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How Do I Choose the Best Dishwasher Detergent?

By Marty Paule
Updated May 16, 2024
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In choosing the best dishwasher detergent, there are a number of factors to consider. These include the price, your water's mineral content, the type of dishwasher you own, and your lifestyle. There are four basic types of dishwasher detergent available and each has its pros and cons. Experimentation may be necessary to find the detergent that gives you the best performance. Choosing an environmentally-friendly brand of dishwasher detergent and using your dishwasher correctly will also help to minimize its impact on the earth.

There are dozens of brands of detergent available, and most fall into one of four categories. These include powders, tablets, gels, and pre-measured packs. There is no clear consensus among experts about which type is most effective. A good place to start is by consulting your dishwasher's owner's manual for the recommendations of the manufacturer. Beyond that, you may want to try several types and brands to find the one that best matches your needs.

Generally, dishwasher detergent powders are the least expensive type and many consumers prefer their performance, especially those with hard water containing excessive minerals. Powders can be slightly more difficult to dispense than other types, but allow you to reduce the quantity used for smaller or easily cleaned loads. Some users of powders report problems with undissolved detergent caking up in the dishwasher. Tablets are made of powdered detergent that is compressed into a single-load size. They provide a simple way to control the quantity of detergent used, but are typically more costly than powders.

Unlike powders and tablets, gel dishwasher detergent does not need to be dissolved, and some users report that it is more effective on very dirty, greasy loads. Since gels pour slowly, they allow more precise control of the amount used and are less prone to spill. Gels tend to be somewhat more expensive than tablets and powders. Some gels are sold in pre-measured packs that may also include a special rinsing agent to eliminate spots on glassware. These packs are convenient, but are more expensive than the other types. Rinsing agents sold separately can also help to eliminate spotting on glassware in areas where the mineral content is high.

If you are concerned about your environmental impact, shop for brands that do not include phosphates, scents, or other ingredients harmful to the earth. "Green" dishwasher detergent alternatives can be found in powder, tablet, and gel types, including the convenient pre-measured packs. No matter which type of detergent you select, it will work best when you load and use your dishwasher in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations.

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Discussion Comments

By laluna — On Nov 15, 2011

I believe most new dishwashing detergents do not have phosphates in them. Lack of phosphates is good for the environment, but it is not as good for cleaning dishes.

Phosphate free detergents leave film on dishes which is especially visible on glasses. I have had luck with gel type detergent. A pre measured pack of gel detergent seems to work the best in my dishwasher, leaving glasses sparkling clean.

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