Don’t Buy a New Dishwasher Just Yet!

image by independentman

Earlier this month, several of my friends were ready to march into Best Buy and charge new dishwashers on their Visa cards.  They were outraged!  Without warning, their trusty dishwashers were turning out filmy drinking glasses that had to be re-washed and residue could be seen on plastic drinking glasses and plates.  I was ready to do the same until I came across a very interesting news article.

It seems that environmental activists have been busy because now dishwasher detergent containing phosphates are illegal in at least sixteen states.  That’s right.  Illegal.  Proctor & Gamble and other major detergent manufacturers decided to eliminate phosphates in all their dishwasher products.  Unless you have a tidy stockpile of “old” detergent, you are in the same boat as the rest of us.

One woman said,

“The pots and pans were gray, the aluminum was starting to turn black, the glasses had fingerprints and lip prints still on them, and they were starting to get this powdery look to them,” Vernon says. “I’m like, oh, my goodness, my dishwasher must be dying; I better get a new dishwasher.”

I can relate.  I’ve had to wash my glasses by hand, and God only knows what residue we’re eating because it can’t be seen as easily.

Some zealots with way too much time on their hands were even going store to store in search of the illegal substance, threatening retailers with fines up to $5000 a day for having the offending products on their shelves.

Am I doomed to filthy dishes forever?

You can try adding a 1/4 cup of vinegar to each dishwasher rinse cycle, but all that vinegar adds up quickly, is just another added expense, and you have to set a timer to know when to add it.  You can run your dishwasher a second time, wasting water and electricity, or buy detergent with phosphates from a restaurant supply store.   Some people swear by Lemi-Shine, and come to think of it, Spic-n-Span contains phosphates, last time I checked.  Maybe half a teaspoon or so might give you clean dishes, which is all we really want anyway. A final option, one that I am trying out this week, is to add a tablespoon of trisodium phosphate to each load.  This can be purchased in a hardware or home improvement store, until it gets out-lawed, too.

Considering that on January 1, over 700 laws went into effect in California alone, I think a little outrage is called for.  There is no end in sight to restrictive laws being passed, and as I’ve taught my kids, “Every time a law is passed, someone, somewhere loses some freedom.”   I wonder how many freedoms I’ve lost already this year without even knowing it?  (Don’t get me started on incandescent light bulbs!)

End of my rare, semi-political rant.

There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

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  1. says

    Oh I am so with you on the incandescent light bulbs (it's getting hard to buy them these days and that makes me crazy!)! We don't have the dishwasher issues since we have a water softener. That seems to help us not have the issues everyone else seems to have.

    • TheSurvivalMom says

      I think flourescents have their place, but now there are major issues with dealing when one of them breaks! It takes nearly a Hazmat suit to handle it! Unintended consequences, always.

  2. Anonymous says

    I am very anti having everyone tell me what to do by passing laws left and right but phosphates shouldn't be used and I'm glad they are being made illegal. "Phosphates are water-softening mineral additives that were once widely used in laundry detergents to enhance the performance of surfactants. They can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea if ingested, and because it is corrosive, it can cause severe skin irritation. When phosphates enter waterways, they act as a fertilizer, spawning overgrowth of algae. This overabundance of aquatic plant life eventually depletes the water's oxygen supply, killing off fish and other organisms. " They are bad for both our bodies and the earth…I'd rather have to wash dishes by hand than use them…

    • TheSurvivalMom says

      For me, the phosphates are only one issue. It seems that it takes only a very small number of people anymore to make laws that affect millions of us, and all too often, those laws are based on biased "studies"! Every one of these laws, so far, has had unintended consequences, and I expect the same to be true for this one. I'm not arguing in favor of phosphates, but surely for a decision like this that affects so many of us, where was the discussion? Where was the opposing viewpoint? Also, restaurants, hospital cafeterias, etc. can use the illegal detergents! I doubt very much that the residents of the various Governors mansions or the White House are having to put up with filmy drinking glasses! If this really were a life and death matter, the law would apply to everyone, but it doesn't.

  3. LizLong says

    Well, I guess those containers of dishwasher detergent in my preps are a good thing! Too bad I don't have even more. It really is appalling if you actually go even just read the Constitution, taking time to understand at least the gist of it, how very little of what our government does is actually "Constitutional". While the Constitution was amended so people directly vote for Senators instead of state legislatures choosing them, that's just another way the Feds have watered down the control states have over the federal government – in DIRECT contradiction to what the Founders clearly wanted. And that one is Constitutional! If we could harness the energy generated by the Founders rolling over in their graves from the way things are going, we wouldn't need any energy from the Middle East!

  4. says

    Taking a contrarian POV here – as long as the users and their children drink all their waste water so no one else is ever going to be exposed to it, I don't care WHAT substances you put into your waste water.

    • TheSurvivalMom says

      Fern, you know I don\’t mind contrarian viewpoints around here. What I would like to hear, actually, is MORE contrarian POVS when decisions like this one are made in the first place!

  5. zmalfoy says

    I can verify that my dishwasher is actually, physically, broken. No bottom rack, no pillar to reach the top rack, trouble handling any soap of any kind. It's an ex-dishwasher. It is no more. . . it is not pining for the fjords . . .

    That said, I agree on all the restrictive laws. If dishes are so dirty coming out, then isn't this a public health hazard? Aren't they now putting us in danger of all manner of food-poisoning and disease? If there's fingerprints, those prints are made of something, and that something likely holds germs and other cruddy things that, for instance, we simply cannot have on our canning jars when putting up food.

    And I hate the CFLs. The light is too harsh, takes waaaaaaaaay to long to light up, they're uglier than sin, are "hazardous" if you accidentally break them, are expensive!, and data is now coming out showing that for meny people, they don't lead to any energy or $$ savings at all.

    Well, as a great man once said: "It's what a government does– get in a man's way."

  6. rharvey72 says

    I have recently been using a recipe I found online for dishwashing detergent: 1 part Arm and Hammer WASHING soda and one part Borax…I mix up a cup of each in a small container and use two tablespoons per load. I also add white vinegar to my rinse agent holder (where you'd put a product like Jet Dry)…I've been doing this for a couple of weeks now and my dishes are just as sparkling clean as when I was using Electrosol.

    I changed to this mostly because I am looking for small ways that I can cut back on spending to be able to put more money toward my prepping efforts…

    Happy Prepping, R

    • Shirley Smith says

      I think that's a great idea.I'm going to start with my next load.Always have those ingredients since I make my own laundry detergent.

  7. says

    You just saved me $150. I was going to pick up a new dishwasher this afternoon. I am so glad I read this first! I had just emailed the friend I was getting the dishwasher from, and checked my bloglines. There was this post with the best title! Thank you so much! We tried washing with the 1/4 cup vinegar, and it is definitely the detergent that is the problem.

  8. suek says

    "(Don’t get me started on incandescent light bulbs!)"

    We have a lighting store – lightbulbs, not light fixtures …

    Rant on…!!!

  9. Bonnie says

    Thanks for the tip, I was wondering why my strainer all of a sudden was black! Why even bother buying dishwasher soap if it is just junk anyway. I like the washing soda/borax idea. I am so bummed! Cascade Complete used to work and now it is crap.

  10. Barbara says

    I have never owned a dishwasher. I've done dishes by hand since I was a small child, and now my grandchildren do them by hand at my house. I'm really sorry, I'm just not feeling the pain.

    I do, though, feel the consternation over the busy bodies trying to make my life better without my input! Please leave the sugar in my cereal, the caffeine in my soda, the trans fats in my burgers and the high fructose syrup in my everythings. I will decide if I consume it, and in what amounts. I'm not as mindlessly stupid as the busy bodies think. They need to stick to sneaky industries who lie about what's in things, like the Chinese and their Melamine.

    • LoriB says

      Barbara I'd vote for you too! :)

      We also wash dishes by hand and have for years. We do however have a dishwasher but we only use it to heat the canning jars during canning season. In previous years we have used the dishwasher during the holidays when we had many dinner guests, but this year I chose to do the dishes by hand and it was really a fun team effort working in the kitchen with all the women in the family. It really brought a sense of an old fashioned Christmas, team effort, community, accomplishing something important while having fun together at the same time. It felt like we were part of the Waltons! :) This is a new tradition we're keeping!

      As for big government imposing on our lives … they cause my blood pressure to go through the roof!

  11. author2000 says

    LOL! When I saw the title, I thought the post was going to be along the lines of 'Is it really so hard to wash dishes by hand?'

    My dishwasher still works fine. Have been thinking about going the borax/washing soda/white vinegar route because it's more frugal. Somehow, I thought they removed phosphates from laundry detergent decades ago, so this is a little confusing to me. Phosphates in the waterways dump too much nutrition into the mix, promote the growth of algae which suffocate out the native species. Losing them in dish detergent is a small price to pay for conservation of the eco-system, IMHO.

    Am recently hooked on Soap Berries. I purchased them from a local Peoria store and have been very pleased with their performance in my laundry and as a shampoo. Soap berries grow on trees and so are fully compostible and non-polluting. You could even water your garden with the wastewater from your washing machine. I think I read somewhere they can be used in dishwashers, but to add the white vinegar to the rinse agent dispenser.

    Don't know why restaurants, big business, etc can still use the phosphates. They probably have a good lobby in Washington and showed up with spreadsheets demonstrating how washing by hand, or adding vinegar to their rinse water would put them out of business and be the ultimate trigger to world economic collapse.

    For the record, I LOVE CFLs. They are magic. I plug them in and my electric bill shrinks to almost nothing. They're right up there with my Prius under my list of favorite things.

    • TheSurvivalMom says

      My husband installed CFLs in our kitchen, and although it's a pain to have to wait for them to become bright, it's helped bring down our electric bill. Phosphates were banned from laundry detergent quite a few years ago but the dishwasher detergent is a recent development. I did quite a bit of research on this and never did find if it was a federal mandate or just individual states making the decision.

    • MattGandalf says

      Commercial kitchens can use detergent with phosphates because commercial dishwashers use washwater much more efficiently than home washers. The water is reused for load after load and only drained once every couple of hours. For the number of dishes washed, there is very little detergent dumped in the drains. Efficiency wins again,

  12. Mary says

    I have been stocking up on fels naptha soap and 20 Mule Team borax for backup laundry detergent, but I can't ever find Arm and Hammer Washing Soda. I'm in GA and I've looked at the grocery and hardware stores. I even looked at the dollar stores and a few other places. Where do some of you find it? Thanks!

    • Amos says

      I had the same problem. You can order it online from A&H or even ask your favorite store to start carrying it on their shelves. Now days I can find it in at least one of my favorite local stores, all because I asked. And because others are buying it now they happily keep it in stock. And if anyone makes homemade laundry soap and you fail to find Fels Naptha, Ivory bar soap works in a pinch.

      I have a love hate relationship with the new CFLs. I love how long they last and in working on certain projects the help with seeing true colors. I hate the waiting for them to be bright enough, I hate the disposal and potential risk (try finding a good old fashioned thermometer anymore) and now we're expected to put them all through our homes. People aren't going to take the time to "properly" dispose of them, they're going to just toss them in the trash. I predict this will be like the invention of the plastic grocery bag. They were initially thought of as being a great environmental stride (recyclable, trees were saved) and now they're deemed an environmental hazard.

    • Connie says

      Here are 2 Blog posts that I found:

      1) You can call the Arm & Hammer company to find where washing soda is in your area. Call 1-800-524-1328 and give them your zip code and the UPC code (33200-03020) and they'll tell you which stores sell it.

      You can also find it among swimming pool supplies, since it's used to raise the PH of pool water. I think PH plus was one brand. Just look at the ingredients and some will say 100% washing soda, soda ash, or sodium carbonate.

      That said, since washing soda is more alkaline than baking soda it will work better for cleaning, but baking soda does still work.

      2) I did find a recipe for laundry detergent using baking soda (not washing soda). 2 gallons of hot water, 1 bar of grated soap, 2 cups of baking soda. I am going to add some drops of tea tree oil and lavendar oil as well.

      I am giving it a try today to see how it works. If it does, I'll be switching as soon as I run out of my Tide. :)

  13. Dennis says

    Interesting discussion!

    Another ill-advised government mandate is the requirement in Oregon that all gasoline contain 10% ethanol. You cannot buy 100% gas in Oregon.

    Consumers guide ran gas mileage tests using 15% ethanol and found that on-average gas mileage drops MORE than 15% when 15% ethanol is added.

    In other words, a typical car can travel more miles on 8.5 gallons of gasoline, than on 10 gallons of a 15% ethanol/gas mixture. What a waste!

    I don’t know how many other states have this problem

    Humanist Dad

  14. Ingerlisa says

    Very interesting, but I buy dishwashing detergent from a company online that doesn't have phosphates in it and my dishes come out sparkling and no film on the plastic. Last week I ran out of my detergent and had to buy some Cascade and it caused so much gunk on my plastic I decided to do my dishes by hand until my next order arrives.

  15. Sean says

    The mention of incandescent bulbs brought something to mind I've noticed the past few years…(this may not apply to a lot of you that live in Warmer climates), but has anyone else noticed that since the switch to CFL bulbs, it costs more to heat your home? I never realized how much of the heat that the bulbs were producing was warming the air in my home, until I made the switch to completely CFL (it's getting harder and harder to find REAL light bulbs where I live)…sure you save money on the bulbs…and spend it all on heating in the Winter!

  16. says

    I hate the CFLs. I live in Houston, and almost all of my light fixtures are ceiling fans which means they have movement. CFLs last just a short time – definitely NOT years as promised, because they need to be stable.

    And then WM started getting weird on the wattages- 52 watts, instead of 60 for example. I know that's a new kind of bulb but I don't know how they do in ceiling fans, either. BUT my DollarTree still has regular incandescents, at least.

    Also- I have lots of little children. I hate the mercury aspect of the CFLs.

  17. Zack says

    The problem is the position of the career lawmaker – that's what their job is – to make laws. Our forefathers were not career politicians, this position developed over time. And all of these laws add up.

    As far as the dishwasher goes, I use Lemi-shine and that definitely helps.

  18. pamela says

    I'm working hard on being prepared, stocking up on foods, spices, etc. I also have a stash of real light bulbs. The kind Edison invented. We need to encourage the new Congress to repeal the light bulb ban.

  19. Dennis says

    Hi Ingerlisa

    We also have had poor luck with Cascade dishwashing detergent. Please let us know what brand you have been buying on-line that works better.


      • says

        Me too. I'm 20 years into Melaleuca products now. In the beginning we did it the old way with hand washing dishes untill Diamond brite came out . Cascade(P&G) has all kinds of court case against it and the dangers accosiated…… real and experienced from that toxic product

  20. Lynda says

    I just started doing what rharvey does: equal parts borax and baking soda. This will save me a ton of money as these are much cheaper than even the cheapest auto dishwasher soap.

  21. Alisa says

    Lemi Shine does work…a little goes a long way. A dishwasher repairman gave us the tip. I had filmy pots and utensils until using this. I put a small amount of regular automatic dish detergent into the bottom of the dishwasher itself then put the Lemi Shine in the cup in the door. I also use white vinegar in the rinse agent dispenser instead of Jet Dry. A bottle of Lemi Shine lasts over a month at our house running 1-2 loads a day. If I forget the Lemi Shine I have to rewash the load.

  22. SouthernBelle77 says

    To add to the self-made dishwasher detergent – I've used this successfully on very hard well water for about 6 months, with wonderful results! To the 1/2 cup borax, 1/2 cup washing soda I add 1/4 cup kosher salt as another softener/scrubber and 1/4 cup citric acid as a clarifier (actually I use 8-10 packets of store brand lemon kool-aid, equals roughly the correct amount of citric acid). I have it in an old water bottle and store in the fridge (with "do no eat, soap" written all over it!). The citric acid tends to clump up, doesnt affect cleaning ability but pour-ability. And of course, vinegar as a rinse agent 😉

  23. CitznKate says

    I have been using the non-phosphate dishwasher powder from ALDI foods for awhile. Our town is very small, with a water supply coming from two very deep wells. Years ago they put an RO filter on the water system for the whole town. The result is completely soft water without having to add a water softener to the water system at our house. We hardly need any detergent at all in our laundry, and the phosphate-free ALDI dishwasher powder works great in our 8-year-old portable dishwasher. If putting an RO filter on the water supply in your home isn't an option, by far the best alternative looks to me like stocking up on trisodium phosphate. It shouldn't be hard to estimate how much you might need to last through several hundren loads of dishes. If the poop smacks the blades we're going to be washing dishes by hand anyway and for that we've stocked up on Dawn (made with petroleum distillates, so soon to become more expensive with =/>$100/barrel oil looming).

  24. says

    I have to run a rinse cycle (18min) on my dishwasher with a tablespoon or three of citric acid every few loads and then the regular pots and pans cycle to keep my dishes from getting the hard water buildup and spots. Because I have very, very, very hard well water, and no water softener. So I get my 25-30lbs of bulk citric acid every 1.5-2 years from my local health food store. And? The citric acid won't do funky things to my septic system, either. 😀 I do have to use Electrosol and JetDry in addition though. Ah well, just another fun quirk to my house.

  25. Emerald says

    Use vinegar in place of Jet Dry or Finish Rinse, just pour it into the dispenser and it works great. I have been doing this for years and I never have any spotting or residue on my glasses or dishes! I have tried white, and apple cider and both work the same.

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