To keep your dishwasher running optimally, you’ll need a good cleaning regimen—which likely will require a dishwasher cleaner. We’ve researched numerous varieties, evaluating the efficacy, value, ease of use, and safety of ingredients of each.
Dishwasher cleaners power away grime, food residue, and mineral buildup from inside the machine. Keeping the dishwasher gunk-free will improve cleaning performance, cut down on odors, and help maintain a hygienic appliance. Formulated to banish grime from hard-to-clean areas such as the racks, drains, and spray arms, a good dishwasher cleaner is key for dishwasher maintenance.
Dishwasher cleaners are a user-friendly, effective, and safe alternative to the pesky, time-consuming task of scrubbing the inner nooks and crannies of the machine. Read on to learn what to consider when choosing a product, as well as information on a host of the best dishwasher cleaners on the market to cut through grime and leave the inside of a machine clean and fresh.
The 8 Best Dishwasher Cleaners of 2022:Our Top Picks
|BEST OVERALL||Finish Dual Action Dishwasher Cleaner|
|BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK||Glisten Dishwasher Cleaner & Disinfectant|
|BEST LIQUID||Affresh Dishwasher Cleaner|
|BEST PODS||Dishwasher Cleaner And Deodorizer Tablets|
|BEST TABLETS||2 in 1 Washing Machine/Dishwasher Bio Cleaner|
|BEST GEL||Lemi Shine Natural Dishwasher Cleaner|
|BEST DISINFECTANT||Oh Yuk Dishwasher Cleaner|
|BEST ECO-FRIENDLY||Cascade Platinum|
1.BEST OVERALL:Finish Dual Action Dishwasher Cleaner
What We Like
- Use only once per month
- Works great for hard water issues
What We Don’t Like
- Can’t be flushed
Our most budget-friendly option, Finish Dishwasher Deep Cleaner/Dual Action Dishwasher Cleaner leaves your dishwasher sparkling clean with a lingering fresh scent. Efficient at removing buildup, Finish breaks down grime and grease for a monthly freshening of your dishwasher. Safe for septic tanks, it works for all types of dishwashers.
By removing the mineral buildup in even the toughest spots to reach, Finish keeps your dishwasher working as designed. Remarkably good at uncovering sprayers and drains, Finish helps your machine to stay in top shape for the cleanest dishes possible. The company’s customer service is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for questions and issues that may arise.
What We Like
- Especially good for stainless steel dishwasher interiors
- An excellent value
- Lasts 30 days
What We Don’t Like
- Some felt it didn’t remove stains as well as they’d hoped
Impressive at removing mineral buildup, rust, grease, and hard water stains, Glisten is a high quality liquid dishwasher cleaner. Helpful in disinfecting your dishwasher every month, Glisten restores your machine’s productivity and maintenance. It’s also antibacterial, protecting the household from salmonella and other harmful bacteria.
Glisten is uniquely EPA-registered, fresh lemon-scented, and effective for all types of dishwashers. It’s excellent for deodorizing stinky dishwashers and removing unsightly stains. It’s also safe for septic systems and all types of plumbing.
Powers away limescale and mineral buildup
No.1 Recommended by Whirlpool, KitchenAid, Maytag and Amana brands (affresh brand products and the recommending brands’ products are all owned and distributed by Whirlpool Corporation)
Cleans what you can’t see: your machine’s tub, racks, pump and valve, drain and recirculation hoses
- Economical bulk size
- 1-year supply
- Good for limescale deposits and hard water stains
- Some found the formula too soapy, causing foam to leak out
A year’s supply for an affordable price makes this bulk pack of dishwasher cleaner from Active an excellent choice for shoppers on a budget. One box includes 24 tablets (potentially a 12-month supply) at an economical, up-front price.
The manufacturer recommends using one tablet biweekly, but some machines may only need one tablet a month, offering even more value. When run in an empty cycle, the septic-safe tablets create an effervescent foam that scrubs away gunk, limescale residue, and hard-water stains, restoring shine and eliminating odors as it goes. Because its main ingredient is citric acid, this descaling tablet is among the best dishwasher cleaners for hard water. These tablets have a fresh lemon scent for a more refreshing clean.
- Safe for use in dishwashers and washing machines
- Concentrated gel formula
- Excellent at eliminating mold, mildew, and fungus
- Can leave dislodged gunk and dirt in the machine
- A second wash cycle may be needed to eliminate smells
Ahh-some Washing Machine/Dishwasher Bio Cleaner is a formidable cleaner and dishwasher deodorizer for both dishwashers and washing machines. This dual-purpose gel does require some preparation prior to use, but it’s fairly straightforward: Simply dissolve ½ teaspoon into warm water to create a liquid, then pour into the empty dishwasher or washing machine and run a cycle.
With a bioactive enzyme and active oxygen formula, this cleaner for dishwashers penetrates dirt, gunk, and mineral deposits. It dislodges mold, mildew, fungi, and other biological contaminants—the stuff that can stink up a dishwasher. After the cleaning cycle, Ahh-some notes, an odor is normal because the cleaner is disrupting biofilms. The brand recommends wiping down the machine and running an extra cycle to rinse away any dislodged residue.
Ahh-some recommends using this cleaner monthly or every other month. One container provides up to 24 cleaning cycles, plenty to keep both the dishwasher and washing machine clean for a year or more. This convenient gel is also septic safe.
- Safer choice for people and the environment
- Biodegradable formula
- Excellent for hard-water residue
- Some users disliked the scent
Lemi Shine Dishwasher Cleaner harnesses the power of citric acid to create an eco-friendly and safe dishwasher cleaner. This powder formula contains no bleach, ammonia, or formaldehyde. It’s biodegradable and EPA Safer Choice certified, so it’s considered safer for humans as well as the environment.
This dishwasher cleaner is powerful against odor-causing residue and gunk despite its gentler eco-friendly composition. Citric acid is the star of the show, making this an ideal choice to banish hard-water buildup.
A mix of natural lemon oils and synthetic ingredients gives this cleaner a fresh, lemony scent. Once-a-month use in an empty dishwasher is enough to keep most machines clean and fresh.
“I have three stains on the inside of my dishwasher door that have been there for years, I think,” one says. “I thought, Yeah, right, but decided to do it anyway. I really didn’t expect any improvement. Boy, was I wrong. One of the stains is gone and the other two are reduced in size and faded to a shadow of their former selves.” And many other reviewers say that this dishwasher cleaner is particularly good for stains, especially since it is a liquid and can be used to spot-treat. “I put a cap full on each trouble spot for a little while and used the rough side of a sponge to scrub and then ran some through the dishwasher,” one user explains. “Might take a few times, but my dishwasher looks much cleaner.” It also helps with odors. One says, “The smell is gone, and the dishwasher has a fresh aroma.” Plus, Oh Yuk acts as a descaler, which addresses any white film that may have built up.
“This is the best product in the world. If I were a salesman I could still sell the stuff all day long to everybody I met,” writes one reviewer, and nearly 80 percent of reviewers who gave this dishwasher cleaner five stars would probably do the same. Not only do reviewers say that these Cascade pods help with bad dishwasher smells, it also makes their dishes cleaner.
“I tried it and lo and behold the dishwasher is like new,” one says. “The bad smell is gone, and the dishes come out spotless.” Another thinks it solves all mystery dishwasher problems. “My elderly dishwasher was moaning and squeaking,” they write. “It was painful to listen to. I came across this at the supermarket and after using it just once, the dishwasher ran smoothly and quietly. Now I use it after every 10 or 12 loads, and it seems to have solved any problem that existed.” Reviewers also appreciate how many pods they get in one order. According to one, you don’t have to worry about them going bad: “These pouches are easy to use and have never dried out even after being stored for a long time.”
What to Look for When Buying Dishwasher Cleaner
Type and Ease of Use
According to professional cleaner Katie Berry, the best products for cleaning your dishwasher depends on how you use them. Tablets and pods are more convenient as you can generally just toss them in without measuring (great for busy households!), but you can’t adjust how much of their ingredients are used. Powders and liquids offer the flexibility of adjusting the amounts more easily.
With modern dishwashers, it’s easy to use most, if not all, of the dishwasher cleaner types— however, new dishwashers also use less water, so occasionally powders and tablets don’t dissolve thoroughly as desired. Berry advises priming your dishwasher by running the kitchen tap’s hot water before starting the dishwasher cleaning load.
While scent is overall a matter of personal preference, Berry says, “I’m not a fan of scented products in general, since they often produce VOCs and other irritants, but most standard dishwasher cleaners contain them.” As a professional cleaner, she prefers to use fragrance-free and dye-free products. The natural citrus, lavender, and lemon scents used by some brands are also fresh-smelling and non-toxic.
For cleaning your dishwasher, look for ingredients that will get the appliance clean without a lot of extra fragrance and dyes. Antibacterial ingredients are always a plus, while alcohol and borax help to get things squeaky clean. To make sure you’re purchasing products with the safest ingredients, it’s wise to check the EPA Safer Choice program. Safer Choice is a pollution prevention program that lists products with safe ingredients in order to reduce, eliminate, and prevent pollution at its source–while making sure your household is safe from toxic pollutants.
How We Chose the Best Dishwasher Cleaners
At minimum, a good dishwasher cleaner must offer better performance and convenience than traditional cleaning methods, like a cup of vinegar or a scrubbing sponge. To make sure the dishwasher cleaning products in our lineup were worth purchasing, we considered performance, ease of use, and value.
We evaluated performance by researching each product’s ingredient list and dishwasher cleaner reviews. We chose products with an effective and safe combination of active ingredients. The ingredients work together to clean away main dishwasher concerns, including grime, food residue, limescale deposits, and hard-water stains.
User-friendliness was another major criteria point, and we prioritized products that were very straightforward to use, including several that can be used in a regular dishwasher load. Last, we considered affordability. Keeping the dishwasher clean shouldn’t be expensive, and for even better value, we included a few bulk-size options.
Tips for Cleaning Dishwashers
A dishwasher-cleaning routine is key to maintaining appliance performance and longevity. Those looking for a shortcut may wonder: Can you use dish soap in the dishwasher? Absolutely not! Using dish soap will create a sudsy mess that will flow out of the machine. Plus, unlike dishwasher cleaners, regular dish soap and dishwasher detergents don’t have the ingredients to actually break down residue, so they’ll fail to clean the machine adequately.
Instead, reach for a dishwasher cleaner, most of which are intended for once-a-month use. Follow the manufacturer’s directions, which usually involves running a full cycle using the hottest water temperature. Though dishwasher cleaners are powerful, they aren’t magical, so follow these tips to prepare the machine for cleaning.
Remove any visible pieces of food from the tub and racks. Ideally, food bits should be cleaned at least a few times a week to keep odors at bay. At least once a week, and before and after using a dishwasher cleaner, empty and rinse the dishwasher filter as well.
About once a week, clean the dishwasher exterior and any outside parts, including the gasket, the door, and the handle. Use hot, soapy water and a toothbrush or a paper towel to remove any gunk from the rubber seal. Warm, sudsy water or a gentle cleaner can be used to wipe down the door, control panel, and handle as needed.
Even in the cleanest dishwashers, the water itself can leave unsightly spots on dishware. To tackle these aesthetic marks, these great dishwasher rinse aids will help.
- Use a dishwasher cleaner monthly for interior cleaning.
- Remove visible pieces of food frequently.
- Empty and clean the filter at least once a week.
- Clean the rubber door seal at least once a week.
- Wipe down the door, control panel, and handle as needed.
How do you use a dishwasher cleaner?
Each dishwasher cleaning product is different—follow the instructions on the product’s packaging for the best results. Most dishwasher cleaners are either placed directly in the dishwasher cavity or in the slot where you normally put detergent.
How does dishwasher cleaner work?
Once exposed to heat and moisture during the dishwasher cycle, dishwasher cleaners break down grease and bacteria and eliminate odor. With the help of water that rinses through your appliance when running, the cleaner can get into hard-to-reach areas that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get to.
How often should you use dishwasher cleaner?
Use dishwasher cleaner about once a month to prevent bacteria buildup and to maintain your appliance’s efficiency.
Are dishwasher cleaners worth it?
We believe so. Dishwasher cleaners are specially formulated to remove grime and buildup from inside the dishwasher, so they’ll clean effectively without causing any damage in the process. They’re affordable and very easy to use.
Are dishwasher cleaners really necessary?
Even though your dishwasher’s job is to clean, it too needs a once-over periodically. Over time, food residues gunk up the drain and spray arms. The clogs reduce the amount of water circulating during the wash and rinse cycles and dishes can end up with a film of baked-on food and soap.
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