Sustainability | Water | Ecotrope

Cleaner rivers = dirtier dishes

Ecotrope | Dec. 15, 2010 6:46 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:43 p.m.

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If your dishes seem dirtier, it might not be your dishwasher's fault. A ban on phosphates in dishwashing detergent – designed to protect freshwater bodies – has some complaining that they want their old detergent back.

If your dishes seem dirtier, it might not be your dishwasher's fault. A ban on phosphates in dishwashing detergent – designed to protect freshwater bodies – has some complaining that they want their old detergent back.

I had to post this because this has been another topic of discussion at my house. Why the heck isn’t the dishwasher getting our dishes clean anymore?

If you’re having a problem with food and grime left on your dishes after the wash cycle is through, it could be because of a ban on phosphates in dishwashing detergent.

Oregon is one of 17 states that have banned phosphates from detergents because the chemicals also pollute lakes, bays and streams. They create algae blooms and starve fish of oxygen.

As NPR reports, phosphates are “wonder ingredients” that strip food and grease from dishes and prevent grime from reattaching during the wash.

To avoid producing multiple products for different states, Proctor and Gamble removed phosphates from all its products and now recommends that people wash their dishes by hand if they’re having too much trouble getting their dishwashers to do the trick.

Some say the end result is not an “environmental win” because people will end up having to rinse their dishes before putting them in the dishwasher (using more water) or running the wash cycle twice (using more water and electricity). But others say the phosphate-free detergents will get better as the industry adjusts to the ban, and it’s really just part of a larger adjustment more and more people are making to ensure a healthy environment.

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