Smarter: Which Is Better, Dishwasher Pods, Liquid, or Powder?

While it’s not as effective as pods, a liquid detergent we tested, Great Value Dishwasher Gel (available at Walmart), scored a very good rating for its overall performance. It’s from Walmart’s store brand and is the lowest-priced detergent we’ve tested overall.

7/21/20233 min read

This week I’m examining the merits of dishwasher pods, liquid, and powder. Also in this issue: whether your medications can make you sick, and our response to a reader’s question about cooking a hamburger that’s been in the freezer for three years.

THE BIG STORY

When it comes to dishwasher detergents, are you a pod person, a liquid fan, or a powder diehard? In an Instagram poll we posted, 71 percent of participants voted for pods as their go-to. Twenty percent chose liquid, while 9 percent preferred powder.

But is there a specific type of detergent that you should be using? For instance, are pods better than liquid or powder? Here’s what some experts say about the pros and cons of each.

Pods
Pods are pretty convenient to use—all you have to do is pop them in the dishwasher without having to worry about whether you’re measuring the correct amount of detergent, says Rich Handel, who leads CR’s testing of dishwasher detergents.

They’re also extremely effective at cleaning dishes. And in our tests, the best-performing pods clean better than the best liquids.

Another plus is that pods, which come in single-use, premeasured units, are less likely to lead to filming on dishes, says Lindsay Jones, the new-product brand manager at the home appliance maker Maytag. That’s because cloudy dishes can be caused by too much detergent.

But one of the drawbacks of pods is that if you use them for shorter wash cycles, some might not dissolve all the way, says Larry Ciufo, who has tested hundreds of dishwashers over the past 20 years at CR.

Liquid
While it’s not as effective as pods, a liquid detergent we tested, Great Value Dishwasher Gel (available at Walmart), scored a very good rating for its overall performance. It’s from Walmart’s store brand and is the lowest-priced detergent we’ve tested overall.

Powder
From a packaging perspective, powder has less of an environmental impact than liquid or pods. It often comes in a cardboard box, which is more easily recycled than the plastic that liquid detergents and pods often come in, says Eleanor Greene, editor-in-chief of Green American magazine, a publication from the nonprofit organization Green America, which promotes environmental sustainability.

As for the efficacy of powder, while we continue to test pods and liquid detergents at CR, we’ve stopped testing powder in recent years because fewer consumers are buying it.

So is there one type of detergent you should use rather than others? In the end, a lot of it boils down to personal preference and experiences, Rich says. Go for pods if you prioritize cleaning performance and convenience, while powder is a good choice if you want to have less of an environmental impact. And if you prefer measuring out the detergent yourself, both liquid and powder are good options.

Bonus link: And if you need more guidance, these are the best dishwasher detergents from our tests.

SIDEBAR

Okay, last question on dishwasher detergents: Can you use dish soap in your dishwasher as a detergent?

The short answer is no. Dish soap can damage your dishwasher or cause a mess, Lindsay says.

But suppose you’ve already made the mistake. Here’s what you should do: Stop your dishwasher right away and allow it to fully drain before you try to remove any dishes inside.

After it has drained, add a quarter-cup of vegetable or other cooking oil to the bottom of the dishwasher and run a quick cycle with no detergent or dishes. The oil will suppress any remaining suds and help flush the dish soap through the appliance.

Once the suds are gone, run a rinse cycle to wash away any remaining soap residue. And after you’ve done all these steps, it doesn’t hurt to clean the interior of your appliance with a dishwasher cleaner so it’s ready for your next use.

By Pang-Chieh Ho via Consumer Reports

Jul 11, 2023