Consumer Reports rates dishwasher detergents

September 19, 2011 3:28:11 PM PDT
Most manufacturers have reformulated their dishwasher detergents after laws limiting phosphates went into effect last year.

Now Consumer Reports' preliminary tests find some detergents can leave glassware coated with a white film when washed in very hard water.

Consumer Reports knows when people unload their dishwasher, they expect dishes to come out sparkling clean.

Some readers wrote to the magazine, complaining about film and buildup on their dishware. So Consumer Reports started investigating.

Testers took a set of clean glass dishware and washed it using detergent and very hard water. They ran the same set of dishes 20 times with the same detergent to simulate more than a month of dishwashing. Over time a film built up with some detergents.

With Method Smarty Dish, which otherwise is a very good cleaner, the glassware turned milky white after 20 washes. The dishes washed in Whole Foods' 365 also developed a milky coating.

"This is a preliminary test," Consumer Reports' Jim Nanni said. "We're going to continue to look into why some detergents left a film and others didn't."

Consumer Reports also ran dishwasher detergents through its standard food-cleaning tests. A mix of chocolate pudding, peanut butter and more was applied to plates and baked on. Macaroni and cheese was mashed on pots and baked on, too.

Cascade Complete All-in-1 ActionPacs was one of the best in Consumer Reports' cleaning tests. And in its new test with very hard water, it did not leave a white residue behind.

Consumer Reports has some more tips to make dishes sparkle. Use a rinse agent, which helps keep glassware spot-free, even in hard water. Avoid nesting silverware, and make sure dishware faces the middle of the machine, angled downward.

All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2011. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not for profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit

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