Monday, April 13, 2009

Phosphate-Free Detergents

In the news last week there was a story about how people in Spokane, Washington have been crossing state lines to buy conventional dishwasher detergent now that phosphates have been banned in Spokane County. The argument is that the phosphate-free or more eco-friendly detergents do not work as well.

The reality is that by Summer 2010 all of us living in Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington will be required to buy phosphate-free detergent.

So what is the big deal with phosphates anyway? Phosphates are great at binding with food particles to keep them suspended in water. This way the food left on your plate doesn't end up on a glass or fork in your dishwasher. Unfortunately, phosphates cause algae blooms that can suck oxygen out of the water and cause toxins to be released into streams and lakes putting fish at risk.

Those already dealing with phosphate-free detergents complain that they don't work well if you have hard water. Industry experts admit that they do not have powerful enough detergents yet, but the Soap and Detergent Association has supported the 2010 date and are working on more better alternatives.

Keep in mind that phosphates were no longer included in laundry detergent as of 1993. It has taken a little longer to figure out how to remove them from dishwasher detergent and still provide a satisfactory cleanser, but we will all get used to it. In the long run cutting down on chemicals like phosphates will help us all, but change is difficult for some.

According to the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, Palmolive has a non-phosphate gel while Cascade and other manufacturers are close. Of course there are eco-friendly manufacturers like Seventh Generation, Method, Ecover, Shaklee and more that offer phosphate-free detergents.

Now would be a great time to start experimenting with green household cleaners and detergents if you haven't already. It is definitely the wave of the future so spend some time trying out different brands. You will surely find something that works for you and knowing that the industry is working to make safer, more effective detergents gives us something to look forward to as well.

Please let us know if you have a favorite eco-friendly dishwasher detergent. I am interested and I know the rest of our readers will be as well.



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