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Everyday Cheapskate: Surprising Other Uses for Automatic Dishwasher Detergent

Mary Hunt on

It's no secret that dishwasher detergent is specifically formulated to be used in automatic dishwashers whether it comes as powder, pods, pacs, liquid or gel. What may come as a big surprise is that these products' grease and dirt-busting abilities can be used outside the dishwasher in many useful ways.

Case in point: My microfiber cloths. I have a stack that I use for wiping up spills, dusting furniture, cleaning windows, countertops, floors, woodwork and appliances. Those cloths get dirty, and eventually stained.

The enemy of microfiber is laundry soap that does not get 100% rinsed away. A potential buildup of soap or other laundry products will ruin the effectiveness of microfiber. That's the reason I don't use laundry detergent with them.

In the past, I have laundered microfiber clothes in hot water and borax, using the hottest water setting on my machine, plus an extra rinse. That has worked well, but doesn't get out all the stains. I know, what's the big deal about stains in cleaning cloths? I guess the answer there is that it just bothers me.

And then it hit me -- dishwasher detergent. I'd recently read a tip about using dishwasher detergent outside the kitchen, so, on a whim, I threw a pile of dirty, stained microfiber cloths into the washer along with one Cascade automatic dishwasher pod. I set the wash temp to hot and gave it an extra rinse. The results were amazing -- super clean, effective microfiber with no stains at all.

This got me thinking and quickly spun me into research mode to understand how and why this worked so well with no effort -- no soaking, waiting or scrubbing. Here's what I learned.


All automatic dishwasher detergents contain powerful surfactants and enzymes with high pH levels to break up and wash away grease, oil and dirt particles. In its powdered versions, automatic dishwasher detergents are likely to also contain peroxide bleach. That's what makes dishwasher detergent an effective, inexpensive alternative to many kinds of household cleaners.

Bleach eradicates stains like coffee and tea, enzymes eat away at proteins and solids, and surfactants tackle dirt. But enzymes and bleach can't play well together in gel products because most bleaches, in liquid form, will kill enzymes. This is the reason that dry dishwasher detergent may be our most powerful option for its other uses.


Combine 1/2 cup of dishwasher detergent powder with 2 gallons of hot water. Mix well. Once dissolved, pour the solution into spray bottles.


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