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In this video, the Handyguys discuss dishwasher detergent and why dishes often don’t get clean. We have received a lot of feedback on our video about fixing a dishwasher that won’t clean dishes and for many (too many) people, the issue is a poor design of the dishwasher. Exacerbating the issue is the fact that most dishwasher detergents have removed phosphates. Phosphate is a key ingredient in cleaners like dishwashing detergent, laundry soap, shampoo, household cleaners and deck washes. Phosphorus (P) is also a key ingredient in fertilizer, stimulating root growth and promoting plant vigor. Phosphorus is a naturally occurring element and is mined from the ground for commercial uses. It is also found in our body, bones, tissue and in our bodily waste.
Environmental issues with dishwasher detergent
The primary reason phosphates were removed is environmental. If too much phosphate gets into streams, ponds, lakes, etc., it promotes the growth of algae and other plants (remember, it’s a fertilizer too). Too much plant growth means less room in the waterway for fish. The fish populations become unhealthy and decline. (Of course, we are simplifying here). Another reason is money. In places where waste water is treated (you are on a city sewer), the process for elimination of phosphates costs money.
Unfortunately for most people, the trade-off of phosphate free dishwasher detergent is dirty dishes. In our opinion, poor performing detergent causes people to cycle our dishwasher twice or clean our dishes in the sink before washing them in the dishwasher. Far too many people have opted to purchase a “new and improved” dishwasher thinking theirs was broken. What was broken was the detergent.
Adding to the problem is newer dishwashers are less effective at washing. In the quest for more efficiency, dishwashers use less water. Less water means less rinsing and less rinsing means you need better, not worse detergents. It’s a double whammy! Poor performing detergent and appliances lead to unhappy consumers.
Dishwasher Detergent Options
So what can you do?
The Handyguys have tried many different detergents. We have researched home-brew detergents and evaluated different brands. What we have found is you CAN still find dishwashing detergent with phosphates. It just won’t be at your local supermarket. You need to get it from restaurant suppliers or online. Here is a link to Amazon where you can get it online
Cascade Automatic Dishwasher Detergent 85-oz. Box, 6/Carton
For a detergent without phosphates, we recommend Finish Powerball Tabs. Finish tabs seemed to do a better job than most phosphate free detergents. Several of our listeners were hesitant to switch from their favored powder brand, but once they moved to Finish Tabs, their washes came out cleaner.
8 thoughts on “What is the Best Dishwasher Detergent?”
I had cloudy glasses using Cascade, too.
I discovered a product that may be what is used as an ingredient in the Finish Powewrball product you mentioned.
It is called Finish Glass Magic – Performance Booster. I use it in addition to the regular Cascade. I just sprinkle a couple of spoonsful onto the inside of the door just before I close it. Glasses come out spotless and crystal clear.
Yup, don’t be confused by the cascade. There are different versions for different markets. The stuff at grocery store doesn’t work well. Get the stuff with phosphates (sold online and at restaurant suppliers) and you wont need to add anything else to the wash.
Thanks for the tip. You guys are all right — you fix things, you wear Phillies hats AND you do dishes!! My husband was impressed that I was able to dismantle and clean our dishwasher, which has run like a charm ever since. I owe it all to you! Keep up the great work!
My wife uses coupons and the Rite-Aid loyalty program and she bought like 5 boxes of Finish squares for some ridiculously low price.
This was very useful because I was about to buy a new dishwasher. I’ll cross my fingers that this tip helps.
Do you know of any shampoos containing phosphates? Ive had such scalp problems since shampoos were reformulated without phosphates and my searches for anything WITH PHOSPATES only comes up with phosphate free.
Wow, I had no idea this could be an issue for people. Maybe look for DIY recipes.
I watched your video on cleaning the dishwasher and it was an amazing spot on video and so easy to follow. I found several years of built up soap turned into glue, a tooth pick, straw, glass, a chicken bone and of all things…a Q tip!! After following your video, my dishes are just as clean as when I first bought my dishwasher!! Your amazing and I thank you very much. I would like some information on trouble shooting a home furnace. I cleaned the electronic flame sensor but has not fixed the problem so I have ordered a new one off your site here tonight. I also have also purchased a new thermostat but have not yet changed it out, but not convinced that’s the problem. The burners fire up, raise the temperature by one degree then shuts off again. The house is staying around 62-64 degrees. Thanks for all your help! Ruth