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Dishwasher Detergent Facts


  • How do detergents work?
  • Contents of dishwashing detergent
  • What do enzymes do?


Most detergents are either enzyme-based or bleach-based products.

  • Enzyme-based products are live creatures that "come to life" to help break down proteins in the dishwasher.
  • Bleaches kill enzymes and are not compatible in a liquid format.
    • Bleach works better for stains such as those from coffee or tea.
  • It is best to find out what kind of clean is needed in order to recommend the best soap to clean with.
  • Dishwasher detergents are strongly alkaline (basic).
  • Inexpensive powders may contain sand, which can be verified by dissolving the powder in boiling water and then passing the solution through a coffee filter.
    • Such detergents may harm the dishes and the dishwasher.
  • Powdered detergents are more likely to cause fading on china patterns.


  • Dissolves calcium and magnesium ions to prevent hard-water-type limescale deposits.
    • Unfortunately, they can cause ecological damage, so their use is starting to be phased out.
    • Phosphate-free detergents are sold as eco-friendly detergents.

Oxygen-based bleaching agents

  • Older-style powders and liquids contain chlorine-based bleaching agents.
  • Breaks up and bleaches organic deposits.

Non-ionic surfactants

  • Lowers the surface tension of the water, emulsifies oil, lipid, and fat food deposits, prevents droplet spotting on drying.


  • Breaks up and dissolves protein-based food deposits, and possibly oil, lipid, and fat deposits. Proteases do this by breaking down the proteins into smaller peptides that are more easily washed away.

Anti-corrosion agent(s)

  • Often sodium silicate, this prevents corrosion of dishwasher components.

Anti-foaming agents

  • Foam interferes with the washing action.


  • Slow down the removal of glaze and patterns from glazed ceramics.


Anti-caking agents

  • Found in granular detergent.


  • Found in tablet-based detergents.

Gelling agents

  • Found in liquid/gel based detergents.


  • Found in inexpensive powdered detergents.


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