Consumer Reports: Best dishwasher detergents

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Sick of spots, bits of food, and other grime on your dishes? Don't put all the blame on your dishwasher! It could be your detergent. Consumer Reports testers clean hundreds of dirty dishes, and 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney reveals the best dishwasher detergents.

Melinda Montanaro and her family really rack up a lot of dirty dishes. And she would love to find a dishwasher detergent that can handle the task. "I have a big family, four girls, so I just want to be able to load the dishwasher, and have everything come out crystal clean and clear, and save me a lot of time, but that's usually not the case," she said.

Melinda's family might create lots of dishes, but they are no match for what Consumer Reports does to its dishes to test dishwasher detergents.

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"We soil glassware with an emulsification of 17 different ingredients," said Joe Pacella, Consumer Reports' project leader for detergents.

Emulsification is a big word for an even bigger mess. It's a mixture of peanut butter, egg yolk, and other sticky foods that's smeared onto glass dishes, baked on, and then loaded into dishwashers. All to find out which detergents tackle the mess, the best. "The best detergents will remove the soil completely, there will be no food deposits on the plates, and there won't be any water spots," said Pacella.

Among the recommended detergents? Familiar names like "Finish Powerball Tabs" as well as "Cascade Complete ActionPacs with Dawn." Both are excellent for removing caked on foods.

However, Consumer Reports says you can actually get even cleaner while also saving money.

The top performing detergent was not a name brand. It was "Kirkland Signature's Dishwasher Pacs" from Costco, which cost less than half the cost per pod, as the "Finish" or "Cascade" detergents.

And if you are a Sam's Club member, "Member's Mark Ultimate Clean Dishwasher Pacs" are excellent for cleaning dishes, too.

Plus, testers found if you have hard water, like in Melinda's home, they're also great for resisting water spots.

Consumer Reports says if you are still pre-rinsing your dishes, stop! Many of today's dishwashers have soil sensors so they actually perform better if you leave the food on, and let the machine and your detergent do their jobs.

Click here for a look at more stories by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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