Cleaner Water, Dirtier Dishes?
In July, 16 states adopted rules that limit phosphorus in dishwasher detergents to 0.5%. Previously, products could contain up to 8.7%, which has driven major manufacturers to reformulate their products for the whole U.S. Phosphates help dishwasher detergents clean but also boost algae growth in freshwater, threatening other plants and fish. Soaps for washing dishes by hand are phosphate-free, and phosphates have been limited in laundry detergents since 1994.
The reformulated detergents often are not as effective, especially in places with hard (alkaline) water, as is the case in much of Florida. Glassware, especially, may have a white, chalky film on it. Some consumers, unaware of the source of the problem, have changed detergents several times or even bought new dishwashers, to no avail. Using a cup or two of white vinegar or a quarter cup of borax powder to the dishwasher in addition to detergent may help, as can a citrus-based product such as Lemi-Shine.