Plumbing in the Home/Dishwashing Detergent


QUESTION: Is it better to use gel or powder dishwashing detergent?  I heard that powder detergent can crystalize in your pipes.  Is that true?

ANSWER: Karen,
I did a little search and what I found shocked me, so thanks for asking this question!  
No Gels for me anymore!

Did you know that the automatic dishwasher was invented by a woman named Josephine Garis Cochrane? She received an award for her invention at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. The company she founded to market the dishwasher to hotels, restaurants and other commercial groups was purchased in the 1920's by the Hobart Corporation. They introduced the "KitchenAid" brand name that is known today. Dishwashers under this name were introduced in 1949.

Dishwasher Tips:
-The single most important factor in getting good results is HOT WATER!!
The water must be at least 130o to work effectively. This is documented by the major manufacturers of detergents, such as Proctor & Gamble. Otherwise, greasy films will occur, along with soap residues left on glassware, etc.

- Most areas have fairly hard water, which affects the cleaning properties of detergents. Hard water is water showing above 7 grains of hardness. My Austin customers have, for example, 11-13 gr. hardness in many areas, mainly due to the limestone aquifer which supplies the vicinity. For them, I recommend filling both detergent cups full, plus using a rinse aid.
According to dishwasher industry statistics, approximately five million new dishwashers are sold each year. Many new dishwashers find homes in the 1.3 million new houses built annually. But that leaves 3.7 million other dishwashers-and most are replacing existing units that no longer perform because of lime scale, soap scum, iron and grease buildup. Based on an average cost of $400-500 for a new dishwasher, consumers are spending more than $5 million dollars each day on new dishwashers ($1.85 billion each year).

-You can determine the cause of cloudy glassware by soaking a glass in vinegar for 5 minutes. If the cloudiness is removed it is a hard water deposit and more detergent is likely needed. If the cloudiness is not removed it is a permanent condition known as etching. In this situation, use less detergent and stop pre-washing. In actuality, dishwashing detergent needs a bit of soil to work on, otherwise it will tend to foam up.

-A dishwasher does not fill completely with water. However, it must have enough water to reach the heating element, or the pump will not wash well. Let your unit fill, then check the level after the wash cycle starts.

- Every two months, run the unit with a quart of white vinegar added to the tank (no dishes or detergent for this!). This removes any deposits left behind in the tub, and actually helps keep the drain clear! Do this mainly on units with plastic tubs, since they are porous, and will absorb not only grease, but residue from the detergent.

- Use a rinse-aid, such as Jet-Dry, in your dishwasher, unless you have a water softener. In this case, do NOT use a rinse aid, and reduce your powder detergent to two teaspoonfuls. Actually, I recommend the solid form of the JetDry, not the liquid. For one thing, the liquid is harder to deal with than checking a hanging basket visually. Also, the liquid dispenser only injects a couple of drops of liquid into the unit at the end of the wash cycle. This does not take into account varying degrees of water hardness in different areas. The solid version is always working right thru the wash and rinse cycles.

-Now a word about Gel detergents:
Gel detergents are literally the scum of the earth. They create more problems than they resolve. Here we go-

Gels contain chlorine bleach (dissolves rubber seals)
Gels tend to cloud glassware, leaving a whitish film.
Gels never really rinse off of interior
Gels clog the detergent dispenser
Gels don't work well in hard water
What I'm saying here is: Always use powdered detergent!

So with that being said, guess who is never going to use Gel again, LOL!
Thanks for helping me learn something new, LOL!

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for the info, Carolyn.  You went above and beyond in your answer.  Next question.  Do you think this applies to liquid detergent for washing machines?  Are there any powder detergents out there for washing machines?  Just curious.  Thanks.

Hey Karen,
Check out this info and then you can better make the call that best suits you and your needs but from what I have read and having a septic tank, I need to stick with liquids because of the fact that the sodium sulphate in them can wreak havoc on septic systems.

Laundry detergent manufacturers have come a long way since the first box of Tide was produced more than 60 years ago. Currently, the two main types of laundry detergent are powders and liquids. For the most part, powder and liquid detergents share the same active ingredients except for the filler used. Additionally, powder and liquid detergents both have pros and cons, and since they have similar cleaning power, people usually choose which type to use based on personal preference.

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using powdered detergents:

•Pro: They're generally cheaper.
•Pro: The cardboard packaging is more eco-friendly.
•Con: Some people think they don't dissolve as well in water. This may have been a problem with some of the first powdered detergents, but these days, most powders are designed to readily dissolve in water.
•Con: Sodium sulphate can wreak havoc on septic systems.
•Con: Powders contain more chemicals compared with liquids, due to the filler.

People may or may not use liquid detergents for an entirely different set of reasons:

•Pro: The detergent is already pre-dissolved.
•Pro: You can pre-treat stains by pouring it directly onto clothes.
•Con: They're usually more expensive than powdered detergent.
•Con: They have plastic packaging, which is less eco-friendly.

I hope this helps and good luck!

Plumbing in the Home

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts




I have worked in Electrical Engineering for 30 years in power distribution and am now a Senior Electrical & Instrumentation Designer, but I am a handy homeowner more than anything else and have a lot of skills when it comes to home repairs. Bathroom remodeling, flooring, painting, reconditioning old wood items, plumbing, car repairs and troubleshooting most problems. I think of myself more of a teacher than someone that is going to tell you exactly what you have to do, but I will share as much info as I have to help get your problem fixed, so if you are not interested in learning then don't ask me a question or rate me if you don't like my answers. To me, it is all about the journey so lets share the trail for a short ride and see where it takes us! I also want to give thanks to both my Mom, who has passed and my Dad, who raised us with the "Can Do" attitude and instowed such confidence in not only my life but everyone that ever came in contact with them. You can do anything that you set our minds too if only you can break it down into pieces and just tackle one piece at a time, for the rest will fall into place.


My greatest accomplishment was finishing my first bathroom upgrades in my first home which helped me to sell my home is less than 3 days by myself with a For Sale By Owner sign and no more. Plus I got $10,000 more for it in just 4 years of owning it, now that is great equity.

I am CEO and founder of Spirit Heart Therapeutic Riding Center, inc a 501c3 Non Profit for Rescued Horses and At Risk Kids. It is because of my own Mother intervention, who stepped up and shared her own love of horses with me as an at risk child myself that she planted this seed. So this program was created and is her Legacy that I have been so guided to share with those in need. We teach natural horsemanship to both horse and child and I get to watch some pretty amazing things happen. The kids learn to overcome fears, gain confidence, self-esteem and leadership skills where the horses have a chance at a life where they are trained, loved and respected and become a part of something that saves a child looking for a place to belong. If you support my Dream in bringing this program to life then please Donate to the cause and know that you are touching so many lives by doing so. God Bless You!

Nursing School, 1 1/2 years of a 2 year RN program, 1976 US Army, Intelligence School, Image Interpreter, 1977 Thomas Nelson Community College, Mechanical Drafting, 1980 Newport News Shipbuilding, Designer Training Program, 1981 School Of Hard Knocks

Awards and Honors
Honorable Discharge from US ARMY, Certificate of Achievement for Graduating with Honor's from Military Intelligence School, Ft Huachuca AZ. Award from Planning Research Corporation for a Job Well Done, NASA/Langley. Hand Selected to be an Internal Auditor for an ISO 9000 Certification Program for one of my longest employers, Lockwood Greene, ATL, GA. Multiple Letters of Appreciation.

©2016 All rights reserved.