Some of you may have noticed that there has been a change in the formula of your Automatic Dishwashing Detergent, others may have just picked up a new box as usual, without paying much attention. Sixteen states including: Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, have instituted strict restrictions on the amount of phosphorus that automatic dishwashing detergents can contain. After July 1, 2010 stores in these states were no longer allowed to stock the old formulas and had sixty days to liquidate the old style.
The goal of the restriction is reduce the amount of phosphorus entering the water supply. Phosphorus isn’t a dangerous chemical, but it can significantly contribute to the growth of algae, acting as a fertilizer. The over-growth of algae, or an algae bloom as it is called, can reduce the oxygen content of water, impacting other aquatic life. (Before you ask, yes there are bans coming for phosphorus in fertilizer, too).
Rather than create two product lines most, if not all, manufacturers are voluntarily complying with the new guidelines in all states and Canada which also instituted the change.
With the sixty days over and consumers restocking their home supplies some people are just now noticing the change, especially in areas with hard water. If you’ve noticed a difference in your dishwasher’s performance, it may be the new formula. Phosphorus helped keep minerals suspended in the water, allowing the detergent to work more efficiently on food particles. If you’ve noticed a decline in your dishwasher’s performance reread the label’s guidelines rather than running on auto-pilot as most of us are prone to do.
In most cases it’s simply time to do a better job scraping plates, even soaking in some cases. If you’ve never needed rinse-aid in the past, you may now. You can check the ingredient list of your rinse-aid, but citric acid is usually one of the main ingredients. You can also further ensure you’re still being environmentally friendly by buying a brand that is also phosphate free (I’m unsure if the voluntary ban includes rinse-aids.
Also consider that if you were running on auto-pilot, your dishwasher may have mineral build-up in the spray arm which also reduces its cleaning effectiveness. You can remove this by running an empty load with either two cups of vinegar in the wash tub or a packet of lemon Kool-Aid. They do sell packets of citric acid, but Lemon Kool-Aid is quite inexpensive and easy to find. The acidity of the vinegar or lemon drink mix can help dissolve the mineral build-up. If the build-up is extensive, you may need to use a baby’s bottle brush (the tiny one), a brass instrument mouthpiece cleaner from your band geek days, or a pipe cleaner -check an actual tobacco store. (Chenille stem is the new PC term for the crafter’s version, not what I mean here) to clear any blockages. In most cases you can remove the spray arm to clean it, rather than crawling into the dishwasher.
Naturally I suggest you check your manual to avoid breaking anything.
In an amazing series of coincidences, we replaced our dishwasher -the tub had cracked and was leaking into the sub-flooring, good times- and detergent at the same time. I had been blaming the new dishwasher for the gritty feel on our glassware. Once I added a rinse-aid the problem resolved itself.
Have you noticed a change in your dishwasher’s performance?
Don’t forget, you can send your household questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.