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DIY: Keeping it clean

You may have noticed that stuff you clean isn’t as clean as it used to be. Your clothes and dishes, namely. Your soaps these days just aren’t as efficient. And, as with most inefficiencies, it came about by government intervention. See, a bit back government busybodies with nothing better to do than to tell you what to do banned the use of phosphates in detergents. This goes for laundry and dish detergents. This glass just came from my dishwasher:


Look at it. It looks disgusting. I’m assured it’s clean by nanny state busybodies. It’s filmy and not real inviting if I offer a guest a beverage. I also noticed that the bottom of my daily coffee mug had what looked to be stains on the bottom of it. Then, I applied some elbow grease and realized it wasn’t stain, it was coffee residue. And it just came from the dishwasher. When it comes to laundry, my whites aren’t as white and my colors aren’t as bright.

So, we’re making our own laundry and dish detergent. There’s a variety of recipes on the internet and we’re going to try a few. I’ll let you know how they do. As a bonus, we figure we can do about 120 loads of laundry for $20. Haven’t made my own dish detergent yet but I’m awaiting my shipment of citric acid. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Also, turn up your water heater. I spend a lot of time undoing what government does.

And, hey, it annoys busy bodies.

I’ll let you know how it goes and post the recipes when we finalize them.

46 Responses to “DIY: Keeping it clean”

  1. Shootin' Buddy Says:

    You don’t buy your detergent at the German grocery store? You can get it but it costs more.

    If you can’t hit the German grocery store (or the Mexican bogedas by my house), then soaking your dishes in white vinegar works well.

  2. Steve Says:

    I have had good results with finish gelpacks in the dishwasher.
    I have not noticed a problem with my laundry detergent but I have read that the new energy efficient top loading washers do not get clothes clean. Consumer Reports did a test of them recently and failed them all.

  3. John Smith. Says:

    Have the same problem… Trying to find a phosphate source that will work… Some people TSP but I have not had good luck with it.

  4. Spade Says:

    Protip: just skip the dishwasher on your glassware. I clean my crystal with white vinegar and have started using it for regular glasses as well sometimes. Looks a lot better. Just dry it well.

  5. Spade Says:


  6. Ford Says:

    It’s time you joined the 1% and bought yourself a water softener. It fixes all of your listed problems and then some.

  7. Bubblehead Les Says:

    We spent the bucks last year when the Water Heater went and got a Rinnai Tankless System put in. Only goes to 120, but it’s at 120 as long as the water is on. Then we just hand wash. It’s actually a lot faster and cleaner than the Dishwasher. Old School Double Sink (Wash Bin, Rinse Bin) then Air Dry in the Dish Rack. Turns out we are actually using less Electricity that way,’cause the dishwasher isn’t being used. The Rinnai runs on Natural Gas, which was being wasted keeping a Water Heater Warm 90% of the day. And we are using the Dishwasher to store Big Pots and Pans.

    Gee, I guess I’m doing my part to Save the Planet, huh? Does that mean I should expect a check for a few million dollars from the EPA?

  8. Brass Says:

    Lemi Shine has taken up the slack from my non-phosphate dish detergent.

  9. Les Jones Says:

    Like Steve, we use Finish gelpacks, which include a rinse agent. Got to, because we have a Bosch dishwasher that doesn’t use a heated dry cycle in order to save energy and reduce noise. I haven’t noticed any residues.

    Though I gotta say I’m not 100% certain these are the new, Earth-friendly kind or if these are still from our supply of the old, Earth-murdering kind. We stocked up during the changeover to the phosphate-free formula.

  10. JDS Says:

    We started making our own powdered laundry detergent this year. Cheap & effective. is a good source for some of the more non-common ingredients found in a lot of detergent recipes, like Fels Naptha and Zoat.

  11. Drake Says:

    I will make it a point today to buy two, no three jumbo packs of styrofoam plates to offset this nanny state bullshit.

  12. mike w. Says:

    I simply hand wash most of my dishes.

  13. Tango Says:

    Go to your nearest hardware store and buy a big bucket of Trisodium Phosphate (TSP). That’s the ingredient that was removed from washing detergents because it lowered the oxygen content of water by something like half a percent. Just add a quarter cup or so (I forget the exact amount) to each load of laundry or each load of dishes.

  14. DirtCrashr Says:

    My dishwasher is a Bosch like Les’ and we go a similar route. We also need/like a full 30-gal in the water heater system for days when CA electricity goes out or when there’s an earthquake and the water stops pumping – under those conditions a tankless water-heater doesn’t function or help.
    Meanwhile we use Chinet plates in the microwave to save on the ELECTRIC OVEN costs and to murder the Environment.

  15. SayUncle Says:

    mike, if you want to come handwash mine, i’ll let you. But with 2 adults, 2 kids, 2 dogs and 2 cats, it’d take you several hours.

  16. TomcatTCH Says:

    We’ve been using Charlie’s Soap for our laundry needs for years. Works very well

  17. Sebastian not the blogger Says:

    mike, if you want to come handwash mine, i’ll let you. But with 2 adults, 2 kids, 2 dogs and 2 cats, it’d take you several hours.

    Just a thought–reuse the same glass over and over when you need a drink. Sounds like you’re making too many glasses.

    We have really iron laden (like, will turn your t shirts yellow iron water) well water here. Upshot: no one around here is anemic. Downside–yeah, you need a water softener. But phosphate free dishwasher soap isn’t any problem here.

    Is it silly? Yeah–commercial soaps are exempt and so the improvement to water quality from making you change the recipe is probably small. It makes about as much sense as making you get your passenger car emissions tested for soot and particulates while a million tractor trailers roll down the road. But it’s not really a crisis either.

  18. Jailer Says:

    I tried several different recipes of home made laundry soap including ones using my own home made CP soap. Maybe I was doing it wrong but my results were meh. Didn’t seem to clean as well as I’d like and weren’t any cheaper than the big ole box of Arm and Hammer you can get at ChinaMart. Just 3 of us in our house but that $14 box of laundry soap lasts me around 8 months.

    Like brass said, Lemi Shine will keep the stains away from your glasses but you have to do it from the start when they are new. Once they’re stained up like that it’s hard to get them looking good again.

  19. LeroyTumbler Says:

    My 20 year old Kenmore dishwasher gave up the ghost so I bought a new Whirlpool last January. My glasses look like yours. I called Whirlpool and was told that 1) my water pressure was too low or 2) I was putting too many dishes in it. I have great water pressure and I’ve been loading dishwahers for close to 40 years with good results. Consumer Reports says that for the first time ever, not a single dishwasher received a good rating when they last reviewed them–due to government restrictions on water usage.

  20. Sebastian not the blogger Says:

    Cars really sucked when the govt started making the Big Three tighten up fuel standards.

    Nowadays you can roll onto the lot and buy a 3900lb barge Ford Camaro-slayer with 400hp that will drive circles around my old 2900lb Mustang LX 5.0 and get 40% better gas mileage doing it.

    Sooner or later manufacturers will replace the crappy products you’re suffering with now with better engineered ones that aren’t stop-gap oh shit what do we do now models. I rather doubt you’re doomed to a lifetime of shitty dishwashers.

    Of all the dumb shit govt is doing these days, I gotta think we can find bigger fish to fry.

  21. SayUncle Says:

    I gotta think we can find bigger fish to fry.

    I hear that a lot. How’s that working out?

  22. Calm Gun Says:

    I have the same issues. Things don’t get clean and it’s a direct result of the Nanny state trying to micromanage every aspect of our lives whilst in reality they just manage to screw it all up.

  23. Sebastian not the blogger Says:

    I hear that a lot. How’s that working out?

    Not well. Given NDAA, SOPA on the horizon, etc…somehow I think phosphate free soap just doesn’t rate.

    “Well, my neighbor is in Guantanamo and I don’t think we’ll see him again…but wow look how clean my champagne flutes are!”

  24. SayUncle Says:

    Nah, just tell them to fuck off for both reasons. They stem from similar things.

  25. Bryan S. Says:

    Those add in finsih bits will ruin the finish on your aluminum cookware if you have it, just FYI.

  26. xyzpdh Says:

    Like others have mentioned, Finish tabs/gelpacks seem to work best these days. The glassware comes out of my Miele dishwasher absolutely spotless. This machine does have an integral water softener, so maybe that’s helping my results. But at 17 cents per tab, there’s little motivation to “brew my own”.

  27. Dr. Feelgood Says:

    We just splash half a cup of white vinegar in the d/w before closing the door. Works like a charm with homemade and store-bought detergents.

    Laundry’s a little tougher, but some added Borax (there’s already a fair amount in our homemade laundry soap) in the white load helps it keep looking a little brighter.

  28. Ruth Says:

    I would be interested in the recipes you end up using. I’ve played around with the thought several times as I seem to have allergies to the large majority of scented/dyed stuff in the stores. I end up paying for the all free/clear stuff….

  29. workinwifdakids Says:

    Nah, just tell them to fuck off for both reasons. They stem from similar things.

    Amen. Dishwashers, homosexuality, fuel standards, narcotics, guns, marriage… keep your filthy nanny statist hands out of my life!

  30. breda Says:

    I got rid of my dishwasher a while ago and found it’s actually a lot less work than the pre-rinsing, dishwasher loading, washing, hand drying (because the dishwasher doesn’t completely dry) required when you use a dishwasher.

    I miss it about as much as my television. Which is not at all.

  31. breda Says:

    MikeW and I will be over to wash your dishes shortly. And then yell at anyone who uses a glass just once and puts it in the sink..

  32. PT Says:

    another protip. Restaurants seem to be exempted from the phosphate free requirement. Makes a lot of sense, right? Phosphates for thee but not for me!

    I buy mine from a restaurant supply company now.


  33. Mr Evilwrench Says:

    Replaced my water heater myself when my old one stopped putting hot in the water. I got to set the thermostat all by myself 🙂 Only problem like that I’ve had was when the heater dumped a bunch of lime that had accumulated. Our water here is hard enough, even after processing, that you can cause a concussion by knocking someone on the head with a chunk of it. I’ve plumbed it now so I can isolate the heater, fill it with vinegar, push it out with compressed air, whatnot. I can flush it “aggressively”. Haven’t found a need for the TSP I bought, yet, though.

  34. comatus Says:

    “I rather doubt you’re doomed to a lifetime of shitty dishwashers.”

    Dishwashers are supposed to be one to a lifetime.
    I don’t move, I don’t rent, I don’t have a mortgage, and I don’t throw out my goods & chattels when almond, avocado, and greensleevery come and go from the fashion stylebook. I am not like you at all.

  35. Mike LaForge Says:

    You, sir or ma’am.. are my new personal household god(s).

    comatus Says:
    January 6th, 2012 at 10:03 pm
    “I rather doubt you’re doomed to a lifetime of shitty dishwashers.”

    Dishwashers are supposed to be one to a lifetime.
    I don’t move, I don’t rent, I don’t have a mortgage, and I don’t throw out my goods & chattels when almond, avocado, and greensleevery come and go from the fashion stylebook. I am not like you at all.

  36. mikeS Says:

    +1 for lemi shine. We use it in the little compartment that closes in the da, and put the regular, crappy detergent in the other. This will keep your stuff clean, but it won’t take that film off. For that you have to wipe every thing down using a washcloth soaked in vinegar. Btw, I make a homebrew of a quarter cup of lemi shine to a quart of white vinegar in a spray bottle, that is the best shower spray/cleaner I’ve ever used. Removes hard water and rust like no other. No scrubbing, just spray a couple of times the first time you use it until clean, then occasionally for maintenance.


    I see someone has been reading Bourbon for Breakfast, by the president of the Mises Institute.


    They keep trying to fry the bigger fish and our lives keep being more restricted. Every conservative says, “well this isn’t the hill to die on.” Well, damnit I am tired and we have run out of hills. We must not just stop these laws from being enacted, but start our forward march towards freedom.

  39. Mike Says:

    You’re making your own detergent?!

    Are you that eager for an EPA SWAT to break down your door?

    It’s time we closed the “homemade detergent” loophole!

    For the children, of course…

  40. SDN Says:

    Mike, you laugh, but I guarandamntee you that your neighbor can pick up the phone, call EPA (or its’ state / city equivalent) and get you cited for polluting the wetlands or some such damn crap if you use homemade detergent / commercial in a residential setting / etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseam, ad infinitum nauseam.

    That’s the whole point of these bullshit regulations: they’re meant to give the guvmint an excuse to bust you if you annoy a bureaucrat or someone with no life who complains.

  41. JKB Says:

    Try some Borax in the washer. You can find it at Wally World laundry aisle near the fabric softeners. As they damage the new, we have to go back old school. Works in the laundry as well.

    I recently had a pot with a burn on bottom that I thought was to take a lot of elbow grease, I poured a bit of Borax in the water, gave it a moderate deep water scrub with a plastic scrubber and it sparkled.

    A while back I made a terrible mistake of buying Finish dishwasher blocks at the warehouse store only to find out it is the most worthless product for cleaning dishes. Faced with taking the loss, I tried adding a few squirts of dish soap from the sink. You might try that as well.

  42. Zendo Deb Says:

    This is old news. They removed phosphates from detergents in the area around the Great Lakes around the time Lake Erie was catching fire. (Even though phosphates weren’t responsible for the fire, they were killing the lakes. Of course you can’t eat the fish – too many PCBs in the water. Not to mention mercury, etc.)

    Suck it up and do the damn dishes. What, you generate so much kitchen stuff – pots and pans and whatnot – because you are feeding an army every day? Then have the kids do the dishes.

    And you get to stick it too them, because doing the dishes on your own, not only gets the dishes clean, it also uses more water (and hence more energy).

    Or buy some paper plates. Your cheese sandwich (goes nicely with the whine) doesn’t need to be on the good china. Or even on the bad china.

  43. SayUncle Says:

    No. And you don’t get a say, regardless of your overly developed self righteousness.

  44. Jailer Says:

    Went out yesterday and picked up some TSP from the local hardware. Added 6% by weight to my big ole box of Arm&Hammer and it’s a win.

    Next up adding to dishwasher detergent to see how it performs there.

    Uncle even if your going to take a stab at making your own add some TSP to the mix. You’ll be happy with the results.

  45. RedDog Says:

    We boght a new dishwasher in the Spring / early Summer and concluded that it was just a crappy washer. Anxious to try some of these recommendations like the TSP. Might have some siding/deck wash in the garage that would fill the deal.

  46. Paul Rain Says:

    @Sebastian not the blogger: Yeah, but even though the new cars have effectively done nothing but return to a pre 1970s EPA garbage level of power, they cost a heck of a lot more in real dollars. Over the same sort of period of time the Model T Ford dropped in price about five times over, we get that?

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