January 23, 2017

Phosphate Free Dishwasher Detergent – The Saga Continues…

Back in July ’10 we published a story about sixteen states banning phosphates from dishwasher detergent. Detergent manufacturers have reacted to that ban by removing all but trace amounts of the chemical from their dishwasher detergents.

The response to that article has been loud and clear – the new formulas are a failure.

Phosphates are chemicals responsible for serious cleaning. Phosphorus debates in the cleaning industry began 40 years ago. By 1993, major manufacturers had stopped using it in laundry detergents, says Dennis Griesing of the American Cleaning Institute, a trade association in Washington, D.C. Automatic dishwasher detergents weren’t part of the change because phosphorous was more critical to the cleaning process.

“Phosphorus likes to bind to things,” Griesing explains. “It’s a very sociable element. It would hold soil from plates and glasses in suspension in the water and prevent redeposition.”

But in 2006, when the state of Washington first voted to limit phosphates in automatic dishwasher detergents, manufacturers saw the writing on the wall. Washington’s law, which reduced the allowable amount from nearly 9 percent to a mere one-half of 1 percent, became the standard for other states.

To get rid of residue on glasses and nonmetal dishes, the institute recommends placing two cups of white vinegar in a bowl on the bottom rack of the dishwasher and running the items through a cycle with no detergent. Rewash with detergent to remove residual vinegar.

Of course, this means using more water, another environmental no-no.

Consumer Reports has suggestions for frustrated consumers, besides doing testing to find the best low-phosphate detergents. Its tips to maximize the effectiveness of dishwashers include loading large items at the side and back so they don’t block water and detergent, placing the dirty side of a dish toward the center of the machine and placing items with baked-on food facedown and toward the sprayer in the bottom rack.

As for CR’s recommended detergents, they are:

Cascade Complete All-in-1 ActionPacs ($7.50, 26-count package)

Finish Powerball Tabs ($6, 20-count package)

Finish Quantum ($13, 45-count package)