Skip to content   Skip to footer navigation 

How we test dishwasher detergents

We use a variety of stains when testing so we cover as many bases as possible.

hand placing dishwasher tab into door

Whether you're using gel, pods, powder or the ever popular tablets, your dishwasher needs some form of dishwasher detergent to get its job done well. 

We test dishwasher detergents using a variety of stains on specially prepared plates to see how well each one performs, but there are a raft of claims that come along with detergents of all sorts.

We list claims in our dishwasher detergent reviews, but specify these are only claims – they seem a little light on actual evidence. So if you're going to be swayed by the advertising, check out the test results first and make sure they're able to do the basics: clean your crockery and cutlery.

Our expert testers

With over 30 years' experience in dishwashers, we're proud of our expert testers. They've seen all types of dishwasher detergents come through the labs, but one thing never changes – they need to find what gets your plates clean. We focus on the basics so that you can buy with confidence, knowing the dishwasher detergent you choose will work well.

How we choose which dishwasher detergents we test

Why do we choose one dishwasher detergent over another? There are a number of reasons for this, but our priority is to test what you'll see in store. That means that sometimes we might not cover a brand that sells directly, and instead focus on the big names that you'll most likely see in your supermarket. That means you can at least see it before you buy it and check whether you're happy with it. 

How do we know what's in retailers? We check current market figures to see what's selling well. We'll also include models that you've requested – if a lot of members want it, we'll test it.

Once we know what you want to read about, we buy the dishwasher detergents for our test from a variety of retailers, then bring them in as is. This means we get what you'd get, so we can be sure the results are what you'll find rather than potentially 'tweaked' for better performance.

How does CHOICE test dishwasher detergents

Contrary to popular opinion, we don't get CHOICE employees to bring in their dirty dishes. We use a bank of four identical dishwashers and use pre-stained plates. 

These plates are prepared in the Netherlands and include stains that you tell us are the most common in your households. 

Why do we use pre-stained plates? Because if you want to compare dishwasher detergent performance fairly, you have to use the same conditions for all of them.

These stained plates are embedded with a specific amount of dirt, are identical, and made up of a very specific formula

These stained plates are embedded with a specific amount of dirt, are identical, and made up of a very specific formula. These are used all over the world by large detergent makers, plus other consumer organisations and are considered a standard in testing detergents. 

Using these is a means to minimise the amount of variables so you can see which detergent comes out best when comparing them.

After we put the recommended dose of detergent in the dishwashers, we use a standard program (main wash: 60°C, post rinse: 70°C) to get our CHOICE Expert Rating (this is the overall score that determines which products we recommend). 

We test each detergent four times, and then use a spectrophotometer to compare how clean our test plates are compared to to how dirty they were pre-wash.

Stain selection

This is the list of plate stains we use, as chosen by you, our members. They usually change every few years in response to surveys we send to out to members so that we can be sure our testing is best meeting people's needs. The detergents that are better at removing the following stains will earn a higher CHOICE Expert Rating:

  • egg yolk
  • rice starch
  • baked on cheese
  • red wine
  • coffee
  • minced meat.

All of these stains are weighted equally.

Our test lab

We maintain a lab that is up to date with the latest reference machines and calibrated measurement tools for our testers to bring you the right results.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.