6 Best Phosphate Free Dishwasher Detergent

A phosphate free dishwasher detergent is what you’re looking for if you need a detergent with fewer chemicals for your dishwasher. Phosphates are chemical additives acting as cleaning agents that were added to detergents and soaps (including dishwashing detergents) to help them easily remove grease, stains, and spots and keep food particles from sticking to dishes during a wash cycle.

Although phosphates make it easier to get cleaner dishes and laundry, it takes a heavy toll on the environment, especially on the aquatic system. Causing legislation to be passed in 2010 mandating all manufacturers to stop the use of phosphate in the making of cleaning products—see the publication The Unintended Consequences of Household Phosphate Bans.

This has made finding new formulas that clean as well as phosphate and meet environmental regulations a huge challenge, especially for mainstream dishwasher detergent manufacturers. This is why a lot of homeowners, especially in areas with hard water issues, have been complaining about finding their dishes covered in white residue or film after running the dishwasher.

Keep reading to find out about the best phosphate free dishwasher detergents that will soften hard water, break down mineral deposits and give your dishes a thorough wash. Plus a pleasant scent and also leave them sparkling clean without any kind of residue on them.

Best phosphate free dishwasher detergents

  1. Cascade 59535 Automatic Dishwasher Powder
  2. Ecover Automatic Dishwashing Powder
  3. Finish Powerball Dishwashing Detergent
  4. Kirkland Premium Automatic Dishwasher Detergent
  5. ADUSTMAN ECO Friendly Dishwasher Detergent Dishwashing Pods
  6. Free & Clear Automatic Dishwasher Powder
 Cascade 59535 Automatic Dishwasher Powder Fresh Scent 75 Oz BoxEcover, Automatic Dishwashing Powder, 48 OzFinish Powerball Dishwashing DetergentKirkland Signature Easy to Use,Streak Free Premium Dishwasher Pacs, Automatic Dishwasher DetergentADUSTMAN ECO Friendly Dishwasher Detergent 60 Sheets Unscented Natural Biodegradable,No Plastic Jugs More Convenient Dishwashing Pods Liquid Pacs Tablets,Pure Cleaning Dish Easy to Use For Mothers GiftsFree & Clear Automatic Dishwasher Powder, 45oz Box 12/Case
BrandProcter & GambleEcoverFinishKirkland SignatureAdustmanSeventh Generation
FeaturesCan be sold in units instead of a pack

Organic 

Effective for soaking pots and pans with baked-on stains

Removes mineral deposits that cause etching

Phosphate free

Sparkling clean streak free dishes every time

Home and commercial use

Fresh and pleasant scent

Safe for septic and gray water systems

Prevents any reside or etching on your dishes

Fish friendly and Phosphate free

Sparkling clean streak free dishes every time

Effective for removing dried-on food stains

Plant based & Mineral ingredients

Completely biodegradable

Carton is made of 95% recycled cardboard

Natural fragrance

No pre-soak needed for any type of stains

Effective for baked-on foods

Pleasant lemon scent

Degreases and deodorizes

Removes limescale and mineral buildup

Works great on grease, coffee, wine and eggs

Sparkling clean streak free dishes every time

Phosphate free

Convenient to use

No pre-rinse required

Lemon citrus scent

Removes hard water residue

Gives your dishes a pleasant scent

Removes dishwasher odors

Eco-friendly

Easy to use

Hypoallergenic and biodegradable

No phosphate, bleach, or brightener

Conserves water and electricity

Unscented

Absolutely no chlorine, phosphate, dyes, or perfumes, yet cleans as well as traditional powders.

No petroleum-based cleaners.

Safe for septic and gray water systems

Bio-degradable

Unscented

FormPowderPowderTabletPacTabletPowder
Dimensions(LxWxH)6.78 x 1.98 x 10.95.9 x 2.3 x 8.98.35 x 6.54 x 1.37.48 x 6.3 x 6.699.85  x 5.9 x 0.741.8 x 5.9 x 8.5
Weight 4.69lbs3.25lbs1.18lbs0.01 Ounces5.64 ounces2.8lbs

1. Cascade 59535 Automatic Dishwasher Powder

Features:

  • Works great on grease, coffee, wine and eggs
  • Sparkling clean streak free dishes every time
  • Convenient to use
  • No pre-rinse required
  • Pleasant fresh scent
  • Gets rid of residues that cause etching

Talk of “eco-friendly”, the Cascade 59535 Automatic Dishwasher Powder is what you want for the money.

Made my 2014 model dishwasher work like new again and it’s super easy to use. Simply apply it as needed depending on the wash load and run a wash cycle.

According to the detergent’s manufacturer, which I can attest to, “this product is specially formulated to clean your dishes and glassware, remove grease, grime and built-up mineral deposits that cause etching while keeping them smelling heavenly”.

I noticed that after each use, not only did my dishes come out sparkling clean, they also had this fresh and nice scent to them which I loved.

Although the manufacturer says that your dishwasher uses less water when you use this Cascade detergent, I really couldn’t confirm this first hand, but one thing I’m sure of is its efficiency.

With this powder detergent, I can tell you to safely stop worrying about etching on your dishes. It is rich in cleaning active and metal protection agents, gentle on your dishes and dishwasher components.

All in all, it’s good value for the money!

Pros

  • Works great on baked-in stains
  • Phosphate free
  • Fresh and pleasant scent
  • Sparkling clean streak free dishes every time
  • Convenient to use
  • Can be bought in units instead of a pack
  • Suitable for domestic and commercial use
  • Convenient packaging

Cons

  • A bit pricey

2. Ecover, Automatic Dishwashing Powder

Features:

  • Safe for septic and gray water systems
  • Prevents any reside or etching on your dishes
  • Fish friendly and Phosphate free
  • Sparkling clean streak free dishes every time
  • Effective for removing dried-on food stains
  • Plant based & Mineral ingredients
  • Completely biodegradable
  • Carton is made of 95% recycled cardboard
  • Natural lemon fragrance

According to manufacturer description, “the Ecover Automatic Dishwashing Powder Detergent uses plant-based enzyme blends for effective cleaning, eschewing synthetic fragrances, dyes, phosphates, and chlorine bleach. This dishwasher detergent powder is very efficient at getting rid of those mineral deposit build-ups that cause etching on your dishes”.

I used to doubt the above until a friend recommended this to me after I ran out of dishwashing detergent sometime ago. Needless to say I was surprised at the results and wondered why this Ecover dishwashing powder wasn’t more popular than it was.

Here’s what really got me; I had a few dishes that had dried-on chocolate stains on them for quite some time, for which I had probably given up hope of ever getting them off the dishes. All I did was measure the detergent based on the amount of dishes and run a wash cycle, and that’s it! The dried-on chocolate stains were off.

To clean a full load of dirty dishes, Ecover recommends you fill up the detergent cup with 1.2 Oz or 35g of its dishwashing detergent to get the best results. 

You can rest easy in the knowledge that you’re not hurting the environment as this detergent is completely biodegradable, phosphate free and completely safe for the environment.

Pros

  • Prevents any reside or etching on your dishes
  • Safe for septic and gray water systems
  • Phosphate free
  • Sparkling clean streak free dishes every time
  • Biodegradable
  • Deodorizes and leaves a natural lemon fragrance

Cons

  • The scent might not be pleasing to everyone’s noses

3. Finish – Quantum with Activblu Technology – Dishwasher Detergent

Features:

  • No pre-soak needed for any type of stains
  • Effective for baked-on foods
  • Pleasant lemon scent
  • Degreases and deodorizes
  • Removes limescale and mineral buildup
  • Comes in Tablet form

Want five star performance at an affordable price? Look no further than the Finish Powerball Dishwashing Detergent.

Got rid of that awful smell from my dishwasher in record time. All I had to do was just load it in the dishwasher as I would any other detergent brand, and that’s it.

This dishwashing detergent packs quite a punch. It’s simple to use, effective and lasts long even after you apply it.

I’ll be honest, for you to get the best out of this detergent, you need some stacking ‘know-how’ and a little bit of TLC. So your dishwasher can run at optimal performance, load after load.

Though the manufacturer claims it’s safe for greywater systems, I couldn’t really confirm that. But one thing I can confirm is that the Finish Powerball dishwashing detergent will not only give you sparkling clean dishes, but it will also thoroughly clean the filter, hidden parts, spray arms, and other key components of your dishwasher. Keeping your machine in ‘tip-top’ shape.

This tablet has also been noted to remove the cloudy film and crusty residue that builds up on stainless panels inside the dishwasher and protects your dishes from etching.

Pros

  • No pre-soak needed for any type of stains
  • Effective for baked-on foods
  • Pleasant lemon scent
  • Easy to use
  • Long lasting scent
  • Degreases and deodorizes

Cons

  • Might need a few applications to get the best results

4. Kirkland Signature Dishwasher Detergent

Features:

  • Works great on grease, coffee, wine and eggs
  • Sparkling clean streak free dishes every time
  • Convenient to use
  • No pre-rinse required
  • Lemon citrus scent
  • Removes hard water residue

I feel like the Kirkland Signature Dishwasher Detergent cleans just as well as any premium detergent brand and is even more economical.

I’ve never gotten water spots or cloudy film from them, despite the fact that I never use a rinse aid. 

Amazing value for money, and lasts so much longer for a better price versus other brands. 

Using the Kirkland Signature Dishwasher Detergent is quite simple and convenient. You can simply apply it as needed depending on the dish load and run a wash cycle. Which is perfect for lazy us!

Although other people have reported that this detergent isn’t really effective for tackling calcium build-up, I haven’t been able to confirm so i’ll say fingers crossed on this.

 Pros

  • Cleans as well as premium brands
  • Works great on grease, coffee, wine and eggs
  • Sparkling clean streak free dishes every time
  • Convenient to use
  • No pre-rinse required
  • Lemon citrus scent
  • Convenient packaging

Cons

  • Not too effective for dealing with calcium buildup
  • Lemon citrus scent might not be to everyone’s liking

5. ADUSTMAN ECO Friendly Dishwasher Detergent

Features:

  • Removes dishwasher odors
  • Eco-friendly
  • Easy to use
  • Hypoallergenic and biodegradable
  • No phosphate, bleach or brightener
  • Conserves water and electricity

I must confess I only used these phosphate free dishwasher detergent sheets out of curiosity. That’s a decision i didn’t regret

I bought these sheets simply because I had heard of how nice they were, so I thought I’d try them out.

They not only cleaned great but made little soap suds and I had to double check the dishwasher to see if it was running as it ran in near silence.

The best part? These sheets are convenient and handy.

Another great thing about this detergent is that it doesn’t have any scent, so you don’t have to worry if you have any allergies.

Although the manufacturer claims it conserves water and electricity, I didn’t really notice any difference in terms of energy and water consumption in comparison to other dishwashing detergents.

Very nice product but just a few niggles here and there.

Pros

  • Eco-friendly
  • Easy to use
  • Conserves water and electricity

Cons

  • Unscented
  • Inconsistent results

6. Free & Clear Automatic Dishwasher Powder

Features:

  • Absolutely no chlorine, phosphate, dyes or perfumes, yet cleans as well as traditional powders.
  • No petroleum-based cleaners.
  • Safe for septic and gray water systems

With most dishwashing detergents, you pretty much have to trust that these products work.

But having used the Seventh Generation Free & Clear Automatic Dishwasher Powder, I can attest to its effectiveness.

According to a manufacturer’s claim of ‘spotless cleaning’ which I can testify to, this detergent removes limescale and mineral residue from my dishes and glassware.

Although I was a little scared about using it in an old model dishwasher, I can confirm its dishwasher components-safe, and gave me sparkling clean dishes after every wash cycle.

Using the Seventh Generation Free & Clear Automatic Dishwasher Powder is just like using any other dishwashing detergent with a neutral scent. This means there is absolutely no chlorine, phosphate, dyes or perfumes which can pollute the air in your home. 

To deal with hard water issues in your home, I recommend you use a rinse aid along with it just to make it more effective when doing its job.

Pros

  • Removes hard water residue
  • Absolutely no chlorine, phosphate, dyes or perfumes, yet cleans as well as traditional powders.
  • No petroleum-based cleaners.
  • Safe for septic and gray water systems
  • Biodegradable

Cons

  • Unscented
  • Product package description can be a little confusing

What to avoid in dishwasher detergent?

Here’s a list of some chemical additives or ingredients to look out for and avoid when purchasing dishwashing detergents:

  1. Isothiazolinone preservatives (Methylisothiazolinone)
  2. Undisclosed Fragrances
  3. Polyethylene glycol compounds (PEGs)
  4. Ethoxylated ingredients
  5. Polyacrylates
  6. Formaldehyde releasing ingredients
  7. Surfactants

Why should we use phosphate free detergent?

It’s been noted that phosphates are a major threat to the ecosystem and water supply, and detergents are one of the many sources by which phosphate gets discharged into the environment. This is because water with high levels of phosphate has lower oxygen levels and more algae growth, which destroys the ecosystem, aquatic life and water supply.

This has resulted in demands for reduction in detergents or even an outright ban on the use of phosphates in detergents.

What replaced phosphates in detergents?

Phosphates are used as cleaning agents in laundry and dishwashing detergents. They effectively dissolve dirt and soften the water by reducing the number of metal ions in it.

Currently, there are several alternatives manufacturers use instead of phosphates in detergents on the consumer market. These alternatives include proteins, citrates, polysaccharide mixes, zeolites, and polycarboxylates.

Is there a substitute for phosphate?

There isn’t really a single additive that can replace phosphate on its own, but most often a combination of additives is needed to replace the functionality of phosphates. 

All of these substitutes such as polysaccharide mixes, fibers, proteins, and more, come at a much higher price compared to phosphate.

Is all detergent phosphate free?

Read the label: Since 2010, phosphates are no longer present in most major detergent brands.

Most major brands now use a 100% phosphate free biodegradable formula free of perfumes and dyes. Even the EPA/Safer Choice recognition does not endorse products that contain phosphate

What to consider when choosing the best dishwasher detergent

Look out for the following when buying a phosphate free detergent:

a. Types of dishwasher detergents

  • Gels: Gel detergents are often the most affordable option, but they tend to be the least effective at cleaning. This is because gel detergents don’t contain the mix of bleaching agents and enzymes found in other detergent types as these ingredients don’t mix well in liquid form, but they are great for normal cleaning.
  • Powders: Powdered detergents are affordable and more effective than gels in terms of cleaning power. But powders can be a mess to measure, and store and can also become meshed over time when exposed to damp environments.
  • Pods or Tablets: Pods often take the form of gel packs, while tablets are made of concentrated dishwashing powder. Both go directly into the dishwasher’s detergent dispenser with no need for measuring and absolutely no risk of spills. They are the most convenient and efficient option, but also the most pricy among all 3 options.

b. Ingredients

The best dishwasher detergents for hard water usually contain sodium-based ingredients, citric acid, and other enzymes to help soften and break down hard water deposits for a more thorough clean.

c. Scent

Although this isn’t really a priority for most consumers, most dishwasher detergent makes include chemically or naturally derived scents in their products. Some naturally derived detergents opt for essential oil fragrances instead of chemical scents.

Unscented options are also available for those who are sensitive or allergic to fragrances.

The most preferred scent is simply down to the individual’s preference.

d. Eco-friendliness

Eco-friendly dishwasher detergents cause less harm to humans and the environment. These detergents may contain natural, biodegradable, and other ‘green’ ingredients.

Eco-friendly dishwasher detergents are efficient and have little environmental impact as they employ the use of naturally derived enzymes, acids, and fragrances.

Pods and tablets are often the most compacts and concentrated dishwasher detergent options because they take up less storage space and use less packaging compared to gels and powders.

How to get better results from phosphate free dishwasher detergents

  1. Add a water softener to the bottom of your dishwasher before you start a wash cycle to prevent spotting and filming.
  2. Don’t let food dry on the dishes
  3. Reduce the water temperature running through your dishwasher to less than 140°F
  4. Use a gel or tablets for better cleaning results
  5. Don’t overload the dishwasher
  6. Use a rinse aid

How often should I clean a Dishwasher?

Regular cleaning of your dishwasher kills bacteria and prevents residual buildup on your dishes.

Ideally, you should clean your dishwasher at least every 2 months or once a month if you use it more than twice a day to ensure your dishes are properly cleaned.

You can do a quick soft cleaning or deep cleaning of your dishwasher to keep it in tip-top shape.

How to soft clean a Dishwasher

  1. Fill a measuring cup or dishwasher-safe glass bowl with white vinegar
  2. Place the vinegar dish on the bottom rack
  3. Run the dishwasher on a full cycle
  4. Use a clean rag to wipe out the inside of the dishwasher when the cycle is completed
  5. Try running another wash cycle if there is still a strong smell of vinegar noticeable. This should help to flush out the remaining vinegar. You can also consider adding a tablespoon or two of baking soda to help absorb the scent and run another cycle.

A quick soft clean is recommended every 2 months to prevent the build-up of debris and grease, or when you begin to notice white residue or grease on your dishes

How to deep clean a Dishwasher

  1. Spray a degreasing agent inside the dishwasher and then wipe clean
  2. Run the vinegar through a rinse cycle
  3. Unplug the dishwasher when the cycle is completed
  4. Remove the bottom and top rack of the machine and soak them in hot water mixed with vinegar
  5. Remove the dishwasher fan (follow your manufacturer’s directions in the dishwasher’s user manual)
  6. Use a thin wire to clean out the spray holes and rinse thoroughly
  7. Return the fan and racks to the dishwasher
  8. Plug the machine back in and run a wash cycle without soap to rinse everything

Deep cleaning is advisable at least twice a year to prevent any residue or grease from accumulating in the expensive components and hard-to-reach parts of the dishwasher.

Do phosphate free detergents really clean?

Before the advancement of detergent formulas a few years ago, there was a general dissatisfaction amongst homeowners about the poor cleaning results of phosphate-free or ‘green’ detergents.

However, as dishwashing detergent formulas improved, so did cleaning results. Hence no one cared about phosphates anymore and it was relegated to the background.

The phosphate free dishwashing detergents currently available on the market all deliver excellent cleaning results, leaving your dishes sparkling clean with no residue and giving them a pleasant scent.

Conclusion

Phosphate based detergents clean excellently, but the fact that they took a heavy toll on the ecosystem negativity meant they had to be phased out.

Manufacturers had to find other alternatives to phosphate that clean as well as it does without the negative effects on the environment.

Phosphate free detergents have come a long way and are guaranteed to give you an excellent wash every time you use them in your dishwasher. Leaving your dishes sparkling clean with no residues and with no negative effects on the ecosystem.