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Dishwasher detergents

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What's behind our dishwasher detergent Ratings?

Experts at our National Testing and Research Center tested 35 models in dishwasher detergents to see which ones perform best.
We look for:
  • Overall score
    Overall score is based mainly on cleaning tests and redeposits. Models are listed by precise overall score.
  • Type
    Liquids and powders generally pour easily; gels have a thicker consistency than liquids. Tablets are a dry, solid premeasured amount of detergent. Pacs have a dissolvable outer package containing a premeasured amount of liquid, gel, or powder. A dispenser product uses a cartridge that automatically dispenses a charge of detergent for 12 loads of dishes.
  • Size of package
    The package size in ounces for liquids or powders or count for tablets, tabs and packs.
  • Cleans dishes
    Gauges how well a detergent removed a caked-on puree of foods from glass dishes.
  • Cleans pots
    Indicates how well a detergent cleaned pots that were covered with baked-on macaroni and cheese.
  • Resists water spots
    Shows the ability to prevent water spots on glass plates.
  • Resists food deposits
    Indicates the ability to prevent washed-off food from resettling on dishes and glasses.
  • Resists film/discoloration
    Ability of the detergent to prevent deposit of minerals.

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Recommended dishwasher detergents

Recommended dishwasher detergents are standout choices with high scores. They include CR Best Buys, which offer exceptional value. When narrowing your choices, weigh features, price, and attributes that matter to you.
  • Buying Guide
  • Price & Shop
Manufacturers have reformulated their dishwasher detergents in response to state laws banning phosphates. But we found several that clean very well. If you're looking for information about dishwasher detergents, Consumer Reports is your best resource. Consumer Reports’ dishwasher detergent reviews will give you honest buying advice that you can trust. Use our dishwasher detergent buying guide to discover which features are most important to consider. We also provide unbiased Ratings and dishwasher detergent reviews to help you choose the best dishwasher detergent for your needs.

Dishwasher detergent buying guide

Ever since phosphates were eliminated from dishwasher detergents in the summer of 2010, consumers have been complaining about "clean" dishware coming out of the dishwasher covered in a white film or metal that's been discolored. Because phosphates foul waterways, they were banned in many states. Major manufacturers responded by reformulating their products for all 50 states eliminating all but trace amounts from dishwasher detergents. (Laundry detergents were already phosphate-free.)

Phosphates help to control water hardness, according to the American Cleaning Institute. They also boost a soap's ability to clean and prevent food particles from sticking to the dishes. Without it, dishes can emerge from the dishwasher with bits of food still attached, glassware filmed in white and aluminum that's tarnished.

The chorus of complaints we heard from readers after the switch caused Consumer Reports to recalibrate its dishwasher detergent tests. In the new tough test we take a set of clean glass dishware and uncoated aluminum sheets and wash them 20 times, simulating more than a month of machine washing, using the same detergent and with water that's harder than most. Our revised tests of tablets, pacs, liquids, gels, and powders changed the rankings of some products.

We also test the cleaning ability of the detergents by smearing dishware with a "monster mash" of sticky foods such as chocolate pudding, peanut butter, rice, and macaroni and cheese, while pots received just the macaroni-and-cheese blend. We baked on the goo and assessed how well each detergent removed the food, kept it from being redeposited, and avoided leaving water spots. A key lesson from out tests was not to shop strictly by brand, as different products from the same brand wound up near the top and bottom of the Ratings.

The best detergents cleaned well without leaving film on the glassware or discoloring the aluminum. This matters most in areas with hard water, which is more than half of the country. If your home has soft water, you can consider detergents that scored well for cleaning and pay less attention to the hard-water test results.

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