Monday, May 9, 2011

In Pursuit of Cleanliness

I am impatient. I prefer to spend my time relaxing, going on adventures or having fun. So when we bought a new dishwasher six years ago I bought the most expensive one on the market. The one that had the commercial of a lady putting an entire cake in the dishwasher and the glass dish coming out clean. I didn't want to pre-wash my dishes or even rinse them. I have been known to put a spoon of caked on peanut butter in the dishwasher and I expect it to come out sparkling.

As time wore on I had problems with my dishwasher. They were so time consuming and traumatic that I wrote about them in a post titled "Sears". We spent nearly $400, the price of a new dishwasher. Still nothing worked. I blamed the hard water in our area. The repairman told me I was "using my dishwasher too much". It was only 4 years old. We broke down and finally bought a new 'cheap' dishwasher that still ended up costing $600.

My new dishwasher worked great for 6 months and then the same things started happening; caked on food, grainy left behind bits, filmy glassware, and white spots on all my dishes and pots. It was gross. I would hand wash the glasses, but nothing would take off the white residue on my dishes. I hand soaked, used vinegar, used CLR, everything. I started shopping around for new dishes or maybe a new dishwasher - just 15 months old.

Caskey did tons of research and discovered a dirty (pun intended) little secret. The government has banned phosphates from all detergents as of July 2010. Quietly. Households across the country (Europe too) are finding themselves with a need for a new dishwasher, dishes or having to run dishes through 2 cycles or even hand wash dishes. Its a ridiculous waste of time and money.

Remember the old Calgon commercial that showed food falling off plates and glasses left gleaming at the end of a wash? That was phosphorous at work.

It is still a must in commercial establishments like restaurants and hotels. But 17 states have already banned the product for consumers, causing most all makers of the detergent to remove it from their products, which vastly degraded their value. The detergent makers saw the writing on the wall and this time decided to get out in front of the regulatory machine, anticipating a federal ban before it actually takes place.

Most consumers are clueless as to how sometime in the last year, their dishwashers stopped working properly. They call in the repairman, who fiddles with things and announces a fix. But it is not fixed. The glasses are gritty and the plates often need to be rinsed again after washing. Many households have bought new machines or resorted to just running the dishes through twice.

The creation of phosphorous-free detergent is the real reason. As Jonathan Last explains in the Weekly Standard, the antiphosphate frenzy began in Washington State, which was attempting to comply with a Clean Air Act mandate that a certain river be swimmable and fishable. This was a problem because tests found inordinate amounts of phosphate in the river. As part of the effort to comply, the state banned phosphates from detergents. That was in 2008, but the way politics works these days, the banning spread to state after state — again with the backing of federal law

Detergent makers are getting better at making non-phosporous detergent. But its slow going.

Consumer Reports tested 24 low- or no-phosphate dish detergents and found four Recommended products. Although none equaled the excellent (but now discontinued) product that topped CR’s Ratings in August 2009, seven were Very Good.

The real answer is adding TSP to your dishwasher load. I add 1/2 tsp of TSP to every load, along with my Cascade and Jet Dry rinsing agent. My dishes now come out squeaky clean and my glasses are crystal clear. It even repaired those pots that had white spots all over them. Something that hand washing was not able to fix. TSP is a miracle component.

I am going to start using TSP on my clothes this week and see if it makes a difference. I have seriously felt like I was failing as a wife as I see yellowed and stained clothes. Something that never happened when my mom was in charge of laundry.

My own enlightenment on this issue came within the last year. Like millions of others, I had forgotten what a clean dish looked like. Dish-washing soaps, with no big announcement, eliminated phosphate from their formulas under pressure from the EPA and laws from state governments that banned them. The idea was to help the fish in their oxygen competition with algae (even though the household contribution to algae creation is negligible, and the scientific evidence on the issue of algae's effect on fish runs in all directions).

The main issue here is that Americans (Europeans too) are having their living standards systematically degraded by regulators who apparently hate our modern conveniences like dishwashers and want to drive us ever more into an impoverished state of nature.

And don't tell me that phosphate-free dish soap works just as well. It's a laughable claim. If you buy some phosphate and add a tablespoon to the load, you enter a new world once the washer is finished. Things are actually clean like you might remember from childhood. The glasses gleam, the plates squeak, and there is no oily film on all your dishes. You don't have to buy new dishes and you don't need a new washer. You only need to add back what the regulators took out. You don't need Consumer Reports. The difference is perfectly obvious, and anyone who claims otherwise is insulting our intelligence.

The sales of new home appliances have soared over the last 12 months, according to industry reports. The data are not broken down by type, but I'm willing to bet that quite a few dishwashers have been sold to unsuspecting customers who had no idea that the real problem was with the detergents, not the machines. Hardly anyone I have spoken to has understood this problem, but all confirmed the fact that their dishes are not getting clean.

Getting even less attention was this ban on TSP in laundry soap that took place in the early 1990s, apparently codified in a 1993 law. The idea, or the excuse, was to stop the increased growth of algae in rivers and lakes (phosphate is a fertilizer too), even though there are other ways to filter phosphate, home use contributes virtually nothing to the alleged problem, and there is no solid evidence that plant growth in rivers and lakes is a harm at all.

DISCLAIMER: I am all for natural non chemical things. We buy organic, no HFCS in this house. But when I wasn't using TSP we were ingesting white filmy stuff off of our dishes. And all the research I have found has shown that TSP isolate water molecules or something like that, rather than adding chemicals. In addition the phosphate pollution comes from commercial pesticide and fertilizer use - farms. Not homes where we want clean clothes and clean dishes.

Off to continue my TSP experiment . . . .

No comments:

Post a Comment