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The entire point of a dishwasher is to get clean dishes with minimal effort. But if you've ever opened your dishwasher only to find your dishes still dirty—it may be time to change your dishwasher detergent. Dishwasher detergents come in three different types: gels, powders, and tabs or packs. Choosing a detergent depends a lot on personal preference, but there are some differences to note.
Gel formulas are among the least expensive but depending on how dirty your dishes are, they can also be the least effective as as they don't combine bleach and enzyme agents together. Powders, which are great for hard water, have all the cleaning power you need but they can clump over time (especially in warm environments) and filling up your dispenser can be a pain. Lastly, tabs and packs are a powerful option that don't require any measuring and rinse aids are often included, but you'll pay a premium for the convenience.
Here, the best dishwasher detergents available now.
Best Overall: Cascade Complete ActionPacs Dishwasher Detergent
First and foremost, a good dishwasher detergent needs to get the job done. If you are not left with spotless dishes, you are wasting money on a detergent that fails to deliver. The best dishwasher detergents make it easy to remove the common messes and food buildup dishes experience after a meal. For the top pick on this list, the Cascade ActionPacs will give you a large supply of powerful cleaning packs.
This detergent single-dose set comes as a container of 43 separate packs that make it easy to add some grease-fighting power to a dish load. Each pack contains a built-in rinse aid and water softener to help remove encrusted or leftover messes and prevent new stains from forming. The packs come in a handy container you can keep under the sink or anywhere else that is out of sight.
Best Budget: Cascade Gel Dishwasher Detergent
Budget dishwasher detergents are a great way to make dish cleanup quick and easy without spending a lot of money. Lower priced detergents can also save you money in the long run when it comes time to restock when your current supply has run out. The Cascade Gel Detergent is one of the best detergents around that does not sacrifice effective cleaning power for a lower price tag.
This detergent takes more work off of your hands by adding some Dawn soap into the mix, making it more effective at cleaning the messes you normally have to rinse away before adding the dishes into the dishwasher. As a gel cleaner, this dishwasher detergent is budget-friendly and long lasting so you can keep the supply around longer than other options.
Best Packs: Seventh Generation Detergent Packs
More and more people are turning to the convenience of single-dose dishwasher detergents. Coming in various types such as pods, packs, and tablets, these doses are as simple as it gets: take one out, place it into the dishwasher, and set it to run. Single-dose packs can also be more economically and environmentally friendly since you are less likely to waste detergent when filling the dishwasher, but the cost per serving can be higher than gels or powders.
Taking an all-natural approach to convenience dishwasher cleaning, the Seventh Generation Detergent Packs uses a cleaning formula that is free of synthetic ingredients like fragrances. Each single-dose pack uses enzymes to break up and eat away messes throughout the wash cycle with the subtle scent of actual lemons left over when you go to take the dishes out. Each pack comes with 20 single doses.
Best Gel: Cascade Complete Gel Dishwasher Detergent
Dishwasher detergent gels and liquids are a great choice of cleaning product when you want a large, affordable supply. Often coming in large bottles you can pour directly into the dishwasher's detergent chamber, these detergents often add in a pre-rinse formula so you can reduce or eliminate the amount of time you spend at the sink pre-soaking fragrances dishes and cookware. Gel-based detergents are also the go-to choice for greasier messes.
The Cascade Complete Gel is the dishwasher detergent to choose when you need a powerful cleaning solution that requires minimal set-up. Using a pre-rinse, Dawn-based formula that is equally at home in the sink or dishwasher, the detergent dissolves food particles that homeowners scrubbing cannot remove after it has become stuck. Skip the rinsing step altogether or add a little bit of the gel to soak larger pots and pans before the dishwasher. Many people prefer gels because it is less messy to fill up the dispenser than powders.
Best Powder: Seventh Generation Dishwasher Detergent Powder
When you want a general dishwashing product for common, everyday meal messes, a powder detergent is one of the most economical buys. Coming in large supplies that often last 50+ loads, powder detergents get the job done and are often great for homes with hard water.
The Seventh Generation Auto Dish Powder is both effective and all-natural, combining two traits many modern homeowners and cooks look for in a dishwasher detergent. Free of harmful chemicals and fumes, this detergent offers a lot of value compared to other detergents that use dyes and fragrances. As a powder detergent, it is also easy to measure out the exact amount you need without wasting anything.
Best Eco-Friendly: Method Ecover Zero Automatic Dishwashing Tablets
This cleaning solution is one of the best single-dose dishwasher detergents that provides great cleaning power through an environmentally- and user-friendly detergent formula. By avoiding synthetic fragrances, the detergent lacks any harmful chemicals and dyes common in many commercial cleaners. Instead, the plant- and mineral-based formula breaks away stuck-on foods and messes while dissolving away so you are only left with clean, spotless dishes.
Reviewers say this stuff is lifechanging! A lot enjoy that it doesn't have a scent and really cleans their dishes in an eco-friendly format. A few have mentioned a half tab can get the job done which will save you more money in the long haul.
Best Rinse Aid: Finish Jet-Dry Dishwasher Rinse Agent & Drying Agent
If you use gels or powders you might want to add a rinse aid to your cleaning arsenal. Rinse aids help dry your dishes, prevent spots, and leave your glasses and plates sparkling. Many packs already have this included but it is best to check if they do. The good thing about rinse aids is that you really only need to fill up your dishwasher container once a month to reap the benefits.
This bestseller really gets the job done and couldn't be easier to use, because who really wants to hand dry dishes after they are in the dishwasher.
Best for Hardwater: Finish Hard Water Booster
Water quality often varies depending on your location. In certain places, hard water, filled with higher concentrations of minerals, can affect cleaning results whether you are washing dishes, clothes, or even yourself. Since most dishwashing detergents are not designed to remove these minerals, you will need a specialized cleaning solution to get the water as soft as possible for the best results (re: less spots!).
Adding the Finish Hard Water Booster is like adding a little extra cleaning fuel to your dishwasher. Meant to be used in tandem with other dishwashing detergents, this booster is focused on tackling the stains that commonly form in water filled with minerals like limestone and chalk. You can dispense the booster into a pre-fill chamber or directly into the bottom of the dishwasher.