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Dine Without Whine - A Family 

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Hands Off My Dishwasher!
Look, we all want a nice, clean planet. All of us, to some extent or another, are environmentalists. I recycle. I compost. I love going for walks in nature. I personally don't buy global warming, but I still think we should keeping the planet clean. But sometimes things go too far.

I was recently reading a column by Mona Charen, and as I read it, I thought, "me, too!". It was as if she were inside my mind. Here's what she said:
I began noticing the white coating, dull film, and simply unclean dishes a few weeks ago. Naturally, I suspected that other members of my clan were failing to place dishes on the racks of the dishwasher properly. “If the water can’t reach it, it won’t get clean,” I lectured (not, ahem, for the first time), ostentatiously removing a small bowl that had been slipped under a larger one, no doubt by a person who clings to the discredited idea that dishwashers should be loaded to the gills. And those little separators in the utensil caddy — they are there for a reason, gentlemen.

But the crisis persisted. And, as the days passed, it became clear that the matter was beyond poor placement. Bits of spaghetti — stiff and stubborn — stuck like stalactites to bowls. The walls and doors of the machine emerged waxy and coated from each wash, in contrast to the gleaming surfaces of the past. Between the tines of forks, ugly bits of hardened remains resembled something you’d see on NCIS — if not quite repellent, then certainly unwelcome in what should have been a disinfected, pristine dishwasher.

I switched brands of dishwashing liquid. No change. Topped off the rinse-aid reservoir. No change. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the thought of buying a new machine flitted through my consciousness. Sparkling, squeaky-clean dishes are a necessary part of our quality of life. But our dishwasher is only three years old. And then I learned that I don’t have a personal problem. I have a political problem.

And that problem? Apparently both the U.S. and Canada have banned dishwashing detergents containing phosphorus. My dishes all have a film on them. My black plastic spatulas have white all over them, and you can't get it off. Take a look at this:


I've tried vinegar. I've tried everything. My normal detergent no longer does a thing, despite the "Oxi-Action!" (Sorry, I just realized I took a picture of the French side. I'm Canadian. What can I say?).


And the glasses are even worse. They're not sparkly. The'yre disgusting.


The only detergent that works is those Finish Powerballs in the dishwasher. Every other detergent is now absolutely lousy. But I don't remember anyone asking me what I thought about this? Maybe it's the right thing to do, but I can't believe stuff like this gets done without any debate!

Or take the lightbulb issue. Incadescent bulbs will soon be a thing of the past, even though the new ones cost more, don't last as long as they say they will, and you can't dispose of the stupid things because of the mercury! You're supposed to take them to the hazardous waste dump. Do you honestly believe people are going to go to that trouble? Of course not. All that mercury will end up in landfill anyway. And they don't come on in cold weather, so you can't use them for outdoor safety lights in the winter here in the Great White North. They also are associated with migraines!

And finally, what about plastic bags? Recently a whole bunch of municipalities have banned plastic bags in supermarkets (in our town you just have to pay for them), but interestingly, plastic bag use has increased. It makes sense, too. While we used to get those plasic bags and then reuse them several times, we now have to buy plastic bags to line our garbages with, to pick up dog poop, and who knows what. Apparently we're not using any less.

Sure we used to get plastic bags at the grocery store, and now we can take reusable ones, but we still need plastic bags for our garbage cans. And so instead of reusing grocery bags, we just buy them. But they're still in the landfill, and the good ones that we pay for take longer to biodegrade than the cheap grocery store ones. I just find so much government regulation has unintended consequences.

People will always do what is easiest and what is best for them, and if we need plastic, we'll use it. If we need dishes to be clean, we'll find more expensive ways to do it that may end up hurting the environment just as much. I don't know what we should do about things like landfill and clean water, because they are a huge problem. But I just wish that there could be some sort of a debate, where all the ramifications of new regulation were spelled out before they passed it. Because I hate these nasty surprises. And I'm pretty sure this lightbulb thing is a really bad idea. What do you think?

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At 10:31 AM , Blogger Lori Alexander said…

I wrote a post about this awhile ago:
I would love a small government and low taxes!
Maleleuca's dishwashing detergent is fabulous!!! My glasses are sparkly and there's no white film. You have to find a distributor though. It is the only product of theirs I use and LOVE it!


At 10:41 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Lori, funny you should say that, because I used to use the Melaleuca stuff all the time! It was fabulous, if awfully pricey. I'll probably order some new stuff soon.

I do find this all a mess because I don't want chemicals in our water table, and I understand the concern. But I would have liked to have seen a debate on it, and the science behind it, and analysis of how bad phosphates really were, and what the alternatives were, before it was banned without even a peep. Honestly.


At 11:01 AM , Blogger Bobble said…


I totally agree about the dishwasher detergent and light bulbs. I have, however, been using cloth shopping bags for a few years now, and find that I still get enough (from a quick stop at the drug store or dollar store) to line my trash cans.

I love being environmentally friendly, but if my dishes, laundry or whatever aren't getting clean, I will use something that gets them clean.



At 11:11 AM , Blogger Mary R. said…

Sounds like you need a water softener? That works well for us. Also, google "homemade dishwasher detergent." I made my own and it works wonderfully. Scrubbed the inside of my dishwasher clean and it looks like new! Vinegar in the rinse-aid compartment. If you do all three, maybe that will help. There's also quite a debate going on as to whether or not you should rinse dishes before you put them in the dishwasher. Not rinsing them first saves water, but if they don't get clean and you have to wash them again, what water have you saved?


At 11:22 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Hi Mary,

Thanks for your thoughts, but here's the thing: I did nothing before. No rinsing. No rinse agent. No special detergent. And my dishes were absolutely sparkling.

Now they're horrendous, and the only thing that has changed is the detergent. So even if I have bad water, that bad water was being compensated for before with the old detergent. It's just become a problem because they got rid of the detergent!

And I've tried the whole vinegar thing; it doesn't work! And it won't get the white stuff off. The only thing that does is that CLR stuff, which is absolutely horrid for the environment, and then I have to rinse like crazy afterwards, so I don't want to do that all the time, obviously.

I will google making my own detergent, but the Finish balls are currently working. It's just that they're the only things that are!

And Bobbiann, I do take my own bags, and I actually prefer that (it's easier to carry everything!). But in our town pretty much no one gives out bags anymore, so we have had to buy them for the garbage, and that is just simply a pain.



At 12:44 PM , Blogger Shanda said…

We forget the best way would be to was the dishes by hand. I just returned to the US 3 years ago after 17 years abroad and we didn't have dishwashers. They take up more electricity, water and don't get things clean. Plus, no matter what I want, it is in the diswasher, never where it is supposed to be!
You don't find many bags overseas either because they don't buy as much as we do.
We live in a land of materialism and waste.
However, I do have a dishwasher now and a bag full of plastic bags!!!


At 1:48 PM , Blogger Mary R. said…

That's terrible. Guess something happened to the water.


At 2:41 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I am pretty sure it takes more energy to create the new light bulbs, and that mercury poisoning issue is not just an issue of disposal. It is an issue at the creation of the light bulbs as well. Maybe we could have some nuclear powered light bulbs next to have even greater disposal and creation issues!

By the way, if the light bulb doesn't last as long as it says it should, you can write to the company and they will send you a new one for free.


At 2:42 PM , Blogger Katrina said…

There is some stuff I get in the dish detergent section of my walmart called lemishine (I think that's how it's spelled) and it works great! You use it with your regular detergent, and I don't even fill the cup, but it got rid of my white stuff. I had been having this same problem! It is so frustrating!


At 3:11 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

Thanks, Katrina! I'll try that, too!


At 3:23 PM , Anonymous Melanie E said…

The Cascade gel paks also work fairly well, but the Finish works better. However, I find that after using one or the other for a while, I'm getting the white guck again. So I'm trying to remember to swap back and forth. UGH.


At 3:23 PM , Anonymous Brenda Marie said…

This stuff is disgusting and I hope that if you find something that works you'll share it with the rest of us.


At 3:30 PM , Anonymous Lisa Marie said…

Well THAT explains it! I thought our dishwasher was on the fritz! Phew.


At 6:03 PM , Blogger Heather said…

Mystery solved. Thank you - I couldn't figure it out. Go first world nations. Your nanny-stating is making me a bit miffed. ;)


At 6:28 PM , Blogger Tessa said…

You posted a while back about silver (steel) utensils turning funky colors and that was because of the phosphates too. I've just started to get that. Not looking forward to what seems to be the next stage of that:white gunk.
I wish that they would give us the option. I'd go for clean. Sorry but I'm saving the environment by cloth diapering so that's my contribution. I might need to buy some Finish balls. Or Melaluca (I have a friend who distributes, I'll have to ask her how her dishes are).

As for the plastic bags, we bought them before for our garbages (due to sizes) and I would love to use reusable ones more often but it's hard enough to remember two kids, diapers, car keys, cell phone, wallet, etc. By the time I get to the store I realize all my bags are at home. Either that or I'll remember the bags and then forget them in the car and I don't want to carry them and all the aforementioned stuff into the store.I think it's mostly just making it a habit though.


At 9:50 PM , Anonymous Carolyn Wilker said…

I've got the same issues with our dishwasher. Glasses that have a film, cutlery that looks like it hasn't been washed.

My husband religiously rinses dishes before putting them in the dishwasher and he also packs the dishwasher full. Our problem has been quite recent. I looked at the box and it says phosphate-free.
And we thought maybe the dishwasher is giving out, but maybe it's not.

Our landfill site also bans plastic bags, and while I mostly take my own bags (that don't rip apart), I sometimes need to get one at the store.

We also have a recycling program in which no plastic is allowed, but we can put all kinds of things in that regular composters cannot take. Our garbage is minimal, but I know what you mean, Sheila. Are we going backwards having to buy plastic bags?


At 10:37 AM , Blogger Sarah said…

I 100% agree with you. I know you have said the vinegar isn't working for you -- we pour it into the dishwasher (just dump it in the bottom before it starts) and have been amazed at our results. So, for some reason it's working for us.

But, yes, I agree that the government needs to go spend their time and energy on things like balancing their budget, etc. rather than screwing up my dishes.


At 5:08 PM , Blogger Renee said…

Thanks very much for the explanation of the white film!


At 8:42 PM , Anonymous Kat @ said…

Whoa... I had no idea about any of this! :( I love surprises, but not bad ones! LOL


At 1:16 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I pour 1 cup of white vinegar in the bottom of my dishwasher before starting it, and it has gotten rid of all the white residue and is continuing to keep my dishes coming out clean. Vinegar in the rinse aid is not enough vinegar.


At 8:19 PM , Blogger rachel said…

i have found that powdered detergent of any kind will do this to my dishes. i use the liquid stuff (also phosphate free) from costco and it does as good of a job now as it did several years ago (assumably before they changed it). i have spots on my glasses that i can't get off from a momentry lapse in sanity when i bought a bargain box of powdered detergent. i switched back after that, but haven't been able to get rid of the spots. but everything is, at least CLEAN.

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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