The issue seems to be that the formula for dishwashing detergent was changed in order to have a lesser impact on the environment. It may be gentler on the planet, but it appears not to be doing its job on glassware.
This situation has its parallels in low-flow toilets, paints without volatile organic compounds, and lead-free solder. Trying to be first on the market, manufacturers jumped the gun in releasing products before the bugs were worked out, leaving consumers wary and looking for black markets in the older models.
As time went on, all three improved markedly. And so will dishwashing detergent.
A lot of my readers offered their recommendations for getting rid of these spots, so here goes:
Alice Choper from Exton was about ready to toss the cloudy glasses but tried handwashing them with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, and was successful. Her engineer-husband suggested changing dishwasher detergent.
Alan M. Rothman offers a scientific approach: The retired chemist was ready to call a repairman when he read an article in Chemical & Engineering News about the problem. "Apparently, as a result of federally mandated removal of phosphates in dishwasher detergents, some manufacturers were having problems coming up with satisfactory formulations," he said. The article rated two brands as the most successful: Cascade pouches and Finish 4 in 1 tablets. Both worked. In Florida, Publix brand detergent also worked.
Her e-mail "handle" is Avalon: "Nothing works better than pouring 1/2 gallon or more of white vinegar directly into the machine before running the cycle. Works beautifully."
Joan in Pa.: Hard water is a problem in her town, but what bugs her, and understandably so, is having to spend money on repair people who absolve the dishwasher of criminal mischief while detergent-makers dump subpar products on the market.
First repair person: Cover heating element in vinegar. Done twice, no change.
Second repair person: Use Jet Dry (already using it). Try Glass Magic and clean the dishwasher monthly with Glisten. Both provided excellent results.
Recommended detergents: Finish Quantum and Cascade complete.
No name but that's OK: After much searching on the Internet, she found an "amazing product" called Lemi Shine. It's sold at Target and Wal-Mart. After following directions, including running Lemi Shine thru an empty dishwasher first, "the glassware shines like new!"
"Not best housekeeper, but I do OK": First, she runs the loaded dishwasher's quick-rinse cycle using one heaping tablespoon of baking soda in the bottom of the dishwasher, right after she puts in a load, to prevent soils from hardening on the dishes.
She runs the full dishwasher on either the light wash or normal wash cycle. If you normally have hard-water mineral film, use whatever final rinse method you normally use - a cup of white vinegar on a short wash cycle, for example.
"This seems like a lot of fiddling, but it has multiple advantages - you use less detergent, your partially filled dishwasher doesn't develop funky smells between cycles, and both the dishes and your dishwasher interior get clean." Detergent use is down by about half, and it appears that "I'm using less water also."
Also on the list: Finish Powerball.
So, do forks and knives go top or bottom up in the dishwasher? Don't spare me that domestic story.
Questions? E-mail Alan J. Heavens at email@example.com or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies. He is the author of "Remodeling on the Money" (Kaplan Publishing).