Soon it’ll be time to get out the good dishes and glassware for holiday entertaining. If you have hard water in your home, chances are your dishware is hazy or covered with a whitish film. If so, don’t despair. There are some dishwasher detergent additives on the market that can get rid of that haze and make your glasses and dishes sparkle again. And switching to a top-performing dishwasher detergent will keep them that way.

Consumers started seeing residue and haze on their dishes and inside the dishwasher after polluting phosphates were banned from dishwasher detergents a few years ago. Manufacturers responded by reformulating their dishwasher detergents to prevent such hard-water buildup and also developed additives to get rid of it. Consumer Reports tested three additives, and after some trial and error, all removed the haze from dishes and glassware and cleaned the dishwasher, too.

We tested Finish Power Up Booster Agent, Glisten Dishwasher Cleaner & Hard Water Spot Remover, and Lemi Shine Original. When we used the same amount of each product—about 50 grams—all three worked splendidly. But when we followed Finish’s directions for machines with a prewash detergent dispenser, the product didn’t work nearly as well. It did get the job done when we placed 2 tablespoons directly into the bottom of the dishwasher (following instructions for machines without a prewash dispenser). Glisten and Lemi Shine did their job as directed, though you might need a second wash cycle to completely eliminate buildup.

The Best Dishwasher Detergents
Choosing the right dishwasher detergent can also help. In our dishwasher detergent tests, we found that Cascade Complete ActionPacs was excellent at resisting mineral buildup while getting dishes and pots clean. And a rinse agent can help eliminate water spots, a less severe condition than white haze. We also recommend two detergents from Finish, Finish Powerball Tabs and Finish Gelpacs. And we named Member's Mark Ultimate Clean Dishwasher Pacs from Sam's Club a CR Best Buy.

What Not to Put in the Dishwasher

Keep in mind that not every glass or dish on your holiday table can be put in the dishwasher, including the following.

  • Gold-plated dishes or dishes or flatware with gold trim can become discolored, or the trim may even wash away.
  • Fine crystal is sensitive to heat and may crack. The detergent may also etch the glasses, causing them to lose their brilliance.
  • Expensive china, especially pieces with a pattern, may become worn with repeated washings.
  • Keep anything made of pewter, brass, or bronze out of the dishwasher because it will tarnish.