Make Your Own Phosphate Dishwasher Detergent

Make Dishwashing Detergent with Phosphorus

How to Make Dishwashing Soap / TSP Dishwasher Detergent Recipe

If the previous solutions listed here on our website are not for you, use the following dishwasher soap recipe to make dishwashing detergent with enough phosphorous to clean your dishes properly.

What you’re doing here is adding phosphate to soap so that it’s more effective. By doing this, you can buy whichever detergent brand you want (including Cascade) and it’ll work better.

Add Phosphates to Dishwasher Detergent to Make it Work Better

You will need:

  • A 7.5 pound bottle of gel type dishwasher detergent
  • One pound box of trisodium phosphate (TSP) available in home improvement stores
  • Half-cup water (optional)
  • Empty plastic bottle of dishwasher detergent
  • Wooden paint stick
  • Mop bucket
  • Funnel


  1. Pour dishwasher detergent and half box of TSP into bucket.
  2. Stir ingredients, adding water to thin out mixture.
  3. Stir until ingredients are thoroughly distributed.
  4. Use the funnel to pour the solution back into the detergent bottle.

With this easy recipe, your dishwasher detergent will now start to work like it should.

Trisodium Phosphate Dishwasher Detergent Works

No Phosphorous: Is That Good for Fish, Bad For Us?


Two years ago, a number of states banned the use of phosphorous in dishwasher detergents in order to reduce pollution of rivers and streams. Soap manufacturers can no longer sell dishwasher detergent with more than 0.5 percent phosphorous. The ban did not affect commercial detergents or soap for hand washing dishes.

Removing the use of phosphorous, prevents algae blooms in rivers and streams, which deprive fish of oxygen. While it sounded like a great idea considering the rising price of phosphorous and an ever-growing, eco-conscious public. Manufacturers welcomed the chance to save production costs and the environment.

Much to the consternation of consumers, dingy dishes and stained dishwashers with stained dishwasher parts resulted as an unwanted consequence of this ban. It turns out that phosphorus is a very important cleaning ingredient in dishwasher detergents.

Phosphorous is not only a stain and grease remover, it also traps dirt and oil so it can be cleanly and completely rinsed away. Not enough phosphorous in detergent means dirt and grease will be left behind on dishes and the dishwasher. Consumers have reported dishes with a white gritty film, black-stained aluminum cookware and gray-looking stainless steel. Worse, some report lipstick and fingerprints on supposedly clean glasses.

Some, unaware of why their dishwashers are suddenly not cleaning properly, have spent money on unnecessary service calls or new dishwasher purchases because their dishwashers seemed to be beyond repair.

To fix this, people must either wash or rinse the dishes before washing them in the dishwasher or run the dishwasher twice. Still others have resorted to simply washing dishes by hand, wasting water, electricity and time.

Incoming Searches:


  1. If you have powdered dishwashing Cascade. Do you just throw it away and buy a bottle of it instead and follow the directions?

  2. Most people are adding phosphate to it, which seems to help. Just don’t use too much.

  3. Where did you find REAL t.s.p.? Everything I’ve found so far is like t.s.p.-light — contains NO phophates! In addition, all liquid (hand-washing) dish soap is now phosphate-free as well (at least in Minnesota).

  4. How would u do this with a powdered detergent? Add the phosphate?

  5. Darrin Knowles says:

    The Amway tablets in New Zealand list phosphates as containing 15 – 30% phosphates – is this the same in America?
    Don’t you think that, if your government has made a law to protect the environment, and you guys are rushing around adding the same banned product back that you’re all being a bit irresponsible and well just selfish?

  6. Darrin Knowles says:

    Furthermore, I find that pulling the gauze filters once a fortnight or so and giving them a clean with the dish brush keeps the whole dishwasher in top condition. And once a month, I have to pull the rubber edging at the bottom of the door on the inside and spray in there and wipe with a paper towel – the gunge that builds up is quite heinous… and I reckon this is what makes dishwashers smell. Best tip of all though is to NEVER allow egg shell to get inside – these fragments sit just inside the jets on the rotating arms and stop the water from reaching the dishes at the outer edges of the racks. When this does happen, I can remove the rotating arms and then try to jiggle/rinse/crush in order to extract. Greetings from NZ.

  7. Andrew Brouseau says:

    It’s not hard to completly wash your dishes or to rinse your dishes first. If the dishes are piling up because of a large family, make the family do some. It’s really not a big deal. It’s a waste of phosphorus anyways.

  8. There is a new product on the market sold from Florida (where phosphate additive sales are legal) that is a tablet form of tri-sodium phosphate – and is added to the detergent dispenser along with the dishwashing detergent. It dissolves in the wash process and produces about 5-7% phosphate mixture depending on the amount of detergent used.

    It is availalbe and NOT very expensive –

  9. I just got back from Home Depot in San Jose, CA. I got 3 each, 4.5 lb boxes of REAL TSP for $9.99 each. I vacuum packed each of them for the several years they will sit on a shelf before I need to use them, because I KNEW ABOUT THE BAN A LONG TIME AGO, and bought 3 large boxes of my fav detergent–Finish powder with phosphate. At my age, I figure those 3 boxes of TSP just might outlast ME, given how little is needed per load and how few loads per week we do. LOL!

  10. I have been using anhydrous food grade citric acid with great success. My dishes are cleaner than ever, even better than before the phosphate ban. If people begin buying TSP separately that will lead to a ban on TSP, more restrictions, more dead fish, is that really what we want?

    Really, citric acid works, I’d be the first to complain if it didn’t. You can find it cheap, and it takes only a small amount — 1-3 teaspoons — per load, depending on the hardness of your local water.

  11. I love how the eco heads, and the left in general always assume that everything the government does is always assumed to be correct. I seriously doubt that we will bring on the end of the world by using TSP, considering it has been done for decades. There are still fish in the rivers, the air is breathable, and I just want my dishes clean.

  12. You want fries with that little tantrum? You just want your dishes clean, and you believe some leftist scientists are lying in a government supported scheme to keep you from having clean dishes. You aren’t sure how this TSP ban benefits the Left, but it has to, since it involves a change for the benefit of the environment, which is doing just fine in your world.

    It’s equally possible the TSP ban was a scheme to place our money in the hands of corporations who sell dishwashers and high priced dishwasher power pacs and rinse additives. They don’t care about your dishes, either. Or how much you have to pay to fix or replace a dishwasher. And, unlike your theory about the Left, there is recent, concrete proof for that.

  13. Jordon – great post and good comments! It is always funny to see stupid left-wing idiots like Kar get riled up after someone expresses a thought using facts. I have worked as an Environmental Engineer for over 20 years and have multiple graduate degrees in both environmental and chemical engineering and I can tell you that the amount of phosphates coming from dish washing detergent is NOT the bane of all the algae blooms out there.

    I have worked extensively in both air and water media. Phosphate is an essential food and nutrient for biological waste water treatment plants, and after the phosphate ban hit laundry soap many years ago, wastewater plants had to start buying and adding large volumes of phosphoric acid to the systems to keep healthy bacteria chewing up the “stuff” that we flush down the toilets everyday. Now, with phosphates banned from dishwashing detergents in many states, we are doing nothing but displacing it from the consumer to the municipality. Municipal WWTPs are feeding more phos acid now to keep the systems healthy and working, because there is so much less coming down the sewer pipes.

    The majority of the septic tanks out there discharge into leach beds, not directly to ditches, rivers or lakes. Septic systems also need phosphates to keep the bacteria working. Ever wonder why your septic tank has to be pumped out ever 3 or 4 years now? Not enough nutrients for the bacteria to break the waste down and liquify it.

    And how about the problems that people see now in their dishwashers – instead of one economical wash, you now have to either wash your dishes by hand (which uses 3 – 5 times more water than a dishwasher) or run your dishwasher 2 or even 3 times. Oh, wait, Kar will be rinsing all of his/her dishes first before putting them in the dishwasher…….wait…..that also uses MORE WATER than just washing them once in a new, energy star dishwasher.

    We have real problems in America – let’s stop wasting all our time on tiny incremental gains. Try picking a topic that has real meaning and value, like getting a job so you contribute to society and stop wasting people’s time with ignorant and uneducated posts.

  14. The cheapo dishwasher gel works to clean dishes but yechy film all over & everything gets smelly, i figure the seal is going to start leaking soon. So i did try out the citric acid & am pleased to say yes that works! Thx to all for the tips but with little ones around, i like the least toxic stuff for cleaning.

  15. If you go back to using a detergent with phosphates will your dishes
    that have been spotted, turned dark, etc with the non-phosphate detergenet….go back to their normal color?

  16. The Weekly Standard did an in-depth expose debunking the pop-science behind he phosphate ban, which started in Washington state. It didn’t save any fish at all, but rather was a knee jerk reaction to initial, but not fully understood research. Admitting a mistake is impossible for these people as they would rather have dirty dishes or double the water consumption instead of further losing credibility on all the junk science used to politically manipulate people that is going on these days. The detergent companies are happy to oblige our folly, since it reduced their costs and increased profits.

  17. rebecca r says:

    I tried citric acid, it didnt help. I tried real TsP it didnt work. I am now going to try phosphoric acid.. will update. also a half gallon of vinegar in each load seems to help a lot. I do rinse and scrub in dished before I load it.

  18. lisa marie says:

    I’ve been using the citric acid along with powdered degetgent for close to a year now, but it’s alot more expensive. It also only works with 1 1/2 tsp per load, prewashing the dishes, and about a cup or two of vinegar per load. I really appreciate Capt’s comments. Also, we read an article online about scrubbers being used to clean the phosphates out of water ways. I’m pretty unhappy with the situation we have now, particularly that there was no media attention given to the subject and now it’s not only taking more time to get dishes clean, but also using much more water to clean our dishes, not to mention energy to heat the water, and no fish are being helped by this? My dishwasher says not to wash the dishes first, it’s a few years old so predates the phosphate ban, but it says it can multiply water use by 10 times to rinse dishes before washing in the machine. So what we did was exchange one problem for another since this was all done without much public input. I like fish too, very much. We have a responsibility to take care of the earth, but this doesn’t sound like it did anything in that regard. Detergent prices here have doubled or tripled since the ban, too.

  19. Waldemar says:

    For laundry detergent add TSP. Amount depends on the amount of water fills your washer. You can still buy real TSP at paint stores, or, on EBay.

    For Dishwashers, buy from
    They supply commercial quality so they can have phosphates. They are located in St. Petersburg, FL as Bandito Products, LLC.

  20. Years ago I heard about this change after having the dishwasher repair person to my house twice to repair my new dishwasher. He told me to make sure there was at least 3.75% phosphate in my dishwasher detergent. I did this for years then I found they stopped adding it in. I always rinse my dishes and if I don’t have a full load I pre-rinse them and wash them later. They always come out horribly even when I wash them twice, if I add 1/4 C vinegar to the rinse cycle it helps. So I basically wash most things by hand these days, but now will go to Home Depot to buy some TSP. FYI: the latest dishwasher repairman told me lack of use of the dishwasher will make it not work too, so I run it once in a while regardless, if I can get clean dishes I will run it more often. I am tired of washing them before AND after the dishwasher and the after residue is almost impossible to scrub off.

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