September 21, 2017

States Ban Phosphate-Laden Dishwasher Soap

According to USA Today, July starts a ban in  sixteen states of the sale of dishwasher detergents that contain high levels of phosphates, a source of pollution in lakes and streams.

Stores will not be allowed to sell detergent with more than 0.5 percent phosphorous. The bans do not apply to commercial dishwashing products, and detergents for hand-washing dishes generally contain no phosphorus.

States instituting the rule include Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, reports the Associated Press.

Some areas such as Spokane County, Wash., have had such bans in place for years.

“Phosphorous is like a fertilizer. It increases algae and aquatic weed growth in water bodies,” Bernie Duffy, natural resource specialist with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, told the AP. He said too much algae depletes oxygen needed for healthy fish and aquatic life.

Sewage treatment plants and private septic systems can remove much but not all of the phosphorous from wastewater, so some of it ends up in lakes, streams and rivers.

As a result of the ban, some familiar brands such as Cascade and Colgate-Palmolive are offering dish soaps with few or no phosphates.

Clorox has launched a Green Works product line that won the endorsement of the Sierra Club and Martha Stewart has developed a low-phosphate “Clean” line with Hain Celestial Brand, reports Environmental Leader, which says eco-friendly brands such as Seventh Generation and Method have gained in popularity.


  1. Caroline says:

    I have found a great product for the dishwasher called “Lemi-Shine”. You find it on the aisle where the dishwasher detergent is. It makes my ancient dishwasher work like new, and my dishes come out spotless and super clean. Lemi-Shine is basically citric acid like what you would find in an envelope of unsweetened lemon koolaide. You use it along with the dishwasher soap when you are washing a load of dishes. You can also use it alone, or the lemon koolaide trick to clean your dishwasher (I’ve seen the lemon koolaide solution on HGTV. It was an episode featuring home stager expert Sabrina Soto). I also want to try the TSP in the dishwasher.

    I just read an article about TSP for the clothes washer, and tried it last night. Wow – what a difference. I used 1/8 cup with detergent for a medium load/cold water wash. A white terry cloth robe that I’ve had for a few years was very dingy, no matter how much I washed it. After adding the TSP, it came out snowy white and smelled so fresh and wonderful – like clean clothes are supposed to smell.

  2. Servius says:

    @laura cruz

    “Why don’t ya’all just start washing by hand … get rid of the dishwasher!!! Use a little muscle power … I see this country so spoiled, … My God, such selfish people, holy cow!”

    Two of the great advances of civilization have been the dishwasher and washing machine. Before them, women slaved all day to wash clothes and dishes. The washing machine freed women to do more productive work or leisure or better care for their children or whatever they wanted to do.

    You greenies are actually against civilization and against the benefits of civilization. Sewage plants can extract phosphorus from wastewater efficiently and actually make money selling the fertilizer to farmers.

    Yes, if you dump phosphorus into a lake it will ruin the lake. That’s not what we’re talking about here.

  3. Monica Muil says:

    I am having a brand new dishwasher installed today as a result of this issue! Not until I mentioned it on Facebook and a friend shared a link did I even know about this! I have spent the last 4 months totally frustrated trying a variety of products to no avail. Why would I not be aware of this already?? I’m heading to the store today to buy trisodium phosphate and mix it into my dishwashing detergent!

  4. Reading all these comments, I looked at our detergent and realized that it’s phosphate free. Then I looked at the load of dishes just run and they’re fine: no spots, no filming, etc. The difference may be that we have VERY alkaline soil and water here and we also use a water softener because of the high mineral content. Mimicking these conditions with whatever additives you want would probably help.

  5. Larry Fontaine says:

    They started taking phosphates(trisodium phosphate, tsp)out of cleaning products years ago. Used to be laundry detergent, spray cleaners, hand dish detergent all had phosphates ( as high as 20%) I’ve been adding phosphates to all my cleaning products for years and find that I use much less water and other products to get the same or better cleaning. You do have to watch products labeled TSP as someone has trademarked TSP and puts out products which contain no trisodium phosphate. If have run the grey water into the garden most plants seem to like the extra phosphate. Its true that in open water it will cause Algae bloom and reduce O2 but there are some fish that will do just fine under those conditions. Something that I have found that works better than trisodium phosphate for dishes is a small amount of lye (sodium hydroxide, NaOH)HOWEVER LYE IS VERY HAZARDOUS TO USE IF YOU ARE NOT CAREFUL BECOME THOROUGHLY FAMILIAR WITH ITS PROPERTIES BEFORE USING !!!! I use 1/4 teaspoon per load of dishes. (Red Devil brand from the drain cleaning dept) It is used in some industrial dish washing products.

  6. I know all about this, but what about global warming and what about saving Mother earth?

  7. Nell Frances Babel says:

    Here in Clearwater, Florida, my pans and some slverware are black. I can’t see through my glasses and every dish is coated with a powdery substance I am told is calcium carbonate. “Wash your dishes with CLR (I am told)and use Jet Dry.” Conserve water is certainly pushed in this state and the water company is raising their rates. I always thought phosphate was a natural part of our soil, now it’s poison. I sure hope the detergent people are thinking of what to do about it. I ran one load of dishes in vinegar and that helped but a quart of vinegar every time could be expensive.

  8. Diane Boyd says:

    I discovered this ban just in the last couple of months when our tile and grout cleaner disappeared from the market. I couldn’t even order it off the internet. Everything else that we bought does not work, so I started to research the problem. This is when I found out about the ban. Then found articles about Cascade and other companies that were just removing phosphate regardless of the states that haven’t banned it. I AM furious!!! You see I live in Florida, a state that hasn’t banned phosphate and for good reason. Phosphate is one of the leading industies in Florida, offering thousands of jobs in Central Florida alone, including my husband! So I am absolutely livid that I am being forced to “not support” the industry that feeds me and my family every week in a state that has NOT banned the products.

  9. I’m totally in favor of doing what’s right for Mother Earth. But if phosphates had to go, the dishwasher and dishwasher detergent manufacturers need to put their heads together and come up with a viable alternative. I first noticed some months ago that my dishes were not getting clean. Then I noticed a build up of undissolved detergent on the inside of my dishwasher. It is clogging up the holes where the water shoots out. I have to stick a toothpick in the holes after each cycle to unclog them. At one point, the build up was so bad that the water could not drain from the dishwasher at all. I called a repairman, to the tune of $268. He explained what was going on and ran a bunch of cycles with vegetable oil in it help break down the build up. It helped. A little. Temporarily. Periodically, I run a cycle with vegetable oil only in it. Or sometimes I use white vinegar. But neither helps very much. My dishes have not gotten truly clean in months and my glasses look grungy all the time. I almost always have to re-wash a few pieces by hand or run them through another dishwasher cycle. Which is ironic, because we are supposed to be using less water. Plus, this is probably damaging the dishwashers themselves. Which will most likely result in more of them being discarded. Also not great for the environment. Bottom line: I don’t have to have phosphates. But I do need something to take their place that actually works.

  10. I finally gave up and started hand washing my dishes again, and guess what? It’s less work, I never run short of dishes or silverware, it’s good exercise for my arthritic hands and takes very little time.

    I was having to do a vinegar rinse every week or so of all dishes to get the chalky stuff off of them and it concerned me that in between those times we were ingesting the chemicals. I also was having to do a vinegar rinse of the dishwasher which is not good for it’s parts as vinegar is acid and acid eats away at things.

    I don’t ever want a dishwasher again…too much work and now too many problems.

  11. John Aldrich says:

    Lowes apparently no longer carries TSP. Home Depot, however, does. I plan on buying two of their biggest boxes of TSP until such time as the dishwasher detergent companies get their act together the way that the laundry detergent companies seem to have done… I know some folks here complain about that, but my laundry is pretty good…

  12. This phosphate ban started in the Washington to save a water utility the expense of putting in a phosphate scrubber in their water treatment plant. Turns out they needed the device anyway in order to remove phosphates from industrial and farming sources.

    The irony of this is in the full story. Washington St University’s science crowd decided to follow up and actually tested the phosphates used in dish washing detergents and they found out that the phosphates from these products are bio-unavailable to the life forms in the rivers. So there you have it, the soaps were benign in the first place, didn’t need to be removed and who knows what kinds of damage will be done with the replacement additives.

    The scrubbers now work to remove them, but miss their real targets. So a bunch of greenies made a big deal out of this activity in Washington and the whole country gets to ban the use of the phosphates in automatic dish washing soaps. So we all have crummy films and dirty dishes coming out of our dishwashers. Maybe we should boil some greenies in dirty dishwasher water, it would show them they are ‘junk science’ morons, with a good scalding.

  13. Hi all.

    After being so mad I couldn’t see straight I researched everything I could find.

    Here is what I found.

    We thought it was our softener (kinetico $8000.00), went through that, dishwasher, tore it apart looking for issues, looked at buying a new softener and dishwasher but money is a an issue for us, hence the working on our own appliances routine. Consequently, I bought The TSP as recommended. It didn’t work at all for me but I have been using cascade complete. It was at one time the best there was but now is horrendous for the white creeping cruds. I did more research. Vinegar has been recommended but the food grades available aren’t high enough acid to be effective. What works in the laundry and in the kitchen is powdered citric acid. All the gunk was gone! Its cheap, harmless, and best of all it works. It works to clean coffee makers. I use one part soap, one part citric acid. One to one ratio. It works perfectly every single time.

    I’m sure thats what is in the lemi-shine along with other stuff you don’t really need. Citric acid is cheaper, harmless, and 100% effective.

    Not using anything is going to result in big $$$ repairs on pumps and seals in your washers and dishwashers.

    Best of luck to all, hope this helps.

  14. Michelle says:

    For the Lemishine users – BEWARE! I was (and still am somewhat) a lemishine fan, right until I discovered that it has eaten away the paint on 4 Disney mugs, 2 Margaritaville glasses, and a shot glass. So, I wash anything with a design by hand and everything else with Lemishine. Good luck!

  15. Michelle says:

    Les – there is no global warming – quit buying into the hype.

  16. SERIOUSLY, how selfish are people. Phosphates absolutely destroy the wildlife in ponds, lakes, etc., and your concerned about the white spots on your dishes…grow up..

  17. I can’t decide if I am more a sucker or a victim. In my quest for clean I have added a water softener, replaced my dishwasher, washer and dryer. Sadly, I am still wasting more water, energy, products, time and money just to be less-than-content with the outcome. I will be buying TSP ASAP. I think the algae hype is a lame excuse. Nice try, government. Wonder what happens with all those discarded appliances and bottles upon bottles of products that are NOT recycled…. Hello, landfill.

    I found this article VERY interesting:

  18. Just because you can cross state lines or go buy an ingredient, be sure to know that if it’s banned in your state, you are violating laws and EPA regulations. Youo can be fined just the same as if you dump sewage into a storm drain. Huge 6 digit fines. I know, I do sewer repairs in Denver where the old storm lines run under the sewer lines and residents with broken lines causing contamination are held responsible.

    I also install new water and sewer mains for every city and municipal water district plus the service lines to your house. You might want to know there are ways to monitor levels and if they happen to sample your line because the levels are reading high, your busted. (valves, curb stops, and boxes installed every single service connection) Think I’m kidding, just look at their engineering standards online which are the specs in which to install the lines (blue prints for underground utilities so to speak) Also check the monitoring requirements at outfalls. Town of Wiggins busted for high level nitrates! It’s all public record. But your smarter than most right?

    Run the dishes and at the rinse cycle, add 1 cup vinegar and the film goes away like magic. Even the black teflon utensils sparkle like brand new.

  19. For years we have provided phosphate free dishwashing that works awesome. Check out my site and please contact me for eco-friendly products that work awesome! We have years of science and customer satisfaction behind us. You deserve to be healthy,wealthy and wise.

  20. Would you like film-free dishes and an unclogged dishwasher? There are phosphate- free products that have been around for years. Proven,tested by thousands of consumers. Contact me for eco-friendly products that give you the amazing results you expect! We have years of science and customer satisfaction behind us. You deserve to be healthy,wealthy and wise.

  21. to the greenys out there…..If you understood how American capitalism REALLY worked you would understand that what your idols of INSANE people doing this think they now whats good for you and your kid..well history tells us they are wrong…. America was founded to get rid of insanity like that and
    here is why…through freedom of thought and minor restraint as intended as being a right center country we were allowed to create our own wealth through ideas. these ideas have created the worlds most creative and wealthy country in history by allowing people to dream and invent..through the invention all things are possible..through regulation all things are impossible. cause they wont allow the freedom to create..the personal computer because of regulation now could have never been created in the garage of bill gates…thanks to idiots who wont allow the freedom to invent…you see allowing inventions is what MADE America shine on the and people like you don’t understand it cause you are freaked out over the lie of climate change and global warming and in the 70s global cooling….they are here to tie your freedom up…and this type of regulation does it…allow the free market to fix it and you will see this being taken care of…get politicians out of your life , allow us to create things that can clean it up instead of shutting it down for all of us…

  22. Why is everyone jumping down Judy’s throat? We need more Judys out there. Even if one is disabled and can’t wash dishes by hand doesn’t mean we can’t be cognizant of what were putting in our waterways. There are plenty of eco-friendly detergents out there and hundreds of homemade detergent recipes online. And whoever said she’s guilting people into believing her opinions is wrong. Im a father and anyone else with children seeks to make this a better place for them and assuring they have potable water is one of those ways.

  23. I think this regulation is a short-sighted mistake. With respect to the climate we need more phosphates in the water, and fast. Global warming has cycled repeatedly over the eons and it appears to be fauna vs. flora that drives the cycle. With the rapid rise of civilization animal life has overwhelmed plantlife and we need more plants. The primary engine that pulls CO2 out of the air is microscopic plant life in the ocean. We should be feeding that plant life with as much phosphate as we can, and we should return the use of phosphates to our laundry detergents like we had before the days of global warming.

  24. mauser1000 says:

    After our glasses came out of the dishwater with white gunk in the bottom, I just went to my local hardware store and bought a small tub of TSP. It was about six bucks. A small spoon full with regular dishwasher soap and the glasses came out like they were never used.

  25. Lawrence Kolb says:

    Phosphate is a harmful substances for most freshwater bodies, like rivers and lakes. In general phosphate is not harmful when discharged to coastal (ocean) environments.

  26. Looks like Finish has taken Glass Magic off the shelf here in Ohio.
    Could get it at Meijers until last week.
    This is the only mention I could find of why it is taken off the market. That is pretty scary in itself.
    I think this is part of an over all plan put into effect by our government and the United Nations government to put us all GREEN.
    According to the column, the American Dream, this is all part of a World Government scheme being pulled by the UN to govern and tax the entire world. (Is it still paranoia if it is true?)
    Perhaps if all of us got busy we might be able to change it but I doubt it as I think it has infiltrated our Congress on both parties.
    What needs to happen is a lot more serious than dirty dishes. We need to disassemble the UN and get it out of our local businesses including the Environmental Protection Agency. I think we should scrap the EPA and start over with something that actually makes good sense both for our businesses and for the environment.
    For a start, we need congress persons that actually do their homework before signing bills. We need to get rid of political machines that tell a congress person how to vote regardless of common sense that says some laws are just a bad idea.
    Thanks for the alternate solutions. Will probably try at least one.

  27. I think the most offensive word in the English Language is “THEY”.
    We are a about 6 months away from an election in the state of Ohio. I want to know WHO “THEY” are that voted my dishwashing detergent off the market in 16 states and made it a prohibition type law with detergent police going after people for trying to get their dishes clean.
    Was it a mixed group? Was it Republicans or Democrats that promoted this piece of legislation?
    I am only one person with one vote. But since Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb are going for the Presidency, perhaps we can vote some of them out of office over this issue. There are a lot of people just like me, average every day people that see through the political garbage to what is really going on. You have a money issue here.
    Every time they ban something like this, something worse takes its place. It is always more expensive.
    I just feel that before THEY make laws, there should be consequences to the law makers. Especially if they are lazy and do not do their homework on an issue. Pretty much a ban on reporting going on as well. It is still offered on the internet until you try to order it. Then you are told it is illegal to order it in your state and they return your money with apologies.
    There used to be an Interstate Commerce Commission that had laws banning states from interfering with Interstate commerce. I used to be a Traffic Manager in my youth. Now the states are getting greedy and want to disturb that law. Like taxing interstate traffic in retail goods for instance. I think they overstep themselves when they interfer with interstate commerce.
    I guess it is unrealistic to want law makers to actually do their homework, but that is what I want.
    I would love to see a tattler newspaper that did nothing but report how our people voted on different issues in the state and federal congresses.
    Against abortion, why did you vote for legislation supporting it? That actually kept a Republican from becoming president this time with many Christian organisations out there.
    They published his voting record. Gee, I would like to see all their voting records.
    Phosphorus in dish detergents is a good start.

  28. I am so glad that I shop with a store that manufactures non toxic chemical free products there is no need for worry when I use my cleaning supplies and wash my dishes.

  29. You can actually still buy Cascade with Phosphates from a company called ReStockit –

  30. Colleen K says:

    Save the environmnet? I work for a large appliance retailer. How many people do you think come in now and claim that their old dishwasher isn’t working anymore. Out with the old and in with the brand new machine. Also, how many people are purchasing any product out there that is promising clear glasses, dishwasher “booster” etc. that actually don’t work. I live in a state that does not have a ban but that doesn’t matter because it is far more advantgeous to the maufacturers of dishwashers and dw soaps. I have spent a forturne on buying new products (my dw was only 2 years old) so that step was avoided. A fabulous product called Glass Magic by Finish was removed from the market 3-4 weeks ago. Worked great. They have a NEW Booster product, more expensive and doesn’t work at all. Buy, Buy, Buy..2nd round of washing, waste, waste waste. I know exactly who is profiting from this and it isn’t the environment or the consumer.
    I just purchased Trisodium Phosphate and I will let you know if this works. The 2nd solution and probably the safest environmental decision is to purchase a dishwasher that has a built-in water softner system (salt). Those are the most expensive dishwasher on the market and if you don’t care about the landfill…go for it. As I said my dishwasher is only two years old so this option won’t be happening anytime soon for me. (fyi…adding salt to a regular dishwasher doesn’t work) I’ve tried it all.

  31. My dishes and silverware are looking horrible as well as my glasses. Looks like I will be throwing them out every six weeks. The film is disgusting. Good for the economy eh? Just another way for the government to get into my life and way of life. What a waste hand washing dishes — too much waste of water. Bring back a product that cleans my dishes so I don’t have to rewash.

  32. Another example of liberal unexpected consequences . . policies designed to protect the environment do the exact opposite. Between Eco-star, low water usage, dishwasher and no phosphates in my dish soap . . I’ve increased our home water temperature from 120 to 140 – wasting more energy than ever before . . The dishes now get pre-washed in the sink, washed in the machine, and then rinsed in the sink to remove the soap residue – all of this wasting more water than ever before. . . . or I drive out of state to buy contraband phosphate-laden soap – wasting gas for the journey . . and spending my money outside of my local and state tax jurisdiction – costing my local area revenue. When will the stupid libtards ever learn that dumb policies that “appear to be a good idea”, are in fact, dumb.