Frigidaire vs. Method et al in the Epic Battle for Clean Dishes

The Culprit:

Frigidaire Ultra-Quiet (but louder than my old Bosch) III

The Contenders:

A selection of readily-available eco dishwasher detergents

Having just moved into a lovely apartment with a brand new high-efficiency, low-water use dishwasher built in, I was really looking forward to just loading it up and letting it sit for 3 days until full, like I always do. This dishwasher is being compared against three others. One is a very cheap baseline model, another is over 10 years old, and the third is a brand new Bosch I used for a few years before moving.

All three of those dishwashers happily worked with both Trader Joe’s and Method, delivering sparkly clean dishes, even after a few days of sitting barely rinsed. Yet these venerable cleaning brands have met their match. Having read the owner’s manual, looked up the water hardness rating for my area, and called Frigidaire customer service, I was determined to get to the bottom of this.

Frigidaire’s recommendations, and a solution of sorts

The representative recommended I not use tablet detergent, so I Osterized an entire bag of Method tablets, and still got sad results. She also suggested I clean the dishwasher by running a cycle empty (the horror!) with a cup of vinegar, as also recommended on ecolocalizer. This didn’t make much of a difference. Of course all of these brands got the requisite hot water and were on Normal wash, and used the same brand of rinse aid throughout, Earth Friendly Products. The Frigidaire rep told me that the amount or brand of rinse aid doesn’t matter so much, but told me to set it to dispense a medium amount. I also tried using less detergent, as she’d recommended. Less detergent, more detergent, it didn’t seem to matter. All of them left soap scum and worse on my dishes. The only brand that actually worked in this environmentally-friendly dishwasher was Cascade, which is not photographed because I pilfered some from the office in a plastic baggie and used it all up.

The Frigidaire Ultra Quiet III uses only 6 gallons per normal cycle, compared to as much as 15 gallons for an older dishwasher, or more for handwashing. Here in Southern California, where most water is imported from hundreds of miles away, or even reclaimed, conservation is critical. I want to use detergents that don’t cause undue stress on the water reclamation cycle, but it seems I may have to depend on the city’s capacity to filter out and safely dispose of the phosphates and all in Cascade. At least until Method (or one of the other eco brands) finds a way to get this dishwasher to quit slacking.

The worst of the results from all but Cascade:

What’s your favorite eco dishwasher detergent? What would you recommend?

Written by Susanna Schick

Susanna is passionate about anything fast and electric. As long as it's only got two wheels. She covers electric motorcycle racing events, test rides electric motorcycles, and interviews industry leaders. Occasionally she deigns to cover automobile events in Los Angeles for us as well. However, she dreams of a day when Los Angeles' streets resemble the two-wheeled paradise she discovered living in Barcelona and will not rest until she's converted the masses to two-wheeled bliss.


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