I started using environmentally friendly dishwasher detergents in the ‘90s and I must say: the products have improved leaps and bounds since then. Not only is the selection of brands better now, but the products are more sophisticated, performing with less soap. It’s also true that I am using better dishwashers now than I did in the 90s, which certainly helps. Rinsing dishes well gives detergents a leg up—after living with a septic system for years, this is automatic for me (excess food particles overload onsite sewer systems which accounts for why most septic tanks don’t have garbage disposals attached).
Why use the cleaners that are free of chlorine and phosphates? Whatever we mix with the water that goes down our drains ends up in our water sources—ground water, rivers, lakes, the ocean. Chlorine is quite toxic to aquatic life and phosphates cause algae to proliferate like crazy, stealing oxygen out of the water and in effect, suffocating fish and other life in the water. Likewise, these chemicals have the same effect on onsite sewer systems, killing the beneficial organisms that break down affluent in the septic tank and ending up leaching out into drainfields and hence our ground water. Phosphate free and biodegradable detergents are recommended for the proper functioning of such systems.
Of the dozens of brands I have used, I have two favorites, one of which I was introduced to this year in a Consumer Reports article on the best dishwasher detergents, the other I have been using for many years. Method® Smarty Dish non-toxic dishwasher detergent tabs was the only phosphate free dishwasher detergent that Consumer Reports recommended. I have been using it for months now and am impressed with its performance. Biokleen® phosphate and chlorine free automatic dish powder with natural oxygen bleach is one that I have been using for a much longer time, and it works well.
Speaking of onsite sewage systems and dishwashers: the traditional recommendation for dishwasher detergent with septic tanks has always been to use liquids (in the clothes washer, too) as the powders used in quantity have a tendency to stick to the insides of pipes and clog them. The new generation of dish and laundry powders is easier on tanks because they are concentrated, i.e., they contain less filler. Unfortunately, I have yet to find any environmentally friendly liquid dishwasher detergents that work as well as the powders. Bargain brands of any powdered detergents should be avoided with onsite sewer systems because of their propensity to use fillers.
Upcoming for VIVA VERDE: my favorite environmentally friendly laundry detergents.