dealing with the dishes

tips for tuesday
notes from maggie's farm

Dealing With the Dishes

We have some hard, hard water out here.

Moving in is a pretty hectic affair, with loads of extra glasses and containers sitting around on every surface as precious things find their way to new homes.  What's called for is a quick trip through the dishwasher--a handy time-saver we reserve for these types of days when time, and patience, is short, and hand-washing them all is just a daunting task.  But, oh the joy, of having the magical machine to expedite the process.

Or so you would think.  After a night tucked in by the comforting whirrrr of the dishwasher clicking through it's cycles, I awoke, that first morning in our new home, anticipating the quiet joys of creating order of the day--putting on the coffee (oh yes, the coffee accoutrement always makes it's way to the new home in the front passenger seat of the car, reserved for the most needed, most-if-we-can't-find-it-nothing-can-be-done items.  Toothbrushes, toilet paper, coffee.  Of course.), and unloading the dishwasher.

Creak, opens the dishwasher door, unused, it appears, for quite some time.  And what should my wondering eyes view?  Two racks of previously clear glassware, turned a completely opaque, chalky white.

Yes, it seems we have some hard, hard water out here.

Hoping to find an economical solution that's easy on the environment, the septic tank, and the pocketbook, I took pencil to paper, along with no small amount of homesteading research, crunching the numbers and dealing with the dishes in a variety of ways.  This is my solution.

20 Mule Team Borax and Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda, found in the laundry aisle of your local grocery, (Early on, I had to special order the washing soda through the grocery manager.  They carry it regularly now.  You may also find it at your local hardward store.) and mixed in equal proportion.  I fill a sturdy storage bag about 3/4 full, and then mix, shake, massage, and co-mingle until well blended, then I fill my old, empty (quite expensive, and ineffective) dishwasher detergent container with the goods.  I use two tablespoons per load.  The savings. less than staggering, will not pay for college tuition, per se, but upon a bit of 'ciphering', I determined that the thrift per (wo)manhour equaled about 18 dollars per hour. Way over minimum wage.  Plus, I think my label is cuter than theirs. Sold.

Then, since this hard, hard water needed an extra kick (or 10), I played around with rinse agents.  Tried all the usual suspects, which were costly, and, again, ineffective, and took to the books again for the 'experts' opinions.  There was no dishwasher in the Walton's home, so no use checking the depression era research, but right (it's been previously documented that I scour every past episode for little-known homesteading gems, usually shared by Grandma) about 1970, some lucky farm wives began writing about dishwashers, and I found, among their expert opinions, they swore by that magical concoction, vinegar.  Simple white vinegar.  (Since then, vinegar has become a precious elixir on the farm, softening clothes, killing weeds, polishing glass, repelling fleas, and maybe just doing a little pickling, along the way.)  One half cup vinegar, added to the rinse cycle, eradicates the chalky residue from all the dishes, the the dishwasher interior, to boot.

With each remedy, less is more.  Use no more than 2 T of powder, and no more than 1/2c of vinegar.  Any more is simply wasteful, not more effective, and on occasion, troublesome.

I've been experimenting with dish-washing soap for hand washing the dishes, and I have to say, Fail.  I admit to being a little hoodwinked with the addition of sudsing agents in store-bought brands, although I know they have nothing to do with cleaning, however I haven't found an effective, grease-cutting solution yet.  I welcome your suggestions.  And I'm still in the lab.  I am determined to find a suitable, economical alternative to store-bought, or at least exhaust every option in the testing.  But honestly, Dawn is winning this race right now, her and her lovely neon-hued colors, darn it.  Dawn, watch your back.  Your days are numbered.

Or maybe not.  I'll keep you posted.

What are your favorite homemade thrifts?


  1. We have a similar problem with the hard water in SA. We use a product called, "Lemon Shine". I have to use it during every load if I don't want white spots all over the glasses. Vinegar is also our stand by.

  2. I saw someone mention using unsweetened lemonade packets. I wonder if it's the citric acid that works?

    1. Could be. When I read the label it said, "Made with real fruit acids and natural oils". PS I think your label is pretty darn cute!

  3. I recall for years mom would get a bar of this brown soap..I can't recall the name, and we would use it for dishwashing (hand washing of course...we still don't use a said having 6 kids, we were the dishwasher..) But the bar soap was good, and it was cheap, but so not convenient like Dawn or her buddies.

    1. I wonder if that was Fels Naptha? One thing I've been looking for is one of those old wire soap holders with the handle. You just swish it around in hot water to make soapy water.

  4. It's funny I thought I used my costco size vinegar for so many things-Yet never used it in my dishwasher WHAT was I NOT thinking! Thank you-I plan on trying this on the load going in. Oh and I do love the pretty label far better than those store bought kind. *wink*

    1. That label kinda makes me smile when I use it--it's the little things. lol


Thank you for visiting Notes from Maggie's Farm. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...