Monday, May 11, 2009

Clean Dishes and Cheap Clean Balance

When we got married, we moved into our sweet little rental house with a kitchen that has an OK amount of cabinets and no dishwasher. I contemplated having a dishwasher installed, but didn't want to sacrifice the space. Hand washing dishes is not one of my stronger virtues, either.

Our friends and family generously blessed us with a number of cash gifts that, when added up, were enough to purchase a portable dishwasher! It tucks in a corner next to the table, where it is actually rather convenient to load. Once full, I roll it over to the sink, hook it up, and away it goes. I was a much happier bride for Hubs after we got it!

After five years, though, I noticed our dishes looked . . . icky. They were covered in a white film that only a long soak in straight vinegar would take away. Even using a rinse agent didn't help, nor did using vinegar as a rinse agent - it just wasn't enough.

About that time, I was trying to move toward more frugal and green ways of running our household. But, to be honest, there had been a couple of occurrences where I had a full-to-the-brim dishwasher and no detergent. I live 10 miles from the nearest store, and 25 miles from the nearest store that I can afford to patronize without selling my firstborn.

I can't remember where I first found the suggestion to use a 1:1 mixture of Borax and Washing Soda in the dishwasher. I tried it, and it seemed to work fine, but I felt like it was missing something . . . like soap! (OK, detergent, but still.) About that time I stumbled across another "recipe" that used a 1:1:1 mixture of the Borax and Washing Soda plus powdered Cascade. I felt good about using it, it's relatively cheap, and since I use the Borax/Washing Soda for the laundry, too, I can steal a couple of scoops out of there in a pinch. I use two tablespoons in the dishwasher, using a scoop that I can't remember what product it came out of. It has a teaspoon on one side (that I hang onto as I'm scooping) and a tablespoon on the other side.

(I store it in the coffee can above, that is standing in for a box of Borax since I'm currently out.)

That was great, but my dishes were still dingy. We have well water, and it's pretty hard and full of "stuff". I read a glowing testimonial of LemiShine on The Pioneer Woman and wondered what all the fuss in the comments was about. I found it at Wal-Mart, and in just one use, my dishes looked incredible - almost new! Hubs even commented on them, and noticing details is not his strongest virtue. Plus they even *felt* cleaner - before, I could feel a chalky residue and hadn't even realized. And the inside of my dishwasher looked better, too! (There is a map on the LemiShine website that shows the hardness levels of water. We're in "extremely hard". So it's confirmed.)

After a few loads and working to cycle all my dishes through (i.e. put the clean plates from the dishwasher on the bottom of the stack so they all get used), I backed off the amount of LemiShine that I used. I'd guess I use somewhere between 1/2 and 3/4 the recommended amount and my dishes still look great.

It is a bummer to rely on something that never goes on sale and never has a coupon. I priced packets of lemon Kool-Aid and even the generic versions come out about the same as LemiShine, so I think we have a good balance between using less and clean dishes.

You can also go here to see how I use the borax/washing soda in my semi-homemade laundry detergent!

This post is linked to Kitchen Tip Tuesdays at Tammy's Recipes, and because I am so tickled that 1) I even *have* a dishwasher and 2) my dishes now come out of it clean, I'm also linking this to Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers.


Auntie Q said...

My dishwasher went out, I think it may have been the hard water that caused it's untimely death... I'll have to remember these tips if I ever have another. :)

Angela said...

I'm a HUGE fan of Lemishine also! I can't be without it. We also have really hard water, and I noticed the same things you did when I started using the Lemishine. Oh how I hate spending the money on it though.

Angela said...

Here's the link to my potty training post. I thought it worked good, although those three days were some of my hardest yet as a mommy, that's for sure!

I have a bunch of Taste of Home magazines to go through as well. I thought when I was done with them I might do a giveaway
on my blog, we'll see.