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Best Dishwasher Detergents From Consumer Reports' Tests

Not all detergents are up to the task of getting dishes clean

Silverware in a dishwasher.
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Let’s hear it for the inexpensive 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 a warehouse brand is best of all. A second warehouse brand cleaned better than most detergents we tested.

Our tests of dishwasher detergents reveal a wide range of performance. Not to mention a wide range of prices, from 5 to 39 cents per load.

“Overall, the best-performing detergent pacs clean better than the best 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.”

These single-dose units—also known as pacs, packets, tabs, and tablets—deliver a conveniently premeasured amount of detergent. And that convenience is boosting sales.

“Consumers prefer single-dose units and gels, making them the best-selling types,” says Kelly Moomey, a senior market analyst covering cleaning products for CR. Sales of powder detergents have been dropping, which is why we did not include them in our latest tests.

Lab-Tested for Your Kitchen 
During testing, our engineers load four identical dishwashers with glasses, bowls, and clear glass plates coated with a mix of baked-on foods, plus two stainless pots with baked-on macaroni 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. 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.

Here’s a look at five of the best we tested, grouped by type and listed alphabetically. Note that we calculate the price per load, which you’ll see stated in the ratings, because detergents vary in the number of ounces or pacs in each container. The prices below, however, reflect overall prices and in some cases are for multipacks.

Best Detergent Pacs
Cascade Platinum ActionPacs with the Power of Clorox
Cascade Platinum ActionPacs with...

    Cascade Platinum ActionPacs with...

    CR’s take: Cascade is a widely sold brand, which is why you’ll see seven of its detergents in our ratings, including Cascade Platinum ActionPacs with the Power of Clorox. (Cascade Platinum ActionPacs+Oxi are similar to the tested detergent.) It’s the most expensive of the detergents highlighted here, but these pacs earn an Excellent rating in our tests for resisting food deposits. That means that Cascade does a great job in preventing washed-off food from resettling on dishes and glasses. 


    Kirkland Signature (Costco) Premium Dishwasher Pacs
    Kirkland Signature (Costco)...

      Kirkland Signature (Costco)...

      CR’s take: Kirkland Signature Premium Dishwasher Pacs are tough on messes, earning an Excellent rating in our tests for cleaning dishes, and do a superb job keeping washed-off food from winding up on dishes. Price per load is 11 cents. Sparkling performance at a low price makes this dishwasher detergent a CR Best Buy.    


      Member's Mark Ultimate Clean Dishwasher Pacs (Sam's Club)
      Member's Mark Ultimate Clean...

        Member's Mark Ultimate Clean...

        CR’s take: Another warehouse brand, another CR Best Buy. If you routinely put pots and pans in your dishwasher, consider Member’s Mark Ultimate Clean Dishwasher Pacs. This detergent garners an Excellent rating in our tests for cleaning stainless pots covered with baked-on mac and cheese. Sound easy? Only three of the 19 dishwasher detergents tested aced this test. Member’s Mark comes close to the Kirkland in terms of performance, but Member’s Mark had a harder time resisting food deposits.

        Best Detergent Gels
        Cascade Complete Gel with Dawn
        Cascade Complete Gel with Dawn

          Cascade Complete Gel with Dawn

          CR’s take: Even the best gels we tested cannot match the overall performance of the lowest scoring pacs. And no gel has aced our tests for cleaning dishes in the past several years. That is, until we tested Cascade Complete Gel With Dawn. It earns an Excellent rating in this test. But it had a harder time cleaning baked-on food from stainless pots and fending off water spots.


          Palmolive eco+
          Palmolive eco+

            Palmolive eco+

            CR’s take: At 7 cents per load, Palmolive Eco+ is among the cheapest in our ratings. You’ll see five gel detergents in our ratings, and this is the only one that can resist water spots, earning an Excellent in this test. It also stands out in our tests for preventing white film and discoloration of our aluminum sheets.

            Check our dishwasher detergent buying guide for ways to boost your dishwasher’s cleaning performance. 

            Kimberly Janeway

            For years I've covered the increasing water and energy efficiency of washers and what it means to consumers, along with innovations in a variety of products, and whether manufacturers deliver on their promises. What I'm really trying to do is to help consumers, and consumers help me by posting comments and posing questions. So thanks!