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Why Doesn't My Dishwasher Clean?

Dishwashers were once considered a luxury, but many people now consider them a necessity. When it doesn't clean properly, what could be the problem?

Nashville, Ark. – Dishwashers were once considered a luxury, but many people now consider them a necessity. A dishwasher is designed to do three things: fill, circulate hot water and detergent, and drain. We expect them to clean the dishes better than we would by hand. But occasionally they don’t perform as we expect. When there is a performance problem, it is likely related to one or more of the following factors:

-          The water itself, either its contents or the temperature;

-          The detergent and/or rinse additive;

-          The manner the machine was loaded or operated.

The amount of minerals in water drastically affects its performance and how it interacts with the detergent. Water mineral content is measured in grains. Soft water has three grains or less; medium hard water has four to nine grains and hard water has more than 10 grains. Your local water company can tell you the degree of hardness of your water supply. If you are on a well, you may need to have your water tested.

            It is almost impossible to get excellent results from any dishwasher in very hard water. But a general recommendation for the amount of detergent is one teaspoon per grain of hardness, with a minimum of three teaspoons in soft water. Using too much detergent causes cleaning problems and dishwasher problems.

            Water temperature is another important factor. For optimum results, automatic dishwashers require 140 degree water. Some machines have internal heaters to boost the temperature to that level; others must depend on the water heater. If your dishwasher is not cleaning properly, use a thermometer to check the temperature of the water just as the machine starts the cycle.

            Problems also arise when the dishwasher is not loaded so the water has maximum circulation. Like people, every brand of machine does things a little differently. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations on how your machine should be loaded if you are having cleaning problems.

            Old or caked granular detergents may not dissolve completely, so they can’t clean properly. Keep them stored in a closed container in a dry place, not under the sink. Liquids and gels are not as easy to get out of the container, but they do not have the problem of caking. With any type, be careful to use the proper amount for your water.

            A common dishwasher problem is filming or etching on the glassware. Filming is caused by hard water and one of the following: not enough detergent, water temperature too low or not using a rinse aid. Filming can be removed by soaking the glassware approximately 15 minutes in undiluted white vinegar or using a commercial film remover.

If this does not remove the film, then it is etching, which is permanent. In the beginning stages, etching has an iridescent, or rainbow look when the glass is held at an angle to the light. Some types of glass will etch in any dishwasher with the right combination of soft water (especially mechanically softened), the alkalinity of the dishwasher detergent and heat.

There is no way to predict what glassware may be affected, as it is not related to cost or quality of the glass. To prevent reoccurrence, us NO more detergent than recommended, keep the water temperature as low as possible to still clean, turn off the dry option, and DO NOT manually pre-rinse the dishes before loading the dishwasher.

            Sometimes it takes a lot of sleuthing to find the right balances to keep the dishwasher working properly. But we all agree it’s worth it.

            For more information about cleaning matters contact the Howard County Cooperative Extension Service at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse.

Recipe of the Week

            The Howard County 4-H Breads and Cookie Contest was held last week and here is one of the prize winning recipes. They were delicious! This recipe was submitted by Adelene Westfall, a member of the Super 4-Hers 4-H Club. If you are interested in learning more about 4-H contact the Extension Office at 870-845-7517.

Hello Dolly Bars

1/3 c. butter melted

1 ½ c. graham cracker crumbs

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

1 ½ c. flaked coconut

1 c. semi-sweet chocolate morsels

½ c. chopped pecans

            Spread butter in 13x9x2-in. baking pan. Sprinkle crumbs over butter. Pat evenly and drizzle milk over crumbs. Sprinkle coconut, chocolate morsels, and nuts over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Watch for light brown edges. Cool completely. Store in refrigerator.

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517
jince@uaex.edu



The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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