Here Are the Best Dishwasher Cleaners to Freshen up Your Machine

Affresh Dishwasher Cleaner is our top pick

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The Spruce / Zackary Angeline

To keep your dishwasher running optimally, you’ll need a good cleaning regimen—which likely will require a dishwasher cleaner.  We’ve researched numerous varieties, evaluating the efficacy, value, ease of use, and safety of ingredients of each. 

Our top choice is Affresh Dishwasher Cleaner, affordable, highly effective at removing buildup of all types, and certified by the EPA Safer Choice program. 

Here are the best dishwasher cleaners available.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Affresh Dishwasher Cleaner

Affresh Dishwasher Cleaner, 6 Tablet

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Simple to use

  • Works well with once-monthly use

  • Salvages damaged glassware and dishes

What We Don't Like
  • Although it advertises otherwise, it’s not good to use when running a full load of dishes

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


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

When your dishwasher has a significant buildup of detergent, limescale, minerals or just downright grime, a tablet of Affresh might be just what the doctor ordered. Said to unclog spraying mechanisms, clear buildup, and remove less-than-fresh smells from even the dirtiest of dishwashers, Affresh rightly bears stellar ratings after over 112,000 reviews. Recommended by several top dishwasher brands, Affresh tablets work in all types of dishwashers.

An Affresh tablet once a month in your dishwasher may also mean the difference between spending money on a new dishwasher and being able to maintain your current appliance. Affresh is both safe for septic tanks and certified by the EPA Safer Choice program. Available in packs of six and twelve, you’ll find Affresh affordable as well as easy to find on Amazon, Walmart, or Lowe’s websites and more.

Freshly scented and a great value, Affresh is said to clean areas unseen to the naked eye which keeps your dishwasher running beautifully. It’s also helpful in clearing out any type of staining in your dishwasher (even major ones!). And whether you’ve got film, streaks, or spots on your dishes after running your current dishwasher, Affresh will take care of the matter so it all comes clean.

Liquid, tablet, pod, etc: Tablets︱Amount: Available in six or twelve︱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
  • Use only once per month

  • Works great for hard water issues

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Can’t be flushed

Our most budget-friendly option, Finish Dishwasher Deep Cleaner/Dual Action Dishwasher Cleaner leaves your dishwasher sparkling clean with a lingering fresh scent. Efficient at removing buildup, Finish breaks down grime and grease for a monthly freshening of your dishwasher. Safe for septic tanks, it works for all types of dishwashers.

By removing the mineral buildup in even the toughest spots to reach, Finish keeps your dishwasher working as designed. Remarkably good at uncovering sprayers and drains, Finish helps your machine to stay in top shape for the cleanest dishes possible. The company’s customer service is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for questions and issues that may arise.

Type (Liquid, tablet, pod, etc): Liquid︱Amount: 0.65 lbs.︱Scent: Fresh scent︱Safe for Septic Systems: Yes︱EPA Safer Choice: No

Best Liquid: Glisten Dishwasher Cleaner and Disinfectant

4.8
Glisten Dishwasher Cleaner and Disinfectant comes in pack of three.

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Especially good for stainless steel dishwasher interiors

  • An excellent value

  • Lasts 30 days

What We Don't Like
  • Some felt it didn’t remove stains as well as they’d hoped

Impressive at removing mineral buildup, rust, grease, and hard water stains, Glisten is a high quality liquid dishwasher cleaner. Helpful in disinfecting your dishwasher every month, Glisten restores your machine’s productivity and maintenance. It’s also antibacterial, protecting the household from salmonella and other harmful bacteria.

Glisten is uniquely EPA-registered, fresh lemon-scented, and effective for all types of dishwashers. It’s excellent for deodorizing stinky dishwashers and removing unsightly stains. It’s also safe for septic systems and all types of plumbing.

Type (Liquid, tablet, pod, etc): Liquid︱Amount: 12 ounces︱Scent: Lemon︱Safe for Septic Systems: Yes︱EPA Safer Choice: Not found on EPA Safer Choice website, but is advertised as EPA- registered

Best Pods: Finish In-Wash Dishwasher Cleaner

Finish In-Wash Dishwasher Cleaner

Amazon

What We Like
  • Great deodorizer

  • Easy to use

  • Excellent grease cutting capabilities

  • Restores dishwasher to optimal working order; dishes won’t need to be scrubbed first

What We Don't Like
  • Some found it didn’t eliminate standing water in dishwasher as expected

Biodegradable and free of phosphates, Finish in-Wash Dishwasher Cleaner makes our list for the best pods on the market. Well-known for cutting through grease to clear off all the hidden and visible parts of your dishwasher, it 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 as your dishes are washed.

With this size offering three per pack, it should last you nearly a month if used as directed (once weekly). It’s great for removing limescale, hard water stains, and other nasty buildup. Most users report it works well for all types of building and smells within the first week of using it.

Type (Liquid, tablet, pod, etc.): Pods︱Amount: 3 per pack︱Scent: Not listed︱Safe for Septic Systems: Yes︱EPA Safer Choice: No

Best Tablets: Cascade Platinum Dishwasher Cleaner Pods

Cascade dishwasher cleaner

Courtesy of Walmart

What We Like
  • Easy to use

  • Removes stains and limescale other cleaners can’t

  • Eliminates hard water staining

What We Don't Like
  • Some didn’t like that the packaging was for single-use

Our favorite tablets, Cascade Platinum Dishwasher Cleaner Tablets are incredibly simple to use. Just throw one in the machine and set it for a regular cycle once a month to reveal your dishwasher’s original sparkle—and keep it that way! Widely considered to be one of the best dishwasher cleaning methods on the market, these tablets are likely to brighten up dishes in a way you haven’t experienced in quite a while.

Sold in easy-to-use single-use packs, these tablets excel at degreasing as well as cutting through various types of deposits and buildup. They also tackle strong odors with ease. Available online as well as in select home improvement and department stores, you’ll be able to find (and afford) these tablets with no problem.

Type (Liquid, tablet, pod, etc): Tablets︱Amount: 3-pack︱Scent: Fresh scent︱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

  • Instructions are easy to follow

  • Only ½ tsp is needed every 1-2 months

  • Each container provides 24 uses

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

Just ½ teaspoonful of this gel attacks any odors, mold, mildew, viruses, or fungi in your dishwasher with a vengeance. Used only once a month or every 60 days, Ahh-Some Washing Machine/Dishwasher Bio Cleaner & Deodorizer is easy to use, septic safe, and deodorizing. Highly recommended for both dishwashers and washing machines, this cleaner is our most versatile choice.

Superior to many other cleaners, this gel works well in all types of dishwashers and washing machines. Not only will it clean the interior, but it also clears any issues off the appliance’s door seal, edges, and other areas. Even though it comes in only a two-ounce container, it provides up to 24 uses.

Type (Liquid, tablet, pod, etc): Gel︱Amount: 2 ounces︱Scent: Said to be fresh and deodorizing; no particular fragrance specified︱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

  • Company supports positive community projects

What We Don't Like
  • Some may not like the single use containers

Using a natural recipe for the eco-conscious household, TrulyFree Non-Toxic Dishwasher Cleaner gets the job done with no extra fumes or chemicals. Tough on soap scum, stains, hard water issues, and all sorts of buildup, this dishwasher cleaner safely gets your machine back to looking and smelling new. It’s also healthy for the environment, offered in a refillable, reusable pouch.

With a light lemon-y scent, one pouch of this cleaner does an impressive job of deep cleaning your dishwasher. It’s available in a one-purchase or subscription arrangement, ideal for those who want to try it out for the first time, and those who are already sold on it. Your dishes will thank you, and so will the health of your household!

Type (Liquid, tablet, pod, etc): Powder︱Amount: Single use︱Scent: Very light, natural lemon︱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
  • Free of harsh and toxic chemicals

  • Works in all types of dishwashers

  • Made in the USA

  • New innovative fragrance technology

What We Don't Like
  • Recommended for weekly use; more often than some other brands

Plink is a favorite among dishwasher cleaners for the fresh deodorizing scent that lingers after each use. Useful in both the dishwasher and washing machine, Plink is also quite versatile and helpful for overall household use. Safe for septic systems, this product isn’t harmful to the systems’ delicate bacteria, nor their essential future growth.

Stellar at removing residue, odors and buildup while it freshens, Plink scours both the visible and hard-to-reach parts of your dishwasher. Tested for quality and made in America, Plink works in all brands and types of dishwashers. Available in a pack of three with twelve uses in all (four tablets in each package), Plink is recommended for weekly use or as needed.

Type (Liquid, tablet, pod, etc): Tablet︱Amount: 13.9 ounces︱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
  • Removes hard water stains and spots; even long-term

  • Citric acid formula works to fight all forms of mold, mildew, and other gunk

  • Safe for the environment and your household

What We Don't Like
  • Some didn’t like the scent

  • Some found it left a residue in their dishwasher

Hard water can cause a lot of issues in your household, but luckily some products can prevent most of them. Lemi Shine Natural Dishwasher Cleaner is one of our favorites, as it features citric acid as a primary ingredient, which is a naturally water-softening ingredient. It also works as a chelating agent to help out the cleaner as it works.

Lemi Shine is biodegradable and safe, even according to the EPA. It’s known for clearing out hard water and lime staining when other products failed. Best of all, your dishwasher’s performance and interior appearance will be restored when you use it just once a month.

Type (Liquid, tablet, pod, etc): Powder︱Amount: 1 use or 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
  • Comes in a handy 24-pack, with enough tablets to last a 12 months

  • Comes with excellent odor eliminator formula

  • Safe for all septic tanks and all dishwashers

What We Don't Like
  • A few found it less effective in their dishwashers

Natural and toxin-free, ACTIVE Dishwasher Cleaner and Deodorizer Tablets are compatible with any dishwasher. Septic tank safe, these tablets work with hard water or soft. They remove everything from limescale to grease to stains of all kinds, leaving a gentle fresh scent behind.

Used alone or with a regular dishwashing cycle, ACTIVE tablets make sure your dishwasher is clean, clear, and functioning unclogged. Best of all, this is a 12-month supply – you’re set for a year when you buy this package! (you can use either once or twice a month, according to preference).

Type (Liquid, tablet, pod, etc): Tablet︱Amount: 24 tablets︱Scent: Citrus, Lemon︱Safe for Septic Systems: Yes︱EPA Safer Choice: No

Final Verdict

Affresh Dishwasher Cleaner is our choice for the best dishwasher cleaner overall. We especially like that it works so well to remove all types of buildup, restores your machine back to its original condition, and is approved by the EPA Safer Choice program.

For an even more affordable option, check into Finish Dishwasher Deep Cleaner/Dual Action Dishwasher Cleaner for a budget-friendly, septic tank-safe, monthly clean-up and removal of buildup, leaving your dishwasher with a lingering fresh scent.

What to Look for When Buying Dishwasher Cleaner

Type and Ease of Use

According to professional cleaner Katie Berry, the best products for cleaning your dishwasher depends on how you use them. Tablets and pods are more convenient as you can generally just 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 occasionally powders and tablets don’t dissolve thoroughly as desired. Berry advises priming your dishwasher by running the kitchen tap’s hot water before starting the dishwasher cleaning load.

Scent

While scent is overall a matter of personal preference, Berry says, “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.” As a professional cleaner, she prefers to use fragrance-free and dye-free products. The natural citrus, lavender, and lemon scents used by some brands are also fresh-smelling and non-toxic.

Ingredients

For cleaning your dishwasher, look for ingredients that will get the appliance clean without a lot of extra fragrance and dyes. Antibacterial ingredients are always a plus, while alcohol and borax help to get things squeaky clean. To make sure you’re purchasing products with the safest ingredients, it’s wise to check the EPA Safer Choice program. Safer Choice is a pollution prevention program that lists products with safe ingredients in order to reduce, eliminate, and prevent pollution at its source–while making sure your household is safe from toxic pollutants.

FAQ
  • How do you use a dishwasher cleaner?

    Each dishwasher cleaning product is different—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 detergent.

  • 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.

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 guidance on this story, KJ consulted professional cleaner and author Katie Berry of HousewifeHowTos.com. Katie has been featured in HGTV magazine, Real Simple Magazine, Redbook Magazine, NBC News, and Woman’s World, to name a few. She is also a cleaning expert on the Editorial Review Board at The Spruce.

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
Article Sources
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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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