Sunday, August 26, 2012

Why Did My Dishwasher Suddenly Stop Cleaning Dishes?

I thought I was going crazy. It seemed like overnight the dishwasher stopped getting things clean and shiny. Then it would start working again, then it stopped again.
I tried changing brands of detergent. I tried increasing the temperature of the hot water. Nothing seemed to make a difference. It was to the point where you practically had to wash the dishes before you put them in the dishwasher. We were about to bite the bullet and spend hundreds of dollars on a new dishwasher when I ran across the following article: NPR on Dirty Dishes.
Seems they took a very important ingredient out of dishwasher detergent: phosphates. They help strip the grunge from your dishes AND keep it from reattaching to them further on in the cycle. I'm familiar with phosphates. I use TSP (trisodium phosphate) when I'm prepping walls for fresh paint or doing a deep clean on floors, cabinets, pretty much anything that can be cleaned with a strong detergent. Now that I knew what to search for, I found plenty of blog posts about America's new dirty little secret: Dirty Dishes.
So I hobbled down to my local A*C*E Hardware and bought a small tub of TSP to "test" the theory posed in the NPR article. I rinsed my dishes the "old way" (as opposed to my "new way" of practically washing them BEFORE I put them in the dish washer, then running the Rinse/hold Cycle, THEN running the Pots and pans Cycle with two overfilled detergent cups). I added 1/2 tablespoon of TSP to each detergent cup, then the "old normal" amount of dish washing detergent (Finish Advanced Gel) and ran it on the Normal Cycle.
When the washer was done and I opened the door, I could not believe my eyes. The silverware was so clean and sparkling I had to put on sunglasses. There was not a speck of food or film on any plate, bowl, or glass. I literally did a happy dance. I did not experience the white powdery residue that Jill complained of in her blog post.
There are still a couple of brands of dishwasher detergent that contain phosphates. Our government, in their infinite wisdom, recognized that it was really important for restaurants and hotels to have clean eating utensils so COMMERCIAL products still contain phosphates. I found several sites on the Internet that sell Cascade Professional Line detergent (there are other brands, but I'm familiar with Cascade). It's sold in cases only (6 boxes to a case). The boxes are 85 oz. each so they last a long time making them quite worth their average cost of $10.00 per box.
I was fortunate to have a commercial cleaning supply company in my town that ordered me a case and once the word got out amongst my friends, I had no trouble selling boxes to them.
I have noticed as time goes by, that the filmy crap that had built up on my glasses and plates is being washed away by the Cascade Pro detergent so I fully expect them all to look like new by the end of the year. So nice not to have to buy new glasses because the old ones got cloudy AND not to have spent $800.00 on a new dishwasher when all I needed was the right detergent.
Now, about your laundry. Do you have multiple stain removing products in your laundry room? Think hard; did your mother have all that crap to do laundry when you were a kid? Do your clothes never seem as clean as your mom's laundry? It's not your imagination. They took the phosphates out of laundry soap in 1996. I've yet to find a commercial laundry detergent that I'm willing to try but I can still get that old-fashioned clean that mom got. I add 2 - 3 tablespoons of TSP to each load of laundry. I'm using less laundry soap and fabric softener since I started doing this. My whites are whiter, my colors are brighter, and I rarely have to pre-treat stains anymore. Bonus: my washer tub had a scum line of soap buildup towards the top of the tub---it's gone. The tub is shiny, squeaky clean, and no longer smells like mold or mildew (just like the tub on my dishwasher).
If you choose to do your own TSP test, be aware that there is something out there called a TSP substitute. IT IS NOT THE SAME THING AS TSP and contains no phosphates. Do not waste your money on it.
Do not bitch at me about polluting the environment.
  1. The reason for removing the phosphates was disproved after the fact.
  2. More phosphates enter the environment from agriculture than any other source.
  3. I am not connected to a public sewer system. My phosphates stay on my land.
Now go forth and enjoy that magic that is clean dishes and clothes.

London Pictures

While in London I discovered my camera is shot. There are too few usable pictures for me to even bother posting them and no new camera in my immediate future. Sorry to everyone who was looking forward to pictures of our trip.

Friday, April 20, 2012

London Day One

We had an incredible day of travel to get here. It was a real treat to be able to fly out of our regional airport instead of driving 2 hours to Kansas City. The flight left on time and arrived early for our layover at O'Hare in Chicago where we had a lovely breakfast at Wolfgang Puck's. The four cheese omelet was divine. Paired with garlic roasted potatoes it was a good start since who knows what they'll be serving on the flight to London. The O'Hare to JFK flight left on time and arrived early too! Unfortunately my seat on the plane allowed me only a glimpse of the King Kong building and none of the Statue of Liberty. Fortunately I was able to add another state to my been-there list.

New York to London flight left on time. Many good movies to watch so I caught one before dinner was served. Tried to watch a second one after dinner, but my eyes kept closing. Since I wanted to sleep on the plane, this was good. I caught sleep off and on for about 3 hours. This is good since we plan to push through the tired and stay up on arrival in order to sleep at night like normal people. The plane, once again, arrived early. So early we had to circle round and round since they have noise rules that won't let us land at Heathrow prior to 6:00 AM. What I noticed in our circling? It's very green here. I wonder why that is?

We'd arranged to have a car pick us up and deliver us to our hotel in a suburb north of the city proper. After our experience dragging luggage on and off of public transportation in Paris, we checked "live like locals" off our list and vowed to never do airport to hotel public transpo again. Customs, in preparation for the upcoming Olympics, was fully staffed and moving the queue faster than I thought possible. The line moved at a steady pace and we were through in no time at all. The driver was waiting for us, very pleasant fellow and he whisked us off to The Hide in Hendon. Arriving too early to check in---which is good, don't want to see that inviting mattress---we were able to leave luggage, freshen in the lobby loo and hit the tube into the city. Not only do we get to freshen, but the desk staff serves us up a couple of Lattes in case we don't have enough caffeine in us yet. Armed with umbrellas and raincoats, our adventure begins.

Our first trip into the city only involves one tube line so it's rather simple to speak with the ticket taker and find out if pay as we go or day pass is today's transpo option. For today it's pay as we go since we only plan the one trip in and one trip back. We exit the Northern Line (Charing Cross via Kennington) at Embankment and there is the Thames spread out before us with the shadow of the London Eye falling across the water. We head towards Big Ben in search of the tourist buses that make the circuit of attractions to plan where we want to spend some in-depth time.

We pass Whitehall Gardens, 10 Downing Street, and several other impressive buildings with the requisite Statues of Old Dead Guys and cross Westminster Bridge to the south bank. On the bridge a lone Bagpiper plays for tips. A quick stop for more caffeine at the McDonald's in the building at the foot of The Eye and we find our tour bus, complete with live (not recorded) tour spiel. Immediately one of the things that wasn't on our must-see list gets added. How can you see the Tower of London and NOT want to go through it is beyond me. Wasn't appealing on paper but now that we see it, we're going. On the bus we're able to scope out near enough where we need to be for our TV show taping on Monday night.

After the bus we take the free river cruise that's included with the bus tour. This gives us a look at many of the same things the bus does, but as viewed from the river. It also tells us that we probably don't need to buy a hop-on-hop-off day pass to the bus when we return Saturday. Everything we want to see is certainly walking distance from the tube state. Probably on a par with our 12 hour walking day in Amsterdam. We can do this. Towards the end of the river cruise the sky darkens considerably and when we disembark, the sky opens and pours. For all of maybe 8 minutes, but we're prepared and keep the soaking to a minimum. Disdaining the river side City Loo, for which you pay 50P, I hope to find a loo at the tube station. There is one; a City Loo. At this point I'm willing to pay 50P to keep from peeing my pants.

Fading fast from the brisk wind that came up at the end of our cruise, we tube back to Hendon and officially check in to our hotel. We are hungry so we really just glance at the room and head back out to find a local meal. We are sooooooo tempted to eat at KFC as we haven't had KFC since the one in MHK closed, but on the walk there we discover Cafe Florence and decide to take a chance. Judi opts for the fish and chips (even though we do plan to hit a fish 'n' chip shop that's on the top ten list) and I have the chicken escalope which is flattened chicken breast coated in bread crumbs and then fried (deep fried I think by the even coloring). Both are very good. Not great but very good and with dinner in our bellies we return to the hotel for the night. Tomorrow we attack some attractions in-depth.

Please note, I have no way to transfer pictures from my camera to the PC to post here. If I snag a cheap card reader tomorrow that will change but if I don't, I'll have to come back to these posts and add pictures when I get back home.