Using the correct detergent in your dishwasher goes a long way towards the longevity of the machine and the cleanliness of your dishes. With so many options available in stores, it can be difficult to know whether to use a gel, powder or detergent pack. While there's no one type of dishwashing detergent superior to all others, it's helpful to follow the recommendation of your dishwasher's manufacturer.
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Dishwasher Detergent Basics
Most dishwasher detergents use bleach and enzymes to clean your dishes and make them look refreshed and sparkling. Enzymes work to power through stuck-on food, while bleach removes stains. Powder and tab or pack detergents contain both of these ingredients.
Gel detergents, however, often don't contain both bleach and enzymes, since the two cannot coexist in a liquid form without reacting. As a result, gels don't work as well for many dishwashers.
No matter which detergent you choose, you should always be sure to store it properly. Keep detergent away from moisture and dispose of old or lumpy detergent. Keep in mind that the harder your water, the more detergent you'll need.
Gel detergents don't function as well for heavy loads due to their chemical makeup. However, they do cost just 5 to 11 cents per load. That gives gels an advantage over powder or pack detergents, which cost more than four times as much, in some instances.
If your dishwasher specifically recommends the use of gel detergents, you should proceed with them. Otherwise, you're better off relying on other varieties for the cleanest dishes. GE dishwashers, for instance, recommend many varieties of detergent, depending on the model, but don't suggest the use of gels.
Powder detergents are ideal for homes with hard water since they help fight limescale deposits and subsequent streaking or cloudiness. Some dishwashers, including those by Bosch, contain built-in water softeners, so the sort of detergent you choose is less critical. However, they do recommend powder detergents for many of their machines. Hard water can also be combated with supplemental finishing solutions. Typically, powder detergents are moderately priced, at 10 to 30 cents per load.
Tabs or Packs
While usually the most expensive variety of dish detergent at 10 to 41 cents per load, tabs or packs tend to be very effective. Tabs are convenient because they include a premeasured amount of detergent and take the guesswork out of filling your dispenser. This could be a drawback, however, if you need more or less detergent due to hard or soft water.