Let's hear it for the underdogs of the dishwasher detergent world, the scrappy fighters who clean to the end. Cascade and Finish are the top-selling brands, but Consumer Reports’ dishwasher detergent tests found that two warehouse brands are even better, and Seventh Generation is an impressive contender.


Our tests of more than 30 dishwasher detergents—single-dose pacs, powders, and gels—reveal a wide range of performance. Not to mention a wide range of prices, from 5 to 41 cents a load.

“The best-performing detergent pacs clean better than the best powders and gels,” says Joe Pacella, the engineer who oversees Consumer Reports’ dishwasher detergent tests. “That’s because more pacs contain a pretreat solution, degreaser, bleach, or rinse-aid to boost cleaning."

Lab Tested for Your Kitchen

Imagine that you have a houseful of dinner guests, and the evening ends with plates covered in a sticky sauce and pots coated with stuck-on food. Welcome to our dishwasher detergent lab.

Our testers load four identical dishwashers with glasses, bowls, clear glass plates coated with a mix of baked-on foods, and two stainless pots with baked-on mac and cheese. We run the dishwashers using the normal-wash cycle.

When the cycle is complete, we use a scanner to determine precisely how clean each dish is and inspect each item. We repeat this test two more times. We also examine how well each dishwasher detergent helps dishes resist food deposits, water spots, white film, and discoloration of aluminum. 

See our 
dishwasher detergent ratings for details on the best and worst dishwasher detergents we tested. And remember, if your detergent lacks a rinse aid, consider using one. Rinse aids prevent spotting and improve drying.

Detergents That Cleaned Up in CR's Tests

Kirkland Signature Premium Dishwasher Pacs from Costco is the best dishwasher detergent we tested. It’s tough on food messes, resists food deposits, and does an impressive job preventing water spots and white film, with little discoloration of our aluminum sheets.

Member’s Mark Ultimate Clean Dishwasher Pacs from Sam’s Club aced most tests, but we found it has a harder time fending off food deposits.

Both are among the least expensive pacs in our tests, around 10 cents a load, and their performance and price make them CR Best Buys. Pacs, by the way, are also known as packets, tabs, and tablets, as you’ll see in our dishwasher detergent ratings.

These two warehouse brands perform slightly better overall than Finish Quantum Max Powerball, Finish Powerball Tabs, and Cascade Complete ActionPacs with Dawn, all of which score high enough to make our recommended list, among others.

Seventh Generation Ultra Power Plus Packs, a detergent with environmentally friendly claims that costs 26 cents a load, comes close to making the recommended list. It does a great job in every test except for cleaning our pots, so if you use this brand, consider washing your pots by hand. Seventh Generation Powder performs similarly, and makes our list of recommended powders, joining Cascade Complete powder. Both cost about 20 cents a load.  

The worst detergent we tested? Cascade Complete Gel with Dawn. It left plenty of food on dishes and mac and cheese on the pots. Food deposits and water spots were also problematic. If you prefer using a gel, take a look at the Palmolive Eco+. It does an impressive job overall, but it's just so-so at cleaning pots. That said, at just 7 cents a load, it's a CR Best Buy.