There’s chemical wizardry behind the way dishwashers and dishwasher tablets work together to clean dirty dishes. From cutting through grease to leaving glasses watermark-free, the end goal should always be kitchenware that looks good as new when you reopen that dishwasher door.
Finding the right dishwasher tablets can be tricky, particularly when there are so many available. Our team put a selection of the best dishwasher tablets to the test, from well-known brands like Fairy to supermarket own-brands and those with eco credentials, including Ecover.
We scored each tablet on its ability to remove common marks from tough foods including baked-on remnants, sauce residue, thick smoothies and notoriously stubborn egg yolk.
Then we marked their performance across criteria including ease of use and value for money to evaluate which we’d buy ourselves. The additions of salt and rinse aid, for example go a long way to helping prevent the build up of limescale in your machine, so factors like these went into our decision making.
Discover which dishwasher tablets came out on top when tested by the BBC Good Food team, with our tried-and-tested reviews.
Remember to store dishwasher tablets in dry ambient temperatures, keep them away from eyes and always out of reach of children.
See our review of the best dishwashers on the market.
What to look for in dishwasher tablets
We ask a lot from little dishwasher tablets. They must be safe to use on everything from plastic storage containers to wine glasses, but first and foremost, be safe for us.
These items come into contact with the food we pop in our mouths on a daily basis, so everything packed into these little tabs must do their work and then wash away, leaving no chalky residue or soap scum.
They vary quite broadly in price and if used on a daily basis you don’t want to be paying an arm and a leg for each wash. Tablet performance will also differ from machine to machine and depends on the wash program.
Dishwasher tablets are generally quite chemical-heavy in their composition. Bleach is a common addition. But there are now eco tablets that claim to be kinder to the planet and contain more biodegradable, plant-based ingredients, as well as having recyclable packaging. We found some of them performed excellently well.
Looking to replace your current dishwasher or buy a brand-new one for your home? Using results from our survey and expert advice, our guide to the best dishwashers will help you find the best one for your home.
Best dishwasher tablets to buy in 2021
Smol all-in-one dishwasher tablets
Best dishwasher tablets
Pros: 100 per cent plastic-free, recyclable packaging, vegetable based inks used, no salt or rinse aid needed
Cons: monthly subscription charge
Star rating: 8/10
It’s rare to be excited about getting dishwasher tablets, but Smol works on a monthly subscription basis and delivers each pack directly through your letterbox in a smartly-designed package.
Every subscription is bespoke to how many washes you use a month and they help you calculate the time intervals between each delivery. The brand claims that by cutting out the middle-man, you can ‘save 50 per cent on your normal brand price’.
The packaging is a nicely designed cardboard box with a complex child-proof mechanism – instant points for peace of mind. Then its small square tabs are individually wrapped in a soluble film and slot easily into the dishwasher drawer.
Across the five-day testing period, everything came out gleaming and spotless with only the exception some stubborn sauce in a pan. Overall, this is one of the new guard of dishwasher tablets and with good eco credentials, Smol really impressed.
Available now from: Smol £4.60 for 30 tablets
E-cover All-In-One Citrus dishwasher tablets
Best dishwasher tablets for eco credentials
Pros: vegan-friendly and cruelty-free, biodegradable
Cons: tablets must be individually unwrapped, not as effective on cooler wash cycles
Star rating: 8/10
Ecover as a brand believes in ‘putting clean values into practice’ and tests all its products to high environmental and human standards. Rather than using surfactants (a main ingredient in detergents which often come from petroleum-based sources) Ecover’s dishwasher tablets contain its own biodegradable plant-based formula.
The tablets stripped dishwasher contents of all food remnants during testing and performed particularly well on glasses, leaving them super shiny. Their citrus smell is fresh and at least 50 per cent naturally derived.
The only downside was that each tablet comes individually wrapped. Although these casings are PET 5 recyclable, it felt unnecessary. However, when it came to performance, even the dishwasher seemed cleaner, presumably thanks in part to the tablets having salt and rinse aid built in. If not for the wrappings and some remnants left during testing across multiple dishwasher models, these tablets would have got 10/10.
Splosh dishwasher tablets
Best fragrance-free dishwasher tablets
Pros: excellent cleaning capabilities
Cons: the tablets themselves have an odd smell
Star rating: 8/10
To save on single-use plastics, Splosh dishwasher tablets come in a refillable tin. Simply buy refills and you’re supporting a zero-waste concept.
Each tablet is wrapped in water soluble film that dissolves quickly in the warm water of your dishwasher and although they smell odd, the tablets deliver a brilliantly clean, unscented dishwasher load. Everything else is plastic-free and recyclable.
The addition of glass-save is a nice touch. Salt and rinse aid are also built into the tabs acting as an additional barrier to the build up of limescale in your machine.
At £5.95 for 27 tablets, each wash comes to just 22p – and that’s a lovely thought.
Available from: Splosh (£5.95 for 27 refill tabs)
Astonish dishwasher tablets
Best value dishwasher tablets
Pros: cruelty-free, vegan-friendly, salt and rinse aid built in
Cons: hit-and-miss performance on stodgy pasta remnants
Star rating: 7/10
These dishwasher tablets are remarkably good value for money when you consider their overall performance. Astonish just about lived up to its claim of lifting even the ‘toughest stains including tea, coffee and dried-on food.’
The tablets are phosphate-free, although the ingredients list is not eco-orientated. On occasion, the odd pan needed a second wash by hand, but for the majority of tests, everything came out spotless.
Our sample for testing arrived in a cardboard box which could be recycled once its internal plastic wrapping was removed. Resealable versions of the packs are available.
Available from: Amazon (£7.20 for 100 tablets)
How we tested dishwasher tablets
We tested each of the dishwasher tablets over the course of a week in as similar conditions as possible, and including at least three of the following items:
- A dish with baked-on remnants
- Plates with sauce residue
- Wine glasses
- A cup that’s had a smoothie or thick juice in
- A plate with egg yolk residue
We used the following criteria to establish our favourite dishwasher tablets.
Ease of use: do they slot into a dishwasher easily?
Detergent: does it contain sulphites, phosphates etc, or is it made from eco-friendly ingredients?
Eco credentials: do the tablets come wrapped in non-recyclable plastic?
Glasses test: how clean are they? Are there any water marks or residue?
Value for money: is the cost in proportion to how well the dishwasher tablet performed?
Overall mark out of 10: each tablet was given a mark out of 10 for its performance across the above criteria.
How do dishwasher tablets work?
There’s chemistry behind the way dishwashers work in order to combat both the dirt from your plates and prevent the build up of limescale in your dishwasher.
Compounds known as builders reduce water hardness caused by calcium and magnesium ions. Bleaches help tackle common stains like those from tea and coffee.
Enzymes help break down starch and protein in food remnants and surfactants cut through grease and contribute towards leaving glasses sparkling.
There are also auxiliary ingredients, such as disintegrants that are responsible for dissolving the tablet quickly into the wash.
At the bottom of your dishwasher is an element that heats up water from your home supply, to between 30-60 degrees centigrade. Dishwasher tablets get released into this warmed water during a wash cycle and dissolve thanks to the combined heat and washing motion of the water being pumped around your dirty items.
Why is the dishwasher tablet not dissolving?
The little detergent doors in dishwashers open at an optimum time during a wash cycle to maximise the effectiveness of both dishwasher tablets and the dishwasher cycle. If your dishwasher tablet is not dissolving, this could be for a number of reasons.
Blocked tablet collecting tray: make sure there’s no barrier stopping the dishwasher tablet from washing out of the open tray during a wash cycle.
Wash program: some dishwasher tablets work best in higher-heat settings. If your dishwasher tablet is not dissolving, try washing on a program with higher heat.
Water temperature: if your dishwasher is not heating the water properly, tablets can be left undissolved. Try washing on a higher heat setting and if that doesn’t work, it may be an indicator that there’s a fault with your machine.
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This review was last updated in July 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.