Dishwasher detergent review

CHOICE has reviewed 34 dishwasher detergents including tablets, gels and powders.

We found most powders perform poorly - what is your experience?

All powders perform poorly, and all are similar

When we bought our Fisher & Paykel dish drawer some years ago it came with a bottle of Finish, which we stuck with for many years, but it was around $9 per kg. Results were excellent. Then I decided to try other cheaper brands. I find that Coles at $4 per kg works just as well so now buy it instead.

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On the strength of this review we have changed to the Coles product - so far so good and half the price

Thanks Choice

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Yes, I’m so grateful for this advice. I’m now using Coles dishwashing powder at $2 a box. It’s just as good on regular dishes but not so good on melamine dishes. I don’t mind washing them by hand, for that saving.

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Powders perform poorly as there are key ingredients in dishwasher detergents that are best kept separate until in the wash. So there is a formula compromise compared to tablets. Tabs can keep the important components in separate parts of the tab. Enzymes are destroyed by the ingredients that are needed for bleaching (removing coffee and red wine stains). So typically the enzymes (that so all the cleaning work as the water heats) are in one part of the tab while the bleach that is activated at higher temperatures when the enzymes (should have) done there job are in another part. Note that the Finish Gel (liquid) tops on cleaning in the test (great enzyme activity) but as a liquid cannot separate the bleach and so has none, hence the poor red wine/coffee performance. We use it when we want good cleaning but there are no staining soils like tomatoe in the wash.
Powders often coat the separate components (granules) but age much more quickly as a result of the limited protection of the coating between one cleaning component to another.
Also at the end you get what you pay for. More expensive detergents contain components to protect the materials of your crockery and cutlery as well as the machine. Cheap limited composition products will “wear out” what you wash while better quality formulations can protect and retain the newness of your dinnerware and cookware for many years. It may also save a service call as the pump seal and other important components exposed to the wash water are vulnerable to low quality detergents and their limited performance too.
Choice do not advise what machine or wash program is used for the testing but to say that this can have a decisive impact on product performance. Despite packet recommendations of 50C to 55C wash temperatures, experience suggests that 65C is generally needed to be effective. Most quality detergents perform better with time for the enzymes to work before reaching the higher temperatures to get the full benefit of the bleach effect and to effectively dissolve the grease and oils. Would be interesting to see how the detergent line up with a couple of dirty stainless steel saucepans in the wash. They should come out polished like new. That is my test and some of the top rated tabs fail this unfortunately.

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You are right, I’ve been using Coles dishwashing powder for a while now and I notice it’s not performing as well as initially seemed and for the first time, I have tea stains forming in the cups. I have a nice dinner set so I’m going back to the tablets before my crockery is damaged.

(Easy-off) Bam toilet cleaner will remove tea and coffee stains from cups and mugs where our dish washer won’t. It’s the only product I know of that will. The other Bams do not work, so don’t bother with them. Put in a small amount (full strength, or dilute up to 50%), swish it around and let it sit until the stain has gone. Magic!

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Hello there, Good point about the wash program. I’ve put it into the How We Test section. The name of the wash is “Normal”. It’s a 60C main wash and 70C post rinse, 85 min long in total. We don’t disclose the machine type because it would imply we are recommending it - but it’s an average scorer in our table.

Matt, Thanks for sharing that. Interesting the program (and machine) you are using. The temperature profile of the wash is important. 85 minutes could mean too short a wash if over half the time is “lost” from the cleaning phase in heating the final rinse and dry time. You could use hot water fill after the wash phase to speed testing as likely it would not matter to the results. The leading detergent manufacturers publish details of the optimum temperature profile for the wash phase to maximise cleaning. Generally adequate time at 45C to 50C for the enzyme cleaning activity and then >60C for the bleaching and to disolve grease and oils.
A pre rinse in the real world clears away most of the loose food soil and can improve detergent cleaning now focus on the remaining attached food soils and stains and not “lost” in soiled wash water.
As you are a laboratory, controlling the temperature profile in the wash with a standard soil load would be key to consistent comparable results. It may be worth reviewing what is happening in the test machine. It may also be one reason why it is an “average performer”.
Real world use may “shuffle” the top performers around as noted in my earlier post, but unsophisticated products are unlikely to improve and may in time damage both machine and washware.

We’ve lab tested dishwasher tablets and liquids again for 2018.

Here are the worst, find out which ones are the detergents are the best.

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Our 2019 dishwasher detergent review is out now! Find out which ones performed best:

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Hi out there ,has anybody experienced the the dishwashing brand that is highly efficient and is environmentally friendly?

I am unsure if you mean dishwasher detergents or dishwashing liquids. Choice has reviewed both recently and the results can be found using these links (note: Member Content).

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Earth Choice Dish Tablets, used at half a tablet per wash works well for us, and a packet of tablets goes twice as far, so cost is minimised. We do however, make sure that the dishes are free from caked-on food before washing in the dishwasher.

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Frustrated with PR double talk about my possible inclusion of silver plate in my dishwasher from Proctor & Gamble & other big guys in the general market, I found a great little Victorian company “EUCA” that sells NATURAL products (mostly ON LINE ONLY!) & am very impressed with what I’ve actually used from their ranges of BOTH home & personal products. The dishwasher POWDER successfully replaces those (often expensive) tablets & obviates the need for rinse aid altogether!
My silver-plate cutlery is fine! I’m also liking their hand dishwash liquid detergent too!

Their personal hand & body wash (OK for hair too they say!) near-equals the superb AVEDA & is but a fraction of that brand’s v high retail ! …& EUCA have fine moisturisers also!

Write to Gavin Kronberg (gavin@proudproducts.com.au) about anything on your mind - he couldn’t be more helpful & he’s prompt!!
I’m just sorry they’re deemed too small to be included in CHOICE’s major listings – but they should be!

Hi @Panda, and welcome.

What to we understand by natural? I think of natural as something I find in the back yard or can produce by direct extraction from nature. Not all natural substances are good for us. Sea salt and plant sugars are natural, but not necessarily good for us?

It’s great to hear the business is an Australian registered company. It would be reassuring to know the raw materials used in producing the products are also 100% Australian.

Most silverware can be washed in a dishwasher. The caveats include ensuring the silverware is not in contact with dis-similar metals notably stainless steel. Some advice recommends thinly plated items are at risk, likely due to the possibility of damage to the silver coating exposing the underlying metal and resulting in spot staining or longer term damage.

From the SDS for the DW powder you referenced, the product is a strong alkaline (Sodium carbonate + Sofium percarbonate). The same basic chemistry as products such as Vanish Oxy-action, and common in many other products, some competing DW powders included, (EG Natures Organics - Earth Choice). Is the EUCA branded product any different?

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Their products are not all natural, this is the ingredients of one of its products (first i clicked on)…

Raw Materials ; Sodium Percarbonate, Sodium Alkylbenzene Sulphonate, Sodium Tripoly Phosphate, Disodium Trioxosilicate, D-Limonene, Nonionic Surfactant, Synthethic Ethoxylated Alcohol

While they aren’t natural, it is good to see an Australian owned company competing against the big multinationals, making products locally for the domestic market.

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I couldn’t find any claims of being ‘natural’. They do a good job of cloaking their products with images of koalas and mention of eucalyptus, lemon myrtle and lavender.

I had to laugh at this story about laundry powder:

, uses natural Australian eucalyptus in its formulation. It does not have any added perfumes,

Maybe the hair that they are trying to split here is that eucalyptus is included not for its smell but because in some situations it is antimicrobial. Of course they provide no evidence that when used in laundry powder in the quantities given it has any significant effect. They don’t say eucalyptus is antimicrobial and since it isn’t a perfume it must be there for … no reason at all. Let’s get real here, much of the advertising campaign is about smell, it’s a perfume. Many Australians have a positive association between the smell of eucalyptus and the bush and grandma’s handkerchief that always had a few drops on it.

I also doubt their claim that it is safe for septic systems when the major ingredient is sodium carbonate. This substance is highly alkaline, that is why it is included as it makes the detergents etc work better. It probably won’t kill your septic system stone dead like a bucket full of napisan but the bugs that live there do resent major changes in pH.

While we are on the subject of septic safe how would it be so if it had enough eucalyptus to kill bugs? It’s there for the smell.

A good example of messages delivered by inference and association without making too many concrete claims.

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Updated advice on the best and worst dishwasher detergents:

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