Hazy silverware? Filmy dishes? You're not alone

It's pretty clear. Cloudy glasses and chalky dishes have been a headache for a number of our readers.

In fact, a recent peak in dishwasher-related complaints, 54 in October alone, prompted Pinellas County Utilities to produce an educational video on the topic, said David Baker, spokesman for the department.

Officials say the problem is linked to the area's traditionally hard water and newly reformulated dishwasher detergents. To comply with environmental regulations, manufacturers recently removed all but trace amounts of phosphates from their products.

Phosphates keep minerals from clinging to dishes, but when they drain into lakes and streams, they can lead to an overgrowth of vegetation and damage wildlife habitats.

Some people were frustrated that detergent manufacturers didn't inform them about their plans to reformulate detergents and about how the change might affect them. Many found out about the issue by reading the newspaper.

"If they had told us," said Ruth Humphries, 65, of Hudson, "we would have known to do something."

Since the St. Petersburg Times began reporting on the issue two months ago, more than 60 people, from Hudson to St. Petersburg, have called and e-mailed the paper. Some had experimented a bit and offered up their own fixes.

Kaye Halter, who lives in Clearwater, said she realized her water wasn't hot enough after reading her dishwasher instruction manual. She adjusted the water temperature and then used Comet soft cleanser to remove the haze from her silverware and glasses.

"It has not come back," wrote Halter, 81.

Several readers said they've had great luck with dishwasher additives aimed at removing the film from dishes and glasses. Others swear by dumping a cup of white vinegar into the bottom of the dishwasher.

A few readers found relief by switching detergents. But not everyone agrees on what's best.

Katie Eyler raves about a tablet dishwasher detergent made by one popular manufacturer. Others say they've gotten great results from gels or packets.

Colin Povey, who also lives in Clearwater, said using two different detergents does the trick. He puts a bit of powder detergent in one cup of his dishwasher and some "green" detergent in another cup.

"Neither by itself worked well, but the combo is great," said Povey, 55.

In September, Consumer Reports cautioned consumers against buying by either brand or formula. Various formulas by the same manufacturers ended up all over the ratings. Tablets and packets generally scored higher, but the magazine warned that it was too soon to tell whether that trend would continue.

Once you find the perfect detergent, it may not be a good idea to stock up. Turns out freshness matters. The new video by Pinellas County Utilities suggests buying smaller packages because dishwasher detergents can lose their effectiveness.

.Fast facts

To learn more

Want to find out how to clear up cloudy dishes?

Check out Pinellas County Utilities' tips and video at pinellascounty.org/utilities/dishes.htm.

Hazy silverware? Filmy dishes? You're not alone 11/30/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 30, 2010 8:56pm]

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