My Dishwasher Isn’t Working Well – What To Do?

Is Your Dishwasher No Longer Doing the Job?

Do your dishes seem dirty even after running the dishwasher? The food and grime being left all over them? Has your dishwasher started malfunctioning oddly, leaving you to wonder just what may be wrong with your dishwasher? Well don’t fret, there is a big possibility there is nothing wrong with your dishwasher at all.

Your old dishwasher detergent used as much as nine percent phosphorus. The phosphate is used in helping break down the grease and cleaning your dishes. About a year ago sixteen states banned the sale of dishwasher detergents containing more than 0.5% phosphorus. The phosphate in the dishwasher detergent helps clean dishes, break down grease and eliminate calcium stains. The law is aimed at keeping phosphate out of our waste water that could end up in our water bodies.

The phosphate is like a fertilizer. It increases algae and aquatic weed growth in water bodies. Too much algae depletes the oxygen needed for aquatic life. Sewage treatment plants and private septic systems can remove much, but not all of the phosphorous from waste-water, so some of it ends up in lakes, streams and rivers. For environment concerns the sale of phosphate-based dishwashing detergents has been restricted by legislation and voluntary by manufacturers. We as consumers are losing out because the phosphate is most effective in getting the dishes clean in the dishwasher.

If your dishes are not getting clean. If your dishwasher is working oddly, it’s probably due to the low-phosphate and phosphate-free detergents. They just do not work like the old detergents. They leave behind food and grime. Not only on your dishes, but also in your dishwasher causing it to not work properly. It’s a lot cheaper to get it out of the stores than to try to remove it through wastewater-treatment plants. Although, dishwashing detergents represent only a small amount of the phosphorus discharge into the waters.

Here are some tips to help out with your dishwasher troubles. You can, of course, try out different brands of detergent until you find one that works to your satisfaction. Try pre-soaking your dishes. It will help loosen up the food to make for an easier wash. Add one cup of vinegar to your wash cycle along with the detergent. It takes the place of the missing phosphate. You can always revert back to the old way and wash them by hand. Although, that is not really an appealing solution.


  1. Chuck – thanks so much for your explanation of the problems associated with phosphate-free dishwasher detergent. After Cascade changed its formula (and I didn’t know it had decreased or removed the phosphate in its formula), my dishwasher started to develop streaks and caked on deposits of white minerals. The plastic parts in the dishwasher are no longer smooth and shiny, and last night, I removed the filter system in the bottom of my Miele dishwasher and found that it was completely clogged with white gloppy gunk, some of the gunk had hardened and it’s difficult to perhaps impossible to remove. I’m also concerned about my health. Evidently, this gunk has also been deposited on my dishes and I’ve been consuming it! This is worse than disgusting. My dishwasher is 15 years old and has never needed repair service, but now I’m not sure what to do! Are there newer dishwashers that use a different kind of detergent, such as liquid detergent instead of powder detergent, that doesn’t clog the dishwasher or leave gunk all over the dishes? If not, I will have to stop using my dishwasher and not replace it. I hope to find a solution to the problem, and also find some way to clean the gunk out of my dishwasher.

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