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Soap Phosphate Ban Begins July 1

Sixteen states are beginning a dishwasher detergent phosphate ban, according to a report in the Associated Press. Starting Thursday, stores will no longer be allowed to sell dishwasher detergent with more than 0.5 percent phosphorous. However, the law does not apply to commercial dishwashing products.

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

In some areas, the ban has already been in place for years. Spokane and Watcom counties in Washington have had a ban in place since 2008, while Oregon passed a law last year that reduced the allowable phosphate levels in automatic dishwasher detergent from 8.7 percent to 0.5 percent.

Phosphates are said to promote plant and algae growth, which then die and increase the bacteria count in water bodies. As bacteria feast on the dead plants and algae, they reduce the amount of oxygen available in the water for other wildlife. Dishwasher detergent could account for up to 10 to 12 percent of all the phosphate present in wastewater. In Spokane, officials reported a 10.7 percent drop in the phosphate levels of wastewater coming into treatment plants.

Although the ban won’t remove any name brands off store shelves, familiar soaps will now be offered with low-phosphate formulas. Some have criticized the low-phosphate formulas as not working as effectively in areas that have hard water.

Eco-friendly dishsoap alternatives, like the Seventh Generation and the Method brand, have been growing in popularity. Meanwhile, Clorox has launched a Green Works product line that has won the endorsement of the Sierra Club while Unilever is seeing its eco-friendly dishsoap products boosting sales. Martha Stewart also joined the low-phosphate club with a new dishsoap she developed with Hain Celestial Brand for her new “Clean” line.

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25 thoughts on “Soap Phosphate Ban Begins July 1

  1. I would feel better about using phosphate free dishwasher detergents if my dishes actually came out clean! Is it better for the environment that I have to run the load 3 times instead!?! I wish these things were though out ahead of time before changes are enacted!

  2. Phosphate free would be great…if it worked. It doesn’t. What is the purpose of having phosphate free detergent if it doesn’t work and I have to keep re-washing and re-washing the dishes? Makes no sense. Think, people think! Have to make a trip across the border to get some of the contraband stuff…

  3. made my trip across the border yesterday for the real stuff. I am sick of all the green freaks imposing their love the mother religion down my throat!

  4. Read a comment by someone that said he puts 1/3 to 1/2 cup of vinegar in the bottom of the dishwasher before you start it then i put Cascade (white and orange packets)in the dispenser. Dishes came out great and pots did too. No more white, chalky mess. Thanks to the guy that commented on one of these sites. Not driving to another state now.

  5. Thanks for the vinegar idea. I tried 1 cup of Coke but that did not help. My dishes have to be rewashed by hand the soap scum is so bad–doesn’t anyone care that the soap scum will b getting into our bodies and that of our children if we don’t redo our dishes! Seems to me we should be up in arms about the danger to our children!

  6. My dishwasher dealer told me to buy phosphate (it comes in powder) and add 1-2 tsp to the load. It works great! I bought it at a regular hobby chemical supply store. Our water is super hard here and we need the phosphate. I think it’s the fluoride and chlorine that’s causing all the enviro problems w/water.

  7. I keep a small coffee cup in the corner on the top rack and fill it 1/4-1/2 with white vinagar each time I run my dishwasher. It seems to at least help. I like the idea of buying phosphate, going to try that next. I haven’t had clean,clear dishes since I bought this new dishwasher 8 months ago!! ugh!

  8. I wish they had warned us about this in advance so I could have stocked up on the good stuff, the stuff that really works.

    They pulled this same stunt when they banned Mercurochrome.

  9. I have phosphate free dish detergent that WORKS that gets shipped right to my house. Shoot me a message if you’d like to hear more! Jillian.Rovia at gmail.com

    And it’s not just the hippies trying to save the planet. The stuff is so bad for you to be breathing in and eating off of! Check out what’s in your household products and make an INFORMED decision.
    (MSDS sheets) http://www.herc.org/library/msds.htm

    For Cascade:
    “…Health Hazard Data
    ===========================================================================
    LD50-LC50 Mixture: NONE SPECIFIED BY MANUFACTURER.
    Route Of Entry – Inhalation: YES
    Route Of Entry – Skin: YES
    Route Of Entry – Ingestion: YES
    Health Haz Acute And Chronic: INGEST:MAY CAUSE VOMITING AND TRANSIENT, MODERATE GI IRRITATION. EYE:MAY CAUSE MODERATE, TRANSIENT IRRITATION.
    INHAL:HEAVY OR PROLONGED EXPOSURE TO DUST MAY CAUSE TRANSIENT RESPIRATORY TRACT IRRITATION. SKIN:TRANSIENT IRRITATION WITH PROLONGED EXPOSURE TO CONCENTRATED MATERIAL.
    Carcinogenicity – NTP: NO
    Carcinogenicity – IARC: NO
    Carcinogenicity – OSHA: NO
    Explanation Carcinogenicity: NOT RELEVANT.
    Signs/Symptoms Of Overexp: INGEST:MAY RESULT IN NAUSEA, VOMITING, AND/ OR DIARRHEA. EYE:MAY CAUSE STINGING, TEARING, ITCHING, SWELLING AND/OR REDNESS. INHAL:MAY CAUSE COUGHING, SORE THROAT, WHEEZING, OR TRANSITORY SHORTNESS OF BREATH. SKIN:CONTACT WITH CONCENTRATED MATERIAL MAY BE DRYING OR TRANSIENTLY IRRITATING TO SKIN.
    Med Cond Aggravated By Exp: NONE SPECIFIED BY MANUFACTURER.
    Emergency/First Aid Proc: INGEST:DRINK A GLASSFUL OF WATER OR MILK. IF PROLONGED CONTACT OCCURS, RINSE THOROUGHLY WITH WATER. IF SYMPTOMS
    PERSIST OR REOCCUR, GET MD.”

  10. Here is an interesting fact for ya. The single biggest source of phosphate is decaying ORGANIC matter. This includes sewage, leaves, trees, grass, garden waste ect… Less than 1% of phosphates entering our water ways is from dish soap or fertilizer. We don’t hold a candle to what mother nature can produce. Oh ya…if you really want to see a scary LD50 report, check up on aspirin, cinnamon, and most vitamin supplements.

  11. I know finding phosphate free detergents can be tough but I have been lucky enough to find some great ones that have a guarantee if your not satisfied. They are all phosphate free and they actually clean well! email me for info charlyw212@gmail.com

  12. The new soaps do not work at all if you have hard water. The environmental fools plans have backfired – now we eat off papar and disposible plastic plates everyday unless we have company. Fill up the landfills people! LOL

  13. I have terribly hard water and thought my dishwasher was broken. But now everything is good. Add 1/2-2/3 cup vinegar and fill the 2nd powder cup with TANG (or buy some citric acid powder 2 tsp per load) Squeeky clean..no scum

  14. My house is on municipal water and the waste water gets treated at the plant where phosphates are removed anyway. So I won’t feel guilty using commercial dishwasher detergent that actually works with a single cycle.
    But they sure didn’t give this any media attention, did they?

  15. Add 2 parts of D/W detergent to 1 part of TSP (buy at paint dept at Home depot…..$1.98) mix both powders well and use only one heaping tablespoon in the large soap compartment of your D/W (remember, less is more). VERY IMPORTANT….Add vineger to your rinse aid compartment then heat your water to 125 degrees, then run hot water faucet until dwater is at 125 degrees then hit start and enjoy clean dishes.
    PS if you live in these states….no phosphates:States instituting the rule include Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. But….if visiting another state…buy a box or two.

  16. They didn’t publicize it because they were in probably in cahoots with the dishwasher manufacturers to sell some new dishwashers when people saw their old washers weren’t working as good.

  17. @Diane – I work for a small family owned business that manufactures dishwashing detergent and I can assure you that is not the case. These new laws have reaked havoc on us! We have had to spend thousands of dollars on testing, retesting, reformulating, and redistributing (not to mention refunds & remedies) to adhere to the new laws. I agree, there has been very little publication or education on the new laws – but plenty of complaints. The manufacturers (big and small) are scrambling and doing the best they can with the situation. There’s just no way to know all the effects to every water source and area prior to now. I know for us, we have worked diligently to provide solutions to our hard water consumers. Our new product comes out this month (and all testing areas have had great success), but it will take time to get all the old product off the shelves. Just know that it isn’t just consumers that are suffering. As for a solution to the problem at hand, as some previous posters have said, vinegar works well for some. For harder water areas (especially well water), we have found a product called Lemi Shine helps a lot.

  18. Melaluca Company makes me mad because of the way they do business, BUT…They do have in my opinion the Best non phosphate detergent for dishwashers. My dishes always came out sparkling clean. I am not a member anymore because they expect you to buy about 75.00 worth of product every month. Can’t afford it. So I miss their product. Of all their products, the dishwashing detergent was my Fav. I hate not having phosphates as my dishes are terrible and ugly. I don’t want to eat off of them. Cascade is terrible. I even have soft water.

  19. Do any of you realize that if you correct your water problem then this and other symptoms of hard water will all disappear? The dish soap companies all seem to realize that you have hard water. Some of you even mention that you have hard water, so you know it too. For god’s sake focus on the water, your real problem, and the spotty dishes as well as the environmental impact of phosphates will correct themselves. I do not understand the desire to keep letting Procter and Gamble sell you a chemical to do something that is caused by an underlying water quality issue. It is like taking motrin for a headache that is caused by a brain tumor. First of all motrin was not intended for headaches. And secondly the headache will not subside until the tumor is removed, no matter what you take.

    We installed a very efficient softener, we are environmentally concious too, and many problems went away including our spotty dishes (using phosphate free 7th generation products), and our two year old’s chronic dry skin. We actually began considering the softener for Hannah’s skin, the clean dishes were just a cool bonus. We will never live anywhere with hard water without softening it again. It’s that good!

    This is all FYI based on personal experience. If you shop for a softener then do yourself a favor and deal with someone reputable. There are a lot of skeezers in the water business and I can tell you that we met a few, even with the “big” companies. We use a small local company who gave us personal attention and nailed it on the first try. We have referred them to several friends and family members and they are all very happy with their choice. It also supports your local economy as a lot of the national water filter companies are parts of wall street conglomerates where profit is king and personal service is very hard to come by. Do your homework and ask around and check service reputations. The internet makes this easy.

    Thanks, JF

  20. Wall cleaner? {tsp) Really ? Rather than bring back DDT and thalidomide , maybe figure out what mineral the deposit is and filter it out. Or ass something reasonable to your dishwasher ,vinegar is a safe choice.
    Any one hasn’t been paying attention wouldn’t remember that phosphates were reduced in laundry products in the early 1970’s because of the harm it was doing.
    Dishwashers worth poisoning the environment ?
    Not here,Ed

  21. There’s a new product available that clears hard water deposits from all your dishes. It’s all natural and contains no phosphates. You add it to your normal detergent. And use less detergent, so your cost per wash does not increase. Works great. Search for CitriClean of Florida.

  22. Lemi Shine does the trick. We were about to replace our whole dishwasher until we found out about Phosphates being banned. Lemi Shine is amazing–once I get all of the film removed I will try to cut back a little (maybe every other wash) because it’s pricey. Thanks, Green Movement! (not)

  23. Does anyone know when the ban will impact commercial detergents? I have to believe that restaurants, hospitals, schools, prisons, etc use a lot more detergent than households. Right now, the ban does not apply to commercial products. So when does that go into effect?

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