Not to be dramatic, but switching dishwasher detergents changed my life.

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As a renter in a major city, having a dishwasher is not something I take for granted. I cherish it, and I know how lucky I am. But for a long time, I had pretty low expectations for its actual function. It's a cheap dishwasher, I reasoned. I can't expect it to get everything clean. Just having it is such a privilege!

So I dutifully rinsed, and carefully arranged my dishes. I never overloaded my dishwasher, and made sure to check the filter regularly to avoid buildup of whatever food my rinsing missed. Someday, I told myself, I will have a fancy dishwasher that doesn't require so much babying. Until that day, though, I tried to be grateful for the dishwasher I did have. I think if I'm being honest, after a while, I started to question the hype behind dishwashers. Between pre-rinsing and re-washing, it didn't really seem like it was saving me all that much time.

Full Dishwasher
Photo: Robert Lowdon/Getty Images

But that all changed recently when my mom came to visit. She was starting the dishwasher after we cooked dinner together, and she was shocked by the no-name detergent I was using. She claimed that throughout my childhood, she had always and exclusively purchased Cascade Platinum detergent, and that to this day it remains the only type of detergent she uses. She explained that the effectiveness of the detergent was the reason that throughout my time living at home, we had never really rinsed or pre-washed dishes. It's more about the function of the detergent, she told me, than it is about the actual dishwasher. I was shocked.

I can't say I have any memory of the type of dishwasher detergent we used during my childhood, and I definitely assumed that the effectiveness of a dishwasher had more to do with how clean one's dishes came out than the detergent used. It turns out I was wrong. I did a little research to see if my mom was right, and of course she was. Brand name detergents like Cascade Platinum have enzymes that help break down pieces of food, so they not only clean your dishes, they prevent your dishwasher from backing up and smelling bad due to food being stuck in the filter at the bottom of the machine.

I'm truly not exaggerating when I tell you that this information changed my life. Where before I almost always had to re-wash at least a couple of things from a load of dishes, these days I almost never do. Using Cascade Platinum (I like the pods) has made cleaning up from meals so much easier — I will throw just about anything in the dishwasher, including pots and pans — even sheet pans come out clean. Where before I was used to wine glasses and cups that were just a little streaky, these days I enjoy sparkling clean cups every single time. 

I'm now the type of person who goes around telling people to switch their dishwasher detergent. (And no, I'm not being paid by Cascade; it's just one occasion when I've experienced a true difference in quality opting for the name-brand over generic.) I do it so often, in fact, that several of my friends have had to remind me that they do not actually have dishwashers. To that I tell them to make a mental note for when they do, because they should never buy anything other than Cascade Platinum.

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