These Fresh-Smelling Dishwasher Cleaners Remove Nasty Odors & Prevent Streaks

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A dishwasher is a trusty sidekick for any home cook dealing with the daily load of dishes, so to keep it running optimally, remember to give the machine itself a regular cleaning, too. The best dishwasher cleaners are made from citric acid to effectively remove and prevent deposits and odors. All you have to do is remember to use it periodically.

Dishwasher cleaners remove limescale and mineral buildup left behind over time, and they dissolve residue that accumulates from dirty dishes. The once-a-month cleaners are typically sold in powder, tablet, or liquid form. If you have hard water, a dishwasher detergent that contains a water softener like sodium bicarbonate can prevent white spots and streaks.

Pourable cleaners are sometimes more affordable, even if they’re single-use bottles, while concentrated single-use tablets are popped right into where you usually load detergent, making them convenient and foolproof. Most dishwasher cleaners are designed to run in an empty dishwasher, but there are options that can run with or without a full load of dishes. Search for a product that is "septic safe" is you have a septic tank. A few of the picks below are Safer Choice products certified by the EPA, which means they have been evaluated as containing ingredients that are safer for your health and the environment.

Using one of the best dishwasher cleaners is essential for maintaining a dishwasher that actually cleans your dishes and glassware. Below are four highly rated picks on Amazon, including one with over 8,000 reviews.

We only recommend products we love and that we think you will, too. We may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was written by our Commerce team.

This dishwasher cleaner comes in six convenient single-use tablets designed to rid your dishwasher of stubborn limescale and mineral build-up. The Affresh dishwasher cleaner has an impressive 4.5-star rating with more than 8,000 reviews, including from several shoppers who said this pick saved them from needing to buy entirely new dishwashers.

Citric acid in the formula gives the cleaner a slight lemony fragrance, and you can rest assured knowing it’s septic-system-friendly. You’ll also love using this dishwasher cleaner with a full load of dishes that end up sparkling clean. This pick is a safer choice certified by the EPA.

A helpful review: “Doesn’t get much easier than Affresh. Stick it in the dishwasher and let it run, with or without dishes, and you’ll have a clean machine. I’ve used many other dishwasher cleaners, and this is among the best. I’ve used others that worked as well, but often were messy powders or two-step natural methods (vinegar and baking soda), and putting a tab in the detergent dispenser is always going to win for me.”

The best dishwasher cleaner for smells targets hard-to-see accumulated grease left behind by dirty dishes to completely remove foul odors. This liquid formula, which is made with citric acid, also gets rid of limescale and minerals that build up over time in any dishwasher and it’s safe in septic tanks.

This pick comes in a single-use bottle that’s placed upside down in the top rack of an empty dishwasher with the cap still on — the heat melts a wax plug and releases the cleaner. Reviewers commented they love this easy-to-use cleaner for returning their dishwashers to like-new conditions.

A helpful review: “Did a great job getting rid of the odor of whatever it was that smelled like dead animal in my dishwasher. Also my dishes rinse clearer now. I recommend using this product regularly. I know I will from now on!”

This outstanding dishwasher cleaner for hard water is a powder poured directly into the bottom of an empty dishwasher. The biodegradable, phosphate-free formula deodorizes and removes buildup from limescale, rust, greasy residue, and especially hard water. Each box contains four pouches for a total of eight pouches.

The citric acid formula is lemon scented and septic-system-friendly, It’s also highly rated and was even Consumer Reports’ top dishwasher cleaner pick. One reviewer commented that it "did a superb job of removing hard water stains." For extra-dirty (read: never been cleaned) dishwashers, the manufacturer recommends simply doubling the dose. This detergent is recognized as a Safer Choice certified by the EPA.

A helpful review: "My dishwasher was so disgusting inside that I was ready to get rid of it and buy a new one. It was completely coated with mineral deposits and other disgusting stuff — even though I would scrub it. Then I read about this product and decided to give it a try. It is simply amazing! […] we have been using the booster powder with every wash, and the dishwasher looks brand new! It is completely white inside — even all of the racks — and the metal is gleaming. I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it with my own eyes. I will be using this once a month forever!"

If your dishwasher benefits from regular cleaning, have you thought about cleaning your washing machine, too? This washing machine and dishwasher cleaner in one keeps both machines in tip-top shape.

The single-use tablets, which come four in a pack, are made from citric acid and deodorize and clean both machines without the use of phosphates or bleach, leaving a clean machine with a lemony fresh scent. Use this septic-safe pick in an empty dishwasher or washing machine.

A helpful review: “I love that this can be used for both the washer and dishwasher. Washers have be [to] done separately, but it can go in the dishwasher with your regular dishes. Noticeably cleaner.”

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