TAMPA, Fla. - When Consumer Reports last tested dishwasher powders, tablets, gelpacs, and liquids, the detergents with phosphates typically cleaned dishes the best. The magazine just tested a second generation of greener dishwasher cleaners and say there have been big improvements.
More than a dozen new state laws sharply limit phosphorus in dishwasher detergents, so the researchers evaluated 24 low-phosphate detergents. One of them claims it "powers away 24-hour stuck-on food."
To see whether they deliver, Consumer Reports subjected the cleaners to some tough tests - a lot tougher than your daily dishes face.
Technicians applied an extra sticky mix made with 17 foods, including peanut butter and Cheez Whiz. Then the dishes were microwaved to make the goo stick. Pots were coated with macaroni and cheese.
The same number of dishes were washed in each load, and each detergent is tested not just once, but three times.
"The worst performer in our test left a lot of food," said Consumer Reports' Bob Markovich. "You wouldn't want to eat off this plate.”
But overall, the new generation of green cleaners did much better than in the past. Testers recommend four that are "very good" at cutting grease and removing food.
"But think twice about buying a dishwasher detergent by brand. While Cascade and Finish were among the best in our tests, they also had some of the lowest-rated cleaners,” Markovich explained.
In the end, Consumer Reports named Finish Powerball tabs as a best buy. The detergent did an excellent job cleaning dishes and pots - at a great price.
Consumer Reports also tested Martha Stewart Clean Liquid dishwasher detergent. It was the poorest performer in the group, according to the magazine, but the company says a revised formulation will be on shelves this fall.
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