New era: Dishwash detergents ranked
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Manufacturers of dishwasher detergents have done their duty and removed most phosphates from their products to meet rules effective July 1 in several states, including Pennsylvania.
While the new products are designed to help keep the environment clean, the real test is whether they clean dishes as well.
Although none of the new products handle baked on mac-and-cheese quite as effectively as the previous top ranked detergents with phosphates, companies are starting to figure it out, according to test results published in the September issue of Consumer Reports magazine.
Two Finish products -- Quantum and Powerball Tabs -- topped the list by scoring "very good" ratings overall. Made by United Kingdom-based Reckitt Benckiser, the Powerball Tabs were rated a "best buy" based on an excellent score on cleaning dishes and pots, and a price of 22 cents per load compared with Quantum's 30 cents per load.
Meanwhile, two products in Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble's Cascade line -- Cascade Complete All in 1 (28 cents per load) and Cascade with Dawn ActionPacs (23 cents per load) -- came in third and fourth place with San Francisco-based Method's Smarty Dish (21 cents per load) rounding out the top five. All were given ratings of "very good."
Finding that many low-phosphate products that can do one of the nastier jobs in the kitchen is an improvement, according to Consumer Reports. "Indeed, the handful of low-phosphate products we tested for our last dishwasher-detergent report tended to perform worst overall," said the article in the magazine.
Late last year manufacturers were still running piles of dirty dishes through their machines, trying to find formulations to meet the new requirements. Originally some bans were to go into effect earlier but the Washington, D.C.-based American Cleaning Institute, formerly the Soap and Detergent Association, helped get the requirements delayed until mid-2010.
Phosphates, seen as a problem in causing excess algae growth in rivers and streams, were banned years ago from most laundry detergents. The additive helps soften water and prevents things from redepositing on dishes.
So far, the national rollout of reformulated products seems to have gone smoothly, said Dennis Griesing, vice president of government affairs for the Cleaning Institute, in response to an e-mail inquiry.
He said reports of some older products found on store shelves past the ban deadlines have been minimal. "New product started entering the market in January in some cases and continued through the spring," he said.
"All in all, it came off very well actually."
There have been some complaints on blogs and online discussion sites about detergents that don't work as well as in the past, but even that seems to be subdued so far.
Testers at Consumer Reports got their results by smearing pots and plates with a mix of 17 foods and then baking on the foods. Dirty dishes were put through identical dishwashers.
Other brands included in the testing were Citra Dish, Great Value from Walmart, Seventh Generation, Trader Joe's, Up & Up from Target, Sun & Earth, Palmolive and Wave.
Performance wasn't exactly consistent by brand, the magazine noted. Both Cascade and Finish had products that got lower ratings, and the testers said the most expensive product on the list, Finish Quantumatic (44 cents per load), did fine but wasn't worth the extra cost.
First Published August 13, 2010 12:00 am