Now, I'm not generally a person who puts much stock in this sort of thing. My general philosophy has been detergent schmetergent... could one brand really be that different from another? So I've always just chosen the cheapest generic brand I could find.
But after a few loads where things just weren't getting very clean, I decided to give the Finish Powerball Quantum samples a try.
HOLY MOLY! Everything came out sparkling clean... like cleaner than it's looked in years!
At first I thought it was a fluke, so I tried a second load, and this time I threw everything I had at it. I didn't pre-rinse anything... including the cat food dishes. I tossed in a few baking dishes with cooked on grime, and I loaded that sucker FULL - three days of food with much of it firmly stuck on. And the results were...
AMAZING! As in totally amazing! Sparkling clean dishes with NO pre-rinsing!!!
So, at that point I decided to do some research, and discovered some very interesting facts.
First of all... in the past few years many states have banned/restricted the use of phosphates in dishwasher detergent. So most brands have switched their formulas nation wide. The environmentalist in me is jumping for joy at this news, because phosphates stimulate the growth of algae, and really do damage to the ecosystems of our streams, rivers, lakes and oceans.
However, since the formulas have changes, consumers have NOT been happy.
This made me realize that the installation of the new dishwasher also coincided with the opening of a new box of dishwasher detergent - and since the old box had been purchased at least 5 years ago when I bought a whole pile of the stuff when it was on sale, I'm pretty sure that the new box was my first experience with the phosphate free stuff. Hmmm...
My next stop research-wise was Consumer Reports. They confirmed the whole phosphate thing, and only had three types of detergent that they could recommend. These were: Finish Powerball Quantum, Finish Powerball Tabs, and Cascade Complete Tabs. All of these products use enzymes as well as detergent for cleaning, and also have the rinse aid built in.
Now... I'm not really thrilled about the idea of using a rinse aid. But... if it's built into the detergent tab rather than being dispensed in the final rinse, I figure there's a reasonable chance that the tab won't release the rinse aid EXACTLY during the final rinse, so there's a much greater chance that the stuff will get rinsed off. And I haven't noticed and bubbles or soapy taste like some consumers have reported with rinse aids.
Now these things are not exactly cheap... but I did find the Powerball Tabs at Costco for only about 15 cents each - and it turns out they work as well as the Quantum ones (which cost closer to 30 cents a piece.) Of course, they do come individually wrapped in plastic... and who knows what sorts of chemicals are present...
Anyhow - clearly using this product is neither a very green nor frugal choice, so why would a frugal green goddess like myself choose to go this route?
Well, here's the thing. I have issues... (no surprise there.)
No seriously, I've had a big time emotional battle with the dishes my entire life. It started when I was a child and our dishwasher died. My mother got so pissed off that she refused to replace it... which was fine, except that she decided that I now had to do all of the dishes for the entire family... by myself... every. single. day.
It's not that I don't think that children should have chores, but this was a fairly major one to load on a 7 year old, especially when my older brother was never asked to do any chores at all! I guess my "feminist" mother wasn't really so open minded after all, since she felt it was wrong to ask a boy to do housework.
So every day until I left home, I had to do the dishes. It still makes me so mad that I could cry.... after dinner my mother and brother would retire to the living room to watch TV and talk while she barked orders at me and reprimanded me for not getting the counters perfectly clean or the floor perfectly swept (which, according to my mother were part and parcel of the chore of doing the dishes.)
OK... I'll stop bitching about my dysfunctional family now, but suffice it to say that my issues with my mother run deep, far and wide, and doing the dishes has always been a very tangible reminder of my ugly childhood, which I got to revisit every day. It's sort of no wonder that it's always been a battle.
But now suddenly, for the first time in my life, the struggle is over. Seriously, I can just open the dishwasher, toss the dishes in, and they come out clean. And I don't have to hear my mother's voice screaming at me in my head.
Maybe this is just a cop out, but the way I see it, a little bit of plastic and chemicals is a small price to pay for getting my sanity back.
So what do you think? Am I selling out? Have you ever made a less-than-green-and-frugal choice in order to preserve your mental health?