The Realm of the Verbal Processor

Jarvis's Ramblings

“Green” Dish Detergent?

This morning I went to get a plastic cup out of our dishwasher that had just finished running. When I pulled it out, the cup was still dirty…it felt slimy or greasy. It actually made me wonder if we had forgotten to put detergent in the dishwasher when we ran it. I checked and we had put detergent in from a newly opened box. The fact that it was a new box triggered my memory…

I had seen a few news articles last year about some areas passing laws limiting or banning the use of phosphates in dishwasher detergent. In the articles I had seen about states banning phosphates, people quickly found out that their dishes weren’t getting clean. Some residents in Washington state were headed across the border into Idaho to buy detergent.

I checked the box and found the proud proclamation in very tiny print on the back of the box: “Contains no phosphates!” We ran the dishwasher a second time. Same result. I then loaded up my son and headed to Target to see if any other dish detergent had phosphates. After grabbing a box of Cascade that does have phosphates we once again have clean dishes.

I’ve seen the “green” initiatives that are driving the phosphate free dish detergent bans. I support conservation. My family recycles (even with the convoluted restrictions on what can/cannot be recycled in our area). I am very conscious of gas mileage and how the way I drive affects that. I do my best to waste as little as possible. However…if I have to wash a load of dishes multiple times with the phosphate free detergent (and then again with detergent that actually gets the job done)…is that really “green”?

A Sierra Club page claims: “Safe, effective, phosphate-free detergents are already on the market and among the most effective, according to Consumer Reports.” They don’t link to anything by Consumer Reports. After my experience (and the experience of those traveling across state lines to buy detergent) I seriously question the term “effective” in that quote. Matter of fact I found a reference to a Consumer Reports article on dish detergents from August 2009 that stated “Detergents without phosphates … tended to perform worst overall.”

January 30, 2010 - Posted by | Misc


  1. “They don’t link to anything by Consumer Reports.”

    and neither do you.

    Comment by jmurphy | January 31, 2010

  2. The post has been updated to link to the CR article. You will have to be a CR subscriber to actually view the page. (The reason I didn’t bother linking originally.) I at least mentioned the month and year that the CR article ran which is more than the Sierra Club page did.

    Comment by Jarvis | January 31, 2010

  3. We’ve been using the “Seventh Generation” powder dishwasher soap in ours for quite a while now. I don’t know if it has phosphates or not (it’s supposed to be completely natural, whatever that means), and we very, very rarely have a dish that needs to go back in. I’ve also learned that our dishwasher is a powerhouse, so that might skew results. FWIW.

    Comment by Matt | February 1, 2010

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