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New Detergent Is New, Far From Improved

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When new laws against phosphates in dishwasher detergent took effect in 16 states this summer, America’s detergent makers switched over to low-phosphate formulas to comply nationwide. But like federally mandated low-flow toilets that save water but prove clog-prone, the new products are frustrating consumers with their tendency to leave spots on dishes.

One woman, Joyce Bohn of Lancaster County, Penn., told her local news station that when her glasses started coming out cloudy, she assumed the dishwasher was broken and dropped $759 on a new one.

When that didn’t make a difference, she called Procter & Gamble, which makes the Cascade powder she’s been using for 20 years. A representative told her stop using the powder because customer complaints indicated the new formula doesn’t work.

Though phosphates are a great cleaning agent, they also promote algae growth when they reach fresh-water systems. Those algae blooms have wreaked havoc on commercial fishing in the Great Lakes in recent years, while interfering with drinking-water treatment plants in the Midwest by clogging intake pipes.

Bohn reported that a switch to Cascade gel fixed her dirty-glasses problem. For what it’s worth, Consumer Reports disagrees; in last month’s issue, the magazine rated the new detergent formulas, and Cascade powder and gel rated 45 and 36 out of 100 respectively.

While Consumer Reports noted that none of the new low-phosphate products matched the best of last year’s batch, it did give high marks to new Finish tablets and Cascade pacs. So you might want to check those out before you start looking to black-market Mexican detergent for spotless dishes.
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