Most of us love our dishwashers, but they often require a lot of work before the dishes get there. How can you keep down on the extra work? By making sure you have only the best dishwasher detergent of course. The truth of the matter is that it’s hard to know which the best is without trying them all. We went through the effort for you, sending them out to our reviewers who gave us detailed information to make sure that we only brought you the best.
The unanimous favorite was Cascade Platinum ActionPacs Dishwasher Detergent. It cuts through just about everything and makes short work of grease and debris. It’s also a bit expensive, and some others definitely had their good points, so let’s take a quick look over our five favorites. Whatever your needs or budget, there’s a perfect dishwater detergent waiting just for you.
If you’re looking for the ultimate dishwasher detergent then give Cascadde Platinum ActionPacs a shot. These tight little pods cut through pretty much anything quickly and easily, allowing you to get cleaner dishes than you ever thought possible without a pre-wash.
Top 5 Dishwasher Detergents
|1||Cascade Platinum ActionPacs||Pods||Check Price|
|2||Finish Quantum Max Powerball||Pods||Check Price|
|3||Cascade Complete Powder||Powder||Check Price|
|4||Cascade Advanced Power liquid||Gel||Check Price|
|5||Lemi Shine||Additive||Check Price|
1. Best Overall Dishwasher Detergent
Cascade Platinum ActionPacs Dishwasher Detergent
Of all of the options we tried, Cascade Platinum stood out as the one thing that made us love our dishwashers again. These brightly colored little pods are a serious game changer in most dishwashers and leave a sparkling finish with very little residue.
They even clear up burnt-on messes, which was frankly something we didn’t think was possible.
We can’t say enough about the sheer power of this one. They’re also a bit expensive per load, so there’s a definite trade-off there. On the other hand… it makes a dishwasher actually wash dishes. That alone is worth quite a bit.
Pros and Cons
- Cuts through just about anything
- Easy to use pod form
- Cleans hard water stains fairly well without an additive
- Leaves no residue
- Pods are hard to handle with wet hands
2. Runner Up for Best Overall
Finish Quantum Max Powerball
Our second favorite of the bunch was Finish’s Quantum Max Powerball. The only thing keeping it from being our favorite is the fact that it’s not great at handling hard water stains and lime build-up. You’ll need an additive for it.
On the other hand, they cut through most things with quite a bit of ease and come in a convenient pod form which makes them easier to handle than gels or powders.
Phosphate-free dishwasher detergents have gotten a bad rap, but this one goes a long way towards clearing it up. We don’t recommend the cheaper brands of Finish, but this one sure as heck impressed our reviewers.
They’re also reasonably priced for the most part.
The biggest problem our reviewers reported was that the pods have a very strong smell to them which not everyone cared for. If you can handle that, however, it’s a great way to get the job done.
If you’re looking for a more affordable option for handling your dishes, then you may want to pick up some of the Quantum Max Powerball pods. They work extremely well, as long as your water isn’t leaving calcium deposits.
Pros and Cons
- Handles even burnt on food
- Easy to use pod form
- Resists water a little bit better than most pods
- Reasonably priced
- No good for hard water stains
- The perfume is pretty strong
3. Best Budget Dishwater Detergent
Cascade Complete Powder Dishwasher Detergent
When it comes to affordability it’s really hard to beat powders. As long as they’re stored properly they really are the cheapest option overall.
These combine Cascade’s famed power with a super low price to make sure that you’re able to get things done. They can’t quite compare to the pod options that we favor but it’s definitely no slouch in the cleaning department.
As long as you keep the powder away from water you’re not going to be disappointed with this powder. The problem is that it’s hygroscopic, so consider snatching up an airtight Tupperware to make sure that you don’t have any problems over the long term.
It’s definitely an older product, but it really is one of the best on the market. Anything else you’re really paying more for convenience than extra power.
If you’re looking to save money and you’re willing to deal with a powdered detergent, we strongly recommend Cascade Complete. Its power is second only to expensive pods and it comes at a bargain price.
Pros and Cons
- Low price per load
- Great cleaning power
- Can be bought in massive bulk
- Tried-and-trusted brand
- Powder loses power if exposed to water
- Needs some extra containment for staying power
4. Best Gel Dish Detergent
Cascade Advanced Power liquid machine dishwasher detergent
If you can avoid it, we recommend keeping away from gels. They’re all some dishwashers will take, however, so if you’re in that position we recommend picking up Cascade Advanced Power for the best results.
Despite the limitations of the medium, this stuff has some pretty serious cutting power. You’re not going to get away without a pre-rinse, and it’s not great for burnt-on food, but if you just want to get things nice and sparkling then you’ll be good to go.
It also comes with a rinse-aid which helps to handle hard water. That makes up for the lack of overall cleaning power quite a bit in our eyes, although if you opt to use something more effective you’ll want to look at our next product.
Gels have a tendency to leave residue and this one is no-different in that regard but this one performed the best of all the brands we tried so we feel it’s worth a shot.
If you have to use a gel, then pick up this dishwashing liquid. It performs better than the competition, although it still has some of the problems associated with the medium.
Pros and Cons
- Best gel we found
- Handles hard water stains well
- Good cutting power on stains
- Leaves some residue
- Won’t let you avoid a pre-rinse
5. Best Dishwasher Additive for Hard Water Stains
Lemi Shine, Dishwater Detergent Additive
There’s a common strain among modern dishwasher detergents that we found: almost none of them handle hard water stains all that well. That’s primarily due to the fact that they now lack phosphates since those chemicals can have a serious effect on the environment.
On the other hand, you really don’t have much choice if your dishwasher leaves your dishes with large deposits of calcium stains. We tried out several different detergent additives and found Lemi Shine to be the best when it came to handling this delicate build-up.
It’s not a detergent in its own right, you’ll still need something else to handle the grime and stains, but when added every few cycles we found it seriously cut down on calcium build up.
It also seemed to help with lime build-up inside of the dishwasher itself, which is a nice bonus although the cost is a bit much in addition to a good cleaner.
If you need to handle hard water stains and calcium build up inside your machine due to your water’s conditions, we strongly recommend adding a bottle of this to your purchase. It works wonderfully, although it can be skipped if you’re not regularly experiencing calcium problems.
Pros and Cons
- Helps cut down on hard water stains
- Cleans the inside of the machine a bit as well
- Deodorizes dishwasher
- Non-harming to the environment
- Not a detergent in its own right
- Very strong citrus smell turned off some reviewers
The biggest problem most people have with their dishwasher is undoubtedly the fact that… well, they don’t wash dishes.
This can be chocked up to one thing: most people don’t put a whole lot of time into making sure they’ve got only the best dishwater detergent. Instead they just grab whatever is the cheapest or they saw a decent commercial for.
This is a big mistake, and has caused more than one person to think that their dishwasher was either defective or useless.
The truth is that if you have a good dishwasher and you scrape off the debris then you shouldn’t even have to pre-rinse your dishes.
Scrape them off and throw them in.
Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?
You can definitely do it, you just need to make sure that you put some extra thought into what goes into that handy little slot in your dishwasher.
Our Criteria for Judgement
We decided that we needed three main things from our dishwasher cleaners in order to make sure that we found the best:
- Cutting power- Things needed to be clean as soon as they emerged from the dishwasher cycle, preferably without a whole lot of work on our part before sticking them in.
- No Residue- The residue left on dishes is not only a pain… it means more work after running the dishwasher. This is particularly irritating with models which have a drying cycle, since you’ll have to get the dishes wet again.
- Ease of Use- The stuff needs to be easy to use, so that you don’t have to spend a ton of time learning amounts or anything else.
We also had one more criteria: we didn’t want to bring anything exotic to the table this time. While we love bringing you unheard of brands and niche products in our reviews we sat down and decided that in this case we wanted you to be able to get the detergent at your own convenience.
So, we didn’t go through with any micro-brands, instead we took a look at the big boys to figure out which was the best and was easy for our readers to get their hands on.
The Three Types of Dishwasher Detergent
There are three different dishwasher detergents out there, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
Makeup of Dishwasher Detergents
There’s one thing to keep in mind when you’re picking out your detergent, most of these compounds have two main active ingredients.
They’re essentially enzymes and bleach. Bleach rips up tannin stains like coffee and tea, enzymes attack proteins and break them down into something water-soluble.
There are other additives which are sometimes used, including those which help to eliminate residue, but as a general rule these are the two most important ingredients.
These ingredients are almost always water-activated as well, which we’ll get to in a moment.
Gel detergents are similar to dish soap. They dissolve quickly and easily in the hot water going through your dishwasher and then attack the food stains on your dishes.
There’s a problem with them however: the gel consistency makes it hard for the ingredients to work properly. Basically: gel detergents are worse than any of the others on the market. We decided they weren’t worth recommending after checking a couple of highly reviewed options out.
Powdered detergents are the most old-school of the varieties currently on the market. They also work great… if you can put up with the hassle.
Indeed, powders might have the most cleaning power out of all the detergents we looked at although they were also more prone to leaving residue when not measured properly.
There’s a big downside to them: if powder detergents get wet then they’re pretty much done. Since the ingredients are water-activated you need to protect them from the elements or they’ll lose almost all of their cleaning power.
We found that to be a bit harder in practice than it is in theory, especially since people tend to store them in boxes in areas around water like under the sink. Tupperware can solve this, although it doesn’t make them as convenient as the final type.
This means powder detergents are the most cost effective, but you need a good storage strategy in place to avoid them becoming worthless in the box without your knowledge.
Detergent pods are even more convenient than gels and have the same cutting power as powders… without any of the hassle of having to measure them. Since they come they’re pre-packaged they provided the best experience of all the types.
The problem is that they tend to be quite a bit higher in cost-per-load.
The only issue our reviewers had with them was this: they tend to become a disintegrating mess if you handle them while your hands are wet from rinsing. Just make sure you’ve got dry hands to avoid this problem.
We recommend detergent pods for most homes, but if you’re on a tight budget then we included our favorite of the powdered options as well.
Other Things to Consider
We found out a lot about people’s individual preferences when we were looking through the different reports from our reviewers.
One of the first things we noticed: the scent of a cleaner matters to a lot of people. A better scent leads to a better overall cleaning experience, especially if you use one something which also cuts down on the amount of pre or post work you need to do.
They also tended to get rid of the industrial “dishwasher smell” which makes most people think of commercial kitchens.
We also found out that often dishwashers performed radically differently. If you’ve had your dishwasher for a while then you may want to look for a dishwasher cleaner as well.
These will help break down the excessive grease and lime scale which builds up over time in these appliances.
One last thing: while the prices of detergents fluctuate often, you can always calculate the amount of loads you’ll get pretty easily. Just divide the price by the number of loads it says you’ll get on the box.
Why You Should Be Using Your Dishwasher
Some of us have just about had it with our dishwashers. In addition to lowering the amount of work in the kitchen they have quite a few other advantages:
- Dishwashers get things cleaner than you can handwashing if you have the right cleaning products placed within them. They can hit from all angles and do a great job if treated properly.
- Dishwashers are far better at killing germs than handwashing. The detergents used can be harsher than those your hands can handle and heating cycles help to eliminate the rest of the germs afterwards.
- While old dishwashers used a lot of water and electricity there is mounting evidence that a dishwasher can actually save you money and prevent over-usage of water if you have a newer model.
- They’re probably the best way to handle the dishes after a gathering in your home since they can clean a ton of dishes at once with only minimal pre-work.
- They’ll reduce stress since the dishes won’t be sitting in your sink while you’re getting ready to run the next cycle.
So, grab your detergent and give it a whirl. You’ll be surprised at how much easier life gets once you have the right cleaning supplies.
Hard Water and Residue
Hard water is often the culprit of much of the residue which can be found.
We’re not going to recommend you pick up a water test kit. If you have hard water then you likely already know unless you’re brand new to the area you’re currently living in. In which case… ask the neighbors.
If you’re experiencing white residue even with a new detergent brand then you need to look for one key ingredient: phosphates bind to calcium and keep hard water spots off your dishes.
If you’re using powdered detergent that may also be the culprit, but we found that more often than not calcium stains are the culprit of the worst spotting.
Best Practices for Using Your Dishwasher
While dishwashers are simple to use overall… we found out that a lot of our reviewers were doing some things seriously wrong.
Take the following tips to heart and you’ll have a much better time with your appliance:
- There are a lot of different patterns you can place dishes in, but most of us just kind of throw stuff in there. Your manual will have surprisingly concise diagrams explaining the best way to utilize your own dishwasher. If you don’t have it then you’ll be able to find instructions online pretty easily.
- Only wash full loads, even if you have to leave stuff in overnight. This will help to keep things energy efficient and some models simply don’t do well with only half a load.
- Let dishes air dry if you have hard water. It’ll let most of the calcium drip off if it hasn’t been bound by phosphates in your detergent of choice.
- If you can set your water temperature, then do so at around 120°F. This is the perfect temperature for most applications.
- Pre-washing does more harm than good when you’ve got the right detergent. If there’s nothing for the enzymes in your pods or powder to attack then you’re likely to end up with some soap film where they weren’t utilized.
- Don’t overload your dishwasher. Even if you’re not following the exact pattern recommended, it’s important to make sure that you don’t just throw too much stuff in there or you can end up with some fairly serious stains left on your dishes.
- Clean your dishwasher regularly in order to make sure that it’s functioning well. Good cleaners really aren’t hard to find.
Chances are that you do at least one of the above wrong, and it’s holding your appliance back from its full potential.
Let’s make the most of your dishwasher. Grab the best dishwasher detergent you can find, follow some basic rules, and that growling box might just become your new favorite appliance. With the right detergent you can save time, money, and energy.
Or you can keep doing what you’ve been doing and receiving unsatisfactory results. The choice is yours at the end of the day, and that’s the biggest thing here: the only thing standing between you and clean dishes is the wrong brand of detergent.