s just way more detergent than you actually need, though to be fair it does have to make up for the sheer lack of detergent in the first water fill. Actually, fun fact, I bought a cheap loaf pan and it specifically says that detergent tablets are more concentrated and will damage the finish so don’t use them. Whaddya know, it’s not just me. Now, although I personally see the ability to vary the amount of detergent used per load as a tremendous benefit of powders and gels that I would never want to give up, I can see how others might view that as adding an element of complexity and uncertainty to their washing routine.
I think it’s worth some experimentation to figure out what might work best for you, and honestly only gels and powders even allow for that experimentation in the first place. But not everybody has the time or patience for that and I respect that position. Alright, so now let’s see if we can find out whether or not detergent packs are actually better than detergent in not-packs. Through the Magic of Buying Way Too Much F****ng Dishwasher Detergent we can do a number of tests and make some comparisons. Let’s start with a test: Some have claimed that detergent tabs dissolve in parts, mimicking the actions of pre-wash and main wash detergents.
For the record I don’t think any manufacturers suggest this, but a lot of people apparently believe this is the case. Now I have three different kinds to test today: Cheap store-brand (my preference if you’re gonna use packs). Cascade Platinum ActionPacs. And Finish Powerball Max-in-1.
(They were out of Mega Millions) Of these, the only one that I have any hope for this theory panning out is the Finish tab, but we’ll find out shortly. Of note, all of these products instruct you to put them in the dispenser and close the door. Not just put them directly into the tub.
That means, if used as directed, the first fill remains water-only. I think that alone kinda voids this theory but let’s keep going anyway. To see how these would dissolve I put them in a pan and gently added water as hot as it comes from the tap. And much as I was expecting, the Cascade and Great Value packs quickly disintegrated. I hadn’t even finished pouring the water into the pan before the membranes were breached, and once that happens their contents spill out and start to become one with the water.
Note that this is with almost no agitation whatsoever - only that which came from pouring the water into the pan. In a real dishwasher, the flow of water every which way would speed up this process dramatically. But the thing I want to show here is that the membrane isn’t holding anything back for later. It’s just serving to hold the contents together until it gets wet, and of course to hold three pretty colors of something to convince you it’s better. In less than two minutes all of the pockets of colored liquid had broken apart. And again - this is with mostly standing water.
The Finish tab, though, doesn’t dissolve nearly as quickly. This particular tab has a dissolving membrane as well but it’s just to allow for handling the tab without touching it. Cheaper Finish products are individually-wrapped (at least in this market) and that’s why I made that quip in the last video, by the way. I have no idea how anyone could *possibly* find that more convenient than just pouring from a box but whatever.
Once its membrane is no more it behaves like a giant soapy Alka-Seltzer. This is taking a long time to dissolve without agitation, but I can’t say that the blue and white parts appear to be dissolving at different rates. It kinda looked at first like the white part might be dissolving faster but I brought a knife in to go a pokin’ and yeah, I couldn’t really feel a difference between them. Whatever initial difference there seemed to be sure didn’t stick around. And to give this argument a true Finish, I decided to put a tab in the bottom of my loaded dishwasher to see if any of it would be left after it drained its first fill. Here it would get the proper water-washing-over-it experience and would dissolve as it normally would in a dishwasher.
I can report that absolutely none of it was left, and my dishwasher only spends 10 minutes in the pre-wash. I suppose small bits could have remained below the grates in the sump, but any that got in there before it drained would have been chewed up by the macerator and pumped out. I believe we can conclude that the blue and white coloring is there because more colors equals better sales.
The red ball is the cherry on top. OK, hopefully we’ve put that theory to bed. Now I want to address a nomenclature disaster which has confused this whole issue.
I keep calling that bit of detergent you’re supposed to give your dishwasher at the start "pre-wash detergent." You know because that’s what the dishwasher calls it, it’s detergent for the part of the wash before the main wash. The pre-wash. Pre-wash detergent.
But a lot of detergent products are out there which say something like “no pre-wash required!” or just “no pre-wash!” on the packaging. What gives? Well, those aren’t talking about pre-wash detergent, they’re just trying to get you to stop washing or soaking or rinsing your dishes before you load them into the dishwasher. They want you to try using your dishwasher as a dishwasher. And frankly so do I. And that little slogan isn’t exclusive to packs, you can find it on several powder and gel products. None of these here specifically say “no pre-wash” - instead touting their abilities to clean 24 hour stuck-on food.
But also none of the packs here say it either - instead going for “no pre-rinse required” and “no pre-rinse even on baked-on pasta.” Cascade is curiously silent on the issue here. But most important to remember is that these are all just marketing ploys hoping to convince you to buy the product.
Don’t expect un-stretched truths. But what about this? A fair number of you have made claims that independent lab testing proves detergent packs have superior performance to basic products. But if that independent testing came from the halls of one Consumer Reports, Twitter user Michael uncovered this bombshell - they don’t use the pre-wash cup in their testing! And it came right from the horse’s mouth! Now I suppose you could argue that makes the playing field more level for the detergent packs, but my whole, like, thing is that detergent packs by design take that part of the wash cycle away and therefore make it wildly less effective. They have to compensate for that, so they’d better do a better job than misused powder and gel. But do they do a better job than powder detergents used as directed? Well, my life experience says absolutely not but I’d love for Consumer Reports to re-run their tests while using the gels and powders as directed by the dishwasher. Not these instructions.
Fill to line one, and add a little extra. You might be wondering what my life experience is. Well, I’ll tell ya! By my rough estimation I’ve lived with or otherwise extensively used nine different household dishwashers in four different geographic areas.
These have ranged from recent, high-end, three-rack stainless steel designs to *utter garbage* landlord specials with a 30-year-old Kenmore somewhere in the middle there. All of these dishwashers, regardless if they were hooked up to Chicago Lake Michigan municipal water, or middle-of-Florida well water, or the incredibly hard well water I have out here have managed to do their job just fine. Even the utterly terribly landlord special washed dishes and it didn’t even have a spinner for the top rack. The only thing that I’ve consistently been doing across all of these machines is putting powder detergent in both labeled places. And I feel like I can’t have just been extremely lucky, here. I honestly feel like these products break the fundamentals of automatic dishwashing.
Oh but that’s right, I forgot! My dishwasher’s manual actually says the same thing about packs being better! In fact it’s really pushing those tablets and packs, just take a look at that! As a matter of fact the dishwasher came with a sample of these very Cascade Platinum ActionPacs. Surely KitchenAid made that suggestion in my best interest! I mean, I know they still put a little thing that says “prewash” on the dispenser, and I know the dishwasher still operates exactly like the one it replaced, but that’s probably just to keep curmudgeonly grandpas like me happy. They wouldn’t just include a sample of one product and tell me it’s proven to work better than some other one unless it was objectively true, right? I mean, look, we can even confirm here on the packaging from Cascade that this is the #1 Brand Recommended in North America, and hey look on the back there’s... there's KitchenAid! That’s, that’s my brand! Why is there an asterisk? [mumbling] more dishwasher brands in North America recommend Cascade vs. any other automatic dishwashing detergent brand: [in absolute shock] recommendations as part of co-marketing agreements! That… that... that... that sounds like… Procter & Gamble… might have had something to do with KitchenAid recommending this particular product to me! Well I suppose we will never know the exact details of this little co-marketing agreement, but we know there was one - it says so on every single one of their products.
Frankly I’m amazed they have to disclose that. And, by the way, Finish does the exact same thing, though they claim to be the WORLD’s #1 recommended brand… as part of co-marketing agreements. Cheeky.
Here’s the deal. Detergents are just chemicals. How they’re packaged makes very little difference to their performance (although gels do have an actual drawback which we’ll get to shortly). Do all detergent products perform identically? Of course not.
But the chemicals in these products are not magic and you’ll find incredibly similar ingredients lists between them. How similar? Well... Now let’s talk about these chemicals and actually explain what they do. Cascade was kind enough to actually… list them and explain what they do on the back of this bag. So... Thanks, P&G! You’ve redeemed yourself slightly.
I also had many a browser tab open to fact-check what they say here and, aside from little semantic differences, this all seems to be correct. So, starting with Amylase enzyme; helps break down starches. Colorants; there because pretty colors = better sales. Copolymer of acrylic and sulphonic acids; those are dispersing and surfactant agents. So soap parts.
Dipropylene glycol is either another surfactant or a solvent or perhaps both. Fragrances are flagrantly unnecessary. Glycerin is… ok I’m getting tired of this. It’s soap chemicals. This is all soap stuff. What I’m most interested in is what is in the ActionPacs that’s not in the powder? By my count, it’s these five items: What do they do? Well, Dipropylene glycol and glycerin, also known as Glycerol, both appear to be used as either solvents or surfactants or possibly both. “Helps with liquid processing” is a little ambiguous, though Cascade’s website described dipropylene glycol as “fighting grease residue in dishwasher” and curiously doesn’t list glycerin at all.
I was looking at some chemical industry trade news and it seems these are likely used in a formulation meant to replace 2-Butoxyethanol, sometimes called EGBE. But this is getting into chemistry weeds and I’m no expert so please, feel free to chime in, chemistry experts. In any case I’m gonna guess that these make up the pretty colored-liquids part since those two chemicals are, ya know, liquids.
The other three missing chemicals are Isotridecanol Ethoxylated, which is another surfactant and probably works as an emulsifier based on Cascade’s description. Trisodium dicarboxymethyl alaninate which appears to be a water-softening agent, taking up the mantle of the now phased-out phosphates and so yeah probably does helps boost tough food cleaning, and lastly polyvinyl alcohol polymer. That’s just the dissolvable membrane. As far as I know it doesn’t help clean.
So, do these five (or four) chemicals make a huge difference to cleaning power? Cascade sure wants you to think so, and at least there is something extra in here that your money is paying for, but I remain unconvinced these are game-changers. Every other chemical is also found here in this box, which you can also use in different doses better suited to your dishwasher and situation! In fact the box contains a bonus chemical! Sodium silicate! What’s it for? Well, Cascade says it is a Mineral-Based Cleaning Agent which Removes Dried/Burnt On Foods While Providing Special Care For China Dishes And Metal Pots/Pans. Geez that’s annoyingly specific yet also not at all. Some other sources just say it’s used as a water softener in detergents so I’m gonna say that’s what it’s for.
That appears to bring the number of cleaning chemicals in the ActionPacs with a distinctly different function from those in the powder down to only three; all just variations on soaps and solvents. Still really struggling to see a reason to pay more for these things. And now let’s compare costs. This is legitimately why these pods annoy me so much. I’m a Midwesterner, I can’t help it, and I loathe paying more for things while getting less out of them. And frankly I’m hoping that might rub off on you a little bit.
I understand that pods, realistically, are not that expensive but let’s compare costs anyway. These are the on-the-shelf prices at my local Walmart, you’ll need to do your own comparisons for where you shop. The best price you can get here for these specific Cascade Action Pacs is $0.27 each. A more basic product works out to $0.22.
Finish products appear range from about 20 to 24 cents each. Now this hefty box of powder [thud] costs a whopping $3.87. We only need to get 20 washes out of this to beat the best price of the packs. And how many washes do I get out of this? Well, loading the detergent like so - which has proven to be absolutely effective for me - uses 33 grams assuming my scale is reasonably accurate. That gets me 64 washes. Funnily enough that’s just about as many washes as you get out of a bulk tub of these things and woah that’s a pretty huge price delta! Even if I want to go with the name-brand detergent here, at this store that works out to less than $0.10 per load, making it half the cost of the most basic brand name pack at the best bulk price.
Now, does a savings of $0.10 a day make a meaningful impact to the average person’s budget? I wouldn’t say so. Is it worth $0.10 a day for the convenience of the pack? Even I would say that, so long as they work for you, sure.
But I do think it’s worth considering that if you use your dishwasher daily, you could be spending $2/month on detergent instead of perhaps $10 for a super-duper pack. That $8 could pay for one of them streaming services or something. As it turns out, in this store the cheapest option on a per-ounce basis is actually the Great Value Gel.
But, I feel like you’re gonna need to use more of this to get the same performance as the powder. A lot of what you’re paying for here is just water. A powder will always be more concentrated because you add the water yourself. There’s also the fact that, if you’re concerned about packaging waste, this is a large plastic jug.
Powders come in a paperboard box with a little metal spout, probably the most sustainable option out there. And packs are just as bad if not worse than gels since larger quantities come in big ol’ tub things. Packaging aside, though, let’s talk about gels.
It turns out gels are probably the worst-performing option available. Why? Well, these two Cascade products reveal their weakness. Notice that there’s a qualifying asterisk after "2X the cleaning power" on the bottle of Cascade Complete. That leads us to “on starch and protein soils.”
That’s those lovely enzymes modern detergents have. But now notice that the Cascade Original (what the 2X compares to) warns us that dangerous fumes are produced when mixed with other products. That’s because there’s bleach in this. Real bleach - Sodium Hypochlorite.
There’s also sodium hydroxide in here, not gonna lye. Why isn’t that warning on the bottle of Cascade Complete? Because bleach and enzymes don’t like to hang around each other in a liquid suspension. If not separated the bleach will destroy the enzymes, so with gels you have to choose one or the other. Cascade Complete foregoes the bleach for enzymes, and Cascade Original doesn’t have enzymes but does have bleach. This is something I didn’t know when I made the video, and it’s quite interesting.
I had a conversation on Twitter recently and someone mentioned that their gel detergent wasn’t removing coffee stains. I didn’t seem to have trouble with that when using this specific Great Value gel (which has enzymes), but I have noticed a gradual buildup of deposits on some of my cookware. I attributed that to my ridiculously hard water but I started using powder again and at least after a few washes those deposits haven't returned. That’s likely no coincidence.
Because powdered detergents are produced as dry… powders they can contain both enzymes and bleach. Now in this Cascade Complete it’s not true bleach, instead it’s sodium carbonate peroxide also known as sodium percarbonate also known as the stuff in OxiClean. But the point is powders, along with tabs and packs, can keep the two components molecularly separated until water gets added by your dishwasher, making the mixture of enzymes and non-chlorine bleach shelf-stable. Notably the only product here that contains actual bleach is the cascade original gel. All of the tabs and packs also feature sodium percarbonate as their stain-fighting champion. Also notable is that apparently Cascade has cracked this problem in gels, or it least it looks that way at a glance.
They sell a Complete Oxi Gel. However the ingredients list on the P&G website doesn’t show sodium carbonate peroxide as an ingredient so maybe not? I don’t know. But literally all of the other products here contain that ingredient. Only the gels don’t.
Now I want to note that I’m not saying gels are bad. I’ve had completely satisfactory results with both of these gels, and I think they’re definitely easier to use than powders. Pouring powder into the dispenser requires a fair degree of dexterity because it just spills out. But thick gel doesn’t leave the bottle ‘til ya squeeze it so you have much more control.
It’s just that, compositionally, they have that “gotta pick one: enzymes or bleach” weakness which powders and tabs don’t. But then again, they also have one more rather huge advantage up their sleeve: I started using gels because of a design flaw with a previous dishwasher of mine. I had to be mindful of how I loaded it because if I put dinner plates or other large items in front of the dispenser, those would block the door from opening fully. The top sprayer probably had a jet like you see here designed to blast the dispenser and help dislodge detergent, but if the door only opened a smidge into some plates the door itself would block that water jet. And that happened to me more than a few times with that dishwasher. I ended up with loads where my trusty powder had become a giant cake stuck in the dispenser and didn’t help wash anything.
With gels it would at least always ooze out, and since I would occasionally forget about this loading requirement I decided to stop using powders with that dishwasher and kind of got into the groove of buying gels for a few years. Although one other possibility was that the gasket on the door wasn’t sealing well, causing water intrusion during the pre-wash which turned the powder into a clump before the dispenser even opened. After all if it had stayed dry, it should be able to fall out through even a pretty tiny crack. So pro-tip for those out there - if you can get to that gasket, give it a good cleaning and descaling. If you don’t have an actual gasket, do the same for whatever mating surfaces there are.
I don’t know what the exact problem was but my new dishwasher has a sliding door which eliminates this problem, and so back to powders I go. After I go through all of this nonsense of course. The things I do for you...
OK, next item of interest. I saw a few comments claiming that powder detergents have abrasives in them that cause the water to act something like a sandblaster. Ehhh… I don’t think so. I mean, it all dissolves in water. You can just test that. Some little granules might stay behind but if you rub them between your fingers they just disintegrate.
And I don’t see anything in the ingredients list that’s not water-soluable. Some other comments were claiming something to the effect of “powder detergents destroy dishwashers!” and, well, I don’t know what you base that on. Especially since these packs are just powder in a pouch. Maybe it’s a little bit more concentrated but it’s basically the same stuff. Honestly of these products the only one that I’d be concerned with harming my dishwasher is the one with bleach and lye in it, but even then I trust it’s fine.
You’re mixing a couple spoonfuls of detergent with several liters of water. And now, Rinse Aids! What are they and what are they for? Rinse aid is really quite simple - it’s just a concentrated mild surfactant with the sole purpose of reducing the surface tension of water so that it doesn’t bead up on items and instead sheets off them in a film. This reduces water spots on your stuff, especially when you have hard water, and also just makes drying easier because less water stays on your stuff. Now some detergent products claim to have a rinse-aid, though you’ll notice all these are still trying to get you to buy some.
And actually, they’re right. Your dishwasher was designed by smart people and the rinse aid part is quite clever. Generally as part of your detergent dispenser, there’s a place to put rinse aid. At the very end of the cycle, after it’s drained the soapy wash water away and filled up with clean water to rinse, the dispenser will squirt out a few milliliters of this stuff. That has to happen at the very end after the detergent has been drained away, which is why detergents which claim to also have rinse aids are silly. Rinse aid is cheap and lasts a long time - you also don’t have to fill it up with every wash; there will be some sort of window or indicator to show you when you need to add more.
So I’d recommend using some, but also absolutely just get the store brand. This is a hilariously simple product. And now, maintenance! You heard my thoughts about dishwashers with filters in the last video. Those thoughts were; eww.
But if you have them, you need to clean them at least periodically. Sorry. Regardless of if you have filters or not, your dishwasher itself could do with occasional cleaning.
Gunk builds up over time, it’s just a fact of life, so periodic cleaning cycles can do some good. That gunk mostly builds up in the sump where you can’t see it, and this could be making your dishwasher perform less effectively. If you’ve never run a cleaner product through it, by gosh go do that now.
There are many dishwasher cleaner products out there. I’m personally a fan of this one. Don’t know if other brands are available, but I like it because it’s clever. There’s a wax plug which melts at high temperatures. All you need to do is put this upside down in the silverware basket and run the dishwasher empty with the high-temp wash selected if you have that option.
The bottle will hold onto the cleaner until the wash water is hot enough to melt the wax, ensuring it doesn’t get released until the long wash cycle. And because it’s so large, you get a lot of cleaning action, at least in my experience. All this is is really concentrated citric acid, and so you could just buy some citric acid powder and do this manually if you wanted. But it works really well, especially at descaling everything. Now about the salty Europeans.
It’s apparently very common for your dishwashers to have what are essentially built-in water softeners. And frankly, that’s really neat and I’m jealous of that. Those dishwashers have a compartment for coarse salt which they use to make a brine solution and recharge the ion-exchange resin in their itty-bitty water softeners. That makes detergents work much more effectively, and reportedly many of you neglect to refill this.
This has resulted in European versions of me who are just as fanatical about keeping the salt full as I am about using pre-wash detergent. Look, we both really just want you to have well-functioning dishwashers and the first step to that goal is following the dang instructions. Many of us in the States have water softeners for our entire homes but many of us also don’t, in fact Google tells me it’s only a quarter of us that actually do. So most of us, including me, just cope with whatever water we have, and in the case of dishwashers that means a lot of us need to use more detergent than we might otherwise. There might be a few dishwasher models available in the US market with built-in softeners, my money’s on them being Bosch models, but they’re absolutely the exception and not the norm. I have never, ever encountered one and I don’t think dishwasher salt is a thing I’ve ever seen sold in a store.
OK, now that I’ve covered everything that I’d call informational, it’s time for the video to get a little more… salty. I’m gonna try to not go overboard here and I’ve been working and reworking this script for weeks to hopefully keep myself in check. Here’s the first thing I want to address - dishwashers absolutely, positively, honest-to-god save time, energy, and water compared to hand washing yet a shocking number of people out there are obstinately against these conclusions.
Quick acknowledgement - I know that dishwashers are a luxury and that plenty of you don’t have one in the first place, and if you’ve made it this far into the video you deserve a cookie, but this criticism isn’t directed at you. This is directed at the people who have a dishwasher but smugly refuse to use it for some reason, and there are apparently a ton of you lot out there. Regarding water use - I showed you how little water they use by draining it into a tub. This is literally it. But I found a comment thread where dozens of people were skeptical about the 4.2 gallons / 16 liters figure I came to.
Look, I - this person - weighed this thing and then subtracted the weight of the empty tub. Then I divided that figure by the number of pounds in a gallon of water. Then I did conversions so the rest of you would understand me.
I didn’t just pull that number out of thin air, it was a real-world example from a real-world dishwasher, and one that did a just-fine job washing dishes for me. That is until its brain box started going bad giving me the perfect excuse to cut a hole in it. Look up how much water any reasonably modern dishwasher uses in a standard cycle and it’s going to be very close to that figure. And the thing is that is a constant! You can load the thing up with 8 place settings, some cookware, cutting boards, and whatever else will still fit and the same 16 liters of water will take care of cleaning all of it. Larger loads don’t take any more time or water, which cannot be said for manually washing.
Now the time part. A frankly astonishing number of people are bothered by how long it takes the machine to wash dishes. Many people have proudly claimed they can hand wash faster than their dishwashers. Well of course you can, in fact I bet I could too, but (and I’m sorry I can’t avoid overt snark here) guess what I’m not doing while my dishwasher washes dishes? You guessed it! Washing dishes! Yes it takes the machine a longer period of time but I am not making that time investment. While it’s washing dishes I could be writing a script for YouTube or reading a book or playing a game or watching a movie or literally any activity at all.
It’s not like the only thing you can do with that time is pace a rut in the floor waiting until you see your precious dishes again. Now, I don’t know who leaves those comments or what your motivations for doing so are. I’m not in your heads.
But I just want to make abundantly clear that machine-time is not human-time and you’re not doing yourself any favors by equating the two, John Henry. In fact I know you don’t for other things. Are you still going to the river to hand-wash your laundry or have you given that task over to a machine? I bet you’re letting the machine do it. And just as is the case for my laundry routine, the longest part of my washing up routine is putting clean dishes away.
I spend literally zero cleaning effort beyond pouring detergent and pushing a button. Why so many of you seem to take pride in hand-washing dishes when time-saving (and water-saving!) machines are at your disposal is entirely beyond me. And I’m a Midwesterner! I’m no stranger to principled suffering. But this ain’t it, chief.
Is that still cool to say? And the last thing - even if you live alone or don’t generate large volumes of dirty dishes in a given day, I’d strongly argue the dishwasher is still your friend. I don’t run mine every day, I just put dirty dishes in it as they accumulate. Then when it’s full I run it. I’ve never had an issue with dried-on food (probably because of that magical pre-wash detergent I've been raving about) and if you’re living by yourself with only one or two place settings - wow I think you owe it to yourself to correct that.
Plus you can clean most of your cookware in it, too! If you have a working dishwasher, stop wasting your time and energy. There are plenty of more fun ways to do that. And now, allow me to address a common criticism of the original video. Some people complained that I only showed the incomplete results of the first 15 minutes of washing and didn’t compare end-results. After all, if the detergent pack managed to perform as well as my cheap gel in the end, does the pre-wash even matter? Isn’t the end result all we care about? I suppose that could be argued, but the central basis of my entire argument was and is that the pre-wash water fill handles your dishes at their most soiled, and so using water alone at this point is… silly. I was surprised, frankly, at how well water stood on its own in this task, and I even said that in the video.
But my intent was to compare the cleanliness of the machine and dishes at the starting point of the main wash. I wanted to show what the pre-wash detergent itself did, especially because there are just so many other variables to contend with. So I stopped it there, and that was intentional. If you’re still skeptical about my point that detergent packs go against the way most dishwashers are designed to function, well first of all don’t just take my word for it - look through some of the comments on the original video! A lot of people have seen a drastic improvement. But even better - just see for yourself! The next time you use your dishwasher, observe how it operates. Listen for when it starts draining the water - you can almost always hear that happen as a gurgling coming from your sink.
Then, as it’s draining, go ahead and open it to see if the detergent dispenser is still closed. I’m betting that on a “normal” wash cycle it is and that it won’t actually open until it re-fills and starts washing again. Now, some cycles like “express” or “eco” might not work this way, but the bottom line is it doesn’t hurt to try some basic detergents. I really think if you give ‘em a fair shot, they’ll do a great job. Oh, and that leads me to answer a question many of you had. Can you use a powder or gel as a pre-wash detergent but still use your favorite pack in the main wash? In general, yes... though I would suggest you make sure neither product has any warnings about mixing with any other products
but in most cases this isn’t a problem. After all lots and lots of packs are literally just bound up, highly-concentrated powders, sometimes with flair. However, I now would like to ask a question about your question: why are you asking that question? It seems a large number of you thought I’m in the pocket of Big Detergent and I wanted you to buy *more* detergent by way of two different kinds, but no not at all! That was absolutely not where I was intending to lead you. I want you to try some of the cheapest product your store has on offer, ideally boxed powder if you can get it, and use that for both pre-wash and the main wash.
If you want to use up some pods you already have and intend to switch away from, well great! Though I will say that I think you should try using powder or gel products by themselves a few times to ensure that they will work for you. I’m pretty confident they will so long as you follow the path of the pre-wash, but there are never guarantees. And if you still need to use pods for whatever reason, such as their accessibility benefits or the simple fact that they’re all you can find, I suggest you try the cheapest pods your store has on offer. Go with the Kroger brand. The Great Value. The Smartly.
The Essential Everyday. The Kirkland Signature. The Whatever the heck your store calls it. Throw one of them directly into the tub and put the other in the dispenser and see what sort of results you get.
And if you’re having fine results using just one pod- Great! I’m not gonna stop you. If you’re happy with where you’re at, there’s no need to change things up. Unless you want the same satisfaction I do that comes from great results with the cheapest store-brand option. I just love that.
It feels like sticking it to the man. I’d be way less annoyed with packs as a concept if they came in two-part tubs with two different packs - a big one for the dispenser and a little one to be thrown into the tub. Or they could even be little tear-off baby packs attached to the main one.
It’s really not the concept of a pack that annoys me (though I myself would still choose to avoid them because, again, value-obsessed midwesterner). It’s that a single introduction of detergent doesn't make sense, and honestly I’m willing to bet that there has been a drastic increase in overall detergent chemical usage thanks to their need to overcompensate for the soapless pre-wash. Again, use detergent properly and you really don’t need a whole lot. Oh, and one last thing, if your preference of packs comes from the fact that they’re, quote unquote “less messy…” I would like to remind you that this is soap.
If you spill some powder and it ends up outside the dispenser cup, so what? It’ll just end up in the first rinse and become part of your pre-wash detergent. A bit of soap that gets spilled on the insides of a machine which washes itself is a very silly thing to be worried about. At least, to my ears. I get it, it’s harder to use, but messy? C’mon. It’s soap. OK. I think that’s everything. Bottom line, if you’re happy with your dishwasher - clap your hands.
And keep doing what you’re doing with it. But detergents aren't magic, almost all the same chemicals in here are in there, and being able to change how much you use is, to me, a good thing. And I do think it’s interesting that basically the entire dishwasher detergent market has evolved to a place where you can’t see how far you can stretch your detergent anymore. Actually it’s kind of the entire detergent market, really. Did you know you can get powdered laundry soap? Yeah, maybe I’ll have to go on a tirade about that some day… ♫ sufficiently smooth jazz ♫ Over the winter I made a video about how dishwashers work and explained how they just pump up with… MMMMH It then refills itself with clean water. If it didn't have some way to hold the detergent back until that second fill it would it all be gone in the first ten or fifteen minutes but you see deter...
Yep! I need to move the teleprompter faster. [reading the script quickly but you can barely hear him because he’s not by the mic] Riveting ...help get those oils, etc, out quickly. Ann this is why many dishwashers have not one but two places you are supposed to put detergent. Because of that these pre-dosed detergent packs which bypass the pre-wash step annoy me and it’s my pet theory that they’ve led to dishwater shissatisfdumbledefufy FAH! That was too much detergent for the wash water to effectively be rinsed away at the end of the cycle. That’s not what the words were… Cascade Action Platinum Packs (?) Whether initial…. nnnmmAGGH Is that these are all just marketing ploys hoping to convince you to buy the product. Don’t expect untretched… Tha… tha… that… that… this eh... that... tha... tha...
[this nonsense continues for some time.] Probably could have washed a bowl or something by now The best price you can get… oh that’s turned around. That’s right. WASHING DISHES! There's a word I didn't use in the script to describe detergent pods. In fact I edited the script down in two places because I didn't want to enrage our corporate detergent overlords.
I just... you know when you need to get a printed photo into a computer you use a scanner? You get something called a scan? Just thought that's an interesting bit of trivia.