Choosing a green dishwasher detergent can be tricky. Dishwasher detergents are usually classified as "green" when their formulas exclude phosphates. Phosphates -- once a common ingredient in many mainstream detergents -- are used to soften water and deliver more powerful cleaning. Since they can also be toxic to marine life, however, 16 states have banned their use, and more will likely follow suit.
Since phosphates improve a detergent’s cleaning power, many people find that green dishwasher detergents aren't as effective as regular detergents. If you're an environmentally-conscious consumer (or simply live in one of the states where a phosphate ban is in effect), we've analyzed reviews to see which green dishwasher detergents actually get the job done.
Reviewers recommend Biokleen Automatic Dish Powder Free and Clear (*est. 21 cents per load), saying it works well on dishes and costs less than other eco-friendly detergents. Biokleen does extremely well in user reviews, with over 70 people at Drugstore.com giving it positive feedback. Biokleen Automatic Dish Powder dosen't do as well in professional testing, though. While very effective on dishes, the Biokleen detergent couldn’t stand up to heavily soiled pots and pans. (This seems to be a common problem among green dishwasher detergents in general.)
Method Smarty Dish (*est. 46 cents per load) is another green dishwasher detergent that gets good reviews. In a test comparing five brands of detergents at EcoChildsPlay.com, Jamie Ervin finds that Smarty Dish works just as well as traditional detergents. A writer for SeriouslySpoiled.com tries Smarty Dish on "the dirtiest possible load of dishes" and comes away very impressed with the results. Method Smarty Dish is sold in pre-measured tablets that can go right in the dishwasher. Though convenient, tablets carry a significantly higher cost than powders.
Ecover Dishwasher Tablets (*est. 30 cents per load) are another eco-friendly alternative to mainstream detergents. Sarah Aguirre, About.com's housekeeping guide, says the Ecover tablets are effective and convenient. They also fare well in the aforementioned performance test conducted by EcoChildsPlay.com, placing third among the five detergents that were evaluated. The handful of users submititng reviews for Ecover on Amazon.com give them a perfect overall rating.
For more on green detergents, as well as the best-performing traditional dishwasher detergents, check out our recently updated comprehensive analysis.