Dishing the dirt: Best dishwasher detergents for your money!

Dishing the dirt: Best dishwasher detergents for your money!
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Looking for the best dishwasher detergent to get your dishes clean on a budget?

Consumer Reports is out with new research that dishes the dirt on which brands cut through that kitchen grease and baked-on food most effectively!

RELATED: Do these DIY dishwasher detergent tablets really work?

Get your dishes cleaner for less!

The magazine broke out their findings across three categories: Single-dose packets, powder and gel.

In each category, Consumer Reports highlights a “Best Buy,” as well as recommended runners-up if there were any.

The results of the tally reflect how different detergent brands handle five cleaning criteria — how they cleans dishes; how they handle pots; what kind of water deposits they leaves behind; how they do removing heavy food deposits; and whether or not they leave a film or discoloration behind.

Single dose

Because of the popularity of this format, two dozen contenders were put to the test and two clear winners emerged as “Best Buys.”

Both victors were warehouse club brands — Kirkland Signature (Costco) Premium Dishwasher Pacs and Member’s Mark (Sam’s Club) Ultimate Clean Dishwasher Pacs.

costco kirkland signature dish detergent

Costco’s entry scored 85 out of a possible 100 points and costs only 11 cents per load. Meanwhile, the Sam’s Club contender scored an 83 and will only run you 10 cents per load.

(Editor’s note: Costco themselves say their product costs 10 cents per load — not 11 cents, as Consumer Reports says. But either way, that’s cheap!)

Other recommended buys include the following:

  • Finish Quantum Max Powerball – 41 cents per load
  • Finish Powerball Tabs – 18 cents per load
  • Cascade Complete ActionPacs with Dawn – 30 cents per load
  • Cascade Platinum ActionPacs with the power of Clorox – 34 cents per load
  • Finish Gelpacs – 21 cents per load
  • Up & Up (Target) Advanced Dishwasher Packs – 18 cents per load

Incidentially, the cheapest dish detergent of all across 35 entries in three categories was a single-dose pac — Trader Joe’s Automatic Dishwashing Detergent.

The Trader Joe’s offering costs only 3 cents per load, yet it only scored a 52. So if you don’t care about particularly clean dishes but you really just want to save money, this might be your best bet!


Only four varieties of powder were tested and only two were recommended.

cascade detergent

Those include Cascade Complete Powder, which scored a 79 and costs 21 cents per load, and Seventh Generation Powder, which costs 19 cents per load and received a score of 77.

Unfortunately, no Best Buys were identified in this category.


Consumer Reports tested seven gel detergents and found only one winner — Palmolive eco+.

palmolive eco dish detergent

As a “Best Buy,” Palmolive eco+ scored a 69 and only costs 7 cents per load. That’s cheaper than even the warehouse club brands!

Yet watch out if you’re a gel fan. The lowest score of all on the entire tally went to one particular gel. In this case, it was Cascade Complete Gel with Dawn. While that detergent only costs 11 cents per load, it scored an abysmally low 19 out of 100!

RELATED: Americans aren’t using the dishwasher — and it’s costing them big bucks

Theo Thimou About the author:
Theo has co-written several books with Clark Howard, including the #1 New York Times bestseller "Living Large in Lean Times."
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