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FAQs: Phosphate and Dishwasher Detergent

Q: What did phosphate do?
When used in automatic dishwashing detergents, phosphate helped to remove food and grease, reduce spotting and filming, control water hardness and suspend the bits of food so they were not redistributed on your dishes.

Q: What impact does phosphate have on the environment?
Phosphate supports the growth of plants, including algae. When too much phosphate is present, excessive amounts of algae can develop. This may lead to undesirable water quality impacts including reductions in aquatic life, poor taste and odors in drinking water.

Q: So, is my phosphate-free dishwashing detergent better for the environment?
Scientific studies demonstrate that a noticeable improvement in water quality would be affected only through decreases across all phosphorus-contributing sources, including fertilizer (residential and agricultural), construction run-off and poorly-treated municipal sewage. Although phosphate from automatic dishwashing represents a minimal contribution in the environment, members of ACI are doing their part.

Q: Can I still use my old dishwashing product?
Some state laws are that stores cannot have the old product on their shelves and some states have laws regarding production of product, however, there is not a state regulation regarding use that we know of. Because phosphate laws vary by state, please contact your state environmental agency for information on what to do with any phosphate-containing product you may have. (List of agency contact info available at

Q: What is causing the filming?
Over the years, consumers may have experienced filming due to improper loading, too much or too little detergent or water that is not hot enough. Filming may also happen because of hard water.

Q: How can I prevent filming?
To help prevent filming, read the dishwasher use and care manual, make sure no items block the dishwasher sprayer arm to ensure enough water reaches the dishes and that the water temperature is at least 120 degrees. Also using a rinse aid may help minimize spotting and filming on dishes. Refer to the Automatic Dishwashing Problems, Causes and Solutions for additional information.

Q: How can I remove film that is already present?
For non-metal items, we recommend a vinegar wash. Put two cups of white vinegar in a bowl and place on the bottom rack of the dishwasher. Run the glasses/dishes through a cycle with no detergent. Re-wash with your detergent to remove residual vinegar. For metal items, we suggest cleaning by hand using a stainless steel cleaner or silver cream.

Q: Who should I talk to if I have a question about a dish care product?
If consumers have questions about a specific cleaning product, ACI always recommends that consumers contact manufacturers directly using the toll-free number on the package or by visiting the manufacturer website. For general information about dish care, visit the ACI website at

As of October 18, 2010