Environmental micromanagement – dish soap smugglers in Washington

When the state bans a product that has utility or desirability, it almost always leads to some sort of defiance.  This has been seen with Prohibition most famously, but occurs with other products as well.  Allow me to introduce you to the latest contraband good:  dishwater-detergent.

“SPOKANE, Wash. – The quest for squeaky-clean dishes has turned some law-abiding people in Spokane into dishwater-detergent smugglers. They are bringing Cascade or Electrasol in from out of state because the eco-friendly varieties required under Washington state law don’t work as well. Spokane County became the launch pad last July for the nation’s strictest ban on dishwasher detergent made with phosphates, a measure aimed at reducing water pollution. The ban will be expanded statewide in July 2010, the same time similar laws take effect in several other states.

But it’s not easy to get sparkling dishes when you go green.

Many people were shocked to find that products like Seventh Generation, Ecover and Trader Joe’s left their dishes encrusted with food, smeared with grease and too gross to use without rewashing them by hand. The culprit was hard water, which is mineral-rich and resistant to soap.

As a result, there has been a quiet rush of Spokane-area shoppers heading east on Interstate 90 into Idaho in search of old-school suds.”

You couldn’t make this up — folks smuggling soap across state lines.

Now, technically, these individuals aren’t *really* smugglers — the state of Washington only bans the sale of phosphate-containing detergents, not their possession…  yet.  However, local feedback on the ban has been less than enthusiastic.

“It’s nice to be on the cutting edge,” Spokane resident Ken Beck, an opponent of the ban, said sarcastically.

Due to the inferior detergents, Mr. Beck taken to using the “pots and pans” setting of his dishwasher, increasing the use of water and,presumably, energy to do the same job and, as a result, asks a fair question:

Beck wonders if that isn’t as tough on the environment as phosphates.

“How much is this really costing us?” Beck said. “Aren’t we transferring the environmental consequences to something else?”

In other words, could the cure be having a more detrimental impact that the disease…  A good question, Mr. Beck. Given similar substitutions in other venues, it is indeed a good question.

3 replies
  1. Dimsdale
    Dimsdale says:

    Ah yes, the Prohibition mentality.  Ya think I could establish a family fortune and political dynasty spread over multiple generations by smuggling good dish soap into WA state?

    If it was good enough for rum runner Joe Kennedy, it has to be good enough for me!  Camelot II, here we come!!

    As an aside, if Al Gore ever came to dinner at my house, I would surely wash my dishes in my efficient 1.6 gal/flush toilet to make sure I wasn't wasting water.  😉

  2. Lazybum
    Lazybum says:


    RE: As an aside, if Al Gore ever came to dinner at my house, I would surely wash my dishes in my efficient 1.6 gal/flush toilet to make sure I wasn’t wasting water

    Make sure you use a phosphate free soap!

  3. Bill
    Bill says:

    How many unintended consequences does it take before the collectivist/planners learn that their changes don't work?

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