We rinse our dishes before loading them in the dishwasher, so I haven't had the problems with food stuck on the dishes that people in Spokane, where phosphate-free detergent is the only choice available, are having. But, we do have hard water, so some of my utensils have looked like this:
I've seen a little bit of the white film on a couple other things, but it is particularly noticeable on my black utensils. It may also be the texture of the utensils; they are smooth, but not glossy.
Just by way of comparison:
The cup on the left came out of the same load of dishes that the above-pictured measuring cup & spoon. It is glossy, so the white film doesn't seem to stick. The cup on the right is from the same set as the one in the previous picture, but I haven't used it in a couple of weeks, so it has not yet been washed in the Palmolive Eco.
I happened to have a few things that needed to be hand washed sitting in the sink, so I popped in the measuring cup and the spoon. After washing (with Palmolive hand washing soap), this is how they came out:
Still some while film, but not nearly as much as before.
My verdict? Well, phosphate-free is coming, whether you are ready for it or not; in the summer of 2010, quite a few states are banning detergents with phosphates from sale. This blog will tell you more about which states as well as giving some hope; the detergent makers are still trying to perfect their formula and get our dishes cleaner.
Will I use Palmolive Eco again? Probably not any time soon. Even at a promotional price, it is still more expensive than buying Cascade at the dollar store, so this may be a one-off thing. But I am willing to try other phosphate-free options in the course of the next couple of years; Texas isn't among the states mandating it by next summer, but that doesn't mean we'll never be moving, or that Texas won't join in eventually.
And, of course, there is always the hand washing option; it is friendlier to the dishes, and uses less water & electricity. Really, the only thing it takes is time, but perhaps I'm ready to "budget" a few minutes every evening for the savings we would see in our water, electric, and shopping bills; hand detergent is also cheaper than the dishwasher variety, and it lasts longer.