I Tried 5 of the Best Dishwasher Detergents—Here’s Which One I’ll Buy Again
They’re all made from naturally derived ingredients.
Published Sep 4, 2022 1:59 AM
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Reading up on Domino’s shopping guides is like having your own personal product concierge. We do the tedious part—deep-dive research, hands-on testing, and tapping experts for advice—so all you have to do is hit “add to cart.” That’s why we call them Simply the Best.
The dishwasher, in my humble opinion, is one of the greatest modern inventions. It frees you from handwashing every last dish (if you enjoy cooking, you probably know firsthand how easily they stack up in the throes of dinner prep), leaving more time for the good stuff: eating dessert or cuddling up on the couch after a meal. It’s also an appliance that’s nearly impossible to live without if you’ve experienced having one—it’s why nearly every home and apartment search website includes a filter for dishwashers.
That said, they’re a mixed bag, and the difference between a sparkling new dishwasher and the landlord special is pretty significant. The one thing that helps close the gap? A high-quality dishwasher detergent. I tested several for you, so the only thing standing between you and crystal-clear glasses is a couple clicks. Read on for the best dishwasher detergent from my trials, plus four other eco-friendly options that stack up.
Blueland Dishwasher Starter Set
Count: 60 | Type: Powder tabs | Packaging: Reusable lidded tin
What we like:
- Natural, clearly listed ingredients
- Comparable performance to natural and traditional detergents
- Space-saving reusable tin
- No fragrance
Why we chose it: These dishwasher tablets are made with plant-based ingredients, come with a just-right-size reusable container, and work hard to remove stuck-on crud.
There are few things more disappointing, or downright gross, than pulling glassware and utensils out of the dishwasher with grease, peanut butter, and lip marks still on them. After all, isn’t the point of a dishwasher to remove those things so you don’t have to? Happily, Blueland dishwasher tablets leave no such guck—they get the job done right the first time. Even more enticing is that these tablets are made from just 11 ingredients, all of which are naturally derived and easily explained in terms of purpose. For example, sodium carbonate acts as a mineral-based cleaner; sodium citrate is a water softener; and citric acid helps the tablets dissolve smoothly without leftover clumps.
Indeed, there are no clumps to be found, since they’re not made with dissolving shells or wrappers, so all the tablets are put to work cleaning dishes without leaving waste. Their performance is comparable to the other natural detergents we tested, as well as big-name brands like Cascade and Finish. They are free of fragrance, though, which is a win if you’re sensitive to smells, but might leave you wanting if you’re accustomed to a scented detergent. Arguably the best part, though? They come in a completely adorable lidded tin, which can be endlessly reused and refilled. Small and sturdy, the container easily stashes under the sink unlike floppy sacks or clunky plastic boxes. Refill tablets come in recyclable paper packaging (which you can subscribe to for quick refills).
We Also Like
- Mrs. Meyer’s Dishwasher Tabs: As longtime fans of Mrs. Meyer’s products, we found these dishwasher tabs to be perfectly functional. They come in three of the classic Mrs. Meyer’s scents—lemon verbena, basil, and lavender—so you can coordinate (or mix) with your dish and hand soap as well. One note we will make: The tabs are quite heavily fragranced, so if you’re prone to headaches from strong scents, you might want to skip these.
- Grove Co. Pure Power Dishwasher Detergent Packs: We love that Grove Co. is a certified B Corp and stocks tons of our favorite natural and eco-friendly cleaning brands, but its own line of products performs just as well as the heavy hitters.
- Dropps Dishwasher Detergent Pods: Perhaps best known for its irreverent ads on Instagram, Dropps makes a variety of naturally derived cleaning products in compostable packaging. The unscented detergent pods are great, but the fresh rain ones are even better.
- Method Dishwasher Pacs: A Target staple, Method makes some of our favorite budget cleaning products, from dish soap to shower cleaner.
How We Chose These Products
When looking for dishwasher detergents to test, there were a few criteria that kept the list down. First, they are all pods or tabs. While liquid detergents are still available, they’re not produced in nearly the same capacity as pods and tabs are, given the convenience of tossing one into the dishwasher and pressing start. Second, all the detergents we tested are made with identifiable, clearly labeled ingredients, ideally in reusable packaging. We tested each by running them through a standard dishwashing cycle with the same approximate level of debris and dishes to compare performance.
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Ingredients and Scent
While there are certainly more long-standing brands of dishwasher detergent that have proven themselves over time, many of them don’t clearly disclose their ingredients, which is troubling given that they’re used to clean the dishes we eat from. All of the detergents we tested clearly list their ingredients, including familiar ones such as citric acid, sodium carbonate, and plant-derived ingredients like sodium citrate. There are free-and-clear versions of most of the detergents, but for this test, we opted to test the naturally fragranced ones (if available) to compare scents and to understand from where the fragrance was derived.
Most detergent pods come in plastic boxes or soft plastic packaging, neither of which is our favorite. A majority of the detergents we tested came in zip-top plastic bags, which are fine but not the best solution, since they are difficult to get standing upright and are prone to spilling from the top. Dropps detergent packs actually come in well-designed cardboard boxes that can be recycled post-use, which is a clever method, but our favorite packaging goes to Blueland, because the reusable lidded tin is just so adorable, functional, and easy to refill.
Here’s the thing: Dishwashers are a total gamble. The discrepancies between them are pretty large—i.e., you might live in a rental with an old, basic model or a home with a new, state-of-the-art appliance—so it’s difficult to say how well each of these detergents will perform in every different environment. That said, each of these was run through the same cleaning cycle with the same approximate level of debris and dishes, and they all performed quite well.
Q: What’s the difference between pods and liquid detergent?
Detergent pods or tablets are more concentrated than liquid or gel detergents, which means they deliver a more powerful clean without taking up nearly as much space in your cabinet. Because they’re more concentrated, tabs and pods also require less water, less packaging, and less energy to ship. In terms of cleaning abilities, a majority of experts cite tablets and pods as the most efficient and powerful option, and liquid detergents simply don’t compare.
Q: Can I use regular dish soap in a dishwasher?
No! Dish soap used to clean dishes by hand is made in a totally different way than dishwasher detergent. Just a drop of dish soap can produce tons of suds, which can overflow and create quite a big mess under and around your dishwasher. Dishwasher detergent, on the other hand, is designed not to produce suds, so it won’t leave soapy chaos in its wake.
The Last Word
Naturally derived dishwasher detergents are now just as powerful as the mainstay brands, without ingredient secrecy and harsh scents. Our favorite dishwasher detergent comes in tablet form from Blueland; each one is adept at cutting through grease and stuck-on food.