The dinner table is packed with used plates, platters, glass and silverware. So is the card table you got out of the closet for the kids. Food scraps are caked to pots and pans on the stovetop. A casserole dish had dessert inside it not too long ago. Now all that’s left are a bunch of sugary crumbs that are a royal pain to scrape off.
This isn’t just the scene after Thanksgiving — it’s the same one after a holiday dinner, too! And while the clean-up may seem daunting, it can be a cinch by having the best cleaning products handy. Take detergents that do the best job of washing a large amount of dishes, and other kitchen cleaners that leave heavily used surfaces looking spotless.
Best dishwasher detergents
If you’re packing the dishwasher full of used wares, you’ll want a detergent that can get the job done without any fears of having to run another cycle. It’s a best practice to run the faucet until the water is hot before hitting start on the washer, as well as rinsing off large chunks of food on dishes and silverware before loading them into the machine. But a good detergent is the key ingredient.
Read more: The best quality toilet paper is also cheap!
Consumer Reports tested a variety of products and found that Cascade’s Complete ActionPacs performed the best overall, thoroughly cleaning dishes, silverware, and pots and pans, without leaving behind residue. It costs 29 cents per load. Cascade Complete Powder (21 cents per load) is the best powder Consumer Reports tested, but it wasn’t quite as tough on pots and pans as its detergent counterpart.
If you hand-wash pots and pans and certain silverware, Finish detergents performed best on dishes and glasses. Its Powerball Tabs (18 cents) and Gelpacs (21 cents) also left glassware looking ‘crystal clear’.
Here are the other results Consumer Reports concluded from its testing:
- Best bargain buy: Palmolive eco+
- Best warehouse club detergent: Member’s Mark Ultimate Clean Dishwasher Pacs and Kirkland Signature Dishwasher Pacs
- Best green-friendly detergent: Seventh Generation Powder
What to use if you’re hand-washing
Although dishwashers are generally the best way to clean and rid dishes of bacteria, there are a number of store and homemade options for hand-washing effectively. First, using a clean sponge is advisable — grab a fresh one, if available, and if you have a used one, make sure to disinfect it before using it. Good Housekeeping partnered with a testing lab to see what sanitation methods cleaned sponges best, and it found that soaking a sponge in a bleach solution for five minutes came out on top. (The solution: 3/4 cup of bleach in one gallon of water.) Nuking a damp sponge in the microwave was the runner-up, though it was less effective than bleach cleaning.
Disinfecting the sink with a kitchen cleaner is also recommended.
And as for the dish soaps? Consumer Reports tested 14 of them a few years ago and discovered they all worked equally. Bargain shopping for the cheapest item is the way to go here — and the dollar stores can be a great place to find the best deal on cleaning products.
Read more: Best laundry detergents for your money
Cleaning the rest of the kitchen
Certain DIY cleaners can cut through the toughest of grease left behind on kitchen surfaces and counters. Two examples: a 50/50 water and vinegar solution, and a washing soda solution — the next step from baking soda. It’s recommended that you wear gloves and a mask while using washing soda.