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Friday, October 21, 2011

Update On My Bosch SHE33M02UC Dishwasher

I wrote in an update last year about having second thoughts about my Bosch SHE33M02UC dishwasher. One of the problems I mentioned in that update was the fact that soap residue was building up in the dishwasher, and causing all kinds of problems. The finish of the inside walls was completely obscured by a thick layer of white soap scum, and the sprinkler arms were getting clogged with bits of soap such that water could not come out of the sprinklers to clean the dishes.

I was quick to blame these problems on the dishwasher itself. I still think the other problems mentioned in my previous post are demerits for the dishwasher. However, the soap scum problem is not actually a dishwasher problem. It turns out, the soap scum problem is, in fact, a detergent problem!

You see, I was using a liquid detergent made by Palmolive called Palmolive Eco Gel. I was Googling around for a solution to these soap scum problems when I ran across a raft of reviews for this dishwasher detergent. And they all say the same thing: avoid this thing like the plague because it clogs up dishwashers with soap scum! You can read a lot of reviews here. And I completely believe those reviews because my experience has been identical to that of these reviewers.

It turns out that my experience with my dishwasher was the norm rather than an exception. This dishwasher detergent is formulated in such a way that it leaves behind thick layers of residue in any dishwasher it is used in. My Bosch dishwasher was working perfectly fine, it was the detergent that was killing it.

It was a revelation that I had never even considered! Obviously, I knew dishwasher detergents were all different from one another, but I thought that at the very least, they would all clean up after themselves just as they are designed to clean up dishes in the dishwasher. Turns out, my assumptions were wrong. This dishwasher detergent is BAD! Bad for your dishes, bad for your dishwasher, bad for your plumbing, bad for your peace of mind.

My conspiracy theory regarding this dishwasher detergent is that this product is the cheapest dishwasher detergent out there for a reason: dishwasher manufacturers contributed money to its formulation, and they are actively subsidizing its production, marketing and sales so that it can be sold cheap to unsuspecting consumers. Then their dishwashers go bad, and they are forced to buy new ones. And guess who they have to go to get new dishwashers?

Well, the story has a reasonably good ending, at least for me, though. Based on all my Googling, I managed to clean up my dishwasher quite well. If I had continued using the bad detergent, I probably would have damaged my dishwasher beyond repair, and might have had to get a new one. It might also have damaged my kitchen plumbing, forcing me to make more expensive repairs. I have no idea what people did in the days before the internet to identify insidious problems like this.

In case you are wondering what I did to clean up my dishwasher until it was as good as new, read on.

First thing to do is to stop using this bad dishwasher detergent. I threw out 2 full bottles of it unused, and switched to a powder detergent. You see, unintuitive as it may seem, the consensus is that liquid detergents leave a lot more soap scum behind in dishwashers and on dishes than powder detergents. The new detergent is more expensive, but at least it does what a detergent is supposed to do instead of sabotaging your appliances when you are not paying attention!

Next, I removed the sprinkler arms from the dishwasher and cleaned them out under the sink so that there were no soap particles stuck inside them to cause them to clog up. I had to use tweezers to get rid of some of the soap scum sticking to the sprinkler holes in the arms. I also cleaned out the filters at the bottom of the dishwasher (which were also clogged with soap scum and were quite disgusting to look at before being cleaned).

Next, I cleaned out the dishwasher by running it empty several times. I used CLR, Limeaway and white vinegar in generous quantities (just pour them in the dishwasher tub before closing the dishwasher and turning it on) during these empty runs to dissolve and wash away the soap scum. During these empty runs, use the highest temperature option of the dishwasher.

After the first couple of empty runs, you may notice that the sprinkler arms get clogged again. This is because the soap scum sticking to the insides of the dishwasher and the inside of the sprinkler arm itself gets partially dissolved, and comes off in chunks. Some of the smaller chunks can then get sucked into the sprinkler arms and again cause clogs. So, watch out for this, and clean out the sprinkler arms as needed. Take out the filters and clean them out also after these empty runs.

Third, I got a product called Dishwasher Magic and used it a couple of times on my dishwasher. This product comes in a sealed plastic container with a wax plug. You can't open the container to see what it contains. You just put it upside down in the silverware basket of your dishwasher and turn the dishwasher on at its highest temperature setting. During the high-temperature wash (minimum of 125 degrees Fahrenheit), the wax plug melts, and the cleaner inside the package works its magic inside the dishwasher.

I don't usually fall for gimmicks like Dishwasher Magic. But this product is actually not a gimmick. Lots of people swear by this product, and my experience with this product has made me a believer too. I now have a stock of Dishwasher Magic ready at hand to use every once in a while (the manufacturer recommends using it every month, but once in 6 months or so should be plenty from what I can see).

I have read on the internet that the main ingredient in Dishwasher Magic is citric acid. Vinegar is diluted acetic acid. So, both are acids, but I think Dishwasher Magic is more concentrated. Could be the reason why the package can not be opened, but is sealed with a wax plug that only opens up inside a hot dishwasher. Dishwasher Magic is also a disinfectant that kills salmonella, E.Coli and other gram-negative bacteria.

So, what is the state of my dishwasher after all these changes and clean-up efforts on my part? I am happy to report that my dishwasher is working perfectly since I cleaned it up. The inside is sparkling once again, with no visible soap scum anywhere. The sprinkler arms are clear of gunk, and the dishes come out well-washed without any problems. The filters are also much cleaner and I am sure the dishwasher motor and other components are working much better because they are pushing and pumping clean water through clean filters instead of working against clogged up filters and internal and external plumbing.

I am glad I did the research necessary to identify the problem as well as an effective and cheap solution. If you are facing problems with soap scum and other problems with your dishwasher, stop and look at everything that goes into the dishwasher. It is easy to blame the dishwasher for these problems, but the culprit could be something else entirely. I hope you catch the problem before it is too late, and save yourself the expense of a new dishwasher and/or new plumbing. Try the solutions that worked for me if nothing else worked. If something else worked, please do others a favor by posting comments about what worked so that everybody benefits from your wisdom and experience. Good luck!


Anonymous said...

Thank you!!!! I have the same dishwasher and have been using the same product! Great report and you may have saved me a ton of money on repair or replacement cost! Thank you again.

Anonymous said...

What dishwasher detergent do you recommend? I'm having similar issues with Kirkland liquid gel.

Blogannath said...

I use Finish All in 1 tabs. They are frequently on sale at Costco so that the cost per tab works out to about 10 cents. Still more expensive than liquid detergent, especially when I have a light load and would have preferred not to use a whole tab, but this product cleans dishes better and keeps the dishwasher clean.

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