Notice on Phosphates in Dishwasher Detergent
March 9, 2011

In 2008, the Utah State Legislature, along with a number of other states, banned the use of phosphates in dishwasher detergent. Phosphates in dishwasher detergents helped water to easily shed off dishes and glasses, but it is also a nutrient that leads to the growth of algae. Rivers, lakes, and streams have been found to be rich in phosphates, and as a result, are rich in algae. As these algal organisms grow they consume the oxygen supply in the water, which then becomes oxygen deprived. When that happens, fish die. The nutrients can also encourage the growth of harmful organisms that contribute to taste and odor issues in drinking water or produce toxins that can be harmful to animals and humans.

Dishwasher detergent manufacturers were given until July 2010 to re-manufacture their products without phosphates, and as of that date the phosphate dishwasher detergents are no longer on the grocery shelves. As we have hard water, containing mostly calcium carbonate, the removal of the phosphates which would tie up the water hardness, has resulted in impacts to the appearance of our dishes after dishwasher cleaning. Dishes and glassware may appear to have a white film, grit, or spots. To accommodate this detergent change, try running the dishwasher without a heat dry cycle, or adding a rinsing agent, like Jet Dry, or vinegar. A cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle water will dissolve the film.

Recent studies have found several effective dish washer detergents without the phosphates. From Consumer Reports, July 2, 2010, “…several low-phosphate products from different brands were very good this time around. Among the top cleaners, in alphabetical order, are Cascade Complete All In 1 packs (28 cents per load), Ecover tablets (27 cents), Finish Powerball Tabs tablets (22 cents), and Method Smarty Dish tablets (21 cents).”

For more information on dishwasher detergents, their effectiveness, and impacts to the environment, visit the following links:

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Consumer Reports Finds Low-Phosphate Dishwasher Detergents That Work

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