The Best Dishwasher Cleaners of 2022

A dirty, smelly interior can keep a dishwasher from performing at its peak and is simply disagreeable to use. A fresher, better-functioning machine is just a cycle away with the best dishwasher cleaners.

By Jasmine Harding | Published Aug 12, 2022 9:57 AM

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The Best Dishwasher Cleaners Option

Photo: amazon.com

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.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Affresh Dishwasher Cleaner Tablets
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Active Dishwasher Cleaner and Deodorizer Tablets
  3. BEST LIQUID: Finish Dishwasher Cleaner Liquid
  4. BEST PODS: Finish In-Wash Dishwasher Cleaner
  5. BEST TABLETS: Plink Washer and Dishwasher Freshener and Cleaner
  6. BEST GEL: Ahh-some Washing Machine/Dishwasher Bio Cleaner
  7. BEST DISINFECTANT: Glisten Dishwasher Cleaner
  8. BEST ECO-FRIENDLY: Lemi Shine Dishwasher Cleaner
The Best Dishwasher Cleaners Option

Photo: amazon.com

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Dishwasher Cleaner

To keep a dishwasher in top shape, it’s important to clean it regularly, about once a month for most machines and households. However, it’s difficult to reach all the interior parts, and that’s where a dishwasher cleaner comes in. The factors and features to keep in mind when evaluating the performance and safety of the best detergent to clean dishwasher interiors include ingredients, certifications, ease of use, and scent.

Ingredients

Dishwasher cleaning products contain a variety of active ingredients to scrub the inside of dishwashers clean, including citric acid, alcohol, borax, surfactants, and antibacterial agents. Avoid cleaners with bleach, which can damage the stainless steel components of some dishwashers.

In areas with very hard water, look for a dishwasher cleaner formulated to tackle the extra mineral buildup. These cleaners are often advertised as suitable for hard water and often include such ingredients as citric acid, sodium carbonate, and sodium citrate to break down residue and soften water.

For those looking for a simpler ingredients list, natural and eco-friendly dishwasher cleaners are available. These products contain fewer chemical ingredients and synthetic fragrances, and they are often biodegradable and EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) Safer Choice certified.

Certifications

The main logo to look for is EPA Safer Choice certification. Products that are EPA Safer Choice certified have been evaluated by the EPA and confirmed to have ingredients that are safer for human health and the environment. Though these products can still contain chemicals, this certification is proof that the product is less harmful than similar products on the market.

For those with a septic tank, it’s crucial to use a dishwasher cleaner that is suitable for this type of wastewater management system. There’s no formal certification, so look for products labeled as “septic safe,” as these cleaners will have gentler ingredients that won’t disrupt sensitive septic tanks.

Ease of Use

All of the best dishwasher cleaners are designed for ease of use, but each type comes with its own benefits.

Pod and tablet cleaners are extremely convenient; just place them in the dishwasher and run the cycle. Pods tend to have a dissolving plastic layer around the liquid or powder cleaner inside, whereas tablets resemble small, hard pucks made of concentrated cleaning powder. Some consumers may be concerned that pods won’t fully dissolve in the machine and will leave residue, so tablets may be a better choice.

One downside of pods and tablets is that because they’re premeasured, they don’t offer any flexibility. It might take an extra step to measure some liquid, powder, or gel dishwasher cleaners, but these types can allow users to adjust the cleaner amount according to the grime level and water hardness.

Some dishwasher cleaners take convenience a step further and are made for use during a regular cleaning cycle. These user-friendly pods will clean the dishwasher even when there’s a full dish load, so there’s no need to waste the time, water, or energy needed to run an empty cycle.

Scent

Dishwasher cleaners can be scented or unscented, and choosing a type comes down to personal preference.

Scented dishwasher cleaners will leave a fragrance behind after cleaning, which some folks find pleasant. However, some users have concerns about the chemicals in artificial fragrances. Naturally fragranced cleaners are an alternative for those wanting a less synthetic but still fragranced product. These products use naturally derived fragrance ingredients, such as lavender and citrus essential oils.

To forgo fragrances altogether, use an unscented dishwasher cleaner. An unscented product will usually have a shorter ingredients list and will certainly be the best choice for those who are sensitive to fragrances.

Our Top Picks

A dirty dishwasher won’t look, smell, or perform as well as it should. Freshen up the inside of this essential appliance with one of the best dishwasher cleaners, described ahead.

Best Overall

The Best Dishwasher Cleaners Option: Affresh Dishwasher Cleaner Tablets
Photo: amazon.com

Affresh Dishwasher Cleaner Tablets are small but mighty, cleaning odor-causing residue, mineral buildup, and limescale from inside the dishwasher. Some of the top appliance brands recommended it as a reliable and effective choice. The formula works to clean all interior dishwasher parts, including the tub, racks, pump and valve, drain, and internal hoses.

The cleaner comes in concentrated dishwasher cleaner tablets, making them extremely easy and convenient to use. Toss a tablet once a month into either an empty or full dishwasher. Besides its ease of use, this dishwasher cleaner is septic-safe, EPA Safer Choice certified, and will leave behind a fresh lemon scent after it cleans.

Product Specs

  • Form: Tablet
  • Scent: Lemon
  • EPA Safer Choice certified: Yes

Pros

  • Very easy to use
  • Excellent cleaning performance
  • Can be used in an empty or full dishwasher

Cons

  • May damage sensitive cookware when run with a load of dishes

Get the Affresh dishwasher cleaner at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Best Buy.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Dishwasher Cleaners Option: Active Dishwasher Cleaner and Deodorizer Tablets
Photo: amazon.com

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.

Product Specs

  • Form: Tablet
  • Scent: Lemon
  • EPA Safer Choice certified: Yes

Pros

  • Economical bulk size
  • 1-year supply
  • Good for limescale deposits and hard water stains

Cons

  • Some found the formula too soapy, causing foam to leak out

Get the Active dishwasher cleaner on Amazon.

Best Liquid

The Best Dishwasher Cleaners Option: Finish Dishwasher Cleaner Liquid
Photo: amazon.com

Although dishwasher cleaner pods are convenient, they run the risk of not fully dissolving and can sometimes leave residue behind. This isn’t a worry with Finish Dishwasher Cleaner Liquid. The powerful liquid features a dual-action formula that cleanses away grease and limescale, leaving a fresher and more hygienic dishwasher behind.

Although this single-use liquid cleaner is not the most eco-friendly option on the list, it is very easy to use. Just remove the seal and place the bottle upside down on the empty dishwasher rack. The wax plug will release the cleaner during the wash cycle. The cleaner mixes with the hot water to break down residue on the dishwasher tub, rack, spray arms, filters, and pipes.

Product Specs

  • Form: Liquid
  • Scent: Fresh scent
  • EPA Safer Choice certified: No

Pros

  • No measuring required
  • Won’t leave residue behind
  • Good for hard-water residue

Cons

  • Single-use bottle
  • Premeasured volume; users can’t adjust amount

Get the Finish dishwasher cleaner liquid on Amazon or at Target.

Best Pods

The Best Dishwasher Cleaners Option: Finish In-Wash Dishwasher Cleaner
Photo: amazon.com

Designed to clean while the dishwasher runs with a full load, Finish In-Wash Dishwasher Cleaner is a simple, straightforward product. It works during a regular dishwasher cycle, so there’s no need to waste water or time running an empty cycle. Once weekly, just toss a pod into the bottom of the full dishwasher and start a hot-water clean.

The pod dissolves to clean away grease, limescale buildup, and hard-water stains while also freshening up the dishwasher interior. This formula contains surfactants and enzymes that are particularly effective for banishing stubborn grease. The cleaner washes over hard-to-reach and hidden parts such as spray arms, filters, pipes, and heating elements to remove residue.

Product Specs

  • Form: Pod
  • Scent: Not listed
  • EPA Safer Choice certified: No

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Made for use in a regular full cycle
  • Effectively cleans leftover grease and grime

Cons

  • Weekly use recommended

Get the Finish In-Wash dishwasher cleaner on Amazon or at Target.

Best Tablets

The Best Dishwasher Cleaners Option: Plink Washer and Dishwasher Freshener and Cleaner
Photo: amazon.com

With one affordable product, users can freshen up both the dishwasher and the washing machine. Plink Washer and Dishwasher Freshener and Cleaner tablets are safe to use in both hard-working appliances.

Intended for once-a-week use (or as needed, for more budget-conscious folks), one tablet may banish odors, residue, and buildup for a cleaner machine, leaving a fragrant lemon scent behind. This product is safe for all dishwasher and washing machine interiors, and it can be used in a full dishwasher, which means no water or energy is wasted for a deep clean.

This product isn’t EPA Safer Choice certified, but it doesn’t contain bleach or phosphates, so it is septic safe.

Product Specs

  • Form: Tablet
  • Scent: Lemon
  • EPA Safer Choice certified: No

Pros

  • Economical price
  • Septic safe
  • Safe for use in the dishwasher and washing machine
  • Works in a full dishwasher

Cons

  • Tablets can crumble easily
  • Weekly use suggested

Get the Plink washer and dishwasher cleaner on Amazon or at The Home Depot.

Best Gel

The Best Dishwasher Cleaners Option: Ahh-some Washing Machine/Dishwasher Bio Cleaner
Photo: amazon.com

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.

Product Specs

  • Form: Gel
  • Scent: Not listed
  • EPA Safer Choice certified: No

Pros

  • Safe for use in dishwashers and washing machines
  • Concentrated gel formula
  • Excellent at eliminating mold, mildew, and fungus

Cons

  • Can leave dislodged gunk and dirt in the machine
  • A second wash cycle may be needed to eliminate smells

Get the Ahh-some washing machine and dishwasher cleaner on Amazon.

Best Disinfectant

The Best Dishwasher Cleaners Option: Glisten Dishwasher Cleaner
Photo: amazon.com

Dishwashers are filled with germs. To both clean and disinfect, consider Glisten Dishwasher Cleaner. In addition to being effective against grease, limescale and hard-water deposits, rust, and soap buildup, it’s also a disinfectant with a proprietary ingredient that purports to eliminate bacteria, E. coli, and salmonella germs that can linger in the dishwasher. The product is EPA registered, which means it meets the EPA’s disinfectant guidelines and is proven to clear bacteria from the inside of the dishwasher.

Using the septic-safe liquid cleaner is straightforward: Once a month, remove the cap and place the single-use bottle in an empty dishwasher. When a hot cycle is run, the wax plug melts and releases the cleaning liquid inside.

Product Specs

  • Form: Liquid
  • Scent: Lemon
  • EPA Safer Choice certified: No

Pros

  • Cleans and disinfects
  • Excellent for hard-water deposits
  • Septic safe

Cons

  • Single-use bottle
  • Some dishwashers struggle to melt the wax plug

Get the Glisten dishwasher cleaner on Amazon or at The Home Depot.

Best Eco-Friendly

The Best Dishwasher Cleaners Option: Lemi Shine Dishwasher Cleaner
Photo: amazon.com

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.

Product Specs

  • Form: Powder
  • Scent: Lemon
  • EPA Safer Choice certified: Yes

Pros

  • Safer choice for people and the environment
  • Biodegradable formula
  • Excellent for hard-water residue

Cons

  • Some users disliked the scent

Get the Lemi Shine dishwasher cleaner at Amazon, Target, or Lemi Shine.

Our Verdict

Highly rated and recommended by several dishwasher brands, Affresh dishwasher cleaner is easy to use, EPA Safer Choice certified, and reliable in an empty or full dishwasher. For a more economical bulk alternative, consider Active dishwasher cleaner, another user-friendly and effective pick.

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.

FAQs

If you’re deliberating about when to hand-wash or use the dishwasher, know that using the machine is not just easier, it actually uses less water. But with such frequent use, the dishwasher itself can get pretty dirty. Still wondering whether a dishwasher cleaner is right for your needs? Read on for some frequently asked questions on the benefits and uses for a designated dishwasher cleaner.

Q. 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.

Q. What is the best thing to clean a dishwasher with?

When it comes to convenience and performance, a commercial dishwasher cleaner is the best product for dishwasher use. It’s possible to clean a dishwasher with household items such as vinegar, but it’s usually a multistep process that might not get the dishwasher fully clean. Plus, do not attempt to use bleach, which isn’t safe to use on a dishwasher’s stainless steel parts.

Q. How frequently should dishwasher cleaners be used?

Follow the manufacturer’s directions for the optimal cleaning schedule. Most dishwasher cleaners recommend once-a-month use.

Q. How do dishwasher cleaners work?

Dishwasher cleaners have ingredients that break down the grime, food residue, and mineral buildup that is commonly found inside the dishwasher. Once the cleaning cycle starts, the heat and running water help the dishwasher cleaner scrub the interior of the dishwasher—including spots that are out of reach.