Dishwasher Detergents & Additives

Learn Why Your Dishwasher Detergent Is Not Cleaning Your Dishes

It’s not uncommon for us to receive service requests for dishwashers that are “not cleaning the dishes well enough.” This dishwasher problem can be extremely frustrating for customers because many times there’s nothing the repair technician can do. But WAIT! Before you get mad at the repair technician, read this article! You may find that the problem isn’t your dishwasher at all…it’s your dishwasher detergent! This may sound crazy, but if your dishwasher’s not cleaning well, a simple switch in detergents may resolve your problem.

How Dishwasher Detergents Work

As we all know, water and oil does not mix, so while water is effective at cleaning most substance, oil-based substances are particularly resistant to water-based cleaning. A soap or detergent acts as an emulsifier, which enables the oil-based substance to mix with the water.
Detergents have several active chemicals:

  • Alkali’s regulate pH levels which encourages food particles to swell and become removed more easily.
  • Builders regulate water hardness to prevent limescale build up.
  • Enzymes, similar to those found in the digestive process, are used to break down starch and protein into water-soluble particles.
  • Bleach may be included to oxidize certain hard soils like coffee stains.

Choosing A Detergent

The Finish brand gel and powder options offer the basic properties necessary in a detergent: breaking down hard food and removing grease (as well as a bleach additive to fight stains). However, customers often find these options messy and prefer to use “monodose” options requiring a single tab rather than an individual measurement.

Traditionally, all detergents came in powder form. Stored under the kitchen sink, these powders would absorb moisture and clump. Typically, the user would then break these clumps and continue to use the detergent.

However, moisture activates the cleaning agent, so once it was exposed to water, the detergent was essentially just a weak filler material. As a result, people complained that powder produced poor results, even leaving detergent on the dishes.

For this reason, many users prefer to use gel-based detergents and are very skeptical of the efficacy of powder-based detergents. Yet, as a liquid, gel can only contain either enzymes or bleach, not both, as bleach will kill enzymes.

Finish gel products are among the few that favors enzymes over bleach. Finish All-in-1 Gel Pacs introduces pre-soakers to break down tough food particles and a rinse aid to reduce spotting, but removes the bleach additive. We strongly encourage gel users to switch to monodose powder-based options, as these are protected from ambient moisture and use both enzymes and bleach.

Finish All-in-1 Powerball

Tabs are a powder-based brick individually packaged to prevent moisture exposure. The red Powerball in the center is filled with enzymes that release under low heat at the beginning of the wash cycle to give a tough cleaning. The white area is primarily bleach-based and activates toward the end of the wash cycle. A rinse aid is included.

Finish Quantum Max has no wrapper, but instead uses a water-soluble protective coating to divide an enzyme-based gel, bleach-based powder, and Powerball. The coating will break down in the wash and produce additional surfactants to help with the drying cycle. This product also uses additional polymers to neutralize the corrosion that causes permanent clouding on glass.

Using Additives

If your dishes are dull and covered in film, you may benefit from a rinse aid. Rinse aids use non-ionic surfactants to prevent condensation, which encourages fast drying, while polymers leave the dishes shining. Only ¼ of Americans use rinse aid, but rinse aid could resolve many of the most common dishwasher complaints including spotting and leftover food particles. Older rinse aid dispensers tend to release 2 ml per load by default, but many manufacturers have increased this setting (and most can be reset manually). Much better results were reported by users who used up to 6 ml per load.

Finish makes Jet Dry for basic drying and Jet Dry Turbo Dry for a faster, more complete drying using a thicker concentration of surfactants. Finish Power Up All-in-1 Booster is also available for treating hard water during the pre-wash cycle, with additional cleaning power.

Dishwasher Cleaner

When your dishwasher has experienced visible build up of limescale, it is a good idea to run an empty load with dishwasher cleaner. Stainless steel tub dishwashers are particularly noticeable when buildup has occurred, but you should always monitor the spray arms and drainage for mineral buildup, as this may affect overall dishwasher performance. Finish Dishwasher Cleaner uses a citric acid base which is very effective on cutting buildup and eliminating odors. Learn more about dishwasher cleaning here.

Hopefully this article has given you a better understanding of the products available to enhance your dishwashing process and when to use them. For all of your refrigerator repair and maintenance needs, contact Appliance Repair Squad.

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