It sort of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? You pack your dishwasher full of dirty plates, utensils, glasses and cups, pour in the detergent, and return an hour later with the expectation they’ll emerge bearing that “good-as-new,” crystalline finish. Instead, you’re left with a new coat of white film – an unfortunate, chalky reminder that you really have no idea what goes on inside that hulky and soapy appliance.
Well, too bad. It’s all about sacrifice.
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Back in 2008, 64 percent of voters in the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District passed Measure S, which banned salt-based water softeners. The purpose of the measure was to reduce the levels of chloride discharged into the Santa Clara River. Thus, if you live in the district, which encompasses most of the Santa Clarita Valley, you have hard water.
Hard water contains various mineral salts of calcium and magnesium, and it’s these types of deposits that form the white residue left on your dishes.
“It’s the mineral content in water. That being said, there’s no health implications as a result of that,” said Mauricio Guardado, Retail Manager of the Santa Clarita Valley Water Division. “We do extensive testing and we ensure that we meet all of the federal and state water quality regulations. The film is more of a nuisance than anything else.”
Behind closed doors, the water inside the dishwasher heats and eventually evaporates, leaving behind the ashy layer.
Nevertheless, the issue has more to do with dishwashing detergent companies than Measure S. Last year, the American Cleaning Institute, which is comprised of most detergent manufacturers, rolled out self-imposed regulations on phosphates in their products.
Phosphates are inorganic compounds that can cause algae blooms in gutters and rivers. In the case of your everyday house chores, however, phosphates were your friends, as they eliminated the potential for that white film.
Currently, there are legal limits for phosphates in detergents in 16 states. Although California is not included, select detergent companies have drastically reduced the phosphate content in their detergents which are distributed throughout the country.
Guardado said the SCWD, one of Santa Clarita’s four water retailers, doesn’t have an issue with phosphates and that although the water contains minerals, it is still of high quality.
“People may have already forgotten perhaps that there was a ban of water softeners,” he said. “I think a lot of people are seeing the effects of that when they’re used to having water softeners taking out all of those minerals.”
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Mayor Marsha McLean touched on the subject during the Council announcements. The Mayor, who consistently advocates environmentally-friendly initiatives, suggested using vinegar in the dishwashing cycle to combat the white film.