10 Best Dishwasher Detergents for Hard Water 2020

Most modern households today have dishwashers; the basic principle would probably be the same in most user’s minds.  Dirty dishes plus dishwasher plus water plus dishwashing detergent equals dishes that sparkle like in the TV ads. Right? Wrong! As flooded as the market is, finding a detergent that really gets the grease off, removes all food, and does not leave any streaks behind is not as easy as one could hope for. This list of the 10 best dishwasher detergents for hard water will hopefully help educate you and guide you into choices that are not just snake-oil to your pocket.

Best Dishwasher Detergents for Hard Water

I have an unfortunate amount of experience in this field. The barbeque is done, the dishes are covered in the fat from the meat and the bits of food that took up the two hours between when the meal was eaten and when your guests leave and glued themselves to the plates. Dessert bowls have custard clinging to them.

But hope is at hand! You have bought yourself the latest best-brand dishwasher to save you money on detergents, to save water, and best of all to save you the unpleasant task of standing at the sink and washing the dishes by hand.

The dishes are loaded, detergent added and you get to take that post-delicious meal nap and you wake up to find the plates are still so greasy you have to grab them with both hands to make sure they don’t fall and break.

The wine glasses are covered in fingerprints, lipstick, and streaks, and every piece of food that had embedded itself on the dishes is still right there where they were when you loaded the machine.

What on earth?

Could somebody explain why I am standing washing the ‘clean’ dishes by hand?

To get the best results from our dishwashers there are two things we have to be cognizant of.

  1. Is the water that goes to the machine hard water or is it soft water?
  2. What are the best detergent for the machine, the water, and our budget?

If we are going to look at detergents for use in hard water, then it only makes sense to start with what constitutes hard or soft water. In the most basic terms soft water is treated and so there is only one chemical element (sodium) present. Hard water is untreated and contains a sizable quantity of substances (calcium and magnesium). Soft water becomes hard as it passes through the waterways and picks up bits of calcium, magnesium and other minerals.

Whether water is hard or soft makes the world of difference to anything that needs to be washed.

If you wash your dishes water in soft water the dishes will come out cleaner. If you think you are washing your dishes in soft water in the dishwasher, but your dishes come out streaky, oily, or still holding on to some food, you are actually washing your dishes in hard water.

The water coming out as hard means there is a build-up of chemicals in the pipe. This build-up means the water is not going to be able to flow into or out of the dishwasher without causing damage to your dishwasher.

If you want your machine to work more effectively, and not burn out because of a buildup of chemicals on the pipes and engines, you will need to pay greater attention to the quality of the detergent you use.

Some tips

There a few things we can do to get our dishwashers running properly, and that they last longer, regardless of whether the water going in is hard or soft.

  1. Always make sure your dishwasher has a full salt tray and that you use high-quality salt pellets.
  2. Use a rinse aid that cuts down on drying time.
  3. Clean your dishwasher carefully on a regular basis.

How do we find a good product? Buying a dishwasher is not a small investment. If you are going to shell out such a tidy sum of money, you are going to need to do as much homework on what detergent to use as you put into choosing your machine, or risk permanent damage to your new machine and frustration with load after a load of dirty dishes.

I always advise people to read reviews left by other users before making any top-dollar purchase or purchase that can cost you much more than the initial layout.  People do not feel the need to be polite or kind when they leave reviews, which means you get to see the real frustration or satisfaction other users have had with products. Five-star ratings are always an easy way to weed out the superb from the just-good.

Reading through the comments and reviews on a product will provide a good idea of how products interact with specific brand name appliances.

Something else to keep in mind while you search is that the market is steadily filling up with eco-friendly detergent options that will keep both your utensils and the environment clean and healthy.

Top 10 Best Dishwasher Detergents for Hard Water

ModelRating
Cascade Complete Actionpacs, Dishwasher Detergent, Fresh Scent4.8
SOMAT Dishwasher Salt4.9
Finish All in 1 Dishwasher Detergent Powerball Dishwashing Tablets4.7
Cascade Platinum Dishwasher Pods4.8
Cascade Power Clean Dishwasher Pods | 115 Dishwasher Detergent Pacs4.5
LifeKind Natural Super Concentrated Automatic Dishwasher Detergent4.4
Finish Quantum Detergent4.6
Active Element Commercial Grade Dishwasher Sanitizer4.6
Snap Crystal Clean Dishwashing Crystals 4.6
Cascade Platinum Plus Dishwasher Pods4.8

1. Cascade Complete Actionpacs, Dishwasher Detergent, Fresh Scent

Cascade is one of the top recommended brands when it comes to dishwashing detergents and Cascade Complete is great against greasy, sticky messes that other detergents may struggle with. Each pod is equal to a single wash, but the unique formula allows for an easy clean that brings all your plates out of the washer in pristine condition with no ugly streak marks or filmy residue on the surfaces.

Cascade Complete ActionPacs are easy to use and don’t require a prewash. It is a very effective cleaner for really tough messes with minimal effort from you. You just load the machine, put the single pod into your dishwasher’s dispenser, and you are good to go.

Something important to note is that these pods dissolve very quickly when they come into contact with water so you will have to make sure your hands are dry before handling.

Cascade Complete ActionPacs dishwasher detergent powers away even 24-hour stuck-on messes for a complete clean. That’s because every ActionPac is formulated with the grease-fighting power of Dawn.

Pros

  • High in sodium
  • Easy to use
  • Affordable
  • Dissolve quickly
  • Doesn’t require a prewash
  • Refreshing scent

Cons

  • May cause skin irritation
  • May be harmful if swallowed
  • Could be harmful to children and/or pets

2. SOMAT Dishwasher Salt

Where I live the quality of water is constantly changing. The only way to check the water quality for the day is to pour a glass from the tap and check it in a well-lit spot.

If it is cloudy or brownish, I know the quality is not great.

In the past, that meant I couldn’t run the dishwasher or the clothes washer.

Not any more!

Somat Dishwasher Salt is both a detergent and a softener, for areas with particularly hard water.

What makes this product unique is that you can adapt how much you use with every wash by adding more of the salt.

The Somat Dishwasher Salt comes in a powder form, so you can add as much as you feel is needed with each wash.

If you are washing dishes from a lunch of sandwiches and tea you will need much less that you will need to clean up after a greasy pork roast.

Somat will have your dishes looking brand new after each wash.

This dishwasher salt is formulated to remove all the grime and the softener will prevent residue from being left behind on plates and glasses.

If your dishes are always covered in stains or residue after cleaning, then maybe it is time to take back control.

Pros

  • High in sodium
  • Easy to use
  • Affordable
  • Dissolve quickly
  • Refreshing scent
  • Control how much detergent you use

Cons

  • Only available in bulk

3. Finish All in 1 Dishwasher Detergent Powerball Dishwashing Tablets

Finish All-in-one is another well-known brand of dishwashing detergent with a reputation for getting some of the toughest stains out of your dishes.

The All-in-one deep clean formula removes deep stains and leaves your plates, pots, pans, and cutlery spotless.

Finish has a large variety of different strength tablets. You can adapt the strength according to the quality of the water going into the machine. However, you do need to remember that no to glasses of water poured from a tap will ever be exactly the same strength. Keep checking your water before you run your dishwasher, and make sure you clean your machine regularly.

It is a very affordable product to purchase.

Pros

  • High in sodium
  • Easy to use
  • Affordable
  • Dissolves quickly
  • Doesn’t require a prewash
  • Refreshing scent
  • Biodegradable

Cons

  • May cause skin irritation
  • May be harmful if swallowed
  • Could be harmful to children and/or pets
  • One size fits all amount of detergent released by washing tablet – you can increase the strength of the tablet you use

4. Cascade Platinum Dishwasher Pods

Cascade is a brand that stands out in the international market. Their dishwashing tablets are of very good quality.

Cascade Platinum dishwasher pods dissolve quickly in water and work fast to remove stains from your dishes; leaving them nice and clean.

Using this detergent can save up to 15 gallons of water per load. Cascade Platinum is specially formulated to dissolve, lift, and rinse anything that might be stuck to a plate or a piece of silverware.

Your dishes will remain free of stains and the dishwasher itself will be protected from lime buildup, grease and/or nasty odor’s, which some foods may leave behind inside the machine.

To top it all off, Cascade Platinum has a nice lemon scent for that extra fresh feel.

Pros

  • High in sodium
  • Easy to use
  • Dissolves quickly
  • Doesn’t require a prewash
  • Refreshing scent
  • Biodegradable

Cons

  • A bit more expensive
  • May cause skin irritation
  • May be harmful if swallowed
  • Could be harmful to children and/or pets
  • One-size-fits-all amount of detergent released by washing tablet

5. Cascade Power Clean Dishwasher Pods | 115 Dishwasher Detergent Pacs

Another great product by Cascade is the Cascade Power Clean. This is another easy-to-use product; just put one of the pods into your dishwasher, flip the switch and voila, clean dishes.

Cascade Power Clean is formulated with a combination of Cascade’s own formula and that of Dawn Dishwashing Liquid to clear off any and all residues left by your meals.

Water softeners, included in the formula, prevent hard water buildup on your plates and glasses.

Both Cascade and Dawn have come under fire a lot with environmentalists. It is unclear exactly what ingredients are used in both products and the effects on the environment and people and animals.

Although this one is a bit more expensive than the other detergents listed, it is well worth its price point. With 115 pods in one tub, you can conceivably go for a few months without having to buy more – depending on how often you do dishes.

There are so many points to weigh up to put this product on the top ten list. Surely if they have this many consumers globally the product can’t be bad. I think it is very much a personal choice item. For those who just want their dishes clean, this is a good product. For those who also want the environment clean, maybe just move along.

Pros

  • High in sodium
  • Easy to use
  • Dissolves quickly
  • Doesn’t require a prewash

Cons

  • Expensive
  • May cause skin irritation
  • May be harmful if swallowed
  • Could be harmful to children and/or pets
  • One-size-fits-all amount of detergent released by washing tablet
  • Nonbiodegradable

6. LifeKind Natural Super Concentrated Automatic Dishwasher Detergent

LifeKind is a company that specializes in all-organic products and their dishwasher detergent is no different.

Formulated from water conditioners, grapefruit seed extract, and detergent boosters.

This eco-friendly option is nontoxic and noncaustic.

You can wash your dishes without fear of chemical odors or nasty aftertastes.

With all-natural ingredients that include grapefruit seed, orange peel extracts, vegetable fiber, anti-corrosives, and natural oxygen bleach, there is absolutely no reason not to pick up a bottle of this eco-friendly dishwashing detergent. You would also be keeping our environment safe and healthy.

LIfeKind’s dishwasher detergent is also biodegradable.

Pros

  • High in sodium
  • Easy to use
  • Affordable
  • Dissolves quickly
  • No toxic chemicals
  • Safe around children and pets
  • Doesn’t require a prewash
  • Refreshing scent
  • Control how much detergent you use
  • Biodegradable

Cons

  • May cause skin irritation
  • May be harmful if swallowed
  • Could be harmful to children and/or pets

7. Finish Quantum Detergent

This is one of the stronger detergents in the Finish brand’s repertoire.

Finish has such a great reputation and it is easy to see why, Finish Quantum works through tough stains and residues that most other detergents can’t get rid of.

Finish Quantum Detergent gets rid of stains and residues leaving all your plates and glasses clean and shiny.

The product is biodegradable and is strong enough to clean large qualities of dishes, cleaning every dish without streaking.

Pros

  • High in sodium
  • Easy to use
  • Affordable
  • Dissolves quickly
  • Doesn’t require a prewash
  • Refreshing scent
  • Biodegradable

Cons

  • May cause skin irritation
  • May be harmful if swallowed
  • Could be harmful to children and/or pets

8. Active Element Commercial Grade Dishwasher Sanitizer

Active Element’s commercial-grade sanitizer comes in a bulk pack which makes up to four five-gallon buckets of dishwasher detergent. It is specifically designed for commercial dishwashers; it is not suitable for use in domestic dishwashers.

This specific type of product kills germs and bacteria without much difficulty.

For all the positives, however, there are some negatives.

This is a chlorine-based detergent which means contact with your skin, eyes or mouth will lead to a very unpleasant experience.

This detergent is mainly for use in a low-temperature dishwasher (128 degrees Fahrenheit). Low-temperature detergents are different from high-temperature dishwashers because to compensate for the lower heat the detergent uses more chemicals and more water.

Hard water and soft water aside, the internet is full of customer complaints about this product. Users report that glasses come out filmy, and all dishes come out with streaks and slightly greasy.

It is purchased a lot, it is a good seller with a lot of five-star reviews, but it seems that the end result is dependent on whether you are using a high-quality low heat or a standard high heat dishwasher.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Affordable
  • Removes germs and bacteria
  • Refreshing scent

Cons

  • Takes long to dissolve/doesn’t dissolve properly
  • May cause skin irritation
  • May be harmful if swallowed
  • Could be harmful to children and/or pets
  • Requires a prewash
  • One-size-fits-all amount of detergent released by washing tablet
  • Only available in bulk
  • Nonbiodegradable
  • Works in low-temperature dishwashers

9. Snap Crystal Clean Dishwashing Crystals

Snap Crystal Clean Dishwashing Crystals boasts a biodegradable formula that cuts through even the toughest of stains and grime, Snap Crystals are safe for use on porcelain, fine china and pots and pans.

Water stains are eliminated easily and your dishes shine like new.

Each bottle will complete 120 washes with no problem; the price balances well with how much you will get for that.

Pros

  • High in sodium
  • Easy to use
  • Affordable
  • Removes germs and bacteria
  • Dissolves quickly
  • Doesn’t require a prewash
  • Refreshing scent
  • Control how much detergent you use
  • Biodegradable
  • Phosphate free
  • Safe for septic systems
  • Does not contain any dyes, perfumes, EDTA or NTA

Cons

  • May cause skin irritation
  • May be harmful if swallowed
  • Could be harmful to children and/or pets

10. Cascade Platinum Plus Dishwasher Pods

Cascade Platinum Plus works in both hard and soft water, has a booster mixed into the formula adding to the detergent’s strength and keeping dishes looking brand new.

There’s no need to pre-wash anything, Cascade Platinum Plus will go straight to work dissolving whatever messes have taken over your plates, pots, and pans.

The three-phase formula dissolves, lifts, and rinses away the filth and grime.

Your machine will look as good after you’ve washed the dishes as it did before, and the built-in degreaser makes keeping your dishes pristine-looking is easier than ever!

Pros

  • High in sodium
  • Easy to use
  • Affordable
  • Removes germs and bacteria
  • Dissolves quickly
  • Doesn’t require a prewash
  • Refreshing scent
  • Biodegradable

Cons

  • May cause skin irritation
  • May be harmful if swallowed
  • Could be harmful to children and/or pets
  • One-size-fits-all amount of detergent released by washing tablet

FAQs

What is the difference between natural oxygen bleach and regular chlorine bleach?

There are a few differences. First, oxygen bleach is a powder that can be mixed with other cleaners; which is not possible with chlorine bleach (which is a liquid-based). Second, oxygen bleach is eco-friendly, releasing oxygen to break down dirt and stains when it comes into contact with water. Chlorine bleach is more corrosive.

Should I unwrap the pods before loading?

Unwrapping the pods before use is not a good idea. In addition to the harm the chemicals would do to your skin, you run the risk of getting some of the soap and chemicals in your eyes which could damage them; this is particularly true if you are allergic to something in the pod’s ingredients. The most unwrapping that should be done is to the bag holding the pods, it is better to leave the plastic film exactly where it is.

What is a detergent booster?

A detergent booster is a product that you can add to your regular detergent – typically through a second dispenser on your machine – to increase the cleaning power of whatever detergent you’re using.

What are some of the benefits and/or drawbacks of using a detergent booster?

Detergent boosters are primarily meant to improve the cleaning power of your detergent without raising the pH level of the water. Boosters also act as a softener and prevent soap residue stains from damaging your dishes or clothing (if you’re using it in your laundry).

They reduce deposits left by hard water and aid in the removal of residues that build up in your dishwasher. Lastly, they minimize rust stains which means your cutlery won’t be damaged in the wash. I have seen that certain items like baking soda may increase the pH of the water and make it harder.

Another minor problem that comes with using a booster has to do with the physical form of the booster in question: is it liquid or powder? If it is a liquid then you’ve typically got a big bottle of the stuff taking up space and it is very easy to accidentally overdo it and put too much of the boosting agent into your detergent. This is less often the case with powder-type boosters which typically have smaller containers and specific measurements.

What are some benefits and drawbacks of hard water?

Hard water is used as drinking water, for hygiene purposes. With that said, hard water can make even the most basic tasks difficult. It leaves spots and stains on your glassware and wastes soaps and detergents. Bathing, while not harmful, is sometimes uncomfortable as hard water will leave a light film on your hair and skin – leaving it feeling decidedly grimy. On a related note, hard water tends to leave very ugly soap scum rings or stains in your bathtub and sometimes it will build up deposits and clog your pipes.

What are some of the benefits and/or drawbacks of soft water?

Soft water leaves your skin and hair feeling much cleaner than hard water. It uses less soap and reduces housework by making the cleaning easier. Anything cleaned with soft water looks shinier and/or cleaner.

Soft often has an unpleasant salty flavor and is not suitable for drinking. As there is no calcium in the water, it does nothing to strengthen our teeth and bones. The biggest disadvantage of soft water is the danger of lead poisoning. Soft water absorbs lead very easily, this is especially true if it is being transferred through and/or stored in lead containers.

What are some of the drawbacks of using a water softener?

Water softeners waste a lot of water and they do, in some cases, contain chlorine as one of their ingredients. As it is a corrosive substance, chlorine can do some very meaningful damage to your copper pipes – particularly if there is no lime buildup to prevent it. Thankfully, there are filters available that you can purchase and install to prevent the corroding copper and chlorine from making its way into your drinking water and your appliances. There are also serious environmental concerns to consider; these softeners increase the natural sodium level in water. If they were to come into contact with plants, they would increase the level of acidity in the soil – thereby making it harder for plants to thrive and grow in those places.

What are some of the effects that solvent-based based detergents will have on me?

Effects may vary but in the case of a chlorine-based detergent, contact with your skin may cause it to become dry and itchy. In some cases, a rash may develop, you may experience irritation in your eyes and/or some breathing issues.

Conclusion

In terms of which detergent I would use, I’m always looking for ways to keep the environment clean and safe for future generations. With that in mind I would use either LifeKind Natural Concentrate Detergent or the Snaps Crystal Clean Dishwashing Crystals; simply because they are the eco-friendly options – it also doesn’t hurt that these two detergents are safer than most of the others on this list so my health isn’t at much risk. There are more than enough eco-friendly options available so why would I go for anything else? I think we’d all prefer to only have eco-friendly detergents for our dishwashers and keep our planet alive and well.

If a bulk option for one of these two eco-friendly detergents were available I’d definitely grab a few packs so that I’d have extra detergent if I need it. It is always a good idea to have that extra little bit for emergencies.

If need be you can add a booster to your detergent and really get the shiniest dishes you could ever want; just make sure you follow the handling instructions. Check out as many reviews as you can and decide which one works best for you and your needs and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Feel free to do a little bit of safe experimentation and see what works for you.

Hard water does not need to influence the hygiene and cleanliness of your dishes. There are plenty of detergents that will leave your dishes looking like new.

Ideally, I think we would all prefer to work with soft water as it makes things so much easier and doesn’t do nearly as much damage as hard water. Much like with the detergents, however, you can add a softener to the water to reduce the amount of stress that you would no doubt encounter replacing damaged appliances and/or dishes or struggling to get stains off of your glassware.

I hope you found this list informative and that you will find a product that will help you not only in your quest for cleaner, shinier and stain-free dishes but also with making life a little less complicated; saving that extra bit of money on utilities or keeping your appliances and glassware clean and usable.

Leave a Comment