The 10 Best Dishwasher Cleaners of 2022

Affresh Dishwasher Cleaner is our top pick

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The Spruce / Zackary Angeline

Sometimes dishwashers themselves need to be washed. The best dishwasher cleaners are easy to use and effectively clean your dishwasher without leaving behind a residue.

To find the very best dishwasher cleaners, we spoke with Katie Berry, the renowned cleaning expert behind Housewife How-Tos and member of The Spruce's Cleaning Review Board, who recommended against products with dyes and scents. Instead, a great dishwasher cleaner should contain safe, pollutant-free, and antibacterial ingredients. The Environmental Protection Agency's Safer Choice Program is a great resource for confirming that your dishwasher cleaner meets federal standards for human health and environmental safety.

Our favorite is Affresh Dishwasher Cleaner, because it's affordable, certified by the EPA Safer Choice Program, and highly effective at removing any buildup.

Here are the best dishwasher cleaners.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Affresh Dishwasher Cleaner

5
Affresh Dishwasher Cleaner, 6 Tablet

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Simple to use

  • Convenient for monthly cleanings

  • Can use with dishes in dishwasher

  • Cleans internal mechanisms

  • Works with any dishwasher model

What We Don't Like
  • Not safe for all dinnerware

  • Strong scent

Who else recommends it? The Strategist and Good Housekeeping have both picked Affresh Dishwasher Cleaner.

What do buyers say? 90% of 117,600+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above. 

Packed with powerful sulfate and salt-based abrasives, Affresh Dishwasher Cleaner is capable of cleaning significant buildup from detergent, limescale, minerals, and grime. Not only will it help remove any film or residue on the interior of the dishwasher tub, but will also clean racks, spray arms, and unseen components like drain and recirculation hoses.

Affresh Dishwasher Cleaner tablets are perfect for the once-monthly dishwasher cleanings recommended by experts. They're compatible with virtually all dishwashers, since they can be placed in the detergent tray, or at the bottom of your dishwasher's main compartment. They're also approved by the EPA Safer Choice program and safe to use in dishwashers connected to septic tanks.

One of the few downsides is that Affresh can be a little too effective. While it can be used in a normal dishwashing cycle with a full load of dishes, caution should be taken with printed glassware, customized mugs, and similar items that might get effaced by this powerful cleaner. It also has a strong lemon scent that's effective at overwriting odors, but may be a bit much for anyone who's sensitive to smells.

Affresh Dishwasher Cleaner uses sodium bisulfate and citric acid for cleaning and is available in packs of six tablets.

Price at time of publish: $9

Type: Tablets︱Amount: 6 tablets︱Scent: Lemon︱Safe for septic systems: Yes︱EPA Safer Choice: Yes

Best Budget: Finish Dual Action Dishwasher Cleaner

 Finish Dual Action Dishwasher Cleaner

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Especially effective for hard water issues

  • Simple to use

  • Septic tank-friendly

  • Affordable and widely available

What We Don't Like
  • Every cleaning cycle uses a full bottle

  • Not approved by the EPA

Our most budget-friendly option, Finish Dual Action Dishwasher Cleaner uses citric acid and trideceth-4 to remove buildup in the tub, filter, pump, spray arm, and other hidden areas of your appliance. It works on all types of dishwashers and is septic tank-safe.

Finish is also easy to use, with a unique design completely unlike the powders, tablets, and pods featured elsewhere on this list. Dual Action Dishwasher Cleaner comes in a single-use bottle. All you do is remove the sticker from the top of the bottle, then turn it upside down in your dishwasher's bottom dish rack. Your dishwasher and the Finish cleaner will do the rest.

While extremely convenient, it's also a one-use bottle, which means you'll need to repurchase for every cleaning cycle. However, you shouldn't have a problem finding a bottle, since it is readily available from online retailers and grocery store chains. Unlike our best overall pick, Finish Dual Action Dishwasher Cleaner should only be used in an empty dishwasher, so make sure to remove any dishes and silverware before you run a hot cycle.

Unfortunately this product is not approved by the EPA Safer Choice Program.

Price at time of publish: $4

Type: Liquid︱Amount: 8.45 ounces︱Scent: Fresh scent︱Safe for Septic Systems: Yes︱EPA Safer Choice: No

Best Liquid: Glisten Dishwasher Cleaner and Disinfectant

4.8
glisten dishwasher cleaner

Amazon

What We Like
  • Great for stainless steel dishwasher interiors

  • Antibacterial formula

  • Easy to use

What We Don't Like
  • One bottle per wash

  • Only to be used in an empty dishwasher

Glisten is especially impressive at removing mineral buildup, rust, grease, and hard water stains. But it's more than just a cleaner, it's also a disinfectant. Glisten's Dishwasher Cleaner & Disinfectant has a unique antibacterial formula designed to eliminate bacteria like salmonella and E. coli from your dishwasher. It’s also safe for septic systems and all types of plumbing.

The Glisten dishwasher cleaner works similarly to our favorite budget pick—Finish Dual Action—employing a single bottle for every cleaning cycle. The bottle is placed in your silverware tray upside down. When your dishwasher starts, it melts a wax plug on the bottle's lid and dispenses the cleaner. Glisten is not recommended for use at the same time as a cleaning cycle with dishes.

While a supremely effective cleanser, with additional disinfectant bona fides, Glisten Dishwasher Cleaner & Disinfectant does have a strong lemon scent and might not be the best pick for anyone with related sensitivities.

Price at time of publish: $7

Type: Liquid︱Amount: 12 fluid ounces︱Scent: Lemon︱Safe for Septic Systems: Yes︱EPA Safer Choice: No, but separately registered as a cleaner and disinfectant with the EPA

Best Pods: Cascade Platinum Dishwasher Cleaner Pods

Cascade dishwasher cleaner

Courtesy of Walmart

What We Like
  • Great for stains and limescale

  • Works well with once-monthly use

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Single-use packaging isn't sustainable

  • Only to be used in an empty dishwasher

If you already use pods as part of your dishwasher routine, then nothing could be simpler than Cascade Platinum Dishwasher Cleaner Pods. Formulated with powerful surfactants, these tablets remove stains and limescale, in addition to degreasing.

Cascade Platinum Dishwasher Cleaner Pods come in single-use packets and are sold individually or in boxes of three. While the single-use packet is convenient, it creates excess package waste, compared to other recommendations on this list.

Cascade dishwasher pods should only be used in an empty dishwasher cycle. While not approved by the EPA Safer Choice, they are safe for septic tank systems.

Price at time of publish: $7

Type: Tablet︱Amount: 1 tablet and 3 tablet packs︱Scent: Fresh scent︱Safe for Septic Systems: Yes︱EPA Safer Choice: No

Best Tablets: Finish In-Wash Dishwasher Cleaner

Finish In-Wash Dishwasher Cleaner

Amazon

What We Like
  • Great for grease

  • Can use with dishes in dishwasher

  • Biodegradable

What We Don't Like
  • More frequent cleaning cycles recommended

Our favorite tablets (second only to our Best Overall pick) are the easy-to-use Finish In-Wash Dishwasher Cleaner. Throw one in the machine, and set it for a regular cycle, just once a month for comprehensive cleaning.

Biodegradable and free of phosphates, Finish In-Wash Dishwasher Cleaner requires no backup wash cycle and can be used with a full load of dishes. The pods are simply placed at the bottom of the dishwasher when you’re ready to do a load, working while your dishes get washed.

Aside from its magnificent grease-cutting powers, these tabs are great for removing limescale, hard water stains, and other types of buildup. They don't have a strong scent, but they still cut through odors, making them a reasonable pick for those who are sensitive to stronger smells. Unfortunately, the formula is not EPA-registered, but it's safe for septic tanks and works on any type of dishwasher.

Price at time of publish: $5

Type: Pods︱Amount: 3 per pack︱Scent: Not listed︱Safe for Septic Systems: Yes︱EPA Safer Choice: No

Most Versatile: Ahh-Some Washing Machine/Dishwasher Bio Cleaner & Deodorizer

Ahh-Some Washing Machine/Dishwasher Bio Cleaner & Deodorizer

Amazon

What We Like
  • Comes with a money-back guarantee

  • A little goes a long way

  • Can use less frequently than other options

What We Don't Like
  • Pricier than other options

  • Must clean dishwasher filters separately

This versatile gel pick works in your dishwasher (or washing machine!) to attack odors, mold, mildew, viruses, and fungi. Simply put half of a teaspoon in the bottom cabinet of your dishwasher, and run a short clean/hot cycle with no dishes present.

Although cleaning your dishwasher filter separately is recommended, this cleaner can still reach hard-to-clean areas like the door seal, edges, and more. The potent formula is not EPA-registered but is safe for all septic systems.

While the Ahh-Some cleaner seems to have a surprisingly high price, each 2-ounce jar should last for 12 full dishwasher cleaning cycles. Unlike monthly cleaners, Ahh-Some recommends using its biocleaner and deodorizer gel every 60 days. It also doesn't smell too aggressively, with only a faint lemon scent, making it a better pick for anyone who's sensitive to strong smells.

Price at time of publish: $25

Type: Gel︱Amount: 2 ounces︱Scent: Mild lemon︱Safe for Septic Systems: Yes︱EPA Safer Choice: No

Best Eco-Friendly: TrulyFree Non-Toxic Dishwasher Cleaner

TrulyFree Non-Toxic Dishwasher Cleaner

TrulyFree

What We Like
  • Made in the USA

  • Protects household from harmful chemicals

  • Comes with a money-back guarantee

What We Don't Like
  • Single-use packaging isn't sustainable

  • Pricier than other options

Using a clean formula that's suitable for eco-conscious households, TrulyFree Non-Toxic Dishwasher Cleaner uses citric acid and mineral-based cleaning agents. It is cruelty-free, plant-based, dye-free, and fragrance-free.

The eco-friendly dishwasher cleaner comes in a powder form that's abrasive enough to clear soap scum, stains, hard water issues, and other buildups. Simply sprinkle it around an empty dishwasher, and run a heavy hot water cycle to let it work its magic.

Even the TrulyFree Non-Toxic Dishwasher Cleaner packaging is recyclable.

Price at time of publish: $9

Type: Powder︱Amount: 4 ounces︱Scent: Mild lemon scent, but contains no added fragrance︱Safe for Septic Systems: Yes︱EPA Safer Choice: No

Best Deodorizer: Plink Washer & Dishwasher Freshener & Cleaner Tabs

 Plink-9024 Summit Brands Washer and Dishwasher Freshener Cleaner

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Creates long-lasting fragrance after cleaning

  • Can be used with dishes in washer

  • Safe for septic tanks

What We Don't Like
  • Not safe for all dinnerware

Plink Washer comes in tablet form and has a zingy lemon scent. In addition to busting buildup, it's formulated to leave a lasting fresh smell.

Plink can be used with dishes inside the dishwasher. However, the brand does note that Plink is not safe for all types of dinnerware and should not be used when washing silver, painted glassware, painted mugs, aluminum, fine china, or enamel-coated cutlery or cookware. The product is quality tested in America and safe for septic systems, and it works on all brands and types of dishwashers.

Plink Washer & Dishwasher Freshener & Cleaner Tabs come in packs of four tablets and are recommended for weekly use.

Price at time of publish: $5

Type: Tablet︱Amount: 4 tablets︱Scent: Lemon︱Safe for Septic Systems: Yes︱EPA Safer Choice: No

Best for Hard Water: Lemi Shine Dishwasher Cleaner With Powerful Citric Extracts

Lemi Shine Dishwasher Cleaner
What We Like
  • Biodegradable ingredients

  • Safer Choice EPA approved

  • Phostphate-free

What We Don't Like
  • Strong scent

  • Single-use packaging adds waste

If you're looking to tackle hard water, try the Lemi Shine Natural Dishwasher Cleaner. Formulated with citric acid, it promises to bust up hard water and remove buildup, stains, and other gunk that could be lying in your dishwasher.

The biodegradable and phosphate-free formula is certified under the EPA Safer Choice program, safe for septic systems, and super-easy to use—simply sprinkle it over an empty dishwasher, and run it on a regular cycle.

Like other powder cleaners on this list, it comes in single-use packages that are convenient, but they add unnecessary packaging waste.

Price at time of publish: $21

Type: Powder︱Amount: 1 use, 4 use containers︱Scent: Citrus︱Safe for Septic Systems: Yes︱EPA Safer Choice: Yes

Best for Septic Systems: ACTIVE Dishwasher Cleaner And Deodorizer Tablets

ACTIVE Dishwasher Cleaner And Deodorizer Tablets

Amazon

What We Like
  • Year supply

  • Great for odor issues

  • Works well with once-monthly use

What We Don't Like
  • Only to be used in an empty dishwasher

Compatible with any dishwasher and septic systems, these ACTIVE tablets work to erase hard water, limescale, stains, grease, other types of buildup, and odors from your dishwasher. They leave a soft fresh scent behind that isn't too overpowering, making them a great option for those who are sensitive to strong smells.

To use, simply put a tablet in the detergent dispenser tray in your dishwasher, and run a regular cycle. The brand recommends using two tablets for the first wash if you have particularly heavy residue, but we recommend using two tabs in a row rather than at the same time, to prevent excess foam from coming out of your dishwasher during the cleaning process.

ACTIVE tablets are not EPA-registered and are not safe to use with dishes present, so make sure your dishwasher is completely empty before use. Available in large packs of 24 tablets, ACTIVE Dishwasher Cleaner is a great pick for anyone who is looking to stock up.

Price at time of publish: $16

Type: Tablet︱Amount: 24 tablets︱Scent: Citrus, lemon︱Safe for Septic Systems: Yes︱EPA Safer Choice: No

Final Verdict

Affresh Dishwasher Cleaner is our top choice, because it works so well to remove all types of buildup, restores your machine to its original condition, and is approved by the EPA Safer Choice program. For a more affordable option, check into Finish Dishwasher Deep Cleaner/Dual Action Dishwasher Cleaner, which is septic tank-safe and effectively removes buildup and odors.

What to Look for in a Dishwasher Cleaner

Type and Ease of Use

According to Katie Berry, the renowned cleaning expert behind Housewife How-Tos and member of The Spruce's Cleaning Review Board, the choice of the best products for cleaning your dishwasher depends on how you use them. Tablets and pods are more convenient, as you can generally toss them in without measuring (great for busy households!), but you can't adjust how much of their ingredients are used. Powders and liquids offer the flexibility of adjusting the amounts more easily.

With modern dishwashers, it's easy to use most, if not all, of the dishwasher cleaner types—however, new dishwashers also use less water, so powders and tablets occasionally don’t dissolve as thoroughly as desired. Berry advises priming your dishwasher by running the kitchen tap’s hot water before starting the dishwasher-cleaning load.

Scent

“I'm not a fan of scented products in general, since they often produce VOCs and other irritants, but most standard dishwasher cleaners contain them," Berry notes. She prefers to use fragrance-free and dye-free products. These products can still contain fresh-smelling scents like citrus, lavender, and lemon.

Unfortunately, most dishwasher cleaners available are scented, sometimes strongly. If you're particularly sensitive to smells, look for cleaners that contain no additional fragrances. Many natural or eco-friendly cleaners primarily rely on citric acid, which will smell mildly of lemon, even without additional fragrance added.

Ingredients

Most dishwasher cleaners use a combination of acids and salts to clean. Acids derived from natural ingredients, such as citric acid from lemon, are a more natural option for anyone who is looking for eco-friendly products. Sodium bisulfate is another common ingredient. Added salts not only help scrub stains, but also soften water, reducing damage from hard water lime.

To make sure you’re purchasing products with the safest ingredients, check out the EPA Safer Choice program. Safer Choice is a pollution-prevention program that lists products with safe ingredients to reduce, eliminate, and prevent pollution at its source while making sure your household is safe from pollutants.

FAQ
  • How do you use a dishwasher cleaner?

    Each dishwasher cleaning product is unique—follow the instructions on the product’s packaging for the best results. Most dishwasher cleaners are either placed directly in the dishwasher cavity or in the slot where you normally put the detergent. Most are easy to fit into your existing washing routine, though it's important to follow instructions regarding whether or not other dishes can be present during a dishwasher cycle.

  • How does dishwasher cleaner work?

    Once exposed to heat and moisture during the dishwasher cycle, dishwasher cleaners break down grease and bacteria and eliminate odor. With the help of water that rinses through your appliance when running, the cleaner can get into hard-to-reach areas that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get to.

  • How often should you use dishwasher cleaner?

    Use dishwasher cleaner about once a month to prevent bacteria buildup and to maintain your appliance’s efficiency. While individual cleaners may recommend more frequent or more infrequent cleanings, a monthly wash should keep smells in check, prevent residue buildup, and ensure that your dishwasher works to its maximum possible performance.

Why Trust The Spruce?

KJ Callihan is a writer for The Spruce and enjoys meticulously compiling shopping and buyer guides for many types of products. You can see her work on sites like CNET, AAA Northeast magazine, Bob Vila, Outward On, Oh My Veggies, and more.

For dishwasher cleaner advice and guidance, KJ consulted Katie Berry, the cleaning expert behind Housewife How-Tos and member of The Spruce's Cleaning Review Board. Katie has been featured in HGTV, Real Simple, Redbook, NBC News, and Woman’s World, to name a few.

Updated by
Lauren Murphy
Lauren Murphy
Lauren Murphy is a DIY expert and writer with over five years of hands-on experience cooking, crafting, and making home decor projects. She has a degree in Environmental Science from Western Washington University and continues to be passionate about environmentally friendly DIY projects. Lauren has also written for Earth 911, Forbes Advisor, and HuffPost.
Learn more about The Spruce's Editorial Process
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  1. The Best Dishwasher Cleaners on Amazon, According to Hyperenthusiastic Reviewers. The Strategist. https://nymag.com/strategist/article/best-dishwasher-cleaner.html

  2. The Best Dishwasher Cleaners to Keep Your Machine Running Like New. Good Housekeeping. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/cleaning/g5171/best-dishwasher-cleaner/

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