Six Cascade detergents topped the ratings of 22 detergents in Consumer Reports’ latest dishwasher detergent reviews: Cascade Complete (liquid); Cascade Complete With Bleach Hydroclean Action (liquid); Cascade 2 in 1 Action Pacs With the Power of Dawn (pac); Cascade Complete With Bleach Hydroclean Action (powder); Cascade 2 in 1 With Bleach Hydroclean Action (pac); and Cascade Powerful Cleaning Plus Shine Shield (powder). Of the six, three newer Cascade products have what the manufacturer calls a “Hydroclean Action” bleach-and-enzyme formula.
Eight of the detergents CR tested are "green," meaning that they didn't contain phosphates that can harm the environment by encouraging algae growth in freshwater. Phosphates are used to help boost the cleaning power in some detergents. Of the eight phosphate-free detergents tested, six have enzymes.
The tests gauged how well a detergent: removed a caked-on purée of foods from glass dishes; cleaned pots that were covered with baked-on macaroni and cheese; prevented redeposit (washed-off food that resettles on dishes and glasses); prevented water spots on glass plates; and didn’t etch glasses or harm silver. The tests measured the performances of liquid, powder, tablet and pac detergents (plastic pouches filled with powder or sometimes liquid.)
“The good news is that whether you prefer using a liquid, pac, tablet or powder, you can find a very good to excellent detergent,” said Steven H. Saltzman, a deputy editor at Consumer Reports. “Whatever your formula preference is, there are very good to excellent detergents at a range of different price points.” The top six detergents cost between 10 to 19 cents per load.
The full results of the report can be found on www.consumerreports.org/cro/home-garden/index.htm.
Dishwashers that Carry the LoadHigh-priced dishwashers offer stylish features such as stainless-steel interiors, hidden controls and digital displays. But to get clean dishes, you don’t have to spend big. CR tested 36 dishwashers and the results revealed that first-rate wash performance starts at less than $500.
Many lower-priced models CR tested provided very good overall cleaning in a basic package — no stainless interiors or special drying cycles. Those included CR Quick Picks Whirlpool DU1100XTP[Q], $500; GE GLD4600N[WW], $460; Frigidaire Gallery GLD4355RF[S], $500; and Maytag MDB4651AW[W], $400.
The Kenmore (Sears) 1374, $650, which earned a CR Best Buy rating, and the Kenmore Elite 1378 , $1,000, topped the ratings. The ratings were based mainly on washing ability (how well they cleaned very dirty dishes, some with baked-on brownie mix), as well as energy and water use, noise, loading flexibility, cycle times and ease of use.
Two additional midpriced models — the Kenmore 1373, $580, and Bosch SHE45COUC, $700, a CR Best Buy, provided excellent cleaning, flexible loading and quiet running.
The widespread use of soil sensors, which tailor water use and cycle times to the wash load, is one way manufacturers are enhancing cleaning. Sensors were once found only on pricey machines, but they’re now included on most of the models CR tested, some costing as little as $400. CR also found that midpriced machines have closed the gap with expensive models when it comes to noise; some models under $600 ran very quietly, while some high-ticket units proved loud. Most tested models were rated very good to excellent for overall energy use — however, greater efficiency has increased cycle times; many models take more than two hours to wash and dry a load.
How to ChooseMost dishwashers do a solid job cleaning even the dirtiest dishes. Where they differ is in areas such as type and number of features, styling, noise level and energy efficiency. Among the important steps to take when choosing a new model:
- Optimize the options. The $1,600 Asko Encore has six wash cycles and nine programmable wash temperatures, but you can get a full-featured model for less, such as the top-rated, energy efficient Kenmore 1374 , $650.
- Knock out noise. Choose a model judged excellent or very good for noise, especially if your kitchen is adjacent to living areas. A noisy model running for two to three hours will be a nuisance.
- Scrutinize special settings. Concentrated jet-spray settings such as Kenmore’s TurboZone, KitchenAid’s ProScrub and Whirlpool’s PowerScour are available starting on midpriced models and target heavily soiled pots and pans. Keep in mind that while this feature might prove handy, it improved cleaning in only a limited area of the tub.