Friday, April 20, 2012

What to Avoid Eating, At All Cost: Dishwasher Detergent

I've been leery about ingesting soap ever since I was about 7.  It would seem that in my first six years I never gave my mother occasion to wash my mouth out with soap. Either that or I gave her plenty of occasion but that it wasn't until my seventh year that she decided enough was enough. What happened was fairly straightforward. I don't recall what I said, but we were in the kitchen and she was washing dishes. I ran off at the mouth, she told me not to speak that way, and I thought we were good.

 It was the lack of contrition that did me in.

She waited a minute or so, then came over the table where I was sitting and asked me to open my mouth. I sensed her true motives and told her, No, I would not open my mouth because I was certain she was going to put soap in it. She said she wasn't going to...and then obviously did. Still, she had the higher ground - I was not just rude, but shameless and disobedient to boot.

Many years passed without soapy incident until this year, when I switched brands of dishwasher detergent. I had been using the generic stuff from Costco for years, but started noticing my drinking glasses were being destroyed. Finish Gelpacs came recommended so I made a change. I have a good dishwasher and normal city water but both were unable to remove the cloying chemical wash the Gelpacs left on my mugs, silcone spatulas, and glassware. Even a sip of water from a clean glass tasted, well, not soapy, but scented. Food should have flavor, not kitchenware.

After the disappointment that was the Finish gelpacs I went au naturel. I'm currently running trials on Ecover's dish washer tablets (procured at Whole Foods) and some Seventh Generation tablets that I picked up at Target - no complaints with either, tho I think I like the Ecover ones better.

Here's a bit of background on the differences between Finish and Ecover/Seventh Generation. Phosphates were banned by 17 states in 2010 because, after they get your dishes sparkling clean, they exit down the drain and into lakes and other bodies of water where they promote unreasonable algae growth that starves fish of oxygen and wreaks the balance of ocean ecosystems. Most major brands have limited phosphates to a trace and Finish can claim to be environmentally friendly since they comply.

But, most major brands do use chlorine bleach, perfumes and dyes which aren't necessarily regulated, nor are they necessarily removed fully from your kitchenware. Since Ecover and Seventh Generation produts are free of bleach, perfumes and dyes, that's what I went with. And my dishes look great.

Want to read more? 

Cleaner for the Environment, Not for the Dishes - From the NY Times 
Dishes Still Dirty? Blame Phosphate-Free Detergent - From NPR 
Phosphate-Free Automatic Dishwasher Detergents - From Good Housekeeping's Green Guide

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