NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


| Share

Less Phosphate in the Kitchen

Less Phosphate in the Kitchen


          Recently, members of the American Cleaning Institute, a trade group whose membership includes manufacturers for the vast majority of the nation’s detergent market, voluntarily agreed to reduce the amount of phosphorous in dishwasher detergents.


          The voluntary action is the result of a team effort by the detergent industry and lawmakers across the country. This supplements the legislative ban on phosphorous in at least seventeen U.S. states (including Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin) and similar restrictions in Canada.


          Although phosphate was removed from the major brands of laundry detergent by 1993, it took longer for manufacturers to develop dishwasher detergent products with only trace amounts of phosphate. Because of the different role phosphorous plays in cleaning in the low water, no suds dishwasher conditions, removing phosphate from dishwasher detergent presented manufacturers with a difficult challenge in reformulation.


What did phosphate do?

When used in automatic dishwashing detergents, phosphate helped to remove food and grease, reduce spotting and filming, control water hardness and suspend the bits of food so they were not redistributed on your dishes.


What impact does phosphate have on the environment?

Phosphate supports the growth of plants, including algae. When too much phosphate is present, excessive amounts of algae can develop. This may lead to undesirable water quality impacts, including reductions in aquatic life, and poor taste and odors in drinking water.


So, is reduced phosphate dishwashing detergent better for the environment?

Scientific studies demonstrate that a noticeable improvement in water quality would be affected only through decreases across all phosphorus-contributing sources, including fertilizer (residential and agricultural), construction run-off and poorly-treated municipal sewage.




What causes filming on glasses?

Filming may be due to improper loading, too much or too little detergent or water that is not hot enough.  In our area of the country, filming is most often due to hard water.


How can I prevent filming?

To help prevent filming, read the dishwasher use and care manual, make sure no items block the dishwasher sprayer arm to ensure enough water reaches the dishes and that the water temperature is at least 120 degrees. Also using a rinse aid may help minimize spotting and filming on dishes.  Installing and using a water softener so that the dishwasher is using soft water for its cleaning process can make an enormous difference in the life span of your glassware.


How can I remove film that is already present?

For non-metal items, try a vinegar wash. Put two cups of white vinegar in a bowl and place on the bottom rack of the dishwasher. Run the glasses/dishes through a cycle with no detergent. Re-wash with your detergent to remove residual vinegar.


Creative Commons License
Feel free to use and share this content, but please do so under the conditions of our Creative Commons license and our Rules for Use. Thanks.