The Dishwasher Blues (or Crusty Whites)

Have you been noticing your dishwasher isn’t performing as well as it once did? You are not alone. Due to the banning of phosphates in dishwashing detergent (except for commercial use) in an additional 17 states this past year, most detergent manufacturers have eliminated phosphates altogether. This, coupled with the EPA mandated guidelines for water restrictions on dishwashers, has resulted in crusty white build-up in the dishwashers, not so clean dishes and cloudy glassware.

We hope that the manufacturers will be able to improve on the currently available products, but until then here is some helpful info to improve the performance of your dishwasher. Consumer Reports has rated (out of 100 possible points) the following phosphate free products as the best available:

  • Finish Quantum (tablets) 78 rating,
  • Finish Powerball Tabs (tablets) 77 rating,
  • Cascade Complete All In One Action Pacs (pacs) 74 rating.

The highest rated powder was Cascade Complete All in 1 with a 53 rating. Previously, Cascade rated much higher in the “Excellent” category, but the changes have taken their toll.

In addition to using a recommended detergent, you should also do the following in order to protect the investment of your dishwasher and enhance its performance.

  • Use a rinse aid for better drying-Jet Dry or similar. Depending on how hard your water is, you will need to clean/descale the unit every 4-8 weeks.
  • You can use Jet Dry dishwasher cleaner, Lemi Shine cleaner or simply pour 1 cup of white vinegar in the bottom of an empty unit and run a regular cycle.
  • You can also use a tooth brush soaked in white vinegar to clean the nozzles on spray arms and any lift-out filters you may have. Check your manual.
  • If you need to eliminate any scale on your glassware, you can run a regular cycle (or a delicate cycle, depending on the glassware) using ascorbic acid (vitamin C powder) or Lemi Shine instead of soap. This will also help on the hard water deposits in the machine.
  • Lemi Shine is also effective, when added to the powdered detergent in a 50/50 ratio, in keeping your glassware clear.

Keeping your dishwasher clean, rinsing your dishes as best you can and keeping on top of the cloudy glassware should help the situation. So in conclusion, before you run out and buy a new dishwasher, try these remedies. Most likely, the issue is with the detergent, not the machine.

Kitchen Floors

The selection of Kitchen floor covering for our period homes is always a challenge-we want style and durability, as well as a floor that fits in with the architecture and period of our house. Many of our homes have the original wood floor-either Douglas fir or oak strip. If the wood is in good condition it can be repaired and refinished.

If you have an active household and worry about the upkeep of wood, linoleum is a good alternative for you. I am speaking of genuine linoleum, not vinyl flooring. Linoleum has been in use for over 100 years. It was originally patented in 1860. It is made from linseed oil, rosins (from pine trees) and wood flour, all of which are readily renewable natural resources, which are calendered onto a natural jute backing. Linoleum fell out of favor with the invention of vinyl flooring and no wax coatings for vinyl. Linoleum has gained popularity in the past 20+ years when the “green” building movement began. In recent years the product has been improved with the development of factory applied finishes, which eliminate the need for a surface finish application at the time of installation. It has inherently bactericidal properties, is anti-static and very resistant to many solvents and acids, including acetone, alcohol, paint thinner and citric acid. It’s easy to maintain, is repairable, is warm and comfortable to the touch as well as inherently resistant to fire.

In addition to all of these excellent qualities, linoleum is available in a wide range of colors and patterns and the design possibilities are endless. The material can be hand cut on the job by installers for borders and simple patterns or water jet cut for more intricate patterns. Seam weld rod can be used in matching or contrasting colors to add to the design. Any motif is possible. You can match a pattern in a tile or fabric or create a custom border pattern. The subtle marbling pattern of the material itself adds to the design and is a great camouflage for dust and dirt between cleanings. Maintenance involves sweeping on a regular basis to prevent damage from soil and grit and damp mopping with the recommended cleaner. Most manufacturers have a floor finish available for use in high traffic areas once the factory applied finish shows some wear (usually after 5-7 years) or if you prefer a high gloss finish. These products are “green” as well. So if you are considering a new Kitchen floor, take a look at “old school” linoleum. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Window Coverings for Your Vintage Home

Selecting and purchasing window coverings for our vintage homes can be a challenge, especially if you want to be “period correct”. Luckily, you have many good options. Fabrics with a nubby texture such as bark cloth, linen or cotton blends work nicely, as well as velvets and damasks for more formal interiors. Patterns such as stripes, simple traditional florals or patterned cotton voiles are also appropriate. The lovely French windows many of us have are great candidates for either 1” wood blinds mounted directly on the windows or full length draperies mounted on decorative iron or wood rods and rings. You can do an overdrape with a sheer underdrape for maximum light control. Roller shades in a linen-look texture with a festive trim work well in Craftsman homes. A small self valance or a decorative fabric valance can be added to complete the look. If you have dormer windows, a tailored Roman shade works very well and can stack up to allow easy movement of the windows. Café curtains and valances on small decorative rods work well in kitchens and breakfast rooms. If privacy is an issue in these areas, a roller shade can be tucked behind the valance for total privacy.

Lining any of your window coverings with the proper lining can help tremendously with energy conservation. Depending on your exposure, you can use a standard sateen lining or step up to a flannel faced lining or blackout lining. You can also select a honeycomb type shade, which are available in a variety of sizes and insulation levels. Although they are not as “period” as some of the other options, you can add a decorative top treatment and side panels to add the period character to your room.

The correct rods are key to completing the look. There are many options available for both iron hardware and decorative wood to work with a variety of architectural styles. Shutters are a great solution for the many picture windows you find in our neighborhood, both straight and arch top, especially if you do not have the stacking space for conventional drapery on either side. As you make your selections, please keep in mind that the proper coverings can add style, save energy and protect your interior from fading, not to mention eliminating the glare on that flat screen TV!