Dishing Woes Don't Wash Away

Since July, people have been wondering why their dishes are not as clean.

“I thought I needed a new dishwasher,” said Florida resident Gloria Share. “My dishes were very very filmy. I couldn’t even use them. I had to do it over by hand.”

Share wasn’t the only one. Frank Switalski of Perla’s Appliance Plus said they were getting a lot of complaints.“We were getting a lot of service calls because people were seeing film on their dishes,” said Switalski.

Now, over 7 months later, people are becoming more aware of what the problem is, and it isn’t because of their dishwashers. After studies showed that one of the key ingredients in dishwasher detergent, phosphate, was leaking into rivers and reservoirs, decreasing oxygen for fish and plants, environmentalists took a strong stand to ban the compound from detergent.

Forced to respond to a law that passed in July for 16 states, companies like Proctor and Gamble (Cascade) went back to the drawing board to create a working product that was phosphate-free.

Consumers have spent the past few months trying every trick in the book to get their dishes back to their original shine, with some tactics causing more grief than gain.

“People have come out and bought more energy efficient dishwashers, thinking that will solve it. People have been adding more soap thinking that will solve it. But when you add too much soap, it gets pumped into the motor,” said Mumma’s Appliance owner Seagrist Grace. “People are kind of clueless about detergent.”

Switalski emphasizes that if you learn a little about dishwashing detergent, the no-phosphate problem can be remedied. “As long as the rinse aid is filled or if you use Electrosol with the power ball in the center, your dishes will come out just fine.”

Other consumers have found similar solution. “I have Lemi Shine and I put that in my dishwasher and my dishes are fine,” said Share. Lemi Shine is the latest product released by Envirocon Technologies and is completely environmentally friendly, according to the manufacturer.

Several consumers told that Electrosol has also been very effective post phosphate ban because it has working enzymes that cut grease and burnt on foods and includes Jet Dry Gel to produce shiny spotless glasses.

“I go online a pay $14 for the active ingredient and I add it to my detergent. I take satisfaction that I am defying ridiculous environmental rules,” said Marianne Sanders of Virginia. “I keep quiet about it though because everyone would be bent out of shape if they knew I was breaking the rules. There is nothing illegal about it, though. If you don’t use it, you actually use more water trying to get your dishes clean.”

When all else failed to find a phosphate substitute, many people went right back to the original ingredient -- some people are even selling original Cascade WITH phosphate on Ebay.

Will this black market for phosphate be enough to convince lawmakers to reverse the ban?

“This is just one sacrifice we have to make,” said Grace. Dennis Griesing of American Cleaning Institute also sees no sign of phosphate in the future.

“There is no reasonable expectation that they will go back.” So will the ban actually do any good for the environment if people are still finding a way around the ban? Only time will tell.