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The 7 Best Dishwasher Detergents for Sparkling Clean Dinnerware

The Cascade Complete ActionPacs are our favorite because they come in convenient single-use pods and have heavy-duty cleaning power. 
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

Using a dishwasher is much more time-saving and environmentally friendly than washing your dishes by hand. But to make sure you get the results you're looking for—like sparkling dishes and streak-free glassware—it's important to use an effective dishwasher detergent that can remove grease, stains, stuck-on food, and more.  

To find the best dishwasher detergents, we spent hours researching some of the most popular options, looking at factors like type (such as pod, powder, or gel), size, formula, and overall value. We also tapped Derek Chiu, co-founder and director of the cleaning service UrbanMop, for expert insight on how to choose the best dishwasher detergent for your home. 

"It is essential to choose a quality dishwasher detergent as this can make the difference between spotless dishes and having to re-run the dishwasher or washing them by hand," says Chiu. "Choosing a dishwasher detergent comes down to factors such as personal preference for type, size of your dishwasher load, and your budget."

Our top pick is Cascade Complete ActionPacs because these pods set a high standard for thoroughly cleaning, rinsing, and shining dishes—without the need to pre-wash or soak. We also like that each single-use pod contains Dawn (aka one of the best dish soaps) to remove tough grease.

Here are the best dishwasher detergents to keep your dishes sparkling clean. 

Our Top Picks

Best Dishwasher Detergent
Credit: Amazon.com

Best Overall Dishwasher Detergent: Cascade Complete ActionPacs

View at Amazon ($19)

Also available at Target, Lowe's, and Walmart.

Who it's for: People who want an easy-to-use detergent with heavy-duty cleaning capabilities.

Who it isn't for: People who prefer powder or gel dishwasher detergents.

Cascade Complete ActionPacs are one of the most popular dishwasher detergents on the market, and it's for a good reason. With Dawn to break down tough grease and a built-in rinsing agent to prevent spots and streaks, these powerful pods can remove stuck-on food from the day before while leaving your dishes sparkling clean with no film or residue in sight. Each pouch contains a concentrated combination of powder and gel, which work together to get rid of every trace of food. Like other dishwasher pods, there's no need to measure or make a mess—simply place one pod in your appliance's detergent cup.

The Cascade Complete ActionPacs also come recommended by Chiu, who prefers them for their ability to leave dishes spotless without any of the etched damage that can be left behind by some powder detergents. 

While these pods are formulated without phosphates, their ingredient list includes synthetic fragrance and sodium silicate, which can be harmful if ingested. Still, these dishwasher pods are the best option to effectively and thoroughly clean your dishes—just make sure you keep them out of reach of small children.

Product Details:

  • Type: Pods
  • Amount: 78 
Best Dishwasher Detergent
Credit: Amazon.com

Best Scented Dishwasher Detergent: Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Automatic Dish Pacs

View at Amazon ($24)

Also available at Grove Collaborative, Walmart, and Home Depot.

Who it's for: People who want a dishwasher detergent with a pleasant scent.

Who it isn't for: People who are looking for the most affordable pods.

All of Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day products are beloved for their unique yet light scents—and these dishwasher detergent pods are no different. Available in refreshing scents like lemon verbena, basil, and lavender, these pods have mild, refreshing fragrances that aren't overwhelming (aka they won't linger on dishes long after they've dried). We appreciate that they're formulated without animal-derived ingredients, phosphates, or chlorine, while still boasting impressive cleaning power that's safe for all dishwashers. 

While this product is slightly more expensive per pod than some of the others we recommend, it's worth every penny for people who are looking for a pleasantly scented dishwasher detergent that doesn't compromise its effectiveness and cleaning power. 

Product Details:

  • Type: Pods
  • Amount: 20 per bag (60 total)
Best Dishwasher Detergent
Credit: Amazon.com

Best Gel Dishwasher Detergent: Cascade Complete Gel + Oxi

View at Amazon ($18)

Also available at Walmart.

Who it's for: People who want to get rid of stains on their dishes.

Who it isn't for: People who prefer the convenience of dishwasher detergent pods.

This gel dishwasher detergent from Cascade is ideal for people who want to precisely control the amount of detergent they use, which simply isn't possible with pods. It's also great for anyone who doesn't want to deal with the small granules left behind by some powder or tab detergents. Along with Dawn for cutting through grease, this gel dishwasher detergent also contains Oxi for removing stains left behind by things like coffee, tea, starches, and proteins. 

We appreciate that the bottle has a spout that makes it easy to pour, rather than a wide opening that can get messy. The Cascade Complete Gel + Oxi also comes recommended by experts because it provides such a powerful clean. "This detergent has ingredients like enzymes which help to dissolve harsh food residues, and the addition of Oxi helps to bleach tough stains," says Chiu.

 Product Details:

  • Type: Gel
  • Amount: 60 ounces

RELATED: The 6 Best Countertop Dishwashers for People Who Hate Doing Dishes

Best Dishwasher Detergent
Credit: Amazon.com

Best Powder Dishwasher Detergent: Nellie's Dishwasher Powder

View at Amazon (from $19)

Also available at Nellie's.

Who it's for: People who are looking for a powder dishwasher detergent made with natural ingredients.

Who it isn't for: People who aren't willing to scoop the powder every time they run the dishwasher.

Dishwasher powder often gets a bad rap for being messy and abrasive, but this one from Nellie's uses safe and natural ingredients in a reusable (and retro-inspired) container. This powder can clear food particles, grease, and stains, and it's safe for any dishwasher and septic system. The concentrated formula is pretty impressive, too: It's biodegradable, non-toxic, hypoallergenic, cruelty-free, chlorine-free, phosphate-free, paraben-free, ammonia-free, formaldehyde-free, plastic-free, and fragrance-free. 

The metal tin is available in 80- and 100-scoop tins. There's also a bulk bucket (1,100 scoops) available directly on the brand's site that's best for refilling existing tins. Nellie's Dishwasher Powder is a bit more expensive than alternative detergents, but we think the price is justified by its natural formula and efficient cleaning power. 

Product Details:

  • Type: Powder
  • Amount: 80 and 100 scoops
Best Dishwasher Detergent
Credit: Blueland.com

Best Plastic-Free Dishwasher Detergent: Blueland Dishwasher Starter Set

View at Blueland ($18)

Who it's for: People who want to avoid plastic-wrapped dishwasher pods.

Who it isn't for: People who would rather have a scented dishwasher detergent. 

Most dishwasher pods come wrapped in a water-soluble coating called polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), which is technically considered plastic. If you'd prefer something plastic-free, opt for Blueland's dishwasher tablets, which are not wrapped in anything. To make them even more environmentally friendly, these dishwasher tablets come in a paper bag with a reusable steel tin that you can keep refilling for years to come. 

The dishwasher tablets have a clean formula (aka no dyes, parabens, phthalates, ammonia, or petroleum), but they are still effective at removing grease, grime, and other food stains. It's also worth noting that these tablets are fragrance-free, so they're great for people with sensitivities to fragrance. And since this product is available with a subscription, it's easy to get regular shipments of these plastic-free dishwasher tablets so you never run out. 

Product Details:

  • Type: Pods
  • Amount: 40 for starter kit, 120 for subscription

RELATED: The 8 Best Stovetop Cleaners for Removing Grease and Burnt-on Food

Best Dishwasher Detergent
Credit: Amazon.com

Best Dishwasher Detergent for Hard Water: Finish Quantum Dishwasher Tabs

View at Amazon ($23)

Also available at Target and Walmart.

Who it's for: People who want a dishwasher detergent that can get rid of hard water buildup stains while cleaning and degreasing.

Who it isn't for: People who would prefer something made with natural ingredients.

Unfortunately, hard water can leave your plates and glasses with a chalky or cloudy buildup after a cycle in the dishwasher, which forces you to clean them again and therefore waste more water. But Finish Quantum Dishwasher Tabs are powerful enough to remove stains and buildup on your dishes from hard water. They're also great for breaking down stuck-on food and keeping your dishes sparkling clean without the need to pre-rinse. Each tablet has three separate chambers: powder for scrubbing, gel for cutting grease, and liquid for a lasting shine. 

One downside of these tablets is that they don't come in additional scents like many of the other picks on our list. But for people who are primarily concerned about removing hard water scale from their dishes, these tablets from Finish are still a great choice. 

Product Details:

  • Type: Pods
  • Amount: 82 
Best Dishwasher Detergent
Credit: Target.com

Best Natural Dishwasher Detergent: Seventh Generation Dishwasher Detergent Powder

View at Target ($7)

Also available at Grove Collaborative and Thrive Market.

Who it's for: People who want a dishwasher detergent that uses natural ingredients.

Who it isn't for: People who want the grab-and-go convenience of pods or tablets. 

Seventh Generation is a trusted brand known for its free and clear formulations, so it's not surprising that its dishwasher detergent powder made our list as the best natural option. Like most natural detergents, this one is free of chlorine, dyes, and fragrance. The powder also received an A rating from the Environmental Working Group for its biodegradable and plant-based formula that uses safe ingredients. 

Even though it uses natural ingredients, Seventh Generation's Dishwasher Detergent Powder can still effectively clean off grease, stuck-on food, and even hard water stains from your dishes. And considering its low price, this dishwasher detergent is also the most affordable on our list. We also like that its cardboard packaging is fully recyclable.

Product Details:

  • Type: Powder
  • Amount: 75 ounces

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Final Verdict

Our best overall pick is Cascade Complete ActionPacs because it's the most effective option that comes in pod form—each single-use pod can clean, degrease, and shine your dishes. For a more eco-friendly alternative, Seventh Generation Dishwasher Detergent Powder can clean your dishes just as effectively with safer and natural ingredients. 

How to Shop for Dishwasher Detergent Like a Pro

Type

Dishwasher detergents come in three forms: gel, powder, and pods. To best determine which type is best for you, the experts we spoke to say there are a few things to consider, like how much cleaning power you need, the size of your dishwasher loads, and how often you run the dishwasher. Another factor to think about is whether you have a preference for environmentally friendly ingredients. 

Gel: Liquid and gel dishwasher detergents both generally refer to the same type of product, and according to Chiu, both "are easy to dispense and effective [at] cleaning/stain removal." 

Pods: Single-use pods and tablets are just as effective, but they're way more convenient since they don't require any pouring or measuring. They're also generally more expensive than other types of dishwasher detergents.

Powder: If you're on a budget, powders are generally the most affordable form of dishwashing detergent. Both of the powders on our list use natural ingredients, which is a bonus. The only downside is that Chiu says powders "may not be as powerful as pods." 

Formula

Choosing the right dishwasher detergent formula for your home may take some time, consideration, and research. Several dishwasher detergents are formulated with harsher ingredients for those with sensitivities such as fragrance, dyes, and bleach. For those who prefer a natural option, you should look for plant-based detergents that are easy on the environment. Some harmful ingredients to avoid when choosing a dishwasher detergent are sulfates, parabens, phthalates, and ammonia. 

Size

The size of your dishwasher detergent will mostly depend on how frequently you use your dishwasher. In other words, a large amount of gel and powder or a higher count of pods will last longer if you occasionally hand-wash some of your dishes. If you run the dishwasher once a day (or more), then you should look for detergents that come in large sizes so you don't have to replenish your supply as often. 

Questions You Might Ask

How much dishwasher detergent should you use?

The amount of detergent you should use depends on several factors, including the size of your load, the type of dishes you're washing, and the water hardness in your area. 

The best and simplest way to figure out how much dishwasher detergent to use is by checking the instructions on the label. For dishwasher pods, most brands will recommend using only one regardless of the load size and dish type—although using one pod on a light load could leave behind some residue. 

"If you opt for liquid or powder dishwasher detergent, it is recommended to use between one and three tablespoons," Chiu says. "This recommendation is based on the soil level of the dishes, the water pressure of your model, and the type of detergent you are using."

Can you use dishwasher detergent as dish soap?

Dishwasher detergent is designed to be used in a dishwasher, not when you wash dishes by hand. That's because those formulas are often much more concentrated and therefore too harsh on your skin—and they simply won't get sudsy enough to clean your dishes. 

It doesn't work the other way around, either: Never use regular dish soap in a dishwasher because it can create a sudsy mess that's almost impossible to clean up.

Does dishwasher detergent expire?

Most cleaning products have long shelf lives (even after they've been opened), but it's important to know that they can lose their effectiveness over time. Dishwashing pods can last up to 18 months, so they're generally safe to buy in bulk. But for other types of dishwasher detergents, Chiu says you're better off replacing the bottle after about three months. 

"Dishwasher detergents are made with enzymes and chemicals that help soften the water, break down grease and grime, and eliminate bacteria," says Chiu. "These properties will not be as effective in cleaning and sanitizing your dishes if you use expired dishwasher detergent."

Take Our Word for It

This article was written by L. Daniela Alvarez, a contributing writer for Real Simple with nearly three years of experience writing about lifestyle content and product reviews. To compile this list, she spent hours researching different types of dishwasher detergents, considering factors like type and ingredients. She also received tips on how to shop for dishwasher detergents from Derek Chiu, co-founder and director of UrbanMop.