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MA Bans Phosphates in Dish Detergents

Starting in July 2010, residents of Massachusetts and 14 other states won’t have to puzzle over which dish detergents are phosphate-free, because they all will be. The new law exempts detergents sold for commercial dishwashers (a bummer), but detergents for residential use will all contain less than 0.5% phosphates.

And the winner is...

Most detergents include phosphates because they work better with hard water. Unfortunately, all that phosphorus washing down the drain has the same impact as too much fertilizer washing into our waterways. It causes algae blooms, reducing the oxygen in the water and killing off wildlife.

When I switched, I went through quite a bit of trial and error. I tried Palmolive (liquid), Cascade (liquid), and Ecover (powder), but they left residue on my dishes. (I should have known not to go against Consumer Reports’ recommendation just because I wanted to keep using liquid.) Finally I settled on Seventh Generation powder. I really can’t tell the difference between it and our old detergent.

A bonus tip: We used to use Jet Dry. Then we realized we were just doing it automatically—we didn’t even know if we needed it. So we stopped. We don’t often notice any spots on our dishes, and if we do, white vinegar does the same job. Seriously. Just fill the Rinse Aid compartment with it. I was worried it would smell, but it doesn’t at all.


Pingback from Pragmatic Environmentalism
Time September 25, 2010 at 5:02 pm

[…] Cleaner for the Environment, Not for the Dishes – New York Times. I agree that it can be difficult to find a good phosphate-free detergent, but they do exist. […]

Comment from Mike M
Time July 19, 2011 at 12:58 pm

WHAT IDIOTS! The dishwasher used to clean the dishes but NOW I have RE-wash many of them thanks to MA environmental nitwits. It wastes water! Did those Nazis consider THAT when they banned phosphates? My grass needs more water to stay green because the fertilizer has no phosphorus anymore either. I’m not near a stream or lake and I have private sewerage so I was never the problem yet I have to endure this BS.

Comment from Brenda Pike
Time July 19, 2011 at 1:10 pm

You might want to try different kinds. I tried a few before I found one that I really liked (which is why I wanted to recommend it to everyone). As a plus, now that they have to do it, the detergent companies will probably actually work on making good phosphate-free detergents, rather than only give us the crappy choices we had before.

Also, it’s probably not good for your blood pressure to get this worked up over dish detergent.

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