Are we willing to accept dirty dishes in exchange for lower phosphates?. Prior to last July, most detergents were around 8 percent phosphorus. Now they’re less than 0.5 percent. Combined with the new water-and-energy-saving dishwashers, dishes are coming out dirtier.
“The old dishwashers used 16 to 18 gallons of water during a wash cycle,” Segrist explains, “and used hotter water, too.” Five years ago Energy Star units arrived on the scene that use only 6 to 8 gallons of lower-temperature water. Between those changes and the new detergents, Segrist estimates that about half her customers now call in to complain about the quality of the wash. Adding to the problem is that unlike when Coca-Cola made a big to-do of switching formulas in 1985, the new dish detergents were slipped onto shelves under cover of night. “People didn’t have a huge knowledge base on how phosphate-free would affect their dishwashers,” she says, “so people didn’t know what the problem was.”