One thing we don't have to worry about avoiding in dishwasher detergents are phosphates. Phosphates pollute freshwater, creating algae blooms that consume all the oxygen in the water and kill fish and plants. Two years ago several states banned the use of phosphates and the major detergent makers stopped using them.
Things we still have to be concerned about avoiding include chlorine bleach, synthetic fragrances and artificial dyes. These ingredients are volatilized, or vaporized, by the heat of the dishwasher and released in the steam that vents from the machine during use. Even more of these chemicals are released into the air if you release a burst of steam by opening your dishwasher before it has cooled.
In fact, dishwashers can be a significant source of indoor air pollution. A 1999 study showed that dishwashers are very effective at stripping harmful chemicals from detergents, as well as from public water supplies, and releasing them into the air.
To protect your indoor air:
- Ventilate your kitchen as much as you can during and after running the dishwasher.
- Don't open your dishwasher until it has had time to cool down following a cleaning cycle; this will avoid that chemical-laden burst of steam that escapes if you were to open it immediately after it stops running.
- Use a "green," chlorine-free dishwasher detergent.
I use these Seventh Generation Automatic Dishwasher Pacs. They contain no chlorine or synthetic fragrances and clean my dishes really well without leaving any residue behind. The Whole Foods in East Liberty stocks these. They are also available from Amazon, and are eligible for free shipping with Amazon Prime.
Do you use an eco-friendly detergent that works well for you?