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Dishwasher detergents: new tests find glitch 10/11
(This article is adapted from the October 2011 Consumer Reports magazine.)

Got milky white residue on your dishes? If so, you're not the only one. This problem coincides with the phase out of phosphates by dishwashing detergent manufacturers. The banned phosphorus-containing compounds are known to boost the cleaning power of detergents, but they also promote algae growth in freshwater, threatening fish and plant life. Their removal is certainly good for the environment, but as part of the latest Consumer Reports review of dishwasher detergents, the testers decided to find if the cost to you is crystal clear dishes.

23 phosphate-free detergents underwent a standard cleaning test, which involves smearing plates with a gooey mix of pudding, peanut butter, cream cheese and more; pots get baked-on macaroni and cheese. But then testers ran a second, newly developed test to check for residue and discoloring from a dozen of the reformulated detergents.

The results: Several products did very well in the standard test, proof that manufacturers can make a phosphate-free detergent that gets dishes clean. However, some residue or discoloring occurred with 10 out of the 12 detergents. In some cases there was film on the glasses, while in others, the aluminum sheets came out discolored. Both problems were reported with four of the detergents. Watch video.

Bottom line

A few products cleaned very well. Finish Powerball was especially good with pots and is very economical at 21 cents per load and Finish Quantum was top-rated. But not all products have been through the tests yet to see whether they leave glassware coated with the white film. Also Cascade Complete All in 1 ActionPacs cleaned very well and didn't leave a white film or discolor aluminum.

Other tips to make dishes sparkle:
• Use a rinse agent, which helps keep glassware spot-free, even in hard water.

• Avoid nesting silverware and make sure dishware faces the middle of the machine.

• Make sure your water is at least 120° F coming into the dishwasher.
Related links

Phosphorus ban on dishwashing detergents goes into effect in 16 states. 5/11

Dishwasher detergents buying guide.

Green product watch: Best spring cleaners. 3/11

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