Nope, it’s not the dishwasher…it’s the automatic dishwashing detergent!

You may have noticed that after you run your dishes through the dishwasher they end up with a film or spots or food still stuck to them. It’s been happening to me. I put dirty dishes in and I seem to take dirty dishes out. I end up having to run them through a second time or washing them by hand. My first thought was that there was something wrong with my dishwasher. Nope, it’s not the dishwasher…it’s the automatic dishwashing detergent that I’m putting into it.
As it so happens, 16 states created laws which prohibit the sale of automatic dishwashing detergent that contain more than 0.5% phosphorus. These laws took effect on July 1, 2011 in Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Since phosphates are an effective cleaning agent it was a standard ingredient in automatic dishwashing detergent. It helped with the removal of grease and food, softened water, reduced spotting and kept food from redistributing on dishes. With all the benefits it created in the dishwasher, phosphates are causing problems in the environment. Eventually phosphates end up in our local water supply – rivers, lakes, streams and reservoirs.

Here phosphates act as a fertilizer and promote plant and algae growth. Large blooms of algae form when there are excess phosphates in the water. Once their food source is depleted the blooms of algae die. As they die, bacteria feed on the dead algae and consume the water’s oxygen. This kills fish and other marine life, creates dead zones and can cause drinking water to have an odor and poor taste.

Because of these laws and the need to protect our bodies of freshwater, makers of automatic dishwashing detergent have changed their products. And they made the change across the board. It is more cost effective to change the product completely then make some with phosphates and some without. Many of these companies are now fielding questions on why these changes have been made and how to handle concerns. Concerns like why, after washing in the dishwasher, do dishes and glassware are filmy, cloudy and have spots.

The main culprit is hard water. Hard water is water that contains higher levels of calcium and other minerals. When hard water combines with detergent, it can cause dishes and glassware to become filmy, cloudy and/or have spots. The longer it continues; your dishes and glassware will become etched and damaged. Where ever you find hard water this is a common problem. Much of New Jersey has hard water, particularly in Bergen County.
Here are some tips for controlling hard water deposits

1. Fill up both dish detergent cups. More detergent may help reduce hard water effects.
2. Use a rinse aid. Modern dishwashers accommodate automatic dispensing of rinse aid.
3. Check your water temperature. Many automatic dishwashing detergent manufactures recommend a temperature of 130 degrees.
4. Consider a dishwasher with an on-board Water Softening System.

Some dishwashers include a built-in water softener that removes calcium and magnesium from the water. Some brands that make these types of dishwashers include Miele, Kitchenaid, Fisher Paykel, and Blomberg. If a dishwasher has a built-in water softener there will be a special compartment inside the dishwasher where the salt is to be added when needed. This salt compartment is separate from the detergent compartment, and generally located at the bottom of the wash cabinet (this is below the bottom basket). On most dishwashers, an automatic sensing system will notify the user when more dishwasher salt is required. If you have a dishwasher with a built-in water softener or are considering purchasing one please use the recommended water softening salt tablets because using table salt in the dishwasher’s water softening unit can damage it.

Also, as you know, not all automatic dishwashing detergents are made equal. Do your research, try different automatic dishwashing detergent products and use the one you feel works best for you. Also, try using a rinse aid or non toxic home remedies like white vinegar (for non-metal items only).

Home Remedy Tip #1: To remove film from dishes place white vinegar (2 cups) on the bottom rack of the dishwasher in a container. Load the dishwasher with the glassware and dishes that have film on them. Without any automatic dishwashing detergent run the dishwasher. Then with the detergent of your choice run the glassware and dishes through another cycle to remove any remaining white vinegar.

Home Remedy Tip #2: This one comes from my mother-in-law. She does this every time she runs the dishwasher. In one detergent compartment use your detergent of choice as normal. Fill up your second detergent compartment with Tang (keep in powder form) and leave the detergent compartment cover open. Yes, I said it…Tang. You know the orange powder the astronauts drink. If you do not have two compartments or only one cover for both compartments pour an 1/8 of a cup of Tang into the dishwasher. Load the dishwasher as normal and run them through a cycle.

Here are some other tips to help you get better results from your dishwasher:
• Scrape and rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.
• Follow the loading instructions for your dishwasher.
• Run the dishwasher when no other water is being used in your home. This will help prevent low water pressure.
• Let the hot water run for several minutes in your kitchen sink. This will bring the temperature of the water up before the dishwasher even starts.
Personally, I am going to try a couple of automatic dishwashing detergent products and see which one works best for me and my family. I applaud the changes that the companies have made to automatic dishwashing detergent.
Remember we can have a healthy environment and clean dishes!

If you need a new dishwasher, please visit Karl’s Appliance at any one of our six appliance stores, Paramus 469 Rt. 17 South (in the Verizon complex), Fairfield, Madison, Sparta, Orange and Montclair or visit us at http://www.karlsappliance.com.

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