You might assume that one dish detergent is about the same as the next. I know I did, until I saw the latest test results from Consumer Reports.
For its March issue, the magazine tested 20 detergents--enzyme and non-enzyme products--and the ones with enzymes were the clear winners.
In fact, all the detergents with enzymes were judged to be "very good or excellent," while the non-enzyme products all rated "fair." Enzymes are used to help dissolve starches and protein that can stick on dirty dishes.
Based on this testing, Consumer Reports concludes that "it's enzymes that make the difference between an outstanding detergent and one that's as dull as dishwater."
The editors say enzymes tend to be incompatible with a gel formulation, which explains why most of the top-rated detergents are powders.
You may be surprised to learn that it isn't always easy to know if a product contains enzymes. In many cases that information isn't plastered on the label; you have to look at the ingredient list.
A number of Cascade products were rated excellent: Cascade 2 in 1 Action Pacs, Cascade Complete, and Cascade Pure Rinse Formula.
A number of store brands were standouts. Consumer Reports says Costco's Kirkland Signature powder and Trader Joe's powder "are excellent."
The editors named two products Best Buys for "all-around combination of price and performance." They are Electrasol Dual Action Tablets, and Great Value powder (sold at Wal-Mart).
Consumer Reports says both products were "excellent at cleaning and preventing dirt from settling back on dishes." Great Value, they say, is "an excellent choice whether you have hard water or soft."
By the way, Consumer Reports tested three phosphate-free detergents--Trader Joe's, Seventh Generation and Ecover Natural-- and found that these environmentally-friendly powders can do a very good job of cleaning dishes. It seems the enzymes are more important than the phosphates.