Dazzling Dish Detergents

When it comes to cleaning your dishes, there are more phosphate-free dishwashing detergents being sold these days. Consumer Reports' latest tests show many can't deliver a mean clean.

Consumer Reports really challenges dishwasher detergents way beyond what they face in your kitchen.

Testers use a blend of peanut butter, pudding, macaroni and cheese, and 14 other sticky, starchy foods and smear them on plates and pots.

Then, the goo is baked on. Eight of the plates are loaded into each dishwasher-the exact way each time-along with two pots.

They're then washed using the recommended amount of detergent.

In this test, Consumer Reports evaluated 18 dishwasher detergents...including ones from Cascade, Palmolive, and Electrasol.

Then tester inspect the results.

"Five of the seven detergents that lacked phosphates didn't do well at all in our cleaning tests." said Consumer Reports Tod Marks. "In fact, they left large amounts of food and goop all over the place."

But other detergents were tough enough to make even the heavily soiled test dishes sparkle.

The clear winner...Cascade Complete All in 1 packets.

It did an excellent job cleaning. But it did have phosphates.

"The pros of phosphates in dishwashers is that they can boost the cleaning power of the detergent, but the flip side is that they're bad for fresh water," said Marks.

But two phosphate-free detergents did well in Consumer Reports tests. Method Smarty Dish tablets and Simplicity 2 in 1 packets.

While neither did a great job on pots, both did quite a good job getting plates and glasses sparkling clean.

In addition to the detergent, Consumer Reports says how you load your dishwasher makes a big difference in how clean your dishes get.

Put the dirtier side of the dish toward the center and load large items at the sides and back so they don't block water and detergent from other dishes.

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