August 23, 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. The manufactures of automatic dishwashing detergent, have their work cut out for them. The automatic dishwasher detergent without the phosphates do not clean your dishes as well as before and leave a film all over everything. I think it is time to seek out and stock up on a supply of phosphate detergent until the soap manufactures figure out a new way of getting dishes clean again without phosphates. As of now, they don’t clean as well as they did. Just my input on the subject.

  2. WHERE can I purchase dishwasher soap with phosphates? I am in FL and apparently it has gone to a voluntary ban … CASCADE with its new formulation is AWFUL !!! Puts a white film on dishes and glasses and turns aluminum cookware BLACK and stainless cookware GRAY .. I want my phosphates back !!!!

  3. The best solution I have found is just to hand wash everything with dish soap and use the dishwasher to rinse and sanitize the dishes.

  4. Garry Jones says:

    I am now adding 1/3 cup of TSP (Trisodium Phosphate) to a box of dish soap. Dishes are getting clean again. One pound box at Lowes $4.25

  5. I was ready to buy a new dishwasher! All the products I bought in the last month have been leaving dishes and cookware dirty,chalky, and stained. Thanks to Garry J…. I am heading to Lowes. I called Cascade and they had no explanation as to why their products went from fine to crap. I only saw the ban when I was surfing for new dishwashers.

  6. I’m on my way to get some TSP. Sounds like a good idea

  7. Amber Sneddon says:

    For the past couple of months our dishes had been coming out with horrible white spots and my black plastic utensils were white and chalky!! I just realized in tiny print all the detergent says “phosphate free”. I thought something was wrong with my water! I found on the internet that if you put white vinegar or a packet of lemon kool-aid in the rinse it helps. But it’s kinda hard to know when my dishwasher is rinsing, I have to hang around and listen…BRING BACK PHOSPHATES!!! It’s not like we’re dumping detergent directly into the lakes and rivers…can’t they leave anything alone??

  8. Ha! I read about this on NPR’s website today. I was starting to badger my husband about getting a new dishwasher…we didn’t exactly buy a top-of-the-line machine when we replaced our old one and I thought it was already crapping out. We can’t afford a new one right now, but I was getting so angry at having to wash my dishes AFTER they went through the dishwasher that I was about to lose my mind. Found out about the phosphate thing today. First thing I did was google “adding TSP to dishwasher” to see if anyone had tried it. Looks like it works. I’m afraid of adding too much…anyone got a good formula? This is as annoying as the time they changed asthma inhalers to an inhaler that DID NOT WORK, all because of the tiny amount of CFCs they released into the air. The article I read said the amount of phosphates released into the environment from dishwasher detergent was also very small.

  9. These products are so horrible that my wife and I are planning a trip across the PA border into NJ to pick up a case of the real stuff. My wife is going insane with this “green” solution. We have to first heavily rinse everything before it goes in, wash in in the machine and spot wash everything when the dishwasher cycle ends.

    I can’t wait for the Green Shirts to solve our traffic problems by making everyone return to travel on horseback. I’ve had enough of the government busybodies interfering in my life. how ’bout you?

  10. OK, so here we go. I posted above about the NPR article and asked how much TSP to add, and then I remembered that I didn’t take 6 semesters of chemistry in college for nothing. So, I remembered the approximate original concentration of phosphorus in the Cascade packs (about 8.5%), and I knew they weighed around 20g. TSP contains about 7.3% elemental phosphorus. I was able to calculate that you need about 22.5 grams of TSP per load to equal the amount in the original product. I used the C1V1 = C2V2 formula, and I’m pretty sure that’s the right way to figure it (my husband double checked my work and came up with the same approximate measure).

    My standards for cleanliness are already pretty darn low, and it isn’t like I am anti-green. I’ve washed my laundry in cold water since I learned how to do laundry at the age of 10 (save bedclothes, which need to be washed in hot water to kill dustmites, to which I am violently allergic). I use less laundry detergent than recommended and boost it with baking soda. I use citrus based counter-top cleaners because I like the way they smell and they work fine. I upcycle as much old household stuff as I can, partly because I hate throwing it in the dump, partly because we’re on a tight budget and it’s cheaper to paint an old piece of furniture and give it new fixtures than buy something new. We own one car that gets 40 MPG and moved to a city where we could walk, take the bus and never have to drive more than 5 miles round trip for essentials. I LET IT MELLOW for the love of God. Can’t they just let me have this one thing?

  11. So for us that don’t know how to measure grams of phosphorus, how much should we put in with each load using measurements in teaspoons?

  12. 2 tablespoons is 28.3 grams. She says it should be 22 grams. So just under 2 tablespoons. I am going to buy a tablespoon just for the box of tsp that we have to use for the dishwasher.

  13. Jen or anyone else desperate to bring phosphates back./ Please contact me at NPR if you’re willing to talk about your complaints. Thanks

  14. For the calculation, did you assume anhydrous TSP? According to wikipedia, it can be all the way from anhydrous (19% P by mass) to “dodecahydrous” i.e. with 12 H2Os and 8% P by mass.

    If you assume that the d/w uses 5 Tablespoons (mine uses 3T for the main wash and 2T for the prewash, I just measured), and Cascade’s old formula (perhaps not the original) claims 0.8 g in 1 T, then we want to end up with 4 g of phosphorus per load, but I’m not sure how to figure what kind of TSP I’m buying at the home store.

  15. Oh my gosh people, what
    don’t you understand–Phosphates are bad for our environment. We do not own the earth…we borrow it from our children, and I for one will do everything and anything I can to not damage our environment.

  16. Judy,
    Lots of things are bad for the environment, but that doesn’t mean we should stop everything we do. I believe we should be good stewards of our planet where reasonable. I conserve water and decline plastic bags, etc, but when the “Green” solution doesn’t work, it’s not practical to embrace it. The industry needs to make a detergent that works in this case, and then we can move to it.

  17. Loving the conversation. Been wondering if TSP would work and, after reading this, I think I will try it.

  18. Judy:

    How about you come and hand wash my dishes for me??? I do a lot of green things and I don’t feel I need to justify to what I do. The bottom line is this, there are a lot of more dangerous things that occur in our environment on a daily basis. Consumers have no voice so we are at the mercy of the moron with the loudest voice. Companies and politicians pick on the most minute things and pretend to be exacting a change by blowing it out of proportion and make it look like they are making a difference. That is called “smoke and mirrors”. I could go one, but there is no need to be offensive. I am disabled and it is difficult to hand wash dishes. Perhaps I should use paper or foam plates?? Yeah, so much for “green”. So, if you would like to come and do my dishes by hand, I’ll send you my address.

  19. Thanks for the info on the TSP- headed to Lowe’s now. I just bought 2 different boxes at the grocery store and they both suck at cleaning the dishes. If the TSP doesn’t work, I’m driving to WV where they don’t enact such nonsense laws.

  20. I am so relieved to hear it’s not just my bad luck w/ the dishwasher. After 13 years in my house this is when appliances start to go and I thought I was going to be hand washing everything because this is the worst finacial straits we have been in and can’t afford to get a new dishwasher.By the way, hand washing uses alot more water than a dishwasher. That being said, I have been putting less dishes in the dishwasher, using the quick rinse (which fills the dishwasher up with water) and then run it twice for the 84 minute cycle each time. NOW this is a terrific waste of water and electricity. My husband took the machine apart (aside from the regular cleaning maintenance we do). When that didn’t work he put some chemical in it and ran it empty and starting yelling at me when I opened it before it drained because of the fumes. I have no idea what he put in there, but it smelled terrible. AND, still no relief from dirty, “etched” looking dishes. I even resorted to using bleach, to no avail. I am very enviromentally aware and don’t want to harm the environment – I love nature and animals, etc., but it seems that this new detergent formula is counter productive when I waste so much water and electricity trying to get clean dishes. Why not some huge oxygenating treatment center or smaller systems for smaller bodies of water – sounds crazy, I know. But now I know I can buy something at Lowe’s or drive an hour (each way) out of state to buy “the good stuff”. Sorry environment for the pollution from my driving. Once again another half-assed and poorly thought through plan on the “powers that be”. Thanks to WTAE in Pittsburgh for bringing this to my attention and this web site and contibutors for help and information!

  21. BTW, all appliances (if purchased new at least) come with manuals and most have a section on cleaning and owner maintenance. I highly recommend doing this as suggested in the manual. It will prolong the life of the appliance and you will get better end results. Thus saving money and the environment…

  22. Well, Judy, tell you what:

    I don’t drive so that eliminates quite a bit of environmental damage. I don’t use much paper because I get my news and my coupons off the internet – but what little paper I do use, I recycle. I don’t use much glass, aluminum, or plastic, because I drink tap water filtered through a Brita pitcher, but again, when I do use those products, I recycle. So in the grand scheme of things, would you say that I – the non-driving, recycling, person who is conscious of the amount of power they use and who wears a sweater rather than turning up the heat but who uses phosphates in my dishwasher once a week because, as a single woman, that’s as often as I actually have to run the machine – or you is causing more damage to the environment on a day-to-day basis?

    P.S. – kindly do not attempt to use guilt to bully others into agreeing with your point of view. “Think of the children!” isn’t a valid argument unless children are literally in danger.

  23. Judy – get over yourself. You’re posting on the internet. How are you going to dispose of the computer you’re using when it no longer works? How much waste was produced when the computer was built? Do you live indoors? My GOD, the CFCs that are released into the air from your HVAC unit! And how much electricity are you using as you pontificate and lecture? Think of the chiiiiiiilllldrennnnnn….

  24. Ok I’m in a state that is not banning so far the stuff but I checked my label and they took out the phosphate anyway. So check the labels for the stuff. I’m betting that most have taken it out in all states already.

  25. Cloudy Glasses says:

    You can forget stocking up on contraband phosphate in a state run by people with commonsense, the greenies are way ahead of us on this one. Just called the P&G number on the new box of non-functional Cascade, and the rep told me they are no longer selling Cascade with phosphates. Period.

    Rather than try and keep up with which states are banning phosphates, Cascade has gone ahead and banned phosphate itself. Their suggestion is to purchase the much more expensive tablet/block product made by Cascade. They probably won’t work either, but hey they cost twice as much!

  26. Living in one of the states that gets the Regular Cascade it says on the 2.12 KG (75oz) 4.68 LB box the following ” PHOSPHORUS Content. This Cascade formula averages no more than 6.4% phosphorus in the form of Phosphates which is equivalent to 1.0 grams per Tablespoon.” Just thought I’d throw this out there for all you math people. I didn’t do well in math. lol.

  27. Get some trisodium phosphate, also called “TSP”. You can buy it online from home brewing and wine making stores. Mix a little in with the detergent. Voila! Phosphate is back!

    You win, they lose.

  28. Judy has it right folks. It’s super-annoying, and all the more so because Cascade in its infinite wisdom didn’t tell anyone that what they are selling now is basically a box of white dirt – but that doesn’t change the fact that phosphates are an unnecessary evil. You don’t need to supplement your useless Cascade with TSP. Just buy something else that actually works.

    All it takes is a little research folks. Read Consumer Reports. Here’s a link:

    Google is your friend, folks. There are plenty of good detergents that have low phosphates in them. Stop buying Cascade powder and buy something else. Easy. And far easier than doing a chemistry midterm every time you want to wash your dishes.

  29. judy

    I am having trouble getting the film off my dishes, will you come and wash them for me. i have been standing in front of my sink with the water running for quite sometime and my kitchen light is on so I am not sure if this is better for the envirnoment or not. If you want I can give you my address.

  30. I do my best for the environment..but the radical environmentalists have gone too far now! Yes, we DO own the earth…God made it for man.
    It does not mean we have the right to abuse it, but ruining my dishwashing detergent is insane. Now I get to wash them TWICE-using power,soap,water to hand wash before I put them in the dishwasher. I have an immunosupressed child and have to use the dishwasher to sanitize them..or , I could ruin the earth ( who does it belong to if not us? MArtians?) ad soak them all in OMG! bleach!
    Comments form those who are obviously pagan,earth worshiping, better than the rest of us “environmentalists” make me want to jump in an SUV, stan at a red light gunning the engine, smoking a non-filtered camel whilst I drink from a styrofoam cup filled with high fructose corn syrup, on my way to purchase plastic water bottles and disposable diapers. neighbor’s cows? ” Toot”t away…fill up the sky with methane…

  31. I, too, thought my dishwasher was broken and ready to buy another before I heard the report on WTAE. I am going to purchase the TSP(if it is still on the shelves). They sure kept this quiet…..I have to wonder how many purchased new dishwashers….

  32. Thank heavens I found this site! I was worried after looking at the TSP box at Lowe’s that it might not rinse out properly, but now I think I can put that worry to rest. For those who want us to move to phosphate-free, supposedly better detergents: have you priced those out? They’re very expensive. If you’re on a limited budget, as I am thanks to this crap economy our miracle maker in chief has given us, frankly I can’t afford the pricier version if I want to still feed my family. So suck it up and realize that everything’s a balance, and you wacko environmentalists do NOT help your cause much by berating folks that are just trying to live.

  33. This Judy is a real peice of work. She’s drunk on KoolAid!!! It amazes me how the enviromentalist assume they are the only ones who care about the earth, most take it to the extreme though, like JUDY! No common sense, they beleive every liberal presentation they read because they are devoid of common sense. I was on the verge of replacing my 5 year old dishwasher or having a repairman out to fix it. I was fortunate to get an e-mail from a friend regarding the the actual problem. TSP for me.
    Who knows, maybe they thought we would be fooled once we started using the government mandated light bulbs!


  35. Elizabeth says:

    I need your help. I’m looking for people willing to talk about their phosphate woes for National Public Radio. Please email. Thank you. Elizabeth

  36. As the mother of four children under the age of six, the one UNCOMPLICATED part of my day is letting the dishwasher wash my dishes. Guess what is now the most complicated part of my day? Unloading the dishwasher and dealing with all the residue on my dishes. Maybe legislators would like to come over and wash my dishes and clean and sanitize all my baby bottles?! I understand and empathize with the save the environment argument, however, how many thousands of gallons of water have been wasted by those of us who were completely oblivious of the true reason for the cloudy residue on our dishes as we ran and re-ran our dishwashers and hand washed our dishes? How many folks ran out and bought a new dishwasher thinking their previous one was broken?

  37. One thing to be aware of —
    We ran into trouble at our business by using a product from the hardware store called TSP Cleaner. I assumed it was trisodium phosphate, foolish me. Label regulations on cleaning products are a joke. We found out several frustrating and expensive days later that even though it is called TSP it is not necessarily trisodium phosphate. It damaged our machine and the manufacturer of the machine told me about the deceptive labeling on the hardware store product. Since then we have bought only trisodium phosphate and no more trouble. Real TSP is cheap anyway.
    It may be that the “fake” TSP might wash the same as real TSP. I don’t know. I’m going to use the stuff we keep at the business.

  38. One thing I have wondered about that I have not seen addressed is the effect soft drinks — Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, etc. have on the total phosphate load. So much of that stuff is drunk nowadays and phosphoric acid is an ingredient. Pop will eat up your teeth in that manner; we know that. So the burden of that much phosphorus entering the environment could be substantial.

  39. Rich Dedo says:

    We have had Sears literally rebuild our dishwasher after three service calls, and still, cloudy glass, and food stuck all over the place. Then I found a box of old stock Electrosol at a yard sale and just bought it to have more detergent. WOW! Day and night. Squeaky clean again. Clear glass.

    Then I found out about phosphate and this site with mostly intelligent advice and a few cry baby comments. You cry babies need to realize that EVERYTHING in a round about way, (including that very keyboard that you pecked out a retarded comment with), does a little damage to the environment and well, that is just too darn bad.

    Specifically to dishwashing, it takes much more water to hand wash dishes than a dishwasher, and the person above was right, you also have to have a light on to do them. A dishwasher with proper detergent sanitizes the dishes and keeps people healthy. I will trade my health for a silly fish’s life any day.

    As to Judy’s comment about borrowing the earth from our children; well, I don’t have any children, and I inherited the current technologically advanced planet from my grandparents who worked VERY hard to make us what we are today.

    Rant over.

  40. On my way to Home Depot fpr TSP. Went to HHGregg to buy dishwasher and sales person said “I’d love to sell you a dishwasher, but Whirlpool rep said phosphate-free detergent giving them fits with complaints about dishwashers”. Almost bought a new dishwasher! Thanks honest salesman.
    Now. Please someone give me a simple formula~how many tablespoons to dishwasher detergent??

  41. I have been using the TSP for a couple of days now and there is a noticable improvement for the better. I have been adding about one to two teaspoons to the soap compartment in addition to the diswasher detergent with each load. The clerk at Lowes asked what I was going to do with the stuff and when I told her she said she had just bought a new top of the line Bosch, thinking her old one was broken, and further said the new one did not get her dishes any cleaner, and wished she had known before. Anyway, good luck, this stuff really works!

  42. Jeanette Fina says:

    I am an environmentally conscious person, but I called our water treatment plant and found out that the use of the small amounts of phosphate in the dishwasher soaps is perfectly safe. When you flush your toilet, wash your clothes, and run the dishwasher, all goes down the sanitary sewer to the water treatment plant where it goes through many stages before it is let out to the environment. Any water that does not pass the test is put in with the solid waste and sent to the landfill to make methane gas to make power. The only time that there could be a problem is when there is a massive downpour in a combined sewer situation where there could be an overflow. So don’t use excessive water in a downpour and buy a soap that works . All these college educated people don’t really know all the safeguards and measures out there to protect us. People need to find out answers and what is being done. So let them spend millions on products that don’t–all unnecessary. Household bleach is also safe. It dissipates as soon as it leaves your house and actually keeps the sewers clean.I am going to try Finish-heard it is good.

  43. Edgar in Dallas says:

    Heard about this on the news earlier this week. Their suggestion at the end of the story was, use more of the detergent in the pre-wash cycle. Great. No wonder the new box of Cascade I bought doesn’t clean well missing a crucial ingredient. Cascade used to be the best. Leaving food stuck on plates, bowls, and utensils that gets baked on in the dry cycle is not good! Not to mention likely very unsanitary.

    Today I went to Big Lots and they have plenty of old formula Cascade with 6.9% phosphates. I stocked up! So check out your local bargain and close-out store. I will also try the TSP with the new formula. That sounds like a good alternative when the old formula runs out.

  44. Well I am with you all, except Judy…..At least I’m not crazy. I have not gotten rid of my dishwasher, have not lost my family or friends over these gooey dishes, ruined silverware, and glasses that you dare not drink out of. BUT my love for Cascade is over, and we have been together for some 50 years.
    My daughter and I both have this horrible problem with dishes here in California and we have hard water.
    I have been washing my dishes with Vinegar along trying to use up the hugh box of Cascade that I have. This may or may not be working. I also have gallons of vinegar saved up now as well. Oh well….so glad to have read these comments, and I’m on my way to Lowes for TSP.
    May just skip this whole idea and return the Cascade to Costco.
    Also, I have tried Melalucia liquid dishwasher cleanser and my dishes have been clean once again. Yeah for Melalucia.
    May just order this.
    Good to know that my dishwasher is ok, and that I’m not crazy.

  45. I just saw a television new report in Indianapolis about phosphate. I had no idea that it had been banned from detergent in Indiana. I wondered why my Cascade wasn’t cleaning well and leaving a chalky film on my dishes. I too thought it was my dishwasher. I will continue to handwash my dishes until I make it to Lowes.

  46. Would be nice to hear from some chemists. I think of TSP as being pretty strong, and wonder if it would etch glassware. In other trails, I’ve seen both water softeners and citric acid mentioned as solutions. Then I saw some great reviews for “Finish Glass Magic” – box says itos a “hard water performance booster.” You put 1/4 cup in bottom of dishwasher, in addition to regular detergent in cup. I had to go to several stores to find the stuff, and have run one load – and it fixed the dishes, the sparkle is back. I feel a little safer using something that says it’s for dishes.

    Previously, my dishes and silverware got really bad with this film; I bought a gallon of white vinegar, diluted it somewhat and over a weekend soaked everything for about 3 hours for each piece, and it did remove the built-up white film. Quite a project. Then I started using the dishwasher again, and that film was building up again…at which point I tried the Finish Glass Magic…and right now, that’s looking like the solution I’ll stick with till something better comes along…in addition to switching to one of the brands recommended in the Consumer Reports article mentioned earlier. Thanks to everyone for all the suggestions.

  47. I too live in California and have hard water, we recently installed a water softner and are using ‘potassium cubes’ in it… so far it has worked.

  48. An update:

    I finally got around to trying TSP (Savogran brand at Lowes). I sprinkled just a quarter of a teaspoon across the dishwasher detergent and started the unit overnight (we don’t need eco-nazis forcing us to conserve, we just do it).

    My wife woke me up this morning, jumping up and down with excitement. You’d have thought it was Christmas morning.

    She showed me a glass washed with the eco-nazi detergent and one washed with a smidgen of the TSP additive. It was like night and day.

    I’m going out today to buy 5 or 10 more boxes before the eco-nazis have it banned. I also heard my wife ask “I wonder if it would help when I did a load of laundry…”.

    Good going, Green Shirts. In your lust for absolute control of everything, you have turned us from a nation where the detergent companies made sure we had *just* enough to get the job done to a nation of people self-dosing their dishes and laundry. This oughtta work out as well as that other industry the government chased underground: the war on drugs.

  49. Finnish (no phosphate) seems to work very well. Switch to Finnish. I will never use Cascade again, ever. Proctor&Gamble should recall the complete Cascade line without phosphates. They know they have a problem. Why should anyone ever buy from them again. Wasted service calls on dishwasher, buying new dishwashers and water softeners unnecessarily, etc. Shame on P&G. Vote with your checkbook and ban Cascade from your house.

  50. Edgar in Dallas says:

    About Finish.. the last box of detergent I used up was some Finish powder I bought about 4 months ago. It has up to 3.2% phosphates. Last week was looking at some Finish and the label said after a certain lot number or date Finish has less than .5% phosphates. So they are in transition too. The old formula 3.2% worked as well as old Cascade and was cheaper. Now they want you to buy additives to do the job the single product used to do.