Every day, the things you do to take care of your home have an impact on the environment. Turning on the lights, heating the oven, keeping the fridge running, washing clothes, and taking showers—all of it affects the world around you in many different ways.
One thing you may do daily—run the dishwasher—can affect the health of rivers and lakes for many miles around your home. That’s because some chemicals your detergent uses can find their way back into our streams—even after being treated at waste treatment plants.
One of those chemicals, chlorine bleach, is a major ingredient in many dishwasher detergent formulas. Even after the water treatment process, chlorine bleach can show up in waterways in a compound that is harmful to humans and animals.
Another substance commonly found in dishwasher detergent can also have a big, noticeable impact on the health of our waterways. It’s phosphorus, in the form of phosphates.
The Problem with Phosphates
Phosphates have been commonly used for decades in dishwashers. They soften the water your dishwasher is washing with, making the surfactants more effective at loosening and lifting away dirt and grime. They’ve been the choice of dishwasher detergent makers for many years because they’re cheap and effective. Why look anywhere else when you have something that works just fine? For the past decades, many companies have relied on phosphates because finding an alternative to them would take money to research and time to innovate. Economically, it makes sense to use them.
Environmentally, however, phosphates aren’t a good choice at all. They aren’t finished when they’ve softened the water inside your dishwasher. Once your dishwasher drains, those phosphates find their way into the waterways. That’s where they do their damage.
When phosphates get into a river or lake, they can cause eutrophication—excess algae growth in the water. That algae eventually dies and begins decomposing. The algae’s decomposition process depletes the oxygen in the water, leaving zones with little to no oxygen. That in turn leads to the death of fish and other animal and plant life, upsetting the delicate ecological balance underwater.
A Spotty Track Record
In the past 2 years, many states in America began considering legislation to prohibit the use of phosphates in dishwasher detergents—similar to how phosphates were banned from laundry detergents in the early 1990s. In response, some of the large detergent manufacturers have begun placing detergents that contain only trace amounts of phosphates on supermarket shelves.
But these new detergents’ cleaning results have been short of stellar. Without phosphates, detergents that were once dependably effective are now leaving spots and streaks all over dishes. Complaints have poured in from customers—including stories about dishes being dirtier after the wash than they were going in, and dishes coming out covered with a white film. The manufacturers are scrambling to improve their formulas or risk losing valuable business.
Clean Dishes, Healthier Environment
For the millions of people who have relied on these detergents for many years, such an abrupt loss of cleaning power leaves them wondering where to turn next. After all, we all want clean dishes. That’s important to our families and guests. We don’t want to have to pre-wash or “post-wash” our dishes, either, just to avoid streaks, spots, or food remnants and unpleasant residues.
What’s the best solution? Find a dishwasher detergent that gives your dishes the spotless clean you want without using chemicals that can harm the safety of your home and the environment—a detergent like Diamond Brite®, which has been phosphate-free since 1994, and contains a proven and perfected formula based on naturally derived enzymes and surfactants.
Of course, that’s just one solution for taking care of your home and the world around you. Paying attention to what you are putting back into the environment, whether it’s through running your dishwasher, cleaning your bathroom, or taking out the garbage, can have a real effect on your family’s wellness. Conserving energy, using non-toxic, biodegradable cleaners, and reducing the amount of waste you send to the landfill will pay rich dividends in a cleaner, healthier world around you.