A dishwasher detergent has a big job to do. It has to cut through and remove all types of baked-on, dried-on foods from dishes, flatware, and cookware, yet leave delicate glasses spot and film-free. It also has to work in different water hardnesses and be safe for your dishwasher and everything you put in there. Finding a great one can mean the difference between getting spotless results the first time and having to run it again — or worse, rewashing items by hand.
In our Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab tests, we’ve found that dishwashing powders, gels, and tablets or packs all work well. Which form you choose pretty much depends on your personal preference and how much money you want to spend. Powders are usually the most economical, single-dose packs or tablets are the most convenient and, therefore, usually the most expensive, and liquids or gels fall somewhere in between. In our tests, we see the biggest differences between brands, not forms of the same brand, so if you find a brand that cleans well in your machine and water hardness, any form should work for you!
When we test dishwasher detergents in the GH Cleaning Lab, we apply our own greasy spinach mix to plates, bowls, and flatware. The glasses get coated with milk, beaten egg yolk is brushed on bowls and plates, and coffee cup rims are “kissed” with lipstick. We bake mac and cheese and baked beans on to casserole dishes, fry a hamburger in a skillet and make a serving of oatmeal in a saucepan. Everything gets dried or baked-on for two hours before we load up the two identical dishwashers we use for all our detergent testing.
Post-cleaning, we visually check every item for un-removed food bits and greasy residue and the glasses are closely examined for spots and leftover film in a special light box. Every detergent is tested exactly the same way for more reliable results. Here are top dishwasher detergents according to GH Cleaning Lab tests:
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BEST OVERALL DISHWASHER DETERGENT
Platinum ActionPacs Dishwasher Detergent
Cascade is synonymous with great dishwasher detergent performance and these Actionpacs are as good as it gets. Part powder, part gel, they have the optimal combination of grease cutters and grime fighters to remove the stuck-on stuff, but also have ingredients to minimize spotting and protect glassware from harmful etching that can leave it looking dull and cloudy. We love them so much, we use them in other GH kitchens to clean up after all the testing we do.
BEST VALUE DISHWASHER DETERGENT
Automatic Dishwasher Powder
If price is a primary concern, Walmart’s store brand, Great Value, is just what its name says, a great value. At just 13 cents per load, this is an updated version of the formula that was the overall best powder in our last test of dishwasher detergents. It cut through our baked-on grime with ease and left glassware and flatware sparkling, even in the cycles we ran with hard water.
BEST VALUE DISHWASHER DETERGENT TABLET
Finish Quantum Dishwasher Detergent Tablets
These tablets pack powerful cleaning into just 20 cents a wash. Each Finish Quantum is a three chamber tablet that cleans away stuck-on foods, bleaches out stains, and rinses away residue to leave everything shiny. In our Cleaning Lab tests, Finish was a top-performing detergent tablet zapping even our tough-to-remove messes like dried red lipstick stains and burned-on cheese.
BEST DISHWASHER DETERGENT TABLET
Ultra Tabs Multi Dishwasher Detergent
From the company that makes our top-rated GH Seal star dishwashers, Miele Ultra Tabs Multi work in Miele or any brand dishwasher. The solid brick of powder detergent is easy to use and neat to store and dissolves completely — including its water-soluble wrapper — once it’s dispensed. Each tablet has three layers of powerful cleaning ingredients that in our tests erase stuck-on grime and leave stainless steel cookware and flatware shiny and glassware squeaky clean.
BEST DISHWASHER DETERGENT GEL
Complete Gel + Oxi Dishwasher Detergent
Cascade’s Gel contains hard-working ingredients, like enzymes, to dissolve starchy oatmeal, dried egg and melted cheese. Plus, with the addition of Oxi bleach in this new formula, tea and coffee stains are a thing of the past. In our last GH Cleaning Lab dishwasher detergent test, it was our top-tested gel formula and the only one to sport a child-resistant cap for safety. Bravo!
BEST SCENTED DISHWASHER DETERGENT
Automatic Dish Pacs
Who says washing dishes can’t be a pleasant chore, even for the dishwasher? Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day pacs were a top performer in our cleaning tests, handling hard water with ease and leaving our glassware with hardly a spot to be found. What’s unique with Mrs. Meyer’s though are the amazing essential oil scents of lemon verbena, lavender, and basil. And the same garden-inspired scents can be found in liquid dish soap, hand soap, and all-purpose cleaner for a complete kitchen aromatherapy experience.
BEST PLANT-BASED DISHWASHER DETERGENT
Ecover Automatic Dishwasher Tablets
For those who prefer using plant-based cleaners, finding a good dishwasher detergent that tackles tough grime can be a challenge. Many are just not up to the task. But Ecover is the exception. In our test, this plant- and mineral-based biodegradable formula did amazingly well cleaning our heavily soiled loads while leaving our glassware virtually film- and spot-free. Even the box is made of 94% recycled cardboard.
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