Phosphates boost not only the cleaning performance of dishwasher detergents but also algae growth in freshwater, threatening aquatic and plant life.
Given that environmental impact, a ban on phosphorus (in the form of phosphates) in dishwasher detergents took effect yesterday in 16 states: Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. The law limits the phosphate level to 0.5 percent, down from up to 8.7 percent previously. Commercial dishwashing products are not affected the ban, and limits on the phosphorus level of laundry detergents have been around since 1994.
With the new limit, manufacturers have reformulated their products for markets across the country. So we decided to test 24 low-phosphate dishwasher detergents—including dispenser products, gels, liquids, pacs, powders, and tablets from brands including Cascade, Ecover, Finish, Method, Seventh Generation, Trader Joe's, and Palmolive.
Look for our test results in the September 2010 issue of Consumer Reports, online and on newsstands at the end of July.
To help your dishwasher perform at its best and keep your items from getting damaged, use the loading tips here. And remember, hard water can affect how well your dishwasher cleans.
1. Load large items at the sides and back of the dishwasher, so that they don't block water and detergent from reaching other dishes.
2. Place the dirtier side of dishes toward the center of the machine to provide more exposure to the spray. Don't let dishes or utensils nest, or rest side by side, which can prevent water from reaching all surfaces.
3. Use the top rack for plastic and delicate items that are dishwasher safe.
4. Rest glassware on prongs to prevent breakage. And to prevent chipping, make sure that china, crystal, and stemware don't touch other items. Don't machine-wash brass, bronze, cast iron, disposable plastics, gold-colored flatware, gold-leaf china, hollow-handle knives, pewter, tin, or anything made of wood or with a wood handle.
5. Load silverware with handles down but place knives with the handles up. If your dishwasher has an open basket, mix spoons, forks, and knives to prevent them from sticking together.
6. Place items with baked-on food facedown and toward the sprayer in the bottom rack. Some newer machines have special spray jets for cleaning heavily-soiled items. Check the owner's manual for specifics on how to place items in the dishwasher.
Essential information: If you need a new dishwasher, try to take advantage of cash for appliances rebates and other incentives. Use our free buyer's guide to dishwashers and check our latest review of dishwashers and recently updated ratings of dishwashers (available to subscribers), part of our special section on kitchen remodeling.
This is all well and good for those with a dishwasher. I've just moved from a 2200 sq ft house down to less than 700 sq ft. The house is 90 yrs. old so no dishwasher and not sure I can fit one in the kitchen. So, what soap do you recommend for people who wash by hand? Not my favorite thing to do because of water usage..which I try to keep down.. but it is what it is.
Thank you for any insight.
Dishes and stainless flatware washed with a new box of phosphate free Cascade left streaky deposits of grey film on everything. Had to use white vinegar to remove them from flatware. Never had this problem before. What to do now?
In response to Judi, the Feb 2009 Consumer Reports issue recommended Ajax Lemon dish soap because it worked well and was cheaper than the other high-rated products.
What isn't discussed is how much detergent to use. Most of the dishwasher available were made before July of 2010. If you are not using tablets, how do you know how much to use. Also, the steaks on flatware is probably from the chlorine bleach in brands like Cascade.
We have been using CASCADE and getting many flatware pieces with little brown spots.
I switched from Cascade to Finish.Much better results
Can we make that "phosphorus"? That's the name of the element that's causing problems. "Phosphorous" (with a third "o") is the adjectival form.
Miserable experience with the new Cascade packets, white/greyish film all over glasses, and the dishwasher. Ran with vinegar, purchased solid rinse agent and Lemi-shine and Dishwasher cleaner. Had the repair guy out because of flecks of stuff on dishes. Entire filter filled with white stuff. I have had this Maytag for seven years. Stupid filter is not cleanable, had to order new. Will now try Finish, with the solid finish rinse aid so it is applied through each part of cycle, and will use Lemi-shine. Lemi-shine is citric acid. Some people have used Tang for the citric acid, there are many blogs concerning the new soaps, which have an untested chemical that starts with a Z. I have fairly neutral water, a bit on the hard side, but no issues with build-up anywhere in the house. Has anyone considered the dumping of all that salt for soft water into the water systems? Is that removed? Laundry soap works well, more needs to be done with the dish soaps. It took six washes to get the film off the glasses, and repair man says we have to go back to scrape and rinse like the old days, especially proteins. He is loaded with work on newer dishwashers! Make sure yours doesn't get this build-up.
I purchased a GE dishwasher in September, and have had a terrible experience with getting dishes clean. Dishes come out not only still greasy, but spotted and streaked. Even after multiple washings, the dishware is still dirty. My mugs have rims around the edge and glasses are a mess. GE repairmen have been out twice and find nothing wrong with the dishwasher. I believe my DW is a lemon. I have had all sorts of advice - that I am using not enough detergent, too much, should use the tablets, dont' use the tablets, etc. Also, since September I have gone through 2 large bottles of Jet Dry. GE called me and sent out some bags of citric acid, telling me I should add this to the wash cycle. In order to do this I would need to guess when the soap dispenser opens, add the powder (didn't say how much) and let the DW run. One problem is that the directions also say I can't put silverware in the DW when using the citric acid. It would be less effort to wash everything by hand. I'm so fed up - is anyone else having these problems? The store blames it all on the detergent and the new energy efficient machines.