Phosphate Free Cleaners

June 21, 2021

Phosphates have been a part of cleaners and detergents for decades. Phosphate molecules, which contain phosphorous combined with oxygen atoms, are particularly good at combining with the minerals in hard water. This allows for the cleaners to still foam well and reduces the scale and soap scum that can accumulate when hard water is present in a facility. Phosphates became one of the most common ingredients in detergents because of how well they perform this job.

Unfortunately, phosphates have some environmental downsides. While phosphates themselves aren’t toxic, the accumulation of phosphorus in the environment has been shown to contribute to algae bloom or a rapid overgrowth of algae. These algae blooms can produce toxins that can pose health risks to aquatic wildlife, terrestrial animals, and even humans.

Recognizing these risks, state and federal government agencies moved to restrict their use. Initially, the replacement products without phosphates were perceived to not perform as well, particularly in generating less foam or leaving behind residue. Phosphate-free cleaners weren’t well excepted beyond the few places where they were mandated.

Public interest in replacing phosphates in all cleaning products remains high. Thankfully, there has been significant improvement in the formulation of cleaning products since the early days of phosphate-free cleaners. Today’s phosphate-free cleaners demonstrate the same level of cleaning ability and performance as the older formulas without environmental concerns. Users can comfortably convert to the use of phosphate-free cleaners without sacrificing performance.

In Neogen®’s development of the EVO line of phosphate-free cleaners, they were all shown to perform better in cleaning studies using various cleaning challenges from organic soil to mineral scale. Foaming characteristics, which are what most users judge a cleaner on as it the first thing they see when applied, were equal to the phosphate-containing formulations. Neogen didn’t try to exceed foaming with EVO cleaners, and too much foam would mean additional rinsing would be required at the cost of additional water usage. 

Phosphate-free cleaners are here and likely to become the mandated standard for all cleaners in the future. A well-developed phosphate-free cleaner doesn’t need to mean a sacrifice, however, as the target cleaning performance in the EVO line is the same or better than the phosphate-containing products. 


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