Have you noticed that over the last year or so, your dishes aren’t quite as clean as they used to be out of the dishwasher? On July 1st, 2010, sixteen states banned the use of phosphates in dishwasher detergent. The affected states include Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, but many national detergent brands chose to change their formulations to be phosphate-free, even for the remaining 34 states. This means that whether you treat your water with the EasyWater No-Salt Conditioner, a traditional softener, or nothing at all, you will need to pay more attention to your dishwashing routine in order to see the results you had with the old detergent formulations.
According to Cascade’s website, phosphates were originally included in detergent formulations in order to aid in the removal of food and grease from dishes and glassware. They are powerful cleaning agents, but that power comes at a big cost to the environment. In addition to their role as cleaning agents, phosphates also help plants grow (phosphorous is the “P” in N-P-K on a bag of fertilizer.) Wastewater treatment plants do not remove all of the phosphates before wastewater is discharged to waterways, so this excess phosphorous has led to algal blooms in local bodies of water. These algal blooms pollute lakes and streams, and also kill fish by depleting oxygen from the water.
As much as we love sparkling dishes, we are absolutely passionate about clean water. That’s why we create water treatment products designed to work without the use of salt or chemicals, and with minimal impact to our environment. We consider the removal of phosphates from dishwasher detergent a step in the right direction, but we will all have to be a little bit more intentional about getting dishes clean in the short term, until detergent manufacturers have had a chance to perfect new formulations. In the meantime, you might want to try one or more of the tips below.
1. Try a well-known brand of eco-friendly detergent. These detergent brands have been phosphate-free for years, and have had more time to perfect their formulations.
2. Pour 1 cup of white vinegar into the bottom of the dishwasher prior to running a load. The vinegar will help remove water spots, but will typically not aid in food removal.
3. Use 1 tbsp Lemi Shine in the detergent cup of the dishwasher. Lemi Shine is a natural product designed to make glassware sparkle.
4. Experiment with different amounts of detergent. If your dishes are coming out of the dishwasher with food residue, increase your detergent use. If you are seeing a filmy haze on your dishes, decrease the amount of detergent you use.
5. Scrape the food off of your dishes, then rinse them, prior to loading the dishwasher. It’s best not to completely clean your dishes prior to loading them into the dishwasher or you might experience issues with detergent haze.
6. If you’re not happy with the results you see from commercial dishwasher detergents, try making your own! There are many recipes available online that use ingredients that are natural and readily available.