Reports of a scarcity of suds have been greatly exaggerated.

By Mike Pomranz
October 29, 2019

It seemed almost too perfect: the excuse we've quietly been begging for our entire adult lives. Last week, rumors began to swirl that America was facing a dish soap shortage. Oh no, you probably thought. Will I have to let those pans soak in the sink for another week? Will I have to order in meals even more often? Will I have to tell my spouse that I desperately wanted to clean the dishes, but it was simply impossible? These are not choices anyone takes lightly, but you know what they say desperate times call for…. And then the Wall Street Journal had to go and mess the whole thing up. (Hey, no one ever said it was a "cool" paper.)

So no, we're not facing a dish soap shortage. At a time when plenty of people are happy to take social media rumors as gospel, the WSJ actually went and did the research. And to be fair to the Twitter and Facebook users of the world, they weren't lying on purpose; they were just misled—by Walmart, which also misinterpreted the situation.

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It turns out Procter & Gamble—which as the producer of both Dawn and Gain corners over half the American dish soap market—had a bit of a hiccup in its dish soap production. The company passed this information on to its biggest retailer, Walmart, warning them that supplies might be short. But then Walmart decided to pass this information on to its customers—which sources told the WSJ wasn't really supposed to be the plan.

Signs went up in many Walmart locations stating, "Dish soap is experiencing a national supply shortage, impacting product availability for our customers. These shortages will remain until Dec. 1. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you." Even more bizarrely, photos of the signs on social media show that they were regularly placed in front of shelves that were well-stocked with dish soap.

In the interim, a P&G spokesperson told the WSJ that the supply issue was already been fixed, and that things would be back to normal soon, essentially avoiding any major shortage before it even happened. "We are aware that some P&G hand dish products may be harder to find right now," the P&G spokesman was quoted as saying. "For a brief period, demand exceeded what we were able to supply, but this was temporary."

So to recap: The Great Dish Soap Shortage of 2019 was more like The Potential Great Dish Soap Shortage of 2019. And even then, it only affected a couple of brands—not all dish soap. And sadly, no, there was never really an excuse not to wash your dishes. If supplies of your favorite brand of toilet paper ran out you'd still… uh… yeah… You'd just buy a different brand of toilet paper. So the moral: Just clean those darn pots. They've been in the sink since last week.

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