Best Dishwasher Detergents

Updated September 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
22 Hours Researched
3 Experts Interviewed
119 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best dishwasher detergents

Are your dishes always coming out of the dishwasher with streaks and spots? Do your Tupperware containers require a post-wash rinse? For sparkling dinnerware the first time, the right dishwasher detergent is key.

A good dishwasher detergent is worth the splurge since you won’t have to run your dishwasher a second time or waste water re-washing dishes in the sink. However, with so many detergents on the market, how do you find the best one for your dishwasher? If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the choices, we’re here to help.

At BestReviews, we make shopping easy with our product testing and handy guides that are packed with information and helpful tips. For everything you need to know before you buy a new dishwasher detergent, all you have to do is keep reading.

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Sensitive to smells? Look for a dishwasher detergent that’s fragrance-free.

What is dishwasher detergent?

Unlike liquid dish soap, which mixes easily with water of any temperature, dishwasher detergent usually requires warm water to dissolve properly. The main components of dishwasher detergent are bleach and enzymes. Bleach aids in getting out stains, and enzymes remove bits of stuck-on food.

Another characteristic of dishwasher detergent is that it doesn’t produce suds. Bubbles in the dishwasher are bad news. They can multiply quickly and overflow onto your kitchen floor. Dishwasher detergent is also more concentrated than liquid dish soap.

Use liquid dish soap for hand-washing dishes in the sink and dishwasher detergent in your dishwasher.

Types of dishwasher detergents

The three common types of dishwasher detergent are powder, gel, and pods. Let’s take a look at how each formula works and its pros and cons.


Using powder dishwasher detergent requires careful measuring because the wrong amount can leave you with partially cleaned dishes or glassware and flatware streaked with residue. It’s very easy to underfill or overfill your dispenser when using powder, and it doesn’t take much to spill it. Powder is also a poor choice for heavy-duty cleaning of pots and pans. It’s the least expensive dishwasher detergent option, though, and it is best for those with hard water since you can adjust the amount. Using more detergent helps prevent mineral deposits from heavy tap water.


Gel dishwasher detergent is easy to confuse with dishwashing liquid. Be careful when making your selection. Like powder, gel must be measured out. Thankfully, its thick consistency makes it tougher to spill. Unfortunately, gel formulas often don’t perform as well as other detergent options. Gel doesn’t always dissolve properly, which can leave residue. Gel formulations also lack the enzymes that eat away at stuck-on food particles. The upside to gel? It’s less abrasive than powder on delicate items like glassware.

Pods and tablets

These are also known as pacs. No measuring is required when using these ultra-convenient detergent pods. Since the dishwasher detergent is pre-measured for you, it’s impossible to overfill your dispenser. This form of detergent also provides the best cleaning performance. It’s easy to see when it’s time to buy more, too. The downside? Pods and tablets are slightly pricier per load than powders and gels.

Features to consider for dishwasher detergents

Here’s what to take into consideration when choosing dishwasher detergent for your dishwasher.

Your needs and budget

What does a typical dishwasher load look like for you? If you’re in a hurry and always running the dishwasher, the convenience of pods might trump the cost-effectiveness of powder. Looking for an economical detergent option? Gels and powders might be a better choice for your wallet.

If you wash a lot of glassware, gels and pods are a better option than powders, which can leave residue and marks on your cups and glasses. Do you wash your pots and pans in your dishwasher? Pods offer superior cleaning power to get pots looking shiny again.

Number of loads

Most dishwasher detergent packaging shows an estimate of the number of loads you’ll get out of one container. Buying in bulk will save you money in the long run. But watch out, detergent goes stale if left unused.


Good-quality dishwasher detergent makes cleaning your dishes more efficient by reducing the need for a second cleaning. The cost difference isn’t significant from one form of detergent to another, but performance varies greatly. Consider spending a little extra to ensure you get sparkling clean dishes every time you run your dishwasher.

Powder dishwasher detergent ranges between $0.10 and $0.30 per load. It’s easy to improperly measure this type of detergent, however, and end up wasting it.

Gel dishwasher detergent is the usually the same price as powder detergent per load, though it sometimes costs slightly more. Gel detergent is also easy to over-pour like powder detergent.

Dishwasher detergent pods typically cost about $0.10 to $.40 per load. It’s impossible to spill or accidentally measure out too much of this kind of detergent.


  • Properly load your dishwasher. Don’t overcrowd it, and be wary of blocking the detergent and water exits. If dishwasher detergent isn’t released, you’ll need to rerun your dishwasher.

  • Heavily soiled dishes should go on the bottom rack of a dishwasher. Delicate items go up top.

  • Use the proper dishwasher setting to maximize cleaning power.

  • If you have an older dishwasher, you may have issues with stuck-on food regardless of the dishwasher detergent you purchase. Rinse your dishes first to give your dishwasher a helping hand.

  • If using powder or gel dishwasher detergent, measure out the right amount. Too much can leave a residue. Too little will leave you with dirty dishes at the end of the cycle.

  • Dishwasher making lots of noise? Make sure the drain isn’t blocked.

  • Cold water can prevent pods from dissolving correctly. If you’re using cold water to wash dishes in your dishwasher, use dishwasher detergent pods specifically designed for this purpose.

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If you have an old dishwasher and find yourself rinsing dishes before running them through a cycle, make sure to rinse them thoroughly. You don’t want any dishwashing liquid in your dishwasher. Suds can reduce the effectiveness of your dishwasher.


Q. Is dishwashing liquid the same as dishwasher detergent? How can I tell the difference?

A. No. Dishwashing liquid, or liquid dish soap, produces suds, while dishwasher detergent does not. Anything labeled “dish soap” or “dishwashing liquid” shouldn’t be used in your dishwasher.

Q. What is rinse aid?

A. Rinse aid helps rinse off detergent residue and food. It also ensures that glassware comes out clear and without streaks. Your dishwasher should have a special dispenser for it. Use a rinse aid if you typically only use powder dishwasher detergent. You don’t need to use rinse aid if you primarily use dishwasher detergent pods since it’s usually included in the formula.

Q. What’s the typical shelf life of dishwasher detergent?

A. Most dishwasher detergents will last for about two years. However, if you store detergent improperly, it can quickly go stale. Detergent that’s past its shelf life or improperly stored will not perform as well. Old pods won’t dissolve properly, and you’ll end up having to run your dishwasher twice to get your dishes clean.

Q. How do I clean the dishwasher itself?

A. You can purchase dishwasher cleaners. They usually come in pod or tablet form. Simply run a cycle with one of these in your dishwasher’s dispenser for a refresh. For a cheap alternative in a pinch, fill your dishwasher’s dispenser with vinegar and run a cycle.

Q. What should I look for in an eco-friendly dishwasher detergent?

A. Phosphates should be avoided, but thankfully they’re not as common as they once were. If you’re concerned about your environmental impact, avoid individually wrapped pods or tablets, and look for dishwasher detergents with less packaging. There are plenty of detergents with recyclable packaging and biodegradable ingredients. Curb your energy use by using cold water to wash your dishes and popping in compatible cold-water detergent pods or tablets.

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