Using the correct detergent can mean the difference between clean dishes and dirty ones. Considerations such as water hardness, dish material, and type of stain effect the type of detergent that should be used. Which detergent is best for your dishwasher? This quick guide will help you find out.
Detergent Selection. There are three types of dishwasher detergent: liquid/gel, powder, and tabs, each with their own pros and cons.
Best for: Delicate dishware, hard water
The Good: Suitable for hard water, water-based composition means less abrasive on dishes
The Bad: Lacks cleaning power of powder and tabs, may leave soapy film with softer water
Less expensive than tablets and widely preferred over powder, liquid detergent continues to compete as one of the most popular types of dishwasher detergent. But liquid is not the best solution for most dishwashers. While liquid outperforms powder and tabs when hard water is an issue, it’s water-based composition lacks the stain-fighting power of the competition. However, because liquid is gentler on stains (and dishes), it is a great option for delicate dishware, such as fine barware and china. Some consumers choose to keep liquid on hand for delicate loads, or, alternately, may choose to wash such items by hand with a mild dish soap.
Do I have Hard Water?
You might have hard water if…
Best for: Powerful cleaning, heavy duty dishes/pots/pans
The Good: Least expensive option, excellent stain-removal power
The Bad: Abrasive cleaning not suitable for more delicate dishware
Like laundry powder detergent, dishwasher powder detergent has fallen out of favor with the American public. One reason may be due to its clumping effect when in contact with water (which is a problem when stored under the kitchen sink). But powder, tough on stains and gentle on wallets, is an excellent option for most dishwashers. While power is too abrasive for delicate dishwasher such as fine china, it works wonders on heavily soiled pots, pans and everyday dishware.
Best for: Soft water, heavy
The Good: Excellent stain-removal power, convenience
The Bad: Most expensive option, not suitable for hard water
Dishwasher tablets (or “pacs”) have steadily gained popularity since their introduction in the 2000s. Premeasured and spill-free, the convenience factor cannot be beat. Tablets are typically a combination of liquid and powder, combining the advantages of each. Manufacturers have also started adding all sorts of “power balls” that contain things like rinse aids, brighteners and boosters, eliminating the need to purchase and add these solutions separately. Convenience and performance come at a cost, though. Tablets are by far the most expensive option versus liquid and powder. Tablets are not suitable for hard-water homes, and may be too abrasive for delicate dishware.