(To get caught up on the story, read Chapter 1 here).
Another load in the dishwasher, this time using tried-and-true Cascade, and... uh-oh...
Lacking a professional camera and photography skills, you probably can't see what's wrong with the green mug. It has this grey film all along the inside, corresponding to where the tea was when the mug was full. It actually looked dirtier coming out of the dishwasher than going in.
This mug had more obvious issues: not only is the inside clearly not white (again, a handwash may not necessarily remove the brown tinge, but a dishwasher ought to) but there are specs of... something? ... all along the rim. Caked on, I should point out. I attempted to scrape them away with my fingernails, to no avail. This is probably food residue from the plates and bowls that once again came out just fine. If only it was a bottom rack vs. top rack discrepancy, then at least I could conclusively determine the problem. Unfortunately other items in the top alongside the mugs (small plates, bowls) emerge clean and shiny, and while plates do well in the bottom, nearby spoons and knives suffer in the cutlery basket (at least, last time). Which reminds me to update you that the knives and mug I pictured in Chapter 1 were very easily cleaned in the sink once discovered to be dirty after their time in the dishwasher.
So I'm stumped. I was hoping that using a big-name commercial brand would help sort things out. Namely, if everything turned out perfectly, I could blame Natureclean and possibly try out some other green detergents until I found one tough enough to get the job done without having to sacrifice human and environmental health. Alternatively, if this most recent load came out with equally poor results, I would assume the machine itself is really ineffective. We already know it gets an F grade for energy use!
Sadly, the results are hard to analyze. Cascade "rinses away residue, leaves dishes sparkling", in theory, and sort of managed that with most of my dishes, but not with others. Compared to Natureclean, it did much better with cutlery but had a similarly disappointing outcome with mugs. It also made the whole apartment artificially smell like lemons and irritate my nose, like a mild version of wasabi-burn (not a comforting thought considering I was merely inhaling it, not ingesting it).
Being a total novice when it comes to dishwashers - we had one growing up but used it only when more than two guests came over for dinner and we used fancy dishes - I feel very underqualified to assess the situation. Is it normal for the occasional crumb of food not to rinse away but rather to end up on other dishes? To the extent that I can't flick away those little bits with my nails? Is it okay if my mugs are stained, when those stains come out easily with a quick hand wash later? From an environmental perspective, I don't want to resort to commercial gels or powders, but I also don't want to have to waste more energy and water than I already am by washing some items in the sink. I just don't know how to avoid it. Do I throw in the towel and ask the landlord to call in a technician to take a look? Do I need to start experimenting with rinse aid? Should I attempt washing the mugs in the bottom rack? So many questions!
Do you have any ideas or suggestions?